New podcast series examines trauma-informed lawyering

  • October 06, 2020

How do you handle an emotional client? When the person seeking your assistance can hardly tell their story without weeping uncontrollably, or shouting aggressively in anger?

And what do you do when those stories trigger your own vicarious trauma?

Understanding trauma – your own and others’ – is the focus of a new podcast series on trauma-informed lawyering from Métis-Cree lawyer Myrna McCallum in partnership with the CBA’s Truth and Reconciliation Initiative.

In an episode titled “Becoming Trauma-Informed Begins With You,” host McCallum discusses the importance of developing an ability to “sit uncomfortably” with strong emotions without backing away from a client with whom you need to create a relationship.

Lawyers need to “prepare for how you will respond when you’re uncomfortable,” she says. Clients need you to create a safe environment for them, to show them you’re someone they can trust.

McCallum, from Treaty Six territory (Green Lake and Waterhen Lake First Nations), owns and operates Miyo Pimatisiwin in North Vancouver. She says she developed her expertise in trauma-informed lawyering through her professional experience as a prosecutor and Indian Residential School adjudicator, dealing with Indigenous people and survivors of sexual violence.

Law schools and bar courses are missing a “critical competency requirement” by not doing more to teach lawyers how to deal with traumatized clients, or about the vicarious trauma lawyers themselves experience, says McCallum. She started the podcast hoping to challenge listeners to reflect on their personal beliefs, behaviours and biases, to change the way they do advocacy, and to guide their practice so they avoid doing further harm.

Lawyers, this is the education about trauma, vicarious trauma and trauma-informed lawyering you didn’t know you needed.

Season 1 of The Trauma-Informed Lawyer podcast is available on the CBA website, and Season 2 is in production. Subscribe now.