Is Your Lawyer Trauma Informed
A “trauma-informed lawyer” is one who is experienced in representing victims of trauma, especially victims of crime. Because litigation itself can be a traumatic process, it is important to hire a lawyer who recognizes the role trauma plays in the lawyer-client relationship so as not to revictimized the client. A lawyer experienced in trauma-informed practices allows you and your lawyer the opportunity to increase connections and more effectively advocate on your behalf.
The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” Women are much more likely than men to experience traumatic events like rape and stalking, and consequently more likely to be an impacted on a functional related to the traumatic event.
What is Secondary Trauma?
The concept of ‘vicarious trauma’ or ‘compassion fatigue’ resembles post- traumatic stress disorder and is “caused by being indirectly exposed to someone else’s trauma.” Secondary trauma can develop from listening to others recount a traumatic event or working with others who are dealing with secondary trauma.
Trauma Informed Lawyering
Many clients have had negative experiences with the legal system and may not understand the process. Lawyers are also prone to not explaining their thought process during representation. By explaining their role, the role of the Court, and what can happen during the course of litigation, lawyers can alleviate the stress and anxiety of the client. Lawyers are not therapists so the appropriate referral must be made if necessary.
Lawyers should note their client’s body language, tone, and general demeanor. Trauma manifests differently in everyone, and it may affect the client’s ability to be completely transparent with their lawyer. A client may seem closed off, uneasy, agitated, or annoyed. Acknowledging any discomfort is encouraged, as it gives your client the opportunity to voice needs or concerns.
Offering options to clients such as like flexibility with meeting time and place, seating arrangements, or whether the door is closed or open are simple ways to adjust the lawyer client relationship while building trust.
A trauma-informed legal practice not only reduces re-traumatization, it also makes better lawyers. A lawyer who is able to recognize the role trauma plays in the lawyer-client relationship is able to be a better advocate.
The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt is a trauma-informed law firm. We exclusively represent victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault in civil cases. We stand ready to help you with your legal needs.
For more than twenty-five years, we have represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions, including colleges and universities, religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, Baptist Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian Church among others. We have also represented victims of sexual abuse in medical settings, group homes, schools, youth sports organizations, youth camps, daycare facilities, scouting and other youth serving organizations.
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