Mission and Ministry
Alumni Living the Mission

Angeline Thomas

  • In 2005, I participated in a study abroad program in Central America that led me to find my husband of now six years, attend law school, and pursue a career in public interest. Through Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA), I have continued to deepen my spirituality and identity in core values that inspired those decisions.  
     
    Currently, I work at the Access to Justice Institute at Seattle University School of Law where I coordinate a foreclosure prevention program that partners law students with legal aid attorneys to represent distressed homeowners in foreclosure mediation. CLA offers tools for faith-centered leadership in the contexts of family, work and community with the added bonus of a supportive group of peers to journey alongside me. When I applied to CLA, like others, I was contemplating a major life decision: whether to practice law, or using my law degree in an alternate work setting that pursued justice. I struggled with this question because I felt deeply called to become a lawyer—an adversarial profession by nature—but tended to avoid conflict. I have resolved this tension by working in a “non-traditional” legal setting where collaboration, as opposed to conflict, with outside organizations is a large part of my job, but that doesn’t mean I am always confident.  
     
    There are significant implications to taking a non-traditional path early in my career. Though I know that I am making a significant impact on law students and homeowners, I am not gaining the same type of skills as my peers who chose a “traditional” practice setting such as going to court, writing legal briefs, and/or negotiating with opposing counsel. The consequences of taking a non-traditional career path early in my career could limit the types of jobs I can apply for in the future. I have found that I often have to overcome a credibility gap with practicing lawyers because I cannot produce the same well-earned ‘battle scars’ associated with the practice of law. Most heavy on my conscience, I had to answer the deeper question of whether I could still consider myself a lawyer if I never practiced.  
     
    Thanks to CLA, I do not have to grapple with these big decisions alone. Among the 30 other young professionals in CLA, others are also contemplating major career moves and figuring out creative strategies to make less than ideal situations meaningful, but everyone listens and shares from their own diverse  professional, religious, and family experiences. We learn how to tap into Ignatian spirituality tools together; we help each other gain insight into what the best decision at that time is. Through this discernment process, I decided that I need to experience practicing law, even if only for a season, for the following reasons: (1) it will ensure that I fulfill my calling and thereby give me more skills to serve the world; (2) it will provide the skills, credibility, and connections I need to provide leverage for future job prospects; and (3) becoming comfortable with conflict is an important part of my personal and spiritual development.  
     
    My series of contemplations led me to action: I recently sought out a volunteer opportunity with the Housing Justice Project where I will be helping represent tenants in eviction proceedings which will help me reach all of these goals, and I am looking forward to the social justice projects introduced in year two of CLA!
  • Seattle University School of Law, 2011