Attorney-Social Worker Collaboration for Holistic Representation

​​Event Details:

PDS invites you to a training on Attorney-Social Worker Collaboration for Holistic Representation:

  • Date: Tuesday, March 24th, 2021 
  • Time: 11:30 am-12:30 pm
  • Where: Zoom, registration closed​

Presented by Stephanne Thornton, MDiv, MSW, LICSW, MAC, CCTP, CSOTP

This 60 minute CLE is approved for 1.2 hours CLE credit for attorneys through the WV State Bar. All other office staff are also welcome, and encouraged, to attend.

Session Summary:

According to Public Defender Services' Standards for the Indigent Defense Function in the State of WV and national defense function standards, defense counsel should determine whether a client's interests would be served by engaging a non-legal professional to investigate a client's life history, identify potential issues that may affect sentencing, and create alternatives to incarceration. Social workers can function as these non-legal experts whose strengths include comprehensive life history investigation, knowledge of community resources for alternative sentencing, and the ability to advocate for the client while working collaboratively with the defense attorney towards holistic representation. This presentation will define holistic representation and the importance of holistic representation towards a criminal defendant client's case resolution; national and state standards that support holistic representation using social workers; and ways in which defense attorneys in West Virginia can collaborate with trained social workers to develop mitigation and alternative sentencing plans.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Definition of holistic representation.
  2. Role of social workers in criminal legal process and how they can support attorney work to fulfill holistic representation.
  3. National standards from the American Bar Association and NLADA on investigation of client history, use of client history to develop alternative sentences, and use of social workers or sentencing specialists.
  4. Public Defender Services Standards for the Indigent Defense Functions related to investigation of client history and use of social workers or sentencing specialists.
  5. Role and benefit of collaboration between attorneys and social workers to develop mitigation.
  6. How defense attorneys can collaborate with social workers for interdisciplinary work to benefit clients at sentencing.​


Stephanne Thornton is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Graduate School of Social Work. She has been clinically licensed as a social worker and addiction counselor since 2004 and currently holds a Master Addiction Counselor certificate through NAADAC and is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker through the West Virginia Board of Social Work. Stephanne has worked as a mitigation specialist and sentencing advocate in indigent criminal defense offices in Georgia and West Virginia. She has presented various trainings on topics such as mitigation, sentencing advocacy, and criminal offender assessments. For any further questions please contact