Looking after our criminal lawyers better

Criminal lawyers are regularly exposed to traumatic material and emotions. Their job requires them to work with graphic evidence and distressing testimony, from which they are expected to emotionally detach.

We know lawyers as a group are at higher risk of poor mental health as well as occupational stress and burnout. Yet there has been little research—and until now none based in New Zealand—that has qualitatively examined whether (and how) criminal lawyers’ work affects their emotional and psychological well-being. There is even less research examining what we might do to address any negative outcomes for lawyers themselves and for the system as a whole.

Researchers at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington are in the early stages of a project that hopes to provide an evidence base about emotional impact, vicarious trauma and well-being in the criminal courts. Their research aims to be a first step in understanding more about the impacts of working in the criminal law, in the hope of better supporting the profession and students entering it. They want to increase understanding about how criminal lawyers try to preserve their own well-being, what methods are successful, and how they might manage emotions positively to improve their experience and outcomes at work. 

If you are a legal professional working in the New Zealand criminal courts and would like to participate in this research, contact Yvette.Tinsley, Nichola.Tyler, or visit the Firesetting and Forensic Mental Health Lab for more information.

Professor Yvette Tinsley is a Professor of Law at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Nichola Tyler is a lecturer in forensic psychology at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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