Work as a Form of Service: An interview with Adam Lurie

  • Sara Ivry

November 30, 2017

We are excited to share this profile of Schusterman Fellow Adam Lurie!

Adam Lurie is that envy-inducing example of someone who wholly loves his work. There are no boring moments, no drudgery—it’s invigorating. It’s meaningful. Look no further than the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling upholding the injunction against President Trump’s proposed travel ban for proof. On behalf of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), on whose board he sits, Lurie argued for the ruling in front of the court earlier this year; its critical decision came just before Memorial Day.

But it’s not just the high-stakes that make Lurie love what he does—it’s that he loves providing a meaningful service to companies, financial institutions, their executives and other clients. 

“I like the value of justice,” he says on the telephone. “I like helping people and businesses achieve their goals.”

He makes the point that there is a single Hebrew word for work, service and prayer in the Bible: avodah

“I don’t think that's a coincidence,” he says. “In my view, my work is very much a form of service that carries with it a sense of intentionality and righteousness.”

A partner in the international law firm, Linklaters, the 42-year-old Lurie heads its office in Washington D.C., where he’s in charge of litigation. He represents clients where “either money or peoples’ freedom is at stake,” and offers examples—defending banks, companies and their executives around the world, as well as leading political figures, among them the governors of New York and New Jersey. Overcoming legal roadblocks means clients can return to their regularly scheduled programming—serving their customers and constituents.

“I have always found the law very empowering,” Lurie says. He’s been interested in it since childhood. A graduate of Cardozo Law School, he worked as a white-collar federal prosecutor and senior official with the U.S. Department of Justice before joining the private sector. Lurie’s dedication transcends his for-profit work; he commits similar zeal and time to pro bono projects and continues to hone his leadership skills as a Schusterman Fellow

His AJC work includes sitting on its legal committee and engaging the organization with precedent-setting cases that preserve the rights of refugees and minorities.

In addition to the Fourth Circuit case, Lurie represented a Muslim inmate on behalf of AJC in front of the Supreme Court three years ago. That case hinged on the question of whether or not the inmate had the right to grow his beard in fulfillment of religious obligation. Prison authorities wanted him to shave it, arguing at the trial and appeals court level, that the inmate could hide something in his facial hair. By the time the case made its way to the high court, AJC had signed on with Lurie at the helm. They won—and so did the inmate. 

In the travel ban case, Lurie and AJC argued the executive order “doesn’t truly serve a national security purpose like it says it does,” he says. “For AJC, if you’re going to ban people from coming into the U.S. or selectively allow them to come, there should be a good reason for that.”

Similarly, he represented AJC about a year and a half ago, arguing on behalf of a group of Syrian refugees who filed suit against a policy implemented in the state of Indiana, under then-governor Mike Pence, to ban them from settling there.

“That was a discriminatory policy and it violated, among other things, a federal statute that says government officials can’t enact discriminatory immigration policies,” he says. “We won.”

“Throughout history Jews have been refugees, subject to unfair and discriminatory immigration policies,” Lurie went on. For AJC, such cases “go right to the heart of its mission.” 

All of this gets done in Lurie’s “spare time,” he jokes. A father to twin six-year-olds and a one-year-old, Lurie and his wife make time to engage with their kids about matters small and big.

Friday nights, they light Shabbat candles and the Luries discuss their “issues of importance. We talk about how they have helped people in the prior week. I encourage them to listen to what happens at Temple, and then we talk about it in a way they understand.”

He also tries to impart the lesson, contrary to the inference from Robin Hood, that there’s no shame in pursuing a prosperous career as long as a person is contributing to society. That’s a value he gleaned from his own dad, an architect. 

“A key thing he taught me about Judaism is how important it is to help people,” Lurie says. “Driving around my hometown, I would see houses and buildings that my dad built and I’d think about the people who live in his houses and make memories, or the businesses in his buildings that make money; it was a service-minded approach to profit-making work and that’s how I approach my business, too.”

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.

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