J. Reuben Clark Law Society

History of the JRCLS Organization

Although the J. Reuben Clark Law Society was not officially launched until 1987 and not legally formed until 1988, groups of LDS lawyers had organized and were meeting in a number of cities for almost a decade prior to the Society’s organization. LDS lawyers in in Atlanta, Seattle, and New York City, and Auckland, New Zealand, among others, were organized. It is worthy to note that inspiration came to people in diverse locations who felt that attorneys of faith would be blessed by recognizing and discussing how they, their families, and their practices could be strengthen by noting the intersection of their faith and their practice of law.     

One of the earliest groups was the Matthew Cowley Law Society in New Zealand, named for LDS Apostle and New Zealand Mission President, Matthew Cowley.{C}[1] In an interview with Jill Jasperson, Keith Thompson, former ALC for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pacific Rim, now a professor of law and attorney practicing in Australia, gives the following account of the origins of the Matthew Cowley Society:

“I was in a Stake Presidency in Auckland from 1983 and was aware of two YSA law students that drifted from Church as their degrees advanced. One of them worked for a very good law firm afterwards so he has completed a sound degree, but his faith flagged. Those perceptions informed the idea and later the creation of the Matthew Cowley Law Society where four of five of us who had kept our faith alive wanted to 'convince' those who had become less active that LDS faith and legal practice were entirely consistent and followed a grand tradition.”

A thought similar to Keith’s struck Gary Anderson, the second International Chair of the Society, who was serving as President of the Oakland Stake when the Law Society was formed.  Gary felt that a key role for the Society would be mentoring. He felt that older attorneys who had successfully balanced the practice of law, their family responsibilities, and service in the Church could teach younger attorneys how such balance could be achieved.

This need for balance is now emphasized in the mission statement of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, and in the activities organized by each of the 115 chapters of the law society.{C}[2]

By Nancy van Slooten, member of the History Task Force for the JRCLS Operations Committee, the Media Committee, and the Women in the Law Committee

{C}{C}[1]{C}{C} The New Zealand Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society still bears Elder Cowley’s name. 

{C}{C}[2]{C}{C}We affirm the strength brought to the law by a lawyer's personal religious conviction. We strive through public service and professional excellence to promote fairness and virtue founded upon the rule of law.”  

Posted: 2019-03-19