The Importance of Trauma-Informed Lawyering

O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors have represented numerous people that have experienced traumatic events in the past. We have represented people who wanted to take redress because of abuse they have suffered and place importance on ensuring that clients are not retraumatised during the course of their dealings with the law.

We appreciate and acknowledge the dichotomy that exists between victims and criminals and that trauma can affect both parties. O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors have a trauma-informed practice as both criminal lawyers who defend clients in actions against the state, and in civil cases where clients are taking actions against those who have wronged them.  It is important for us, as lawyers, to understand what trauma is, how it can affect the lives of our clients and are conscious of our approach to handling our clients’ cases.

What is trauma?

An event is traumatic when it renders a person incapable of coping with the situation. A traumatic experience may occur when the person is subjected to a threat to life, bodily integrity or sanity.

It is important to recognise that trauma is complicated and can affect people in different ways.

What does it mean to be trauma-informed?

The term ‘trauma informed’ is used to describe the approach to providing services which recognise and understand the extent that trauma can impact on people’s lives. Trauma-informed approaches require an understanding of trauma, how it may impact on people’s lives and attempts to provide a safe environment for trauma victims to avoid inadvertently retraumatising them.

Implications for the practice of law

Interactions with the legal system can be stressful. This stress can be enhanced when victims of traumatic events are required to recount such experiences to their lawyer and in court. O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors recognises the importance for legal practitioners to be able to identify trauma and to adjust our methods of advising clients to prevent potential retraumatisation.

Trauma can also affect memory and willingness to share about the traumatic experiences. This will influence the quality of victim statements and provision of evidence in court proceedings. Trauma-informed lawyering requires the facilitation of sensitive and appropriate responses when dealing with both victims and offenders that have faced traumatic experiences.

Legal practitioners that work with trauma survivors can also be vulnerable to vicarious trauma or “secondary trauma”. The constant exposure to recounts of trauma may then cause stress or anxiety for the practitioner themselves.

Trauma-informed practice at O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors

At O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors we respect client diversity and confidentiality. We acknowledge that there are diverse coping mechanisms to trauma and have an adaptive approach to client engagement. Our trauma-informed lawyering skills include:

  • Assisting our clients in providing accurate details of traumatic events;
  • Minimising the potential for retraumatisation;
  • Working with diverse clients; and
  • Providing a safe and confidential environmental for clients who may have difficulty talking about a traumatic experience.

The firm places importance on having a trauma-informed practice. Clients can be confident in our ability to prioritise their interests, particularly in matters involving traumatic events.