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31 American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 383 (2023)


Law students are impacted by trauma and law professors are in a position to help by adopting a trauma-informed approach as a matter of universal precaution. The 2021 Survey of Law Student Well-Being (“SLSWB”) revealed that over twenty percent of responding law students meet criteria that indicate they should be evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). The study also revealed that almost fifty percent of responding students reported an important motivation for attending law school was experiencing a trauma or injustice. Put differently, law schools are full of law students who have experienced trauma, many of whom are actively struggling with trauma. Students are coming to law school not just in spite of their trauma histories but because of their trauma histories.

Law schools must respond accordingly. Armed with this new knowledge, legal educators have the opportunity to transgress and transform to provide trauma-informed legal education. It has long been known that legal systems are full of people with trauma histories and that interacting with the legal system can be traumatic. Given the pervasive presence of those with trauma histories in law schools and the legal system, law professors must have a basic understanding of trauma and trauma-informed practices to do their jobs they seek to serve.

This Article will explore what law professors need to know about trauma, why law professors need to understand trauma, and how to employ a trauma-informed approach in their doctrinal courses as a matter of universal design. It contributes to existing conversations on trauma-informed better practices and trauma stewardship. Additionally, it provides practical, solution-focused, strengths-based tools for teaching through a trauma-informed lens. It adds to a body of legal scholarship on trauma-informed pedagogy and lawyering and is grounded in scholarship from other disciplines. It also relies on my own learned-experience from my efforts to teach and practice law in a trauma-informed manner.