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Research Report: Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia
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Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia  ( 2012 )  Cite this report

5. Response to legal problems



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Action types in response to legal problems


The survey asked respondents whether the six following types of actions were taken in an attempt to resolve their legal problems:

1. seeking advice formally (see Appendix A1, questions A9–A14)
2. using websites or self-help guides (see question A5)
3. consulting relatives or friends informally (see question A29)
4. communicating with the other side (see questions A16 and A31)
5. court or tribunal proceedings (see question A7)
6. formal dispute resolution (see question A8).

‘Seeking advice’ was defined as consulting advisers in a professional or formal capacity to try to resolve the problem. Advisers could be professionals or organisations. Consulting an adviser meant that the respondent, or someone on the respondent’s behalf, had spoken or written directly to the adviser. Seeking advice from relatives or friends in their professional capacity, such as asking a lawyer friend for legal advice, was included as ‘seeking advice’ from a formal adviser.

‘Using websites or self-help guides’ entailed the respondent, or someone on the respondent’s behalf, obtaining information without having direct contact with a professional or organisation and was distinguished from ‘seeking advice’.

‘Consulting relatives or friends’ involved talking to relatives or friends about the problem in an informal or non-professional capacity and was also distinguished from the action of ‘seeking advice’.

‘Communicating with the other side’ was defined as the respondent, or someone on the respondent’s behalf, talking or writing directly to the other side to try to resolve the problem. Communicating with the other side was also not considered to entail ‘seeking advice.(2)

‘Court or tribunal proceedings’ included proceedings that had already taken place and proceedings that the respondent reported as upcoming or likely to occur.

‘Formal dispute resolution’ included formal mediation, conciliation or dispute resolution sessions that had already taken place and any such sessions that the respondent reported as upcoming or likely to occur.

Figure 5.1 presents the proportion of problems that resulted in each of the six types of actions. Some legal problems resulted in more than one type of action, while others resulted in no action. As Figure 5.1 shows, 18.3 per cent of the 19 142 legal problems resulted in none of the action types examined by the survey. Respondents sought advice from formal advisers in response to 51.1 per cent of problems, communicated with the other side in response to 38.1 per cent of problems, consulted relatives or friends informally in response to 26.6 per cent of problems and used a website or other self-help guide in response to 19.5 per cent of problems. Furthermore, respondents reported that court or tribunal proceedings either had taken place or were likely to occur in relation to 9.8 per cent of problems.(3) Respondents also reported that they had attended or were likely to attend formal dispute resolution sessions in relation to 8.8 per cent of problems.(4)

Figure 5.1: Action types in response to legal problems, Australia


Note: N=19 142 problems. Data were missing for 246 problems. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple action types were used for some problems.

Figure 5.2 shows the number of different types of actions resulting from respondents’ legal problems. As already noted, 18.3 per cent of the legal problems did not result in any of the six types of actions measured by the survey. However, 38.0 per cent of the legal problems resulted in one type of action, a further 24.3 per cent resulted in two different types of actions, and the remaining 19.4 per cent resulted in at least three of the six types of actions measured.

Figure 5.2: Number of action types per legal problem, Australia


Note: N=19 142 problems. Data were missing for 246 problems.

An examination was made of whether the number of different types of actions taken in response to legal problems was related to the severity of problems. This relationship was significant (see Table 5.1). A greater number of action types were taken in response to legal problems that respondents had rated as having a substantial impact on their everyday lives than in response to legal problems rated as having a minor impact. Three or more different types of actions were taken in response to 29.4 per cent of substantial problems but only 10.7 per cent of minor problems (see Table 5.1). In fact, each type of action was used for a significantly higher proportion of substantial problems than minor problems (see Table 5.2). For example, court or tribunal proceedings occurred or were likely to occur for less than five per cent of minor problems compared to 15.5 per cent of substantial problems.


Table 5.1: Number of action types in response to legal problems by problem severity, Australia

Problem severity
Number of action types per problem
Total
Mean
0
1
2
3+
%
%
%
%
%
N
Minor
1.2
24.1
43.8
21.4
10.7
100.0
10 188
Substantial
1.9
11.6
31.4
27.6
29.4
100.0
8 954
All problems
1.5
18.3
38
24.3
19.5
100.0
19 142

Note: N=19 142 problems. Data were missing for 246 problems. Somers’ d=0.21 (95% CI=0.20–0.22), SE=0.01, p=0.000, outcome variable is number of action types.

Table 5.2: Action types in response to legal problems by problem severity, Australia

Problem
severity
Action type
Total
Sought
advice
Communicated
with other side
Consulted relatives
or friends
Website or
self-help
guide
Court or
tribunal
Formal
dispute
resolution
%
%
%
%
%
%
N
Minor
41.4
36.5
20.6
14.1
4.8
4.4
10 188
Substantial
62.1
39.9
33.3
25.6
15.5
13.7
8 954
All problems
51.1
38.1
26.6
19.5
9.8
8.8
19 142

Note: N=19 142 problems. Data were missing for 246 problems. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple action types were used for some problems. Sought advice: ?2=820.42, F1,10 289=485.34, p=0.000. Communicated with other side: ?2=22.24, F1,10 289=13.23, p=0.000. Consulted relatives or friends: ?2=399.42, F1,10 289=240.73, p=0.000. Website or self-help guide: ?2=402.09, F1,102 89=248.33, p=0.000. Court or tribunal: ?2=624.40, F1,10 289=360.54, p=0.000. Formal dispute resolution: ?2=516.14, F1,10 289=293.57, p=0.000. Bonferroni correction applied, ?2 significant if p<0.008.

The number of different types of actions taken was also significantly associated with the type of legal problem (see Table 5.3). Family, money, employment, housing and government problems resulted in significantly more action types than average. Three or more different types of actions were taken in response to 50.0 per cent of family problems, 33.0 per cent of money problems, 30.7 per cent of employment problems, 23.9 per cent of housing problems and 23.2 per cent of government problems. Accidents, crime, consumer and personal injury problems resulted in significantly fewer action types than average. Only 6.6 per cent of accidents problems, 10.3 per cent of crime problems, 12.2 per cent of consumer problems and 14.5 per cent of personal injury problems resulted in three or more action types. (5)

Table 5.3: Number of action types in response to legal problems by problem group, Australia

Problem group
Number of action types per problem
Total
Mean
0
1
2
3+
%
%
%
%
%
N
Accidents
1.1
25.8
50.6
17.0
6.6
100.0
1 313
Consumer
1.3
18.4
44.3
25.2
12.2
100.0
4 111
Credit/debt
1.5
21.8
34.4
24.2
19.6
100.0
992
Crime
1.2
26.8
44.0
19.0
10.3
100.0
2 933
Employment
1.9
14.5
26.9
27.8
30.7
100.0
1 181
Family
2.6
6.5
20.0
23.5
50.0
100.0
1 089
Government
1.7
15.2
33.3
28.3
23.2
100.0
1 877
Health
1.5
20.8
36.1
25.3
17.9
100.0
544
Housing
1.7
12.9
33.5
29.6
23.9
100.0
2 019
Money
2.0
6.6
32.5
27.9
33.0
100.0
1 010
Personal injury
1.4
19.0
44.7
21.8
14.5
100.0
1 119
Rights
1.6
23.1
30.3
23.2
23.4
100.0
953
All problems
1.5
18.3
38.0
24.3
19.5
100.0
19 142

Note: N=19 142 problems. Data were missing for 246 problems. A multilevel Poisson regression was conducted to determine whether problem group predicted the number of action types taken in response to legal problems. See Appendix Table A5.1 for full results.

Furthermore, there were significant differences between problem groups for each of the six types of actions (see Table 5.4). For example, advice was sought for approximately three-quarters of family, personal injury and money problems but for less than one-quarter of consumer problems. Relative to other problems, family problems more commonly led to court or tribunal proceedings and to formal dispute resolution. Trying to resolve the problem by communicating with the other side occurred relatively frequently in response to consumer problems but relatively rarely in response to accidents, crime and personal injury problems.

Table 5.4: Action types in response to legal problems by problem group, Australia

Problem group
Action type
Total
Sought advice
Communicated with other side
Consulted relatives or friends
Website or self-help guide
Court or tribunal
Formal dispute resolution
%
%
%
%
%
%
N
Accidents
58.1
19.8
19.3
5.0
2.2
1.1
1 313
Consumer
24.0
59.5
24.4
20.6
2.8
3.5
4 111
Credit/debt
38.6
48.5
25.3
17.6
11.6
8.6
992
Crime
61.6
10.4
20.2
7.0
13.8
3.8
2 933
Employment
60.8
35.3
39.7
26.2
8.5
17.8
1 181
Family
78.5
39.9
42.0
31
33.2
30.9
1 089
Government
42.9
49.4
25.3
30.5
9.7
12.1
1 877
Health
63.8
26.1
26.8
21.5
4.4
4.8
544
Housing
53.0
48.2
29.7
26.7
8.9
8.1
2 019
Money
71.0
43.7
30.3
26.9
18.6
14.0
1 010
Personal injury
72.2
18.1
17.3
9.9
9.8
8.6
1 119
Rights
55.1
27.0
35.3
18.8
7.2
13.2
953
All problems
51.1
38.1
26.6
19.5
9.8
8.8
19 142

Note:N=19 142 problems. Data were missing for 246 problems. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple action types were used for some problems. Sought advice: ?2=2260.28, F11,112 874=133.13, p=0.000. Communicated with other side: ?2=2476.64, F11,112 809=141.19, p=0.000. Consulted relatives or friends: ?2=451.45, F11,112 678=25.91, p=0.000. Website or self-help guide: ?2=917.92, F11,112 753=52.23, p=0.000. Court or tribunal: ?2=1168.27, F11,112 093=64.88, p=0.000. Formal dispute resolution: ?2=1214.27, F11,112 538=67.87, p=0.000. Bonferroni correction applied, ?2 significant if p<0.008.


2. Question A16 checked whether any of the advisers captured by questions A9–A14 were the other side (see Appendix A1). If the other side was listed at questions A9–A14, the respondent was credited with the action of direct communication with the other side to try to resolve the problem.

3. For a further 6.0 per cent of problems, respondents were unsure whether court or tribunal proceedings were likely to eventuate or refused to comment on this issue.

4. For a further 3.8 per cent of problems, respondents were unsure whether formal dispute resolution sessions were likely to eventuate or refused to comment on this issue.

5. The number of action types used for other problem groups were not significantly different from average.







  


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Coumarelos, C, Macourt, D, People, J, MacDonald, HM, Wei, Z, Iriana, R & Ramsey, S 2012, Legal Australia-Wide Survey: legal need in Australia, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney