Domestic violence kills thousands of American women every year. In 2013, one of them was my client. My law school clinic represented a woman divorcing her abusive husband after twenty years of marriage. Three days after we served him with the divorce complaint, he walked into the grocery store where she worked and shot her dead. He then turned the gun on himself, and died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The lead student working her case listened in horror as one of our local colleagues who had heard the breaking news described it to her in a phone call to the clinic. The student walked into my office, ashen and shaking. That is when the tigers of domestic abuse and vicarious trauma began to roar. The taming of those tigers manifested as the implementation of my pedagogy, which is built on the inextricable cleaving of legal professionalism with well-being. With social justice at its core, my mission as a teacher and a legal advocate became clear as I taught the students how to cope with the collateral consequences, and how to utilize the trauma to contemplate systemic advocacy issues and the lawyer’s role in society. The theme of this experience is summed up in a quote from another domestic violence attorney that appears several times in the article: “This is why we do this work.”
Jill C. Engle, Taming the Tigers: Domestic Violence, Legal Professionalism, and Well-Being, 4 Tenn. J. Race, Gender & Soc. Just. 1 (2015).