Valour Steeped in Faith: A Report from the 2017 National Law Student Conference
Vivian Clemence is a third-year law student at the University of Ottawa. Vivian assisted in planning the 12th Annual National Law Student Conference, and she co-leads the uOttawa CLF Student Chapter alongside Kinsey Brockie and Jasmyn Lee.
Before attending law school, I said I wanted to become a lawyer so that I could become one of many points of light which, when working together with others, forms one strong beam aimed at bringing justice to those who need it. In pondering the integration of Christian faith with law, that initial objective takes on a new focus: I wish to be a point of light that, in seeking justice, brings honour and glory to Jesus Christ.
We, the uOttawa chapter of Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF), were thrilled to host the 12th Annual CLF National Law Student Conference in Ottawa, Ontario. On February 2-5, 2017, over 50 students from 9 law schools across the country gathered at Fauteux Hall to gain practical skills for the study and practice of law, and to reflect upon the integration of faith with law, and their vocational calling to serve God through the legal profession.
Our theme for the convention was “Valour Steeped in Faith”, taken from the French lyrics of the Canadian national anthem, “Et ta valeur, de foi trempée”, in honour of Canada’s 150th Anniversary. Through faith, mighty men and prophets of God the Father “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised”. Through faith, they “shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword”. Through faith, their “weakness was turned to strength” (Hebrews 11:32-34). Through faith in God, they did valiantly.
Students were exhorted to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10), taking up the whole armour of God, that they may stand valiantly. To this end, leading legal minds banded together at the National Law Student Conference to disciple and edify law students. They shared their insights into keeping spiritual disciplines and into what it means to be a Christian lawyer. They revealed their best tips and tricks for effective legal writing, interviewing, and articling. They briefed students on CLF’s intervening submissions and on recent judgments at the appellate and Supreme Court levels regarding issues of religious freedom, equality, human dignity, health care, euthanasia, and conscience. These presentations encouraged students to think critically about the difficult and controversial topics surrounding these issues, equipping themselves to take God-fearing positions in the debates surrounding them.
Joining us at the conference was Professor Jim Gash, Specialist Advisor to the High Court of Uganda, Professor of Law and Director of the Global Justice Program at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Over the course of the weekend, Professor Gash delivered two keynote addresses: one on “Divine Collision: Justice to the Developing World”, and the other on “Fear or Surrender? Stepping Into The Unknown”. The former shared the story of Henry, a Ugandan boy wrongfully accused of murder on two accounts, imprisoned on remand – waiting for his day in court – in Kampala, Uganda. The latter shared Professor Gash’s personal story of resisting, succumbing to, and ultimately embracing the call to serve overseas to aid in reforming the Ugandan criminal justice system.
At our Celebration Banquet, we had the unique opportunity to screen Professor Gash’s documentary, entitled “Divine Collision”. In addition, all Conference attendees left with a copy Professor Gash’s book, which provides a detailed account of he and Henry’s battle for freedom. Henry’s incredible journey of faith and prayer, and Professor Gash’s step of faith – which led to Henry’s release, to the introduction of a plea-bargaining system in Uganda, and to expanding Pepperdine University’s international clerkship program to other common law jurisdictions like Rwanda, Thailand, and Peru – serve as a powerful reminder of the need to take action, to step out and to speak up in faith, trusting the Lord to guide our footsteps into the unknown.
From Ottawa, Ontario, we skyped Henry, who is now studying to become a medical doctor in Kampala, Uganda. Despite our spotty Wi-Fi connection, Henry’s voice rang clearly, as if he were in the room with us. He prayed over us; that we would be emboldened in our faith and trust always in God.
Upon reflection of their time at the Student Conference, students further remarked:
"I believe that attending the CLF National Student Conference has been one of the most important experiences I have had in my legal education so far…the conference had a great blend of both spiritual training and legal training, which helped me to better understand how I can use my legal education to serve Christ."
"God used this conference to remind me again that my identity is not determined by my successes and failure as a lawyer, but rather by Him alone. I am first and foremost His daughter, and He is the author and Creator of all things…"
"When I came home from the conference, I was able to share my faith openly and courageously raise the flag as a Christian law student."
"The ability to discuss difficult issues that we are often faced with from a biblical point of view was so refreshing. The conference really helped to remind me of why I wanted to be in law and the goal of justice to bring much glory to His name alone."
"Sometimes, as a Christian at law school, you can feel very alone… But at the student conference that feeling was reversed entirely, and I left feeling so encouraged knowing that other students were going through the exact same experiences as me…Everyone was so welcoming and so willing to talk and even pray with me. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had so many people offer to pray with me over a two-day period in my entire life!"