Trauma-informed Legal Practice: Better Outcomes for Clients

Trauma-informed Legal Practice: Better Outcomes for Clients

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Queen's University Belfast - School of Law

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Trauma-informed Legal Practice: Better Outcomes for Clients, a Better Day’s Work for Solicitors and Barristers

About this event

TITLE: Trauma-informed Legal Practice: Better Outcomes for Clients, a Better Day’s Work for Solicitors and Barristers

DATE: 15th September 2022, 4.30 to 7.00pm

LOCATION: Hybrid: In-person in the Moot Court, School of Law, Queen's University Belfast and Online

Lawyers deal with people living through extraordinary circumstances, and often see the worst of human behaviour. While we have dealt with traumatised clients using common sense for generations, science now allows us to understand more precisely the serious impacts that current or unresolved childhood traumas can have on our clients’ health and ability to function. Firms and counsel can use these insights in very practical ways to shape their service-delivery model and client interactions, so as to help clients better. They can resist re-traumatisation of clients and remove unintended obstacles to them being able to receive their services effectively.

A free hybrid (in-person and virtual) conference at Queen’s University on 15 September from 4.30 to 7.00pm will provide practical briefings on the basics of the trauma informed approach and what it means in family, criminal, legacy and general practice.

You may claim 2.5 hours Group Study CPD for this event.

The Lady Chief Justice will open the Conference, followed by a fast-moving programme of speakers of interest to a wide range of practitioners:


- Lady Chief Justice – Introductory words

-Dr Suzanne Mooney (QUB) – What is Trauma-informed Practice?

- Melissa Rutherford (Chair, Trauma Informed Lawyers Network, Scotland) – Why Trauma-informed Legal Practice makes sense

- Helen McKenzie (Safeguarding Board) – Trauma Informed Family Practice – its place in a Trauma Informed Northern Ireland

- Geri Hanna (Victims’ Commissioner) – The new Victims’ Charter and Criminal Practitioners

- WAVE Trauma Centre – Trauma Informed Practice and Legacy Issues

- LawCare – Staff-care in the Trauma-Informed Legal Practice

- Discussion – what do we do now?

Frequently Asked Questions

Trauma informed practice is a way of understanding and responding to problematic behaviour through the lens of trauma. It is not a treatment model.

It is an example of service delivery which incorporates evidence of the impact of early trauma on behaviour across the person’s life span.

Trauma informed practice allows the legal practitioner, to integrate their knowledge and understanding of trauma and the impact of such, on a person’s sense of well-being and their current behaviour to then enable and assist the person to meaningfully engage.

Does this approach expect us to be social workers?

No, a trauma-informed legal practice is not a trauma therapy centre; it is a legal practice where lawyers and administrative staff understand the impact of trauma, including adverse childhood experiences, on their clients. In the design of the practice and their individual interactions with clients, they use their knowledge and skills to avoid retraumatisation or triggering unwanted client responses which can prevent clients receiving services effectively. It provides a better client outcome while reducing wear-and-tear on legal and administrative staff in high-pressure areas such as criminal, family or immigration law. It allows for new approaches to dealing with issues such as difficult personal litigants or clients caught in a cycle of litigation. It allows for effective collaboration with other trauma-informed professionals such as social workers, health care workers or probation officers.

Is this about self-care for lawyers who are struggling?

Trauma-informed-practice is not primarily about us, it is about the clients and the quality of service we deliver. However, trauma-informed skills and practice should result in less pressure on legal and administrative staff, as they have skills and knowledge to deal more effectively with “difficult” clients and high-pressure areas of work. Understanding trauma will allow staff to practice better self-care, and allow firms to design in better staff care models, for example in areas where secondary and vicarious traumatisation is a serious risk or issue.

Money is really tight - is this going to be expensive?

In short, no. Trauma-informed practice training can be embedded in the training already provided to law students, in pupillage/apprenticeship and as part of specialist Law Society and Bar Council certifications. Embedding it in an individual practice involves tweaking the way the practice is run, and the approach of lawyers to individual client engagements. It is not an expensive or “branded” intervention but an organic way to develop a practice to serve clients better and perhaps even more cost-effectively.

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