Increasing Law Students' Effectiveness When Representing Traumatized Clients: A Case Study of the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center
49 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2007
This article discusses the issues that arise when representing traumatized clients, addressing the goals for training effective representation, and the issues of duty of care and professional responsibility. It reviews the mechanics of training and mentoring law students who work with traumatized clients, including de-briefing, simulations, class components, group sessions, and "stand alone" courses. The analysis is done through the prism of the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, Santa Clara University School of Law (KGACLC). Finally, this article discusses which methods were most successful and suggests possible explanations. The basic thesis of this article is that in order to increase law students' effectiveness when representing traumatized clients, the training and mentoring must be done consciously, institutionalized, and grounded in three core goals: recognition of trauma, knowledge of strategies for representation of traumatized clients, and understanding of vicarious trauma and self-care techniques.
While other scholars have written about the need for lawyers, law students, and other participants in the legal process to understand trauma, vicarious trauma, and the effect of trauma on legal representation, this article adds several unique pieces to the discussion. It not only chronicles and analyzes KGACLC's efforts during the past seven years to provide effective training to law students working with traumatized clients, but it incorporates the voices and experiences of the students themselves. Former KGACLC law students received a questionnaire that asked about their experiences working with traumatized clients, as well as any training or mentoring that made the representation more effective, and any training or mentoring they would have liked to receive. Their responses are an integral part of this article.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation