September 18, 2023
The University of Glasgow has announced plans to improve legal justice for victims of sexual assault through their new legal clinic. We examine what this development entails, the need for legal clinics and how you can specialise in offering legal asistance and suppport to individuals with a history of trauma.


The University of Glasgow has secured funding to establish a groundbreaking law clinic dedicated to enhancing access to justice in Scotland for complainants in sexual offence cases. This pioneering initiative, named the Emma Ritch Law Clinic, is set to open in September 2023 and pays tribute to the late Emma Ritch, a renowned advocate for women’s rights and a University alumna.

The clinic, the first of its kind in the UK, will provide complainants with free legal advice and representation from practising Scottish solicitors. Beyond legal assistance, it will offer innovative educational opportunities to empower the next generation of Scottish lawyers with essential legal and ethical skills.

Additionally, the clinic will engage in valuable research to examine the impact of specialised legal advice and representation on complainants’ experiences within the criminal justice system. It will collaborate with organisations like Rape Crisis Scotland to address unmet legal needs in Scotland and promote trauma-informed lawyering—an essential focus in the realm of criminal law. Led by Co-Directors Mr. Eamon Keane, Dr. Jacqueline Kinghan, and Professor Nicole Busby, the Emma Ritch Law Clinic represents a pivotal step towards a more equitable legal landscape in Scotland.

What Is A Legal Clinic?

A legal clinic is a facility where qualified lawyers and law students provide free or low-cost legal assistance to individuals who cannot afford traditional legal services. These clinics offer advice, support, and representation, bridging the justice gap and ensuring access to legal help for vulnerable populations.

Legal clinics play a pivotal role in the UK’s legal landscape, serving as essential hubs for legal aid, guidance, and community support. 

For instance, the Citizens Advice Bureaus provide vital assistance on various legal matters, including housing, employment, and consumer rights. Scotland in particular has high acquittal rates in cases of rape and sexual assault demand attention. Specialised clinics like the Emma Ritch Law Clinic at the University of Glasgow focus on issues such as sexual offences, ensuring survivors receive trauma-informed legal support. These clinics bridge the justice gap, empowering individuals and fostering a fair and equitable society.


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Trauma-Informed Legal Services

Trauma-informed legal services are a vital component in criminal law as they address the psychological impact of traumatic experiences on survivors and witnesses. These services ensure sensitive handling of cases, reducing retraumatization during legal proceedings, and fostering a more empathetic and effective criminal justice system.

Trauma-informed legal services represent a paradigm shift in the legal profession, recognising the profound impact of trauma on individuals navigating the legal system. These services are provided by lawyers specially trained to understand and address the unique needs of survivors of traumatic experiences, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, or human trafficking.

In the UK, legal clinics often employ lawyers who are well-versed in trauma-informed lawyering. These professionals not only possess legal expertise but also undergo specialised training to create a safe and supportive environment for clients. They approach their work with sensitivity and empathy, ensuring survivors can share their experiences without feeling retraumatized.

For example, the Rights of Women’s Legal Advice Centre in the UK offers trauma-informed legal services to survivors of gender-based violence. Lawyers at this clinic are equipped to handle cases involving domestic abuse, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. Their trauma-informed approach prioritises survivor well-being, recognising that legal proceedings can be emotionally challenging.

By integrating trauma-informed principles into their practice, these lawyers help survivors navigate the legal system while minimising further distress. This approach not only empowers survivors to seek justice but also contributes to their healing and recovery, highlighting the importance of empathy and sensitivity in legal clinics.

Becoming A Trauma Informed Lawyer In The UK

Becoming a trauma-informed lawyer in the UK requires a combination of formal education, specialised training, and a commitment to understanding the unique needs of survivors. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Legal Education: Start by earning a law degree in the UK, such as an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) or an equivalent qualification. This forms the foundation of your legal career.
  • Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Training Course (BPC): After obtaining your LLB, complete the LPC (for solicitors) or the BPTC (for barristers) to gain the practical skills and knowledge required for legal practice.
  • Choose Your Specialisation: Determine the area of law where you want to apply trauma-informed principles, such as family law, domestic violence, or sexual offences.
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD): Participate in CPD programs that offer training in trauma-informed lawyering. Check out organisations like the the Law Society or the Bar Council for resources and training opportunities.
  • Advanced Training: Seek advanced training specifically in trauma-informed practice. Several organisations and institutions offer courses and workshops on this topic. For instance, the Trauma-Informed Legal Advocacy (TILA) project by Rights of Women provides resources and training for lawyers working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
  • Practical Experience: Gain legal work experience by working in legal clinics or law firms that focus on trauma-related cases. This hands-on experience is invaluable for applying trauma-informed principles effectively.
  • Empathy and Communication Skills: Develop strong interpersonal skills, active listening, and empathy to build trust and rapport with survivors.
  • Stay Informed: Stay updated on developments in trauma-informed practice and relevant legal changes to ensure you provide the best possible support to survivors.

Practising lawyers from various specialisations can also undergo training in trauma-informed practices when required, especially if their work involves vulnerable populations or individuals who have experienced trauma. These lawyers may come from fields such as family law, criminal law, immigration law, employment law, and civil rights law, among others. 


The inception of the Emma Ritch Law Clinic stands as a tribute to survivors’ resilience and the unwavering dedication of institutions, lawyers, and students to drive meaningful change. Legal clinics offer an assured avenue to impact individuals’ lives positively. If you contemplate specialising in trauma-informed legal services, you’re embarking on a path toward a fulfilling and altruistic legal career, where your efforts can truly make a difference.


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