About the Legal Defense Fund

Since 1972 the mission of the LDF (which was established by the NASW Board) has been to advance the legal interests of the social work profession. 

The LDF accomplishes this goal through a three-pronged approach:

  1. Through the LDF, the Association files “friend of the court” briefs in cases of import to the profession around the country such as cases addressing the rights of clinicians to protect the confidentiality of client records. Learn about the Amicus Brief Database.
  2. The LDF provides financial assistance for selected legal cases of concern to the profession, helping ensure that social workers have their “day in court.” To date, the LDF has provided grants totaling approximately $100,000, which was made possible only through the generous contributions of our members.
    Learn about legal grants.
  3. Finally, we provide members with unique education and training resources. For instance, the LDF provides a members-only free consultation service on social work practice legal issues and has put out numerous legal publications that help social workers better understand their rights and responsibilities.
    Learn about free legal consultations for NASW members

What We Do

As a part of its mission, LDF supports precedent-setting lawsuits and makes available legal resources of interest to NASW members and social workers generally. Some notable items produced with LDF support include:

  • The Law Notes series
  • Legal Issue Article
  • The Social Work Ethics & Law Institute
  • Workshops and educational materials presented at national and state social work conferences and to NASW chapters.
  • Amicus briefs, including one that was noted in the Supreme Court's opinion in the landmark case, Jaffee v. Redmond, which established a federal psychotherapist-patient privilege for social workers and their clients; and another that helped legal counsel establish the right for licensed clinical social workers practicing in Maryland to testify as expert witnesses. 

The NASW Legal Defense Fund established to assist NASW members in three areas:

  1. A fund was created from member contributions to support NASW members with legal fees in cases involving social work issues. 
  2. The LDF was created to give a voice to NASW and the social work profession in the courts, in particular in precedent setting appellate litigation involving NASW policy issues or social work practice.
  3. The LDF was tasked with offering members timely information about legal developments and cases of importance to the social work profession. Through this third purpose, LDF has had its widest reach – making its publications and legal resources available to NASW members and, when appropriate, to the public.

LDF History

Your Support Sustains LDF

The work of the Legal Defense Fund is financed principally by contributions from NASW members through the check-off box on the member dues renewal form. Honorary contributions in recognition or remembrance of social workers are also accepted.

Donations enable LDF to provide important services to our members, including financial assistance for legal support.


NASW LDF staff is not able to respond to requests for specific legal advice. Requests for funding assistance for legal issues should be submitted through the grant application process.

The information contained in this website is provided as a service to members and the social work community for educational and information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We provide timely information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between NASW, LDF, or the author(s) and you. NASW members and online readers should not act based on the information provided in the LDF website. Laws and court interpretations change frequently. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific facts and circumstances of a particular case. Nothing reported herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

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Get to Know the NASW Office of General Counsel

The NASW Office of General Counsel (OGC) provides important services supporting individual NASW members and the social work profession generally.

Learn how OGC supports our members

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LDF 2015-2016 Annual Report

  Download the LDF Annual Report