Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

‘I’m the type of person that doesn’t give up’

After experiencing a number of negative impacts on her mental health after experiencing vicarious trauma, this principal lawyer began raising awareness on the issue and taking it to the High Court.

user iconLauren Croft 25 August 2022 Big Law
‘I’m the type of person that doesn’t give up’
expand image

Content warning: This story contains insights that may be disturbing or distressing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

Zagi Kozarov is the principal lawyer of Kozarov Lawyers in Melbourne and recently won the Wellness Advocate of the Year category in the Partner of the Year Awards.

Speaking recently on the Boutique Lawyer Show, Ms Kozarov reflected on an important High Court case she was recently a part of – and spoke about why she’s raising awareness on vicarious trauma in the workplace.


Ms Kozarov started her career as a prosecutor at the Office of Public Prosecutions and spent a number of years there before opening up her own firm, where she practices in criminal defence and family law.

She’s also just come off a high court case to do with the effects of vicarious trauma — particularly on the mental health of lawyers.

“Certain lawyers are exposed to more than others, and in particular, say criminal lawyers, we’re exposed to vicarious trauma. It’s about having policies in place to protect staff against the long-term effects of vicar trauma, or to put things in place so as to make it a lot easier to manage. 

“Fundamentally, when you get into a career as a criminal lawyer, or as a police officer, or other industries that involve vicarious trauma, for example, you know what you’re getting yourself into, but sometimes you don’t realise until you really hit rock bottom that you’re suffering from a condition such as PTSD,” she explained.

“My case was about, first of all, raising the awareness of psychological effects in the workplace, and two, about employers having very specific policies in place to protect their staff against the long-term effects of psychological injury in the workplace, potentially. 

“So, that’s my case in a nutshell, but it was about my work at the OPP whilst I was in the special sex offence unit. I didn’t really realise the effects of my work until I became a mom, and I think that’s when it really hit home.”

The case was a 10-year process, eventually resulting in the High Court determining that Ms Kazarov was owed a duty of care from her employer in relation to the vicarious trauma she was exposed to and that better protective processes should have been put in place.

“My case obviously went to trial. I was successful after a trial in the Supreme Court. Then the ruling was overturned on appeal, so they appealed my win. Then I appealed the Supreme Court of appeal decision to the High Court. So, with any cases these days it does take time before you get a listing date, but that explains why it took such a long time. It was a long, drawn-out process, but it’s come out with positive effects for everyone. And I think it’s raised a lot more awareness in our community about psychological injuries in the workplace,” she said.

“I suffer from chronic PTSD. That’s something that never goes away unfortunately, but you learn to put certain mechanisms in place to help you cope because, fundamentally, your life goes on and you need to find a way for it to continue. And I do love the work I do. At the end of the day, I’m very passionate about my work, and I want to continue my work as a lawyer. I believe I’m a great lawyer, and I want to give back to the community.”

Ms Kazarov wants to continue to raise awareness about these issues in the workplace — not only for the legal profession, but for other professions, too.

“I’m a single mom and I’ve had to go back to work. I’ve had to find the strength within me to work and to support my two beautiful children. They’re a lot older now, but they were my driving force. And it’s no secret the work that I did whilst I was at the OPP I was extremely passionate about, and I loved my job. I loved working in the specialist sex offence unit, and I loved working with children in particular, but it affected me and I had to stop. 

“It was difficult for me to stop, and it was difficult for me to come to terms with that. But at the end of the day, because I’m so passionate about the work I do and I’m passionate about helping people, if I stopped doing that, I think I would’ve gotten myself in a worse state, because when I did stop working, when I was really unwell, I became extremely depressed and it was worse for me.

“I think we’ve all got a place in our society, and I think my place is to help others, and I enjoy helping others. I think the life experience that I do carry, I think that’s what makes me good at what I do as well, so I want to give back. Triggers are everywhere for me. For example, I could drive past a place where an incident occurred or a crime had happened, and it will trigger me. A song could trigger me. A certain smell could trigger me, but I’ve had to learn to live with it. It’s either learn to live with it and carry on, or be in a dark place for a very long time. It then affects my kids as well, and those around me,” she said.

“I have my days, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a fighter and I’m the type of person that doesn’t give up. I like the fact that I can make an impact on other people’s lives by the work I do and by raising awareness, not only in relation to wellness but other issues as well. So, I am passionate about the law, and I think I was born to be a lawyer, so I can’t see myself ever giving that up because it will be giving up a part of me.”

Help is available via Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636. Each law society and bar association also has further contacts available on their respective websites.

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Zagi Kozarov, click below: