June DEI – A Guide for Paralegals: Supporting Transgender Clients with Sensitivity and Empathy

June 2024


In recognition of Pride Month, NALA’s DEI Committee has prepared some straightforward guidance on how to be a good advocate for your transgender clients. As paralegals, we play a vital role in supporting and advocating for transgender clients. It is essential that we approach our work with sensitivity, ensuring we do not re-traumatize our clients, who have likely faced discrimination and challenges in other personal and professional settings. By following these tips, we can be effective allies and create a safe and empowering environment for transgender clients.

Educate Yourself

Take the initiative to educate yourself about transgender identities and experiences and the legal issues they may face. Read relevant legal resources, attend webinars or training sessions, and familiarize yourself with terminology. Understanding the unique challenges your transgender clients may have encountered will enable you to provide the best possible support.

Respect Pronouns and Identities

Respectful and accurate use of pronouns and chosen names is crucial. Ensure you have the correct pronouns and name for each client, utilizing this information consistently in all communication. If you are unsure, discreetly and politely ask for clarification during an initial meeting, ensuring clients feel seen, acknowledged, and respected. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun, dwelling on the error and/or overcorrecting is not necessary. Simply make the correction and move on.

Create a Safe Space

Create an environment where transgender clients feel comfortable discussing their legal matters without fear of judgment or discrimination. Practice active listening, empathy, and validation to foster trust and understanding. Ensure confidentiality, emphasizing the importance of client privacy and safety in all interactions.

Avoid Re-traumatization

Transgender clients may have experienced traumatic events or discrimination in the past. Be mindful of language, topics, and triggering discussions that could re-traumatize or harm them emotionally. To create an atmosphere of support and trust, it is crucial to be sensitive to their unique experiences.

Understand Legal Challenges

Familiarize yourself with the legal challenges faced by transgender individuals, such as name changes, gender marker updates, discrimination cases, and health care access. Be prepared to provide guidance and resources for these specific matters, ensuring your clients are informed and empowered throughout the legal process.

Advocate for Transgender Rights

As a paralegal, you have a unique opportunity to advocate for transgender rights. Stay informed about current legislation affecting transgender individuals, and actively support initiatives promoting equality. Engage in pro bono work or volunteer with organizations that work toward transgender-inclusive policies and protections.

Offer Referrals to Supportive Services

Recognize that your role can extend beyond legal assistance. Provide referrals to supportive services such as mental health professionals, LGBTQ+ organizations, and support groups. These resources can help clients navigate the emotional challenges they may face while dealing with legal matters.

Prioritize Self-Education and Unlearning

Continuously challenge your own biases and preconceptions. Take the time to unlearn systemic transphobia and cisnormativity, allowing for personal growth and development as an ally. Engage in self-reflection, seeking feedback from clients and colleagues to improve your support and ensure clients feel heard and respected.


As paralegals, our role in supporting transgender clients goes beyond legal advice. It requires sensitivity, empathy, and continuous education. By respecting pronouns, creating safe spaces, avoiding re-traumatization, understanding legal challenges, advocating for rights, providing referrals, and prioritizing personal growth, we can become effective allies. Let us work together to empower and provide the legal support necessary for transgender clients to navigate their legal matters with dignity and respect.

Additional Resources

Human Rights Commission – https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) – https://glaad.org/transgender/resources/

PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) – https://pflag.org/resource/transgender-resources/

National Center for Transgender Equality – https://transequality.org/

American Bar Association Transgender Resources – https://www.americanbar.org/groups/diversity/sexual_orientation/resources/transgenderrights/

The Trevor Project – https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/guide/a-guide-to-being-an-ally-to-transgender-and-nonbinary-youth/

World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) – https://www.wpath.org/resources/general

LGBT Foundation – https://lgbt.foundation/trans-resources/