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Bob Cochran came to faith in the early 1970s as a first-year law student at the University of Virginia. His life transformed, the son of a Baptist preacher contemplated leaving law school to go to seminary. At that time, he could imagine no way to express his newfound faith as a lawyer.

Fortunately, Tom Shaffer, a Notre Dame professor who would later write On Being a Christian and a Lawyer, came to Virginia as a visiting professor. A seminar on law and religion met at his home, opening in prayer (Cochran imagined university founder Thomas Jefferson's distress), and ending with beer. Says Cochran: "It was an eye opener." Cochran began to understand how his legal career could be a Christian vocation—an understanding he has spent most of his career developing and passing on to others.

During 25 years teaching at Pepperdine Law School, Cochran has nurtured a growing body of lawyers who believe "Christian lawyer" is no oxymoron. Cochran enthusiastically leads the national Law Professors' Christian Fellowship, writes and edits a growing body of literature on law and religion, directs Pepperdine's Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics (which he founded), and leads a Bible study for law students in his home. The efforts are bearing fruit, at Pepperdine and elsewhere. "Pepperdine has always had a strong Christian emphasis," he says, but in recent years "there's been more thinking about the implications of being a Christian on being a lawyer and on the law."

Until the 1970s, many Americans assumed that they shared a Christian culture, and nowhere was that attitude more pervasive or complacent than in law. Whether in church-related schools or not, law students studied the same basic elements of law set down by Harvard ...

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August 2008

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