Standards of Practice

In August of 2007, the ABA House of Delegates adopted the "black letter" law of the Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking in Civil Protection Order Cases ("The Standards"). The Standards are intended to improve the quality of legal representation provided to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.


The Standards have three main goals:

  1. improving the quality of legal representation of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking; 
  2. enabling lawyers to effectively, ethically, and holistically represent victims in civil protection order cases; and, 
  3. raising awareness about the need for high-quality representation for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in civil protection order cases.

Although there is no singular solution to ending these forms of violence, one thing that can make a critical difference in helping victims become safe is legal representation: legal aid is the “single highest predictor of long-term reduction in domestic violence.” Securing a civil protection order is often the first step that a victim takes in seeking safety from the perpetrator of the violence; however, the vast majority of victims seek a protection order without a lawyer. Victims of these crimes must have access to well-trained, client-centered lawyers. And lawyers, legal aid, pro bono, or private, must have the training, tools and skills necessary to help victims. The Standards seek to elevate the legal profession’s response to domestic and sexual violence, and to increase the bar of attorneys ready to support victims.

The Standards recommend that lawyers become knowledgeable about the dynamics of domestic violence and its intersection with sexual assault and stalking before undertaking representation of a victim in a protection order case. Without this baseline knowledge, safety planning, lethality assessment, client-attorney trust building, and case theory cannot be thoroughly executed. Other considerations addressed by the Standards include understanding the role culture, language, immigration status, age and/or disability of the victim may play in effective representation of diverse clients, ensuring effective communication between the lawyer and client, and being able to identify the potential need for interpreters.


The Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence and the ABA Center for Professional Development sponsored a webinar entitled ABA Standards of Practice for Civil Representation of Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence on Tuesday, August 19, 2014. 

To download the recorded webinar CLICK HERE


To order hard copies CLICK HERE