Mrs Leonie van Lent is an assistant professor at the Willem Pompe Institute for Criminal Law of the Faculty of Law, Utrecht University. Her PhD-thesis covered the topic of the principle of publicity in Dutch criminal procedure. Her field of research and lectures is Dutch criminal procedure and comparative criminal procedure.
Lawyr.it: What made you choose a legal career?
L.L.: Law is everywhere; law is very much connected to societal problems and interests. Law in the end refers to justice – an intriguing concept which can be studied, discussed and practiced in many ways. Law is therefore one of the most encompassing fields of study – of course you need to know about the law itself, but you can and in fact must study also a bit of philosophy, sociology, political sciences.
Lawyr.it: When did you become interested in criminal law and why did you choose an academic career in this field?
L.L.: I became interested in criminal law when studying law. The aspects that I mentioned before, about the law being closely linked to societal interests and the idea of justice are most prominent in the field of criminal law.
At the end of my studies, I came to the conclusion that I enjoyed doing legal research very much. That is why I agreed to take on a position as PhD, and subsequently as lecturer/researcher.
Lawyr.it: What are the positive and negative aspects of working with young students?
L.L.: Positive aspects: it is great to see that students develop further understanding, gain more insight during the course and their studies. It is also particularly nice to support students writing their master thesis, because then you are really in a position to help students to perform to the best of their abilities. There are hardly any negative aspects, though it is not very inspiring to encounter students during the lectures who are not interested in studying, or in law.
Lawyr.it: What do you think about women’s position in criminal law? Have you ever felt that it was harder for you because you are a woman?
L.L.: Oh yes. I cannot speak for myself when judging women’s position in the practice of criminal law, but I do hear the complaints of friends. As to the university, I personally have experienced the limitations in career opportunities and research possibilities because of not being able to be available around the clock because of having a family life with small children.
Lawyr.it: Why do you think projects of Comparative legal research are important? Would you encourage students to get involved in them?
L.L.: They are important for broadening your perspective as to what law is and how it works, thereby also providing a better understanding of your own legal system. It makes you more attentive and sensitive towards other perspectives and cultures. They are also practically very relevant in our times, when legal issues are very rarely national legal issues only. Without comparative research no real harmonization on e.g. the EU level and implementation of supranational directions can be achieved.
Lawyr.it: If you would have to choose to practice law in an inquisitorial or an adversarial system, which one would you choose and why?
L.L.: That is a difficult question… That depends on the position. Being a defence counsel, an adversarial system gives you more opportunities and probably more interesting work. Being a public prosecutor seems much more interesting in an inquisitorial system; the position of a judge is interesting in both systems.
Lawyr.it: If you would have not chosen an academic career in criminal law, what else you would have done?
L.L.: It would either have been an academic career in another discipline or a career in criminal legislation and policy, or maybe practice law as a judge.
Lawyr.it: What advice would you give to law students?
L.L.: To take your studies seriously, but to also take yourself seriously and to take the path (study, field, job) that interests you most.
This interview was originally published in the fifth issue of the magazine, which can be accessed here.