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Best Practices for Interviewing Traumatized Clients (Update)

(333 reviews)

Produced on January 22, 2019

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Course Information

Time 1h 7m
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

Attorneys must often take the worst stories their clients carry, and the most vulnerable situations they have faced, and try to mold them into cognizable claims for relief. One of an attorney’s greatest assets are their memories of their clients, particularly the specific details they use to show credibility. However, the effect of trauma on memory is well documented - often times the most painful moments are hardest to clearly remember. So how can attorneys help their clients to remember the things anyone would want to forget?

In this update to his 2018 program, attorney Geoff Trenchard discusses the latest research in neuropsychology and what it can tell us about how people remember. He will provide practical strategies for conducting client intake interviews with clients who have faced trauma. He will review concrete techniques to reduce client stress during intake interviews, as well as how to best support clients before, during, and after testimony. Finally, he will look at what attorneys can do to support themselves and their colleagues performing this vital and difficult work.  

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explore the definition of trauma, and how it can affect your client’s recollection
  2. Consider the steps an attorney should take before a client interview even begins
  3. Develop an effective structure for your client interview
  4. Discuss other practical considerations to consider when conducting a client interview, including reviewing attorney-client privilege, translating during an interview, and properly framing questions
  5. Review important next steps after conducting a client interview

Credit Information

After completing this course, Lawline will report your attendance information to {{ accredMasterState.state.name }}. Please ensure your license number is filled out in your profile to ensure timely reporting. For more information, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements page . After completing this course, {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} attorneys self-report their attendance and CLE compliance. For more information on how to report your CLE courses, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements FAQ .


Geoff Kagan Trenchard

Kagan Trenchard

Geoff Kagan Trenchard is an attorney, educator, and legal activist. Before transitioning to a career in the law, they taught creative writing in high needs schools, foster care centers, and jails for over 10 years. Geoff is also a poet and theater artist whose work has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry, TEDx, and at the Public Theater. Their first play, In Spite of Everything, toured internationally as part of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival. Their first collection of poems, Murder Stay Murder, is available on Penmanship Books.

They received their Juris Doctorate from Hofstra School of Law in 2014. They were awarded the Charles H. Revson Law Student Public Interest Fellowship, the Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Fellowship, and is a recipient of awards from both the Equal Justice Works and the Public Justice Foundation. They were also awarded a Postgraduate Fellowship to serve LGBTQ asylum seekers and help train law students in the Hofstra Asylum Clinic. They have presented to attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center, New York Immigration Coalition, Immigrant Justice Corps,  Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, The Newark Asylum office, and at law schools and legal service organizations throughout New York. 

They continue to train attorneys on working with clients who have experienced trauma and how to use literary techniques in legal writing.


Sherri M.

Excellent presentation.

Julie P.

Wonderful CLE. Excellent.

Bonnie B.

Great advice, both about clients and about yourself. Thank you!

Sheree W.

Best presenter I have ever had for a CLE. Thank you so very much!

Anna H.

Terrific program

Edward B.

nicely done in an area I have some expertise from a mental health perspective

Christine P.

Excellent presentation - thank you.

Karen U.

This is the best presenter I have seen in any online CLE course, hands down! The information, the manner of presentation, the tips and the connection—if I could search for further classes by this gentleman, I surely would! I have never commented on a presentation, but I am compelled to express how meaningful and pertinent—and compassionate—I found this course. Thank you!

Robert K.

Awesome. Great job. Definitely resonated.

Lauren B.

Wow, so so very good!

Beile L.

Excellent CLE.

Laurie E.

Geoff was wonderful!

Otis G.

I appreciated the vulnerability the presenter expressed concerning his own story.

Diana S.

This is one of the best presentations I have ever watched, legal or otherwise. Geoff was an incredibly effective, informative, and moving presenter, and the information of this CLE is crucially valuable, both inside and outside of the legal profession. I will be seeking out any additional programs that are led by him!

Catherine E.

Very informative on a difficult topic

Joelle M.

This instructor was an exceptional teacher, speaker and (it appeared) person.

Carrie B.

Yes. It would be enlightening and uplifting even if you do not work in immigration or civil rights.

Neelam N.

Truly amazing understanding of trauma and how to completely represent clients who have experienced trauma

Mark R.

Wish I had known this stuff decades ago. This amazingly practical and universally applicablke to most attorney-client relationships since mostr of the folks sitting across from us are there because they have been wronged in one way or another

Theodora C.

It was an excellent course with very practical and useful tips

Elisa V.

Very very important subject as a lawyer and many transferable skills for interacting with victims of trauma. Presenter has a very relaxed style which I appreciated but the content was right on.

Brett K.

Important and terrifically done CLE.

Anne Marie D.

The speaker appears to be a genuinely kind person.

Jennifer H.

Excellent combination of life experiences and personal knowledge. I highly recommend this CLE for attorneys in many different areas of legal practice.

Bradley F.

My first comment ever. Great job!

Gianna D.

This instructor was very engaging and did a great job delivering the content.

Andres V.

One of the best trainings! Trauma informed interviews are so insightful and necessary.

Deborah P.

I have experience in this area and have taught it myself, and I still found this course helpful, as a refresher and as a model for how to teach some of this material, and also as a source of new resources and practical tips. Highly recommend.

Jane S.

This was exceptionally good and provides perhaps the most pragmatic, helpful advice of any CLE I've ever attended. I get that sometimes people just want a run down of statutes and case law, but I know how to use Westlaw. What is useful are operationalizable strategies I can put into practice. This was excellent.

Stephen T.

This was one of the best CLEs I have taken

Matthew B.

This is a superior presenter and presentation.

Linda R.

Exceptional teacher and person. One of the most knowledgeable and dignified speakers on Lawline.

Laura L.

Brilliant. Should be required for every attorney in the US.

Stacey A W.

Exemplary! I usually don't do comments, believing my ratings speak for themselves. but this was by far the best Lawline presentation I've heard/seen.

Mona D.

Geoff did a wonderful job. His passion is contagious.

R. Christopher R.

An amazing seminar speaking to lawyers as people and not merely legal machines.

Leigh D.

This subject in particular is psramount for all attorneys due to the highly charged atmospheres we are likely to encounter. Appreciated the info on the brain, practical suggestions and gravity deservedly attributed to this area. An attorney has the duty to protect the client, and in part this means doing no further harm when we interview

Tashama W.

This CLE was tremendous. Many thanks to the presenter, who was engaging and highly effective.

Catherine M.

Best CLE I've taken - this should be required in law school for lawyers to take a step back and understand how to interact with clients - and not just those who have experienced trauma. Geoff was knowledgeable and shared information that was on point and useful for any practice. Great CLE!

Valerie C.

The presenter was very refreshing and clearly passionate about the topic on many levels.

Andrea K.

This was one of my favorite CLE's ever in terms of offering real practical advice on how best to serve the clients I work with. Thanks.

Wanda K.

Excellent speaker!

Tracy D.

Fantastic course. Thank you.

Steven K.

superb presenter

Erin E.

Exceptional speaker, very enjoyable course.

Michael H.


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