Help for the Helper: The Effects of Trauma and Compassion Fatigue on the Lawyer Who Cares
Many of us were attracted to the legal profession because we care about people and want to help them.
Attorneys hopefully recognize that, unlike many other professionals, their lives are already filled to the
brim with anxiety and stress.The consequences of shrugging it off can be catastrophic. One of those
consequences that we often hear about is burnout.
And then there’s a special type of burnout called “secondary traumatic stress” or “compassion fatigue”.
The ramifications of trauma and compassion fatigue aren’t discussed as frequently as those of stress and
burnout thus, for many attorneys, they are topics in need of attention.
Secondary or vicarious trauma can be the cumulative effect of listening to a client or witness relay
graphic stories and experiences. Those who experience compassion fatigue tend to take on the pain,
suffering and burdens of the people they are helping. It is an exhaustion that is felt physically,
emotionally or mentally and can affect numerous areas of your life, often leaving you feeling numb.
Recent studies have shown that there has been a dramatic increase in impairment due to alcoholism,
addiction and mental health disorders among members of the legal profession. The statistics are
compelling and clearly indicate that 1 out of 3 attorneys will likely have a need for substance use or
mental health services at some point in their careers.
Mr. Quinn will discuss:
1. The early warning signs of impairment, with special emphasis on stress, burnout, trauma and
2. The free services that Lawyers Assistance Programs provide to lawyers, judges, their family members
and law students.
3. A close look at what barriers exist that prevent lawyers and judges from seeking the help they need
will be provided.
4. The role that education plays in breaking the stigma and fear associated with addiction and mental
illness in the legal profession.
5. How best to approach the impaired individual.