Advocating for Families and Children
Elizabeth Hartwell always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. She excelled in debate in high school; teachers and professors affirmed she had the gifts to be successful.
But even so, Elizabeth hesitated. From what she could see, the legal profession required a killer instinct at odds with her desire to be a loving, faith-filled person.
So Elizabeth set aside her dream of law school. After graduating from St. Olaf College
, she took a job as an administrator; and then she worked as an editor at Augsburg Fortress
. But something in her life just wasn’t right.
“Then I had a light bulb moment,” Elizabeth reports.
I believe God has called me ... to be a fierce advocate on behalf of children in high-conflict custody situations and with the juvenile and foster-care systems.
- Elizabeth Hartwell
She woke up one morning with the clear sense that it was time to apply to law school. The decision felt so right that Elizabeth knew “this was a sign from God.” It would be through her work as a lawyer — not in spite of it — that she would best answer God’s call to be of service in this world.
Today Elizabeth is a family law attorney specializing in divorce, custody and child advocacy. She takes pride in being a compassionate professional who guides her clients through this devastating life passage.
Elizabeth observes, “People in the middle of divorce are traumatized and cannot see past their grief. It can be very difficult for them to reorder their families and make decisions in the best interests of the children. They’re just in too much pain.
“I believe God has called me to provide support for these people and to be a fierce advocate on behalf of children in high-conflict custody situations and with the juvenile and foster-care systems,” she says passionately.
“I think that if all children felt loved and secure and had equal opportunities for education, most of society’s problems would not exist. Our communities would look dramatically different.”
Elizabeth’s support for children doesn’t end with her work day. She campaigns for judges and politicians she feels will make a real difference in education and social programming.
She’s devoted her Sundays to the children of her congregation. And now she and her husband have eagerly welcomed their first child. Anna Justine was born at the end of January 2009.
Elizabeth concludes, “Frederick Buechner once said that the vocation for you is the one where your deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet. I am grateful that practicing family law does that for me.”
- Read these "Separation and Divorce" articles, for a discussion on what this church can do to support families in transition
- Find out more about Life as Vocation
- Justices is love applied to many neighbors. It means more than acting out of a sense of charity, or making a donation or volunteering our time. Learn how this church is involved in working for Justice