Whilst many of your friends are on holiday or taking part time jobs, you have secured yourself a vacation scheme in a law firm! Others of you perhaps applied but did not get an official ‘vacation scheme’ but work experience in a smaller firm in a less formalised way.
In any case, you want to be a good witness to Jesus in the workplace in a short time and do your job diligently. Here are a few tips and truths which might help you ahead of your vacation scheme by looking at Daniel chapter 1.
It is competitive to get any kind of experience in a law firm. Chances are if you have made it to this point, you have clearly shown a level of passion and aptitude already.
young men without blemish, handsome, gifted in all wisdom, knowledgeable, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace—and to teach them the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
The king assigned them daily provisions of the royal food and wine. They were to be trained for three years, after which they were to enter the king’s service.
You have been offered this opportunity by showing a level of aptitude and/ or initiative. You don’t need to put on a performance of how much you know. Of course, revise the basics of the departments you are going into. But do ask the questions which you don’t know the answers to. Double check instructions before you start. Be clear about what departments you want to shadow. What are you hoping to gain. Turn up early. Have a notebook ready.
Ask partners good questions during conversations:
What experience outside your degree has helped you to be a good lawyer?
How has being [this type] of lawyer changed over the last 10 years?
What is the hardest thing about being a lawyer which might be surprising?
What common mistakes do young lawyers often make?
Allow this to inform you of the kind of lawyer you would be and whether this kind of work is for you or not.
Many other students on the vacation scheme are aiming to stand out. However, the ultimate aim of the Christian life is not to be more qualified than everyone else as a point of distinction. But to be salt and light.
Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or wine. So he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself.
Daniel decides to choose something which might made him seem weak or disadvantaged to remind him of his reliance on the Lord.
For you, this could be a deliberate decision to not engage in workplace gossip. Being kind to each of the students on the scheme, office staff and cleaners rather than just the partners or the trainees. Or even being honest about something which would have got you in trouble otherwise. I was once shadowing a district judge and arrived 10 minutes late. I had overslept but told him it was the train (not me) who was late. He turned to me and instantly said – “Never lie to a judge or else they will struggle to trust you with anything else.” I have never made that mistake again.
When I was working as a paralegal, I would arrive to the office 10 minutes early, do my bible reading in the reception area or at my desk before starting. It was central to my being a Christian witness and was the springboard to a few good conversations. Whatever it is, make sure you are clear on your boundaries for the week and set yourself a good routine.
Be responsive when you mess up
Daniel rarely ever put a foot wrong. He swung from being chief administrator and ruler over Babylon to being thrown into a fire or forgotten about. He did not use it as an excuse to dishonour the Lord.
I am not nearly as godly as Daniel. I have messed up more times in the workplace than I can count. I have made compromises in order to fit in, aiming to get a good reference, or just to avoid being uncomfortable.
Jesus was even more perfect than Daniel. He never compromised. He was the perfect God and man. Although perfect, he did not use his power as something to use as an advantage. Rather he freely given us all his righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). What incredible news! We don’t need to cover up when we mess up – we can run straight to Jesus knowing he has paid for all our shame.
I remember realising I had been joining in a conversation which involved teasing a slightly awkward colleague behind their back. I walked away feeling terrible. He has done nothing to harm me. But I wanted to gain access to the friendship offered by a group of people more powerful than me.
Conviction in the workplace has happened many times. Only once have I walked back to say: “I just realised I should not have said that. I’m really sorry for saying it in front of you. Can you forgive me?” Allow for conviction of the Holy Spirit to remind you that his grace really IS sufficient!
Perhaps being a good Christian witness this week is not getting it perfect. It is the gospel freeing us up to run to the cross for comfort knowing he covers everything. When we know this fully it frees us up to apologise when we feel convicted.
This frees us up to be present. To be conscientious but liberated. I’m praying you would be a good lawyer and a good Christian. But see Christ really is sufficient regardless of our failures or achievements.