In the broadest sense, a legal practice rooted in the trauma-informed perspective asks clients not ‘What is wrong with you?’ but instead, ‘What happened to you?’ The goal is to connect a person’s behavior to their trauma response rather than isolating their actions to the current circumstances and assuming a character flaw. In practice, the idea behind the trauma-informed perspective is to put the realities of the clients’ traumatic experiences at the forefront when engaging with clients. The lawyer then adjusts the practice approach informed by the individual client’s trauma experience. A trauma-informed practitioner must also employ various modes of “self-care” to counterbalance the effect the client’s trauma experience may have on the practitioner.
Within the trauma-informed approach, lawyers must cultivate insight into identifying and addressing trauma and its effects. Indeed, this knowledge will not come natural to lawyers and certainly is not a part of most law school curriculum. Nevertheless, lawyers must develop an understanding and working knowledge of the impact of traumatic events on clients. For example, many family law attorneys will encounter domestic violence survivors. In such a case, it is critical for the lawyer to recognize the effects these traumatic experiences may have on their clients’ actions and behaviors. Furthermore, it is important to pay close attention to how these traumatic events shape the client’s stories and the challenges clients encounter as a result.
In other blog posts, I discuss traumatic experiences as well as how common they are. It is very important for New York Attorneys to be aware of the effects of trauma and understand how to relate with clients who may be struggling with the effects.