OTLA Trial Lawyer Winter 2022

12 Trial Lawyer • Winter 2022 their son couldn’t communicate with anyone. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t mentioned it — we all knew this behavior was their son’s non-verbal communication about his assault. I communicated this information to opposing counsel, and the case settled within weeks. The Greens felt guilty and responsible for placing their child in the care of someone who would eventually hurt him. His expressions of pain and trauma, and the evidence that he still remembered his assault while in the bath, had pained them deeply. I had to show up, listen and prove I could be trusted. I had to begin to empathize with them and communicate that empathy to them, to build that trust. I had to understand and feel their feelings, and communicate that to them before they would turn over such important and heavily guarded information. Trust building and empathy takes time, and is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the entire representation. Always remember to set boundaries about the time, space and location of these conversations, and thank the client for helping you understand their case at the end of each conversation. It helps remind everyone of your purpose. Trauma is, at its essence, horrific loss, the aftermath of which is hallmarked by powerlessness. Think of their experience at your firm as their first opportunity to reclaim some power. Every single time you offer them an opportunity for choice, for direction, you listen to their fears and concerns, you are moving closer to creating a practice that responds positively to trauma. I found the article "TraumaInformed Legal Practice with Clients" by Pete Singer to be immensely helpful. Also, the National Women’s LawCenter’s pre-recorded webinar is excellent. These resources remind us to slow down, consider your client, offer and repeat information in a variety of ways, and, in every circumstance possible, to offer choices, Trauma Continued from p 11 to empower and to thoughtfully consider your client’s best interests in a way specifically tailored to their needs. Representing trauma survivors is challenging. Designing a practice that honors their healing process is daunting, but the right thing to do. Investing the time and emotional energy to truly understand the case from an empathetic perspective is simultaneously fulfilling and draining. But the look in the eyes of a well-cared for client, who feels they have stood up for themselves and received some measure of justice is irreplaceable. Megan Johnson specializes in plaintiff’s personal injury — specifically child abuse, sexual assault, elder abuse and crime victim representation. She contributes to OTLA Guardians at the Sustaining Member level. Johnson is an attorney at Pickett Dummigan McCall LLP, 210 SW Morrison, 4th Floor, Portland, OR 97204. She can be reached at megan@pdm.legal and 503-223-7770.