The Life and Career of Arthur Gross-Schaefer, The Rabbi- Attorney

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Dr. Gross-Schaefer teaches ethics, spirituality and other classes as co-chair of the Department of Marketing and Business Law at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

A 1976 graduate of Boston University School of Law, Dr. Gross-Schaefer has had various irons in the fire. After graduation, he briefly worked for a CPA, practiced as a litigation attorney, ran his brother's congressional campaign and worked for a member of the Israeli Parliament. In 1984, he was ordained as a rabbi after completing his studies at Hebrew Union College.

Q: What inspired you to become a rabbi?

My goal at a very young age was to make the world a better place. I was about 8 years old and saw John F. Kennedy and saw politicians and politics as the best way to make the world a better place. There were three skills I needed to master: one was money, so therefore accounting; one was law; and one was how to work with people, and that was social work. I did all three of those things. The problem is when I started to practice law, my goal was to make sure I won. When I ran my brother's campaign…again, you started to get where you wanted to win. I started to find myself losing my moral compass. Rabbinic school was a way for me to retool who I wanted to be.

Q: How does your JD continue to help you today?

What I often do with my articles and so forth is to have a situation - take terminating an employee as an example. I want to know what the legal avenues are, the legal rules. I want to know what the ethical considerations are and the spiritual dimension. My goal is to (consider) all three together.

Q: Do most law schools have ethics classes?

The answer is yes and no. On the bar exam, to become a lawyer, you have to pass an ethics test. That's a very different type of ethics than what I'm talking about. The ethics they do is how not to be sued for malpractice. What I'm talking about is bringing your core values of honesty and integrity, or whatever your core values are, into how you practice law. What I focus on is a very different type than your typical ethics classes in law school. In many schools, it's more philosophical ethics. In other words, they teach you about Hume or teach you about Mill. Very beautiful theories, but you have no idea how to bring that into your day-to-day life.

Q: When you were in law school, what did you envision doing with your law degree?

Probably it was to go into politics.

Q: What's your advice for those looking to do something different or unconventional with their JDs? How can they avoid simply following their peers who are applying to big firms?

You know how corporations have mission statements? I want them to have their own personal mission statement, who they want to be. So when the demands come howling down on them, they have a foundation of who they are and they have a sense of their own values. And then they (examine) what the values are of where they are working. Because wherever you're working, those values of the work environment will tend to, over time, erode your own values if there's a conflict.

I want them to have their own mission statement, their own core values and a very good sense of the real values - not the articulated values - the real values of where they'll be working and see if there's a connection.

Law is an amazing background. And that background gives you entry points into all sorts of personal endeavors, all sorts of possibilities. I have even used it in my work as a rabbi, in my work with school boards and with public education.

Q: Who inspired you to go into law?

The people who inspired me the most were the lawyers who were able to take unpopular kinds of situations and defend those people or at least give voice to those people who did not have others speaking for them. Brandeis is one who comes to mind very, very quickly…I believe that the law needs to mirror our values, not the other way around.

Boston University School of Law


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