Improving Lawyers’ Health by Addressing the Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Karen Oehme *

Nat Stern **

Although the legal profession has recognized the importance of improving attorneys’ mental health, it has largely ignored recent social and scientific research on how adverse childhood experiences (“ACEs”) can harm attorneys’ long-term well-being. This article reviews the science of ACEs and argues that law schools and the legal profession should educate law students and attorneys about the impact of prior trauma on behavioral health. Without such education, law schools and the legal system are missing a crucial opportunity to help lawyers prevent and alleviate the maladaptive coping mechanisms that are associated with ACEs. Until such knowledge is widespread, many lawyers will be plagued by their own trauma histories—to the detriment of individuals, families, communities, and the legal system.

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       *     Director, Institute for Family Violence Studies, and Distinguished University Scholar, Florida State University.

     **     John and Ashley E. Frost Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law.

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