To 'street lawyer,' balance is key
Gratitude, compassion guide her practice
Editor's Note: We first met Denise Ansell in February 2006 when she was the Woman of Grace for that issue. In Grace Revisited we check back in with former cover subjects to see how they are and what's new in their lives.
By KATRINA T. GATHERS
For attorney Denise P. Ansell, the law is the law.
There's no area of gray, no moments of questioning what's right and wrong. So when it comes to practicing in the profession she loves, it doesn't matter what type of client she represents.
"I do family law, civil law, not just criminal defense. It's all about balance and fairness and conflict resolution," she explains.
In the last five years, her determination and focus has not wavered, even though she wishes that jurisprudence would evolve in a more timely fashion.
"The law doesn't change. Snails can win the NASCAR faster than the law changing," she jokes, "but I can't say my practice has been any less rewarding.
"I'm a street lawyer. Whatever comes in the door, I handle," she explains. "I'm seeing a lot more despair, because of the economy. But there's also been a renewed faith in people."
While checking her inbox, Ansell recently came across an email from a man she'd previously represented. The man, a member of the National Guard who now works as a recruiter, thanked the attorney for helping him gain custody of his son.
The email was sent 10 years to the day that the case was decided in the recruiter's favor.
"I was so touched by that, that he remembered the anniversary," she says softly, while wiping tears from her cheeks. "That's what keeps me getting up in the morning. I was his court-appointed attorney; he didn't pick me."
In recent years, Ansell has continued to work hard to debunk the stereotype of unprincipled, money-grubbing lawyers. On the second floor of her Broad Street Victorian office, she has turned two areas into a yoga studio.
The studio teaches Kundalini yoga, the form Ansell practices, to children after school and on Saturday mornings. She says people experiencing impulse control or those suffering from trauma can benefit from the regimen.
Another obvious difference in Ansell's office is the absence of her four-legged friend. Kimokimo, her Siberian Husky, died last May.
"I lost a valuable family member," she says. "But he was my third, so the odds of getting another one are very good."
Despite her loss, Ansell has been able to fulfill a dream she had put on hold - traveling. She's been to Italy, Greece and Turkey, along with Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Estonia (in the Baltics). To date, her favorite destinations have been the seaside of Germany and the Norwegian Fjords.
In recent months, Ansell, who in sixth grade began reading everything she could get her hands on about Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, spent time on the Mayan peninsula, where she went diving, hiked the rainforest and toured ancient ruins.
"I've been waiting to go to all these places." "Seeing all those places was a culmination of my curiosity."
Ansell, who also holds a minor in Far Eastern Philosophy, says her interests have shaped her belief system.
"Religion is like ice cream; it comes in all different flavors for me. Creator, God, Allah, the Divine Source … whatever you name it - or not - it works for me," she says. "An attitude of gratitude is what I strive for."