Shortly before the coronacrisis took hold of the Netherlands, Linde Bryk started as Director Amsterdam Law Clinics at the Amsterdam Law School. In this position she will continue to put the five thematic clinics on the map and take them to a higher level. Devising a longer term strategy appeals to her: 'As Director Amsterdam Law Clinics I can apply my practical experience in education to guide and motivate students.'
Linde Bryk has worked in the Netherlands as a lawyer and in Kosovo as a human rights officer for the European Rule of Law Mission. In 2016 she joined the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin as legal advisor in the Business and Human Rights program. During her time at the ECCHR, she investigates and litigates cases relating to forced labour and arms trafficking. 'In human rights and public interest law cases, I saw how working on such cases enthuses my interns and how it shapes them,' says Linde about her time in Berlin and Kosovo. Working with students on real issues gives her a lot of energy. 'As Director of Amsterdam Law Clinics I can apply my practical experience in education to guide and motivate students.'
Linde represents the Amsterdam Law Clinics in an international context and is further expanding the network. She wants to use that network for the development of the clinics and thus also for the quality of the business and projects. In this way she ensures that students can work on interesting issues and deliver quality clinics, allowing students to make their mark both academically and socially. She expands the educational programme further, so that a critical view of the law is also taken into account. She feels it is important for future lawyers to understand that the law does not always have to be correct. Linde calls this 'Critical legal thinking'. Think of South Africa: there you used to have the apartheid law, which separated the white and black population. That was the law, but it wasn't right. Legislation doesn't always take all groups of the population into account. Future lawyers need to be aware of this, they need to take a critical look at legislation. Do you want to use that legislation in a case? Can you make a change? Maybe a law is correct, but its implementation is not, or the policies that are made afterwards are not. That's why it's important to educate students well and give them that, so that we ultimately deliver responsible lawyers'.
The UvA must remain a leader in clinics in the Netherlands
Unfortunately, when Linde was studying, there were no clinics yet. In the Netherlands, this form of education emerged some fifteen years ago. Then there were a few clinics. Of course, the UvA has had the Amsterdam International Law Clinic for some time now. In recent years, other clinics have been added: the Amsterdam European Law Clinic, the Fair Work and Equality Law Clinic, the Business and Human Rights Clinic and the Fair Trails Clinic. What we really want is for the UvA to remain at the forefront of clinics in the Netherlands. We are one of the few Dutch universities that have these thematic clinics to profile ourselves with. That could be a signboard for the university'. Linde continues: 'What I would like is for Master's students to choose the UvA, because we offer these clinics. That they think: besides getting the theory, I also want to learn how to run real business in a responsible, good way. That's where I want to go.'
During the Amsterdam Law Clinics students work on a wide range of issues and projects related to various public interests. 'I think it's important that during the clinics, cases in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands, as well as international issues come to the fore,' says Linde. Topics can range from environmental issues, protection of human rights, to corporate responsibility and the right to a fair trial. The clinics do not deal with individual cases, but with cases in the context of a broader social interest. They offer students valuable practical experience, focusing on legal skills, working effectively with clients and providing pro bono legal advice to a variety of organizations and clients. In most clinic cases and projects, an interdisciplinary approach is relevant and important. It goes without saying that students are not alone: they are intensively supervised by supervisors. In addition, lecturers can help by thinking along with a case in their field of expertise and occasionally looking at a sample of students.
Shortly after Linde has started, the urgent request comes to work at home as much as possible. It helped her a lot that she still worked 'physically' with the students for a couple of weeks. The students have also met each other, which helps with the community feeling. In the clinic room at the faculty, students can work on cases together until ten o'clock in the evening. A lot of exchange takes place here. Are clinics and working from home going to work together? 'The online classes are very interactive, the students don't hesitate to say something, and there is also a continuous exchange among themselves. Working on business is going well. Students can zoom in with clients.' Linde explains: 'In my previous position I was used to working with international parties, and that went largely as we are working now.'
Thanks to her years in the international NGO world, Linde has built up a large network that she wants to use to win more and interesting business and projects. 'We've really had a lot of requests and I hope we can do that. But of course that depends on whether we have enough international and Dutch students. I find that really exciting in these times.' Students have to apply for a place within the clinics, because it is very specific and intensive education. They can learn a lot from it, but they need to be really motivated. Linde talks about her plans for the next academic year: 'I hope that next semester we will be able to offer some 80 students a clinic place, and at least 100 the following year. And then we'll see if we can expand even further. After all, you have to have both good students and good guidance, because a clinic is very intensive.'