Consistency and Conflict

Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

School of Social Work


Social workers frequently encounter circumstances involving ethical and legal issues. In many instances, relevant ethical and legal standards complement each other; however, in some circumstances, ethical and legal standards conflict. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the relationship between U.S. ethical and legal standards in social work. The author presents a conceptually based typology of 4 types of relationships between legal and ethical standards. Case examples are included. The author concludes with a decision-making framework designed to enhance social workers' constructive management of difficult decisions involving ethical and legal standards.