Emmeline Oudin, 43, has always wanted to be a lawyer. As a child, she put her stuffed animals in court and asked her grandmother to play the victim. The anecdotes of her mother, a clerk in a law firm, are undoubtedly not unrelated to her vocation, which led her to study law in Tours, then to the law school in Poitiers. In 2008, she joined the bar of Nantes. Today sharing her practice with three partners, she specializes in family litigation and medical law. Two areas that put her in daily contact with human beings, in their richness and darkness. Like her lawyer’s dress, her “stage costume”, which she always wears with solemnity.
The Cross The Weekly : What makes you get up in the morning?
Emmeline Oudin: The excitement of exercising the job of my dreams. It never rhymes with routine or boredom, because it involves very strong human interactions every day. What is exciting is that the work provided has a direct impact on people’s lives. We feel useful because we are there to accompany them in the resolution of a conflict, from the amicable steps to the referral to the court. Being a good expert is not enough. The law is very stimulating intellectually but with experience, I realize that the human material is just as important.
It takes a lot of listening to identify the right legal issue behind a situation. Recently, I had to deal with a disagreement concerning an alternating residence for a baby of a few months. In reality, one of the parents clung to it to maintain the bond with the other parent. In the context of a separation, there may be more resentment than objectively violated rights.
At work, how is it going?
EO: I see my office as a neutral space symbolizing recourse to the law. There is nothing personal, no photo… But there is no question of maintaining the myth of the inaccessible lawyer! My cabinet has warm and soothing colors. This reassures the client, and I really take my time to establish a relationship of trust. The other part of my job, which takes up 70% of my time, is processing emails! Our customers often ask us for immediate availability, while sometimes it takes time to let things rest. Many emails are written out of anger. I’ve only been in the business for fourteen years, but it’s an aspect that has made our profession evolve enormously.
And then there are the audiences. When I put on my dress, I step into a role. It’s a kind of shell that helps keep a cool head. With experience, we manage to adapt to the unexpected, whether it’s an opponent who destabilizes us or a judge who asks for details that we hadn’t necessarily anticipated. My pleadings are very square because I come to speak the law. Of course, there may be a place for emotion, but it is the legal reasoning that takes precedence because it is this that is protective. I remember one day when I had to stop because a father began to cry bitterly when I pleaded his cause.
Who do you trust?
EO: In the law with a capital L. I have confidence in this protective framework to govern social ties and guarantee the rights and freedoms of citizens. As Rousseau described it, it is she who allows human beings to pass from the wild state to the social pact. It is clear that in some countries, such as Iran or Afghanistan, this is flouted because it does not protect the rights of all human beings. Even in France, the social pact is in danger insofar as justice faces a lack of means. This has consequences: the delays in appealing to a judge increase or legal aid encounters malfunctions (1). Recently, I accompanied two women who live on the active solidarity income (RSA). It’s been a year since I made my request for support, and I’m still missing a supporting document. I’ll probably be paid in six months. Access to a lawyer should be the same for everyone.
Has a scene marked you recently?
EO: I am thinking of this gentleman, thrown out of the marital home without there being any question of violence. He earns no more than €1,000 a month and has been sleeping in his car for three months, without any alternative accommodation. On the same day, I received a financier also engaged in divorce proceedings. He was worried about sharing his million dollar house. Both went through the same ordeal but in opposite situations… There is also this artist client who brings all his paintings to the practice to show me his work, or this client victim of a medical error who begins to undress to show me his bodily harm…
Right now, what would change your life?
EO: A little legislative break! For several years, we have been faced with an inflation of texts. We can never rest on our achievements and on a certain legal certainty. It’s as if we were constantly working on quicksand. In family litigation alone, we have been faced with three major reforms since 2017, with transitional provisions that have been spread over time. It’s exhausting!
And for tomorrow, an idea to change the world?
EO: I would like to be able to defend “the widow and the orphan” without asking myself the question of remuneration. Restoring the means for justice to function properly, for all strata of society, and in particular the most precarious, also means restoring confidence in our institutions. In recent years, the state has become very disengaged, leaving individuals to resolve their conflicts on their own. I am entirely in favor of amicable solutions or mediation, provided that the parties involved are on an equal footing. Otherwise, relations of domination take over. We need strong justice to protect the weak.