Inspiring article about justice and dignity in the Happinez Magazine!
“In each issue we have a talk with an inspiring person, someone who actively strives for a better world.
Lawyer Digna de Bruin does just that by trusting her heart in her working life. She genuinely believes in Soft Power.
I am first and foremost a human being, secondly I am a lawyer
In the Dutch region of the Dutch ‘Achterhoek’ I am called the Tree Lawyer, because I regularly defend the rights of trees versus a municipality that is eager to use the chain saw.
This is still fairly unique in The Netherlands, but fortunately a worldwide movement is going on with a growing awareness of the rights of Mother Earth and future generations.
In countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia the rights of Mother Earth are actually incorporated in the Constitution. There the Earth is no longer regarded as a source to be exhausted, but as a living organism which is the habitat of millions of forms of life.
After my graduation in 1984 my career progressed quickly, working in a prestigious law firm I grew from an intern to full partner in ten years. It was hard work in a world that was dominated by men, hierarchy and power. I did well and knew how to hold my position, but something was simmering under the surface. Was this ‘it’ that I had chosen this profession for? Just like many others I had started my law studies out of idealism.
For me justice and dignity – the meaning of my name were the guiding principles.
However, many lawyers soon lose that feeling of idealism, because they are forced into endless defences that are not aimed towards the prevailing of justice, but finding loopholes in the law or stalling the procedure. Not only is this frustrating for the lawyers, but also for the clients.
Mainly one thinks in terms of winners and losers. In practice however this mainly means losers.
Because I now dare to stand for my values, others also dare to express their vulnerability
Lawyers often fight by the means of unnecessary grief or polarisation. This causes emotional damage, both for the client and for the opposing party.
In order to obtain more balance in my life I decided to follow a yoga training. I soon felt at home in this new world and enjoyed the genuine attention people seemed to have towards each other. This was totally different from my work. I could not talk about it with my colleagues and so I lead a double life. Only my secretary knew about it. She was my co-conspirator and told my colleagues that I was in court when in fact I was on the yoga mat.
By means of yoga, and by experiencing life (more fully), I grew closer to my soul and became more relaxed and less harsh.
I now recognise more quickly the inability of people to do things differently. Often, underneath anger, blunt or aggressive expressions, there is a concealed need, or a matter of fear why people behave like that.
Due to yoga I have become more in touch with my heart. I now dare to follow my impulses and intuition – also in my work as a lawyer – and to stand up for my values, however scary and difficult this sometimes may be. As a result others also dare to show and express their vulnerability. I try to genuinely make contact with the ‘opposing party’ out of dignity and respect and do not act from the kind of hostility that characterises many lawyers.
I keep the people – also on the opposite side – in one piece and try to get in touch with them to find out what it is that really concerns them. I often do so with a sense of humour, which is quite unusual in the legal profession. Once I asked a lawyer who took his time to come to the phone and appeared to be quite moody: ‘Did you hide behind the Xerox machine?’..
He had to laugh and the ice was instantly broken.
By giving space to others, without judging, one can change people.
It sometimes happens that people who initially ‘stand on the other side’, become willing to help me. They start thinking along with me, provide information, so that the case can be solved after all.
Choosing an unorthodox approach can help as well. Once, during an arduous case, I wished the lawyer on the opposing side a lot of strength, because between the lines I had understood that her child was in hospital. At once we appeared to be human beings and considerable headway was made with our case by making a ‘ladies’ proposal; meaning an unsubstantiated proposal; purely based on feeling and valid for one week only. Dynamics changed drastically and we could quickly solve the case. First and foremost I am a human being, secondly I am a lawyer, not the other way around.
I now have my own firm where I practice different kind of advocacy
I know it may sound vague, but I always try to work out of love. Actually it is strange that I feel obliged to apologise for that, but that’s how it often is in this profession.
Instead of being leading and manipulating during talks, I make use of other techniques such as ‘the empty hole in the middle’, as is beautifully described in Taoism.
To me it is important that people step out of their barriers. Only then one can reach the heart of the matter and thus reach a dignified solution for all parties concerned”.
Source: Happinez Magazine
Text: Tijn Touber
Styling: Tilly Hazenberg
Photography: Inga Powilleit
With cooperation of: Bellerose (trousers), Hunkydory (Blouse), Röhnisch (Top), Summum (sweater).