Most people are probably convinced that only “common” criminals will have to deal with our legal system. But the law is so diverse and covers so many areas of our lives that sooner or later everyone will encounter it.
I have conducted an interview with lawyer Dr Britta Hansen on this interesting topic.
It was clear to Dr Hansen very early on that she would later like to become a lawyer. She wanted direct contact with her clients in her work, wanted to help and not hide behind mountains of files. “I am there where it hurts. Prison, divorce and jobcentre!”, as she says herself.
For my article on “Everyday Law” (Alltagsrecht), Dr Hansen gave me a very apt definition:
“Every citizen encounters the law without having committed even a single misdemeanour or crime. Tenancy and employment law and the conclusion of a sales contract are classic examples of this.
Of course, in these fields of law, too, there is usually a direct legal consequence for the persons concerned. However, legal support and negotiations in court are only necessary if there are discrepancies.
She also told me about a very peculiar criminal case in which a drunk person was unable to find the key to her apartment and therefore “broke into” it. She stoutly broke the windowpane with a stone, climbed through it into the apartment, and went to sleep. Her peaceful sleep was abruptly ended by the police who were informed by the alerted neighbours who suspected a break-in by a stranger.
Neither had this person any bad intention nor wanted to harm people but through a misunderstanding faced the legal system. Nevertheless, such an act can have legal consequences, especially if the person has a previous criminal record.
In this case, one can be grateful to experts who are familiar with the legal system. Dr Hansen’s work is not about her being a lawyer and using all the tricks of the trade to get her clients out of a difficult situation. Rather, she sees herself as a supervisory authority through which legal decisions can be mitigated or revoked. Moreover, where people work, mistakes can always happen.
A lawyer not only needs specialist knowledge but must also be able to reformulate “legalese” into a language that clients can understand. This ensures that the client comprehends the facts of the case better so that the lawyer can also help better.
For me, Dr Hansen’s experience with the Job Centre was also interesting. She frequently deals with issues such as breaches of the legal obligation to cooperate, for example in the case of allegedly unsubmitted documents. Here, too, she tries to support and mitigate the legal consequences for her clients. However, she often deals with more serious cases, such as undeclared mini-jobs and unduly received benefits. With this, we are already in the area of an administrative offense or fraud.
As you can see, you encounter our legal system almost daily without realizing it. The encounter with everyday law does not always have noticeable consequences for us, which means that we do not even notice the encounter.
Text: Dominik Stark
Illustration: L. Thein
Layout: Rebecca Freyer
Photos: Thomas W.