There is a legal doctrine from tort law, delightfully called “frolic and detour.” Frolic and detour sets certain limits to when an employer can be held liable for an employee’s conduct. Imagine you’re a FedEx driver out on your route when you pull into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot to grab a coffee and you accidentally hit someone’s car. The coffee run was a reasonable bit of self-care, something most employers should expect their perennially sleep-deprived workers to do. And it was a quick and slight divergence from your work-prescribed route. So the odds are that the courts would see it as just a detour and FedEx will still be liable for the accident. But what if you take a break and head south out of Boston until you get to your favorite coffee shop in Panama City? In the eyes of the law, you’re on a frolic and FedEx is off the hook if you get into a fender bender on your way through Mexico.
I never liked elevator speeches. I struggled with reducing my purpose in life or work to a rush of words that I could get out before reaching the figurative lobby. Now that I’m in law school, the task is a little easier. People generally have some sense of what it is to be a lawyer. But prior to this I was studying philosophy of religion at a divinity school. Fewer people have a clear sense of what that’s about. And these days, if I happen to divulge both of those pieces of my biography—law school and divinity school—I can often see the confusion work its way through their faces.
Often they’re wondering why a pastor, minister, or priest would become a lawyer. I explain that I, like most students at my school, went for a degree in religious studies, not ordination. Another reason for the dissonance seems to come from that old dichotomy between the sacred and the profane. Even as fewer people in our country identify with organized religion, there still seems to be some notion that those who take religion seriously at least have the courage of their convictions. Lawyers, on the other hand, are known for their moral promiscuity. Both generalizations need to be questioned. Still, when quickly explaining how I ended up at BC Law, I often try and fail to reconcile that perceived tension.
So I’m using this blog to break free from the limitations of an elevator speech and offer one explanation of how divinity school and law school go hand in hand. A warning up front: as an occupational hazard of divinity school education, I sometimes reason allegorically, and this will be one of those times.