A Letter to Students on the Meaning of Work and Professional Formation

14 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2021 Last revised: 2 Mar 2023

See all articles by Benjamin C. Carpenter

Benjamin C. Carpenter

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Date Written: October 5, 2021


The law is a wonderful profession—one that provides opportunities for individuals to make a formative difference in people’s lives, to work with talented colleagues and against skilled opponents, to earn the respect of others, and to make a generous income while doing so. However, it is also the profession with the highest rates of substance abuse, anxiety, and depression among its members—particularly for attorneys within their first ten years of practice. While the rewards of practicing law can be great, so too can be the demands and, at times, the costs. Finding one’s place within the profession while navigating the challenges is a difficult process for all lawyers. In particular, how will one respond when their professional choices or actions challenge their deeply held (but perhaps previously untested) views of themself? Ultimately, how does one reconcile who they are as a lawyer with who they are as a person? We all search for meaning in our work. We all struggle with the tension between maximizing comfort and maximizing impact. We all struggle to reconcile our various roles—as an advocate, colleague, mentor, parent, spouse, child, and friend. And we all fall short from time to time. These reflections, written from a Christian perspective but intended as a letter to all law students discerning their future, address the concept of calling, the inherent value of work, what constitutes the “right” work, and the limits of work.

Keywords: Professional formation, professional responsibility, law and Christianity

Suggested Citation

Carpenter, Benjamin C., A Letter to Students on the Meaning of Work and Professional Formation (October 5, 2021). University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3936705

Benjamin C. Carpenter (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
6122056168 (Phone)

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