Interdisciplinary Collaboration between Social Workers and Lawyers: Value and Benefits for Indigent Clients

Tatiana Williams

Abstract

Interdisciplinary collaborations (IC) or the process of different disciplines working together towards a common goal are being increasingly utilized especially amongst the helping professions (social workers, counselors, lawyers, and doctors). This tends to be the case, as trends in social problems like poverty and unemployment, homelessness, drug addiction, and limited access to quality healthcare, make it almost impossible to serve clients effectively without working with professionals from different disciplines. Collaboration between professions often renders more enhanced holistic services, aimed at improving outcomes for clients.A specific IC that clients impacted by these large scale social problems tend to benefit from is between social workers and lawyers. This collaboration is not a new discovery, in fact there is a great deal of scholarly work on such collaborations. However through a review of the literature this collaboration is often characterized as conflictual, or based on child welfare environments or domestic violence venues where IC was typical and necessary to address the clients’ legal and social problems (Sloane 1967; Scherrer 1976; Bronstein 2003) Some conflict still did arise and it occurred because of interprofessional differences such as style, training, and ethics; or because of structural characteristics such as level of support from the agency and collaborators, and the assignment of roles and responsibilities. What is limited in the literature and what this research will focus on is the perceived importance, value, and the benefits of the collaboration of social workers and lawyers in addressing the totality of problems affecting indigent clients receiving legal assistance and services.