Alumna Anne Marie van Rietschoten on the importance of ethics and making a contribution
If it was up to alumna and member of the Advisory Board Anne Marie van Rietschoten, philosophy and ethics would be part of the standard curriculum for a law degree. In our monthly flash interview with alumni, Anne Marie explains why she believes this is so important.
What did you study and why? What made you choose Leiden University?
I studied Dutch law from 1988 to 1994. Leiden was a very conscious choice for me because of all the options (at that time) to specialise and, equally important, because of the city itself.
Did it turn out to be what you expected? What kind of a student were you?
It was only in the latter stages of my degree that I became really interested, when I did the practicum and the privatissimum. If I’m honest, up to that point I was happy just to pass exams with a 6.
In hindsight, is there a subject you would have liked to have studied during your degree? Perhaps a specific course that wasn’t taught, or an internship or something else you missed?
The ethical side to law was limited in my degree to a short elective on the topic – I would have liked to have spent more time on that. It’s recently become painfully clear that adhering to rules does not always lead to a just outcome. If you ask me, ethics should be a standard subject at the foundation level of the degree, and returned to in more depth later on in the curriculum. I think it would make us better lawyers and human beings, because it would help to broaden our view of the world.
Can you explain why you decided not to keep working at a law firm?
Being a lawyer is still a wonderful profession and certainly as a basis for a career, it provides a challenging and exciting training. My interest to look beyond the mere legal aspects of a case stimulated me to look outside the profession.
More information about vacancies on the Advisory Board is available here.
You now have your own company and you also work as a headhunter. How do you combine these roles and what do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy most is meeting people whom I wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for my work. I work very closely with some people, helping them towards a new job. That requires my full focus on the other person as well as flexibility. I can plan my own diary depending on any commissions. And so I can combine my work well with other activities such as FIRESTRTR, interim and crisis management.
Do you still use your law degree in your current work?
My network is made up mostly of lawyers – that is the most important, perhaps indirect, consequence of my degree. I know where my clients and candidates are coming from, and equally important – I use the structured thinking I learned at university every day.
As a headhunter you must know what is required of lawyers and legal experts. Has much changed in this area?
Of course a lot has changed. There are more specialisations, for one thing, but the biggest changes are to do with skills. In the legal profession and the business sector, I see that lawyers have to be better able to understand areas where legal aspects are involved. That varies from commercial insights and technical understanding to strategic vision. This can be better achieved if you are willing to help others and work together with other disciplines within the organisation you are working for. Taking a broader view also helps.
Do you think that the current degree programmes offered are in line with future requirements?
In the first place, the university aims to develop and stimulate academic intellectual ability. As I said above, I would choose to increase what is offered in the curriculum related to ethics and philosophy. That would contribute to students having a broader view on the world.
You are a member of the faculty Advisory Board. Can you tell us a bit more about that and why you joined?
I find it inspiring to still play a part at the faculty that brought me so much. It’s good to be able to do something in return. The Advisory Board is aware of what’s going on at the faculty and can provide advice and suggestions, whether requested or not. Each member shares experiences from his or her area of expertise. It’s exciting to be involved again at the faculty together with alumni from other years.
There are currently two vacancies on the Advisory Board, why should alumni respond?
It’s important to contribute to the faculty’s future. What you see in your professional environment can be of value for the faculty. The interaction between alumni and the faculty helps to improve the quality of the degree programmes in the broadest sense, so not just the substance of courses but also links to the job market. Being a member of the Advisory Board is a great way to contribute to that.