Lawyers usually sport classic hairstyles, slick suits and expensive cars, but not Patrick Brysbaert. His Mohawk hairdo, multiple face piercings and leather pants make him probably the most eccentric lawyer in the world.
“Lawyers should dare to show what is under their robes. We represent the whole society, so even people who are a little different, like me”, Brysbaert says. Twenty years ago he looked like just another lawyer – he had short hair, always wore a classic suit and drove a boring Saab to work. Then, after he broke up with his partner, Patrick decided to quit his profession and started operating a cafe in Antwerp, Belgium. During this period of “true liberation” the former legal worker got a full back tattoo, an erotic drawing on his shoulder, had various parts of his face pierced and changed his hairstyle to a Mohawk. Finally, he was himself.
But while he was happy to show the world who he really was, he missed his legal profession. So ten years ago, he went back to being a lawyer, with trembling knees. The 54-year-old says it was the hardest thing he has ever done, even harder than admitting he was a homosexual. He had went from being a slick lawyer to a straight punk, so you can imagine everyone’s expressions when they saw him walking back into the courthouse. But he learned to accept his colleagues talking about his appearance behind his back, and his clients didn’t really care what he looked like as long as he got the job done. Brysbaert says his clientele consist of all kinds of people and they all appreciate him for his experience. Once, during a case, the judge told him piercings don’t belong in the legal system, and Patrick feared his looks would influence his judgement. He was wrong, and is now convinced judges do what they are supposed to, review the legal content, not the appearance of the pleader.
Patrick Brysbaert says he doesn’t want to shock people, and that appearance is not important to him. He just wants to be himself and thinks more of his colleagues should follow suit. The eccentric lawyer believes he is paving the way for other people to follow his example and is confident this will happen, little by little. He feels because lawyers represent the whole society, they should show what they are really like underneath their court robes.
Photo: Vincent Callot
So would you have any problems being represented in court by someone who looks like Patrick Brysbaert?