ContentJust Search pageLJF site navigationLeft navigation links
LJF Logo
Publications sectionJustice Awards sectionResearch sectionGrants sectionPlain language law sectionNetworks section
Just Search
 
Research Report: Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas
cover image

Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas  ( 2006 )  Cite this report

Ch 2. The present study



Print chapter
Search or view whole report
View PDF

Definitions


Legal events

Following Genn's (1999) lead, 'legal events' in the present study were defined broadly to include all situations where there is the potential for legal resolution, regardless of whether or not a legal resolution is actively sought. Thus, the present study attempted to minimise the under-reporting of legal events by not requiring individuals to be aware of potential legal resolutions.

To obtain a comprehensive picture of the legal events typically faced by disadvantaged communities, the present study examined a broad range of legal events, including civil, criminal and family legal events.

Access to justice

The current study also adopted a broad definition of 'access to justice' given the empirical evidence showing that people faced with legal events use a wide range of both legal and non-legal sources of assistance. More specifically, the present study examined the ability of people living within socioeconomically disadvantaged areas to:

  1. obtain legal assistance, including
    • legal information (e.g. via pamphlets, internet sites, videos, tapes, helplines, legal textbooks, legislation and case law)
    • legal advice from a legal professional (e.g. a private lawyer, a legal aid officer, a community legal centre solicitor, a lawyer via telephone services such as LawAccess NSW or via internet services such as the LawStuff email advice service)
    • initial legal assistance where a legal professional is engaged to advocate or negotiate a matter prior to the initiation of court proceedings or litigation
    • legal representation where a legal professional is engaged to prepare/lodge legal documents or to provide representation in formal legal proceedings (e.g. commercial dealings, interlocutory proceedings, tribunal/court hearings)
  2. participate effectively in the legal system, including being able to access legal assistance without facing major barriers (e.g. high cost, delay, unnecessary complexity, inadequate representation, power imbalances)
  3. obtain assistance from non-legal advocacy and support, including family, friends and acquaintances; community-based workers (e.g. social/welfare/health/psychological workers, financial counsellors); government authorities (e.g. government departments, the police, members of parliament); non-government organisations (e.g. trade unions, professional bodies); and complaint-handling bodies (e.g. ombudsman's offices).2

Disadvantage

Given past findings that measures of income poverty often fail to overlap substantially with other indicators of disadvantage (Arthurson & Jacobs 2003; Saunders 2003), the present study adopted a broad operational definition of disadvantage that was based on multiple economic and social indicators of disadvantage. Furthermore, given that legal services should ideally be able to meet the legal needs of all people living within the immediate local geographic area, it was decided to focus on residents of disadvantaged areas rather than to restrict the sample to individuals who each met particular criteria of disadvantage. As a result, while all of the individuals interviewed for the present study resided in disadvantaged areas, it is possible that some of these individuals may not themselves be disadvantaged.

Vinson's (1999) composite risk score for cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage was used to select six LGAs in NSW with relatively high levels of disadvantage, and a sample was drawn from these areas.3



For a more detailed discussion of access to justice, see Schetzer et al. (2002). The ability of socioeconomically disadvantaged people to participate in law reform processes is being examined in a separate study within the Access to Justice and Legal Needs Research Program.
The Method section below details the socioeconomic indicators that contribute to this risk score, the process used to select the six areas on the basis of this score and the process used to select residents from each area.

 For a more detailed discussion of access to justice, see Schetzer et al. (2002). The ability of socioeconomically disadvantaged people to participate in law reform processes is being examined in a separate study within the Access to Justice and Legal Needs Research Program.
 The Method section below details the socioeconomic indicators that contribute to this risk score, the process used to select the six areas on the basis of this score and the process used to select residents from each area.


CLOSE
Coumarelos, C, Wei , Z & Zhou, AH 2006, Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney