Vicarious Trauma in the Legal Profession: a practical guide to trauma, burnout and collective care
Joanna Fleck and Rachel Francis
Legal Action Group, £18.00
Some lawyers deal daily with death, grief, abuse, torture, and trauma of many types. Mostly at one step removed. And the price they pay can be high.
But because of the ‘one step removed’ the thought that they too could be traumatised may not often occur.
Read this book and you will quickly learn otherwise.
Succinctly, yet thoroughly, written, the authors take the reader on a tour through the sometimes horrifying territory where a client’s memories and a lawyer’s imagination overlap and where the risk of maintaining an emotional distance from a client’s experience is put under continual strain.
As a lawyer who spent much of his professional life listening to clients’ stories of trauma, I can say that if I had had this book as a young litigation solicitor it would have lived on the bookshelf right next to my desk.
The book is written to inform and provide support for ‘those who find themselves working with traumatised persons and within traumatising systems’, who are exposed to trauma indirectly by listening to or reading clients’ stories, watching video recordings or simply working with a traumatised person. Since the 2013 update of the DSM it has been recognised that such professionals may also be vulnerable to PTSD where they are subject to ‘indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma’.
The book is thoroughly researched and provides a clear theoretical base for the need for those working with traumatised clients to be supported by sound training and supervision in a generally underfunded section of the profession. It sets out in detail many practical steps which can be taken by firms and individuals to mitigate the risks inherent in working in these areas. Also, helpfully, it is illustrated throughout with sometimes harrowing accounts from lawyers of all levels of experience.
In my view the book is an indispensable addition to the library of any lawyer working one step removed from trauma.
Angus Lyon is a therapist, author and non-practising solicitor
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