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. Published 02/16/2011
Reprinted with permission from The Day Publishing Co.

Denise Ansell

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."

» Read the original article

She's All That
Attorney Denise P. Ansell

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y.

B.S., Business Administration with a minor in Far Eastern Philosophy from Salve Regina College (now University), Newport, R.I.

M.B.A. in Finance and Accounting, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas

J.D., University of Connecticut Law School

Marital Status: Twice divorced. She was once married to her law partner, attorney Adam Laben. Though the marriage did not work out, they reunited years later and live together in Waterford. She has no children of her own but is a devoted aunt and mentor to several young people.

Public Service: Ansell was vice president of the board of directors for the Mystic Ballet. She chaired fundraising for the American Cancer Society and chaired the Zoning Board of Appeals in Waterford. She is a loyal Democrat and was committed to helping Joseph Courtney get elected as a U.S. Representative. Courtney used the second floor of her New London law office as a satellite campaign office.

Favorite Animal: Her Siberian Husky, Edge. He is a rescued racer and now he presides over her law office. Edge helps with her young clients and is a good judge of character, Ansell says. "The good kids that I yell at, he stays in my office. The ones who have already turned, he leaves." She is joking when she says D-O-G spelled backwards is G-O-D, but there's no doubt she worships her blue-eyed sweetie.

Source of Pride: Ansell bought two run-down Mansard-style Victorian homes in New London, including her law office on Broad Street and a rental property on Granite Street. She is working to rehabilitate both properties, which she said were "eyesores." She feels good about owning two landmark properties in the struggling city.