The two institutions share similarities, rooted deeply in culture and history.
The separation of Church and State represents a pillar of modern Western society. Today, we all enjoy freedom of religious expression. People base their lives and morals on more than just rules and laws. They have views, ideas, and beliefs. The Government, on the other hand, acts by following a spiritually unbiased system.
Having said that, there are still many similarities between courthouses and churches—especially in this country. In fact, in America, law has become our secular religion. The affinity between law and religion in the United States dates back to the formation of the country, tied to the evolution of American society.
Both churches and courthouses are very important places for our communities. In these buildings, people gather, listen, come together, and perform useful social functions.
In some ways, the courts and the Church are almost mirror images of one another. These similarities also affect the sheer layout and design of the rooms which host them. For example, the judge would occupy a very similar place as a minister would in a church. They both hold authority positions, and their location matters. Their actual physical placement within the court can highlight their particular status. The jury, sitting to the side of the court area, occupies the same position as choir in a church.
A long history.
In ancient history, the Church acted as the core of the community. This was true long before the legal system became an established force, ruling our activities as it does today. In ancient times, religious leaders determined the administration of justice and other matters. In addition to that, the Church undertook important clerical tasks, such as recording the population through censuses. To this day, we owe a lot of our historical and genealogical knowledge to clerical archives!
Over time, governing bodies, and religious authorities acquired different roles. The separation happened gradually, usually prodded by organized resistance to state-sponsored religion. It led to the legal system as we know it today. The heritage of such a long history can still be witnessed whenever you walk into a courtroom, or a church.
Beautiful buildings really make an impression.
Churches exemplify the most stunning remnants of historical eras. Designed to be visually striking, aiming to make an indelible impression on visitors, churches became the focus of each generation’s best architects. Courthouse buildings, especially the older ones, have layouts closely resembling those of churches. They usually have a beautiful entrance, often adorned by columns or arches, as well as a tower, which makes the building closely identifiable within the community.
Much like a Church building, an American courthouse aims to be highly recognizable. Back when cities were smaller, courthouses became the most important buildings in the whole settlement, and probably some of the earliest “proper” buildings to be established, before massive population spikes and big residential constructions would eventually swell the size of urban areas. In some communities, courthouses are highly coveted historical buildings, which stand out as important landmarks. A courthouse, like a church or a library, occupies an important location in a city and, in some cases, can also become one of its most famous features, even attracting tourists and other visitors!
The separation of Church and State.
The idea of Church and State as two distinct concepts mainly comes from Protestant Christianity.
Before the Protestant Reformation, there was not a clear dividing line between government, legality, and spirituality in Europe. Due to the unity of Church and State in the feudal system, important legal and political decision-making only occurred with the direct influence of spiritual leaders. Because of this, State actions were deeply clothed in superstitious beliefs, such as the interpretation of various natural phenomena. During the is time (referred to as The Dark Ages, for good reason), religious leaders in the Christian world had a massive impact on other spheres, such as politics and law. However, the separation between Church and the legal system inevitably began, as various Protestant sects split from the established (Catholic) church, the established (feudal) State, and, necessarily, the established economic system. In this way, as scholars like Max Weber recognized, the Protestant Reformation and the rise of capitalism were one in the same.
The American Influence.
As noted supra, the capitalist revolution represented a break from past religion and past government, which had acted to restrict individual freedom. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the American War of Independence and the United States Constitution, which forever codified the rejection of established religion and the separation of Church and State.
The idea of a secular government became even more solidified in the world during the massive wave of immigration to the United States. Many people moved from Europe to the new world, in search of religious freedom.
All these different spiritual minorities needed an unbiased, secular legal system and government, as a way to preserve individual religious freedom and personal liberty. These are the most important values forming the foundation of American government (copied by many other countries throughout the world) from the Founding Fathers to the present day.
Because of these foundational tenets, American legislatures also sought to prevent the diversion of significant government funding to parochial and ecclesiastic educational facilities. This factor represented another driving motive for the distinct division between Church and the State. The First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution virtually require it.
Conclusions and final thoughts.
While the law and the Church are two different bodies, they share common roots. They can be traced back to the very beginning of human society. These institutions to protect an essential need of people: coming together. Both the Church and the law gave us a common framework, a way to relate to one another, even without necessarily sharing deeper personal connections. The need for a central authority, the involvement of the people, the reverence for power, and the respect for certain roles are all shared values. These have translated to both the religious and the legal fields over the ages.
After gaining its independence, the United States became the first country in the Christian world to demand a clear bulwark between the Church and the State. The First Amendment established a clear freedom of religion, but this very freedom assured that no single religion had precedence over any other religion. The Constitution rejected the concept of a state religion and established a form of government independent from religion itself.
Without religion to influence government, the United States became a nation of laws, and laws themselves became a substitute for religion. In this country law has become a secular religion and the courthouse its house of worship. When you walk into a Federal Court, you are walking into a national church. Hence the reverence and respect expected of the congregants who enter into an American court. Having myself practically grown up in church, I often marvel at the similarities between a Federal courtroom and the sanctuary of a Protestant Church.
Links and references:
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Learn more about the importance of referrals, and how they can help your
law firm and legal profession grow and generate business.
The world of marketing is changing at a high-speed page. However,
even with the latest technologies, one of its fundamental pillars
remains relevant to this day: referrals.
Let's start with the very basics. What is a referral? To put it simply, it is
the act of referring someone to a third party. For instance, if you are in
need of financial advice, your attorney might be able to refer you to a
Referrals are vital to professionals across various areas. In fact, they
are particularly significant for attorneys! In fact, some industry insiders
say that referrals are the best marketing tool available in the legal
How Can Attorneys and Legal Professionals Benefit From Referrals?
One of the best ways to increase the effectiveness of your referrals is
to establish great relationships with your clients. In other words,
happier customers might be more likely to recommend your services
to others in their local circles. A client who is satisfied with your work
will vouch for your skills, and it will refer you to others through word of
mouth, social media, and other means.
In some cases, referrals can be much more potent than traditional
advertisements. Consider this: would you rather trust a law firm
recommended by a close friend or one you saw on a billboard?
People tend to trust advice and suggestions coming from friends and
relatives. A positive experience can do so much the growth of your
Running Effective Referral Campaigns
In order to harness the full potential of referrals, you can't sit there and
hope your clients will spread the word. You need to encourage people
to refer you and reward them for doing so.
Many law firms offer exclusive perks to people who bring them referral
business. Some of these might include free billable hours or a lower
It's also critical to establish good communication outlets to reach
people with your referral campaigns. A good mailing list still works
wonders, but you can also harness the potential of other channels,
such as social media platforms. Getting people to refer your business
is only half the way to the top of the mountain. You need some extra
work to get to the top!
To increase your chances of getting great referrals, make it easy on
your customers to refer you. If the process of referral is clumsy and
complicated, your customers might not want to waste their time.
Remember to implement a process, to make sure that referring you is
as simple as possible.
Affiliate Referral Programs
Many professionals in the legal field use affiliate programs as a way to
secure more referrals. In most cases, good affiliate programs are a
"win-win" situation for all parties involved. Some affiliate marketing
programs enable people who refer your business to earn some unique
perks. In some cases, they can even earn a commission on the
business acquired through the referral.
It might seem strange to get more business from your competitors.
However, people in the legal field can be the best source for new
referrals out there. In fact, referrals in the legal industry do not just
come from happy customers. Networking with other professionals is
also very important. For example, other attorneys can be a great source
of referrals. This is a classic example of "you scratch my back; I
scratch yours." In this scenario, legal professionals help each other
out with mutual referrals.
Attorneys and other professionals in the legal field often collaborate.
They might have a referral agreement in place to support each other's
businesses. This also enables them to gain a higher flow of
Are Referrals Working Out For You?
If you want to make sure that your law firm's referral program is
working, it is important to track data and relevant information. Make
sure to note how expensive each referral acquisition is, and track
everything. This is the best way to make sure that your referral
program is actually paying back. A good management system is the
best way to keep track of your referrals. For best results, you'll need
something that goes beyond your average spreadsheet.
It might also be confusing to use the same management tools you use
for billing and case management. For this reason, creating a specific
system can be your best approach to avoid clutter. Most companies in
the legal field think it's crucial to build a management solution to keep
This process can help you keep track of your referrals and potential
business leads. Understanding where your clients come from is also a
great way to learn more about your referrals.
Don't be afraid to ask your clients how they learned about your
business! You can use a form or simply ask a question online, so you
can gather the data as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.
"How did you learn about our law firm?" is a simple, yet powerful
question. It could bring so much to your future marketing efforts, and
help you enhance your referral rates by further refining your strategy.
In conclusion, referrals are still a very important marketing tool in the
legal field. Whether you represent a law firm, or you are an
independent professional, you can grow your business organically
through clever referral systems in place. You should remember to
consider analytics carefully, so you can fully understand how your
business is benefiting from the referrals you’re getting, and whether
it’s worth your efforts.
Sources & References:
74 years ago yesterday (May 9, 1945), what was left of the German High Command formally surrendered to the Allies in Reims, France, ending the conflict in Europe and bringing to conclusion one of the most reprehensible and ruinous regimes in World History. On behalf of all those who died and were murdered, I join my Jewish Friends in praying and saying "Never Again."
In most countries around the world, the laws that are written as very clear – they are there in black and white, and there’s no room for interpretation. But as human beings, there is a constant need to ensure that things are correct, things are right, and things are as they should be.
This leads to a need for court rooms and judges, trials by jury, and a decision on guilt or innocence being made as an interpretation of the written laws weighed up against the actions of an individual.
In some cases, people have been convicted for crimes that in later years were deemed to not be crimes at all. For example, before California’s Proposition 64, the possession and use of marijuana was illegal in the state. In 2016, it became legal.
This simply meant that for those with prior convictions in relation to marijuana, they could have them struck from the record – an important move, as convictions of that nature could impact the opportunity to get a job.
Entering the Digital Era
The city of San Francisco had been digitizing its files since 1975, so it would seem to be a simple matter to flick a switch and update all the records that were held, quickly removing the convictions. Unfortunately, that’s not how digitization works.
What San Francisco (and many other cities) had stored was effectively a photograph of paper documents, viewable on a computer, but completely unreadable by a computer. To have a conviction removed, an individual must fill in the paperwork to begin the process, and that paperwork may not be simple at all.
San Francisco estimated that around 10,000 people could apply to this process, but by 2018 a total of 23 people had identified themselves. The city took matters into their own hands and spent a lot of time manually going through the documents and found 1230 eligible people (read more). There had to be a better way.
Through the use of optical character recognition (OCR), automation, and artificial intelligence, a program was devised that could process the digitized records and attempt to understand what they said. If a record included mention of a violent crime, the program discarded it as the individual would be ineligible. If there was any doubt about the content of a file, a human was notified for further input. But overall, the software ran itself and produced a result.
Within minutes, it was able to identify another 8000 people who were eligible to have their convictions cleared.
A judge signed them off in one go, and the criminal records of thousands of people were suddenly revised, opening new horizons for each one – and saving the city (and those individuals) a massive amount of work.
How does it work?
OCR has been around for quite a long time, but without the ability to understand, it is mostly useless for tasks of this nature. The ability for a machine to learn, and to thereby understand, gives the opportunity for thousands of documents to be processed by a tireless machine that doesn’t make mistakes in the same way that a human might. The AI industry is prone to calling these algorithms “robots”, as the dictionary definition of a robot includes “…that are able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically” – by reading and understanding, they are replicating what a human could do.
The artificial intelligence portion of such software allows true understanding and learning. In its simplest form, you could use a keyword search to determine if “violent crime” featured on any record, but the context is important. If the record stated, “this person has never been involved in violent crime”, it shouldn’t be discarded. If that sentence ends with, “until now”, then it should be discarded – machine learning allows these nuances to be understood.
In the California example, if there was serious doubt, a human was called in. It is unknown whether the human interaction allowed the algorithm to be updated – true machine learning would include the ability to make future judgments based on what was learned from how the human reacted.
The future of AI and Law
A precedent has now clearly been set that AI systems can analyze records and find convictions and flag them to be removed, but how far can it go?
The Broward County system, according to Joan Napole, the IT project management office manager, scans incoming documents for sensitive information and removes it. About 20 percent of the filings are automatically docketed.
Currently, courts and corrections departments around the US use algorithms to determine a defendant's "risk", which ranges from the probability that an individual will commit another crime to the likelihood a defendant will appear for his or her court date. These algorithmic outputs inform decisions about bail, sentencing, and parole. Each tool aspires to improve on the accuracy of human decision-making that allows for a better allocation of finite resources.
Government agencies do not write their own algorithms; they buy them from private businesses. This often means the algorithm is proprietary or "black boxed", meaning only the owners, and to a limited degree the purchaser, can see how the software makes decisions. Currently, there is no federal law that sets standards or requires the inspection of these tools, the way the FDA does with new drugs.
Also consider, finding a jury that is truly impartial is always difficult, whereas a machine will be impartial by default. Could a program be developed that would be capable of reading court documents, understanding them, and producing a verdict immediately? More importantly, would the public trust such a machine?
It seems as if it is science fiction, but it is much closer to reality than you might think.
For many law practices, the ability to process large amounts of paperwork quickly would be truly beneficial. If a summary of a case could be produced within minutes rather than days, it would make the task so much easier. In fact, there are many services available today that will digitize and process business paperwork using software robots. Large companies that send paper bills to thousands of people (for example, credit card companies) already make use of this technology to process incoming payments – but that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Would a trained law practitioner have a better understanding of a case than a computer? Is there even a possibility that law practices could be replace by AI?
There are automated systems currently in place that issue tickets and fines for vehicles that are traveling above the legal speed limit. In some cases, these tickets have been overturned as the vehicle in question was moving out of the way, preventing an accident from happening – could machine learning help to prevent false positives like this? And if so, would it reduce the need for legal representation in such cases?
The legal system has come a long way in the last few decades, and the move towards digital devices is unstoppable. The question is, how far are you willing to trust them within a law practice, and would you have confidence in a courtroom under the jurisdiction of a robot judge? The technology is improving constantly, and it may only be a matter of time before this science fiction becomes science fact.
These are just small examples of AI and lawyers integrating but we will always need the human touch.