Why I Do What I Do

When Angela Williams dons her black robe, she’s serving a higher authority–not serving as one
BY MARCI ALBOHER, L Magazine, December 2001

Most lawyers struggle with the work-life balancing act. But for Angela Williams, one career isn’t enough. During the week Williams practices securities law at the Washington, D.C., office of Bryan Cave. On the weekends, when her colleagues retreat to their hobbies and families, Williams exchanges her suit for a long black robe and settles into her other life as a minister at the Shiloh Baptist Church (or at Arlington Viginia’s Mount Zion Baptist Church where she’s just become associate pastor). Her time management philosophy? “There are 24 hours in the day, and I use all of them effectively.”

For Williams, pursuing two seemingly unrelated careers makes complete sense. “At the core of the legal profession and the core of Christianity, the one word is justice,” she explains. Her legal resume reflects that philosophy, with stints as an assistant judge advocate generate in the Air Force trying courts-martial cases; as a federal prosecutor where she investigated a series of arsons at black churches; and on Senator Edward Kennedy’s Judiciary Committee staff where she worked on President Clinton’s impeachment trial.

She established her legal career first, thinking that religion would play a more minimal role in her life. But after nine years as a lawyer, a 1996 trip to Jerusalem brought her faith alive. She then realized she needed to make spirituality real for others as well. A year later, while working on Senator Kennedy’s staff, she enrolled in the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.

It wasn’t easy, though. During the impeachment trial, she worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week–stealing whatever time she could find in the wee hours to study for school. She refused to take a leave of absence because she didn’t want to delay her studies, and she managed to make up all her exams after the trial concluded (getting straight As to boot).

Shortly after she was ordained as a minister, Williams made a transition in the legal world by moving into the private sector after years in public service. Still a litigator, she now specializes in SEC and fraud investigations, but these days the government is often on the other side of her cases. Surprisingly, she sees very little difference in the law from her new vantage point. “There is a sense of justice and the importance of doing what is right,” a principle she says holds true whether your client is the government or a corporation.

Williams makes no attempts to hide her spiritual side at the office. And in the aftermath of September 11, she had an opportunity to blend her two roles. “I sensed the pain, grief, shock, and other emotions that my colleagues felt. Many were unable to concentrate, made stupid errors, or were reluctant to come to work. I wanted to validate their feelings of helplessness as individuals and part of the corporate community.” So when President Bush declared September 14 a national day of prayer and remembrance for the victims of the terrorist attacks, Williams decided to organize a prayer service for her colleagues at Bryan Cave. Using the firm’s largest conference room, she prepared a service with prayers and songs, and invited the firm by e-mail. The event was standing-room only.

One of her hopes is that others will see the value of leading a more holistic life. “Unfortunately Western culture has instituted an artificial separation between the spiritual and the secular which causes people to have multiple personalities–one that they exhibit in their place of worship and the other in the workplace.” The key, she says, is “to be who you are in all phases and aspects of your life.”

Copyright© 2001 NLP IP Company


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