Many lawyers went to law school hoping to make a contribution to justice by working on behalf of the unfortunate, oppressed, and vulnerable, inspired by figures like the fictional Atticus Finch or the real life Jan Schlichtmann. Some actually end up doing this kind of work, where the demands may be less about billable hours than about dealing continuously with human pain – cases, for example, of domestic violence, tragic events, tales of torture in those seeking asylum, child neglect, and more.
Like others who work with traumatized individuals (e.g., physicians, nurses, mental health professionals), these lawyers are subject to a particular kind of stress – hearing the details of traumatic experiences in the presence of the individual who has experienced them and is still reacting to them. Often compounding the situation is a degree of relative helplessness to fix the problem in the face of various entrenched systems, very limited resources, and having to repeatedly confront some very bad realities. Continue reading »