Law, Vicarious Trauma, and Moral Injury

Event Details

PDS will be hosting a virtual Law, Vicarious Trauma, and Moral Injury training on Thursday, December 3, 2020 ​from 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm.

  • Free
  • Open to all Panel Attorneys and Public Defender Corporation employees. 
  • Not limited to attorneys only--paralegals, mitigation specialists, investigators, and all other core staff encouraged to attend.
  • This training is worth 1.8 CLE credits in attorney wellbeing. 
  • CLICK HERE TO REGISTER -- Sorry, registration is now closed.
  • Registration closes on Tuesday, December 1st at 3:00 pm
  • If you have questions, contact Stephanne


Clients in the criminal legal system often have trauma underlying their criminal charges. Unfortunately, research indicates that persons working in and around trauma are more likely to be personally affected by that trauma. Lawyers working to defend traumatized clients encounter clients' trauma which subsequently puts lawyers at higher risk of experiencing vicarious trauma, a workplace condition that resembles Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Vicarious trauma has consequences that can impact work performance and cause lawyers to second guess their decisions, see the world as a dangerous place, increase depression, hopelessness, and substance use, and even cause some to leave the profession. This presentation will define and discuss vicarious trauma and related workplace conditions, as well as identify exercises, techniques, and resources to combat the negative consequences these workplace conditions can have.  

Learning Objectives:

  • Secondary effects of work in the legal field.
  • Definition and symptoms of: Vicarious trauma, empathy fatigue, burnout, and moral injury. 
  • Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs to cope with symptoms of burnout and vicarious trauma.
  • Use of compassion exercises to counteract the negative effects of vicarious trauma, empathy fatigue, burnout, and moral injury.
  • Other techniques and strategies to counteract negative effects and unintended emotional consequences of work in the legal field. 
  • Resources including JLAP. 


Stephanne Thornton is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Graduate School of Social Work. She has been clinically licensed as a social worker and addiction counselor since 2004 and currently holds a Master Addiction Counselor certificate through NAADAC and is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker through the West Virginia Board of Social Work. Stephanne has worked as a mitigation specialist and sentencing advocate in indigent criminal defense offices in Georgia and West Virginia. She has presented various trainings on topics such as mitigation, sentencing advocacy, and criminal offender assessments. Send email