Towards trauma-informed legal practice: a review [2020]

Vicarious or secondary trauma experience has always been part of legal practice although many do not acknowledge the risk it can have on the mental health, well-being and performance of legal professionals. The listening to, observing and then detailing of traumatic events for the purposes of legal process in some cases may harm lawyers who need to work closely with clients, victims and witnesses. This article reviews the research on trauma in many areas of professional human services that could inform and improve our understanding of legal practice. It examines the discursive history of trauma and recent studies on lawyer well-being, before discussing the controversies about recognising vicarious trauma and the stigma against mental health concerns in the legal profession. The article concludes by reviewing options to assist law firms in considering trauma-informed policy, practices and supervision strategies and to help individual lawyers recognise the value of self-care.

Colin James
Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 11 Feb 2020