“What possible impact could my academic transcripts have on this lawsuit?”
The client at the other end of the line, who we’ll call Sam, was almost angry, annoyed by a request for his signature on the latest in a modest string of records stipulations prepared by defense counsel. I understood his confusion: clients new to litigation often feel daunted by the discovery process, which can feel invasive and tangential to the issues at hand.
For adult victims of child sex abuse, like Sam, it can also seem to add insult to injury. Having finally mustered the courage to face repressed memories and decades-old bogeymen, the added vulnerability they incur from allowing access to their personal health, education, and employment records can make them feel as though they’re being attacked.
That’s why it’s so important for clients to hear about the process from our perspective.
“Remember,” I said, “your records help everyone involved get a better understanding of your claim. Think of them as parts of your story as a whole.”
“But how would any of this stuff help my claim?” Sam asked.
“Well,” I told him, “Let’s say, hypothetically, that you were a consistent student as a child, but after encountering your abuser, your grades suddenly fell.”
“Oh,” he said. He paused. “You know, I dropped out after.”
No plaintiff wants to feel re-victimized during the course of their lawsuit. We bury ourselves in discovery every day, and it’s easy to forget that some clients are surprised by the suggestion that they allow access to their personal records. Clearing up expectations early in discovery can help remind them that the action they’ve already taken is an important step toward reclaiming power over their own story.