Chapter 1: Introduction to Law for Social Work Practice

Additional Recommended Readings

Michael Preston-Shoot, Judy McKimm and Angela Thurnham. “Outcomes of Law Teaching in Social Work Education: Further Findings from a Cohort Study,” Social Work Education, 32(5) (2013): 607–625. Accessed March 8, 2015.

This study examines the impact of legal education on social work students’ knowledge and practice skills across institutions in the United Kingdom. The results show that law teaching can be seen to impact social workers’ confidence levels. In particular, students valued the real-life connections between law and practice.

Sarah Taylor. “Educating Future Practitioners of Social Work and Law: Exploring the Origins of Inter-Professional Misunderstanding,” Children and Youth Services Review, 28(6) (2006): 638–653. Accessed March 8, 2015.

The authors of this paper suggest that conflict and misunderstandings between social workers and lawyers is rooted in their varied educational experiences. In particular, the structure of authoritative relationships (expert authority versus shared authority) during the educational process leads to different approaches and expectations in practice.

Thea Zajac. Social Work and Legal Services Integrating Disciplines: Lessons from the Field. (Legal Aid Association of California, 2011),

This paper, developed as a project for the Legal Aid Associate of California, examines the lawyer–social work relationship in terms of the strengths and challenges of this collaborative approach.

Relevant Legislation


Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important for social workers to be knowledgeable about the law?
  2. Describe the legal framework within which social workers practice.
  3. What fundamental freedoms are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and can they ever be violated?
  4. How are laws enacted? How can you as a social worker influence the law-making process?
  5. Are there any opportunities for social advocates to be heard on controversial issues before the courts? Explain.