Importance of Trauma Informed Care in the Legal Industry￼
Breit Biniazan—June 2, 2022
A relatively new body of research on trauma and the brain has resulted in incredible insights to the physical and emotional effects that trauma can have on a person. From lapses in memory to extreme anxiety, the emotional toll of trauma can be quite debilitating.
First, let’s define trauma. Trauma can be defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience such as a car accident or natural disaster or something more sinister like sexual assault or domestic violence. Everyone processes trauma differently, usually in the short-term exhibiting signs of shock and denial immediately following the event. For others, trauma manifests in the longer term as unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. Trauma-informed research has taken these definitions further to understand the science behind what happens to the brain when a traumatic experience occurs as well as how the brain reacts after.
The truth is it is highly likely that we interact with people on a daily basis who have suffered some sort of trauma. Like an invisible wound, trauma can wreak havoc on a person and there may be no way to know from the outside that they are suffering. Unfortunately, most of our clients have suffered a traumatic experience prior to needing our personal injury legal services, making it all the more important that our team understands best practices for trauma informed communications in order to make the experience as comfortable as possible for the client.
It is with this initial understanding that our team engaged the services of Dr. Laura McGuire from the National Center for Equity and Agency to take us through a Trauma-Informed Legal Professional Certification Course. The National Center for Equity and Agency offers the only Trauma-Informed Law Certification for attorneys and law firms in the United States. This certification goes far beyond trauma-informed 101 and gives participants a number of unique advantages:
- Participants leave as distinguished experts in how trauma impacts their clients and how to use TI principles for self-preservation and sustainability.
- Legal professionals who use these practices can increase client satisfaction, improve case outcomes, increase client retention and referrals.
- Certified professionals differentiate their practice and become the go-to source for referrals from advocates in their area while sharing with potential clients a core reason to choose them as their representation.
Dr. Laura McGuire is a nationally recognized sexuality educator, trauma-informed specialist, inclusion consultant, and founder of The National Center for Equity and Agency. She has worked as an instructor, presenter, educator, consultant, and trainer. In 2015, she served as the first Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Program Manager at the University of Houston, and in 2017, she became the first Victim Advocate/Prevention Educator at the US Merchant Marine Academy.
In both roles, she worked simultaneously as a victim-advocate and restorative practice provider for respondents. As a domestic violence and sexual harassment survivor navigating the legal system, Dr. McGuire saw the major gaps between what research showed and what those reporting experienced. The Trauma-Informed Legal Professional Certification program was developed to help legal teams better support their clients in crisis, making a difficult process a little easier for all involved. The program integrates Dr. McGuire’s experience and scholarly expertise to give insight and actionable tools to attorneys and providers across the country.
So what exactly does the Trauma-Informed Legal Professional Certification Course entail? The Trauma-Informed Legal Professional Certification is the first of its kind- offering legal professionals the tools to work with clients in crisis and to safeguard themselves from the impacts of secondary trauma. This certification blends trauma-informed care theory with real-world application customized to the realities of what lawyers and their clients face in navigating legal systems and judicial realities.
As we learn more about being trauma informed, we gain better understanding of how working with trauma survivors can increase the risk for burnout and secondary traumatic stress within our own organization. Additionally external factors and stressors that an employer may not be aware of, as well as an employee’s personal trauma history can add to the risk. The bottom line is this: whether or not someone has a history of trauma, working firsthand with survivors who have gone through so much suffering and adversity can be deeply impactful and it is critical to make sure all parties involved, whether client or employee, are protected from these stressors.
Our team recently completed the certification process and it was an amazing experience for everyone involved. As a law firm focused on the needs of our clients, we realized that we don’t often take time to think of the secondary effects that trauma can have on us. Taking time to become educated on how to better care for our clients going through these stressful situations also helped us to identify how to better care for each other.
Following the training, Kevin Biniazan and Dr. McGuire sat down to debrief on the importance of trauma informed practices for the legal industry. We invite you to watch our podcast video to learn more. You can also contact Dr. Laura McGuire through the National Center for Equity and Agency.
By Courtney Sweasy