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Access to Justice and Legal Needs Program

The Access to Justice and Legal Needs (A2JLN) research program is a rigorous and ongoing assessment of the legal and access to justice needs of the NSW community — especially socially and economically disadvantaged people — and we are committed to making this information easily accessible.

The program objectives are to examine the ability of disadvantaged people to:

  • obtain legal assistance (including information, basic legal advice, initial legal assistance and legal representation)
  • participate effectively in the legal system (including access to courts, tribunals, and formal alternative dispute resolution mechanisms)
  • obtain non-legal assistance, advocacy and support (including non-legal early intervention and preventative mechanisms, non-legal forms of redress and community based justice)
  • participate effectively in law reform processes.

The program has researched the issues through the following approaches:
  • Expressed legal need
    Data collected every day by not-for-profit legal service providers such as Legal Aid NSW, LawAccess NSW, community legal centres (CLCs) and other services provides a valuable source of information about those in the community who seek legal assistance for their legal problems, the types of problems they experience, and the pathways they take to resolve them.
  • Unexpressed (unmet) legal need
    Policy makers and service providers often ask whether those seeking legal assistance represent the majority of people with legal needs. Modelled on leading recent international research, the Foundation’s legal needs surveys are providing the first empirical insight into both expressed and unexpressed need (that is, need for which assistance has not been sought) in the community.
  • Reports on particular disadvantaged groups or issue
    As the first two methodologies are unlikely to adequately cover some particular disadvantaged groups or some particular issues affecting these groups, the third methodological stream of the A2JLN program includes qualitative analyses of the legal needs of selected groups.

National survey

Legal Australia-Wide Survey (LAW Survey)
The Legal Australia-Wide Survey (LAW Survey) provides the first comprehensive quantitative assessment across Australia of an extensive range of legal needs on a representative sample of the population. It examines the nature of legal problems, the pathways to their resolution, and the demographic groups that struggle with the weight of their legal problems. See LAW Survey reports for Australia, ACT, New South Wales, NT, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and WA

Published reports

Service provider analysis

The development of the Legal Assistance Service Data Digest and Data Digest Online (2014)
Data Digest LawAccess 2002-2004 Report (2007)
Data digest: a compendium of service usage data from NSW legal assistance and dispute resolution services, 1999–2002 (2004)

Quantitative surveys

The legal needs of people with different types of chronic illness or disability (Justice Issues Paper 11, 2009)
NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Campbelltown (Justice Issues Paper 4, 2008)
NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Fairfield (Justice Issues Paper 5, 2008)
NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Nambucca (Justice Issues Paper 6, 2008)
NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Newcastle (Justice Issues Paper 7, 2008)
NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: South Sydney (Justice Issues Paper 8, 2008)
NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Walgett (Justice Issues Paper 9, 2008)
Justice made to measure: NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas (2006)
Bega Valley pilot (2003)

Qualitative research

By the People, for the People? Community participation in law reform: summary report (Justice Issues Paper 14, 2011)
By the People, for the People? Community participation in law reform (2010)
Taking justice into custody: the legal needs of prisoners (2008)
Taking justice into custody: the legal needs of prisoners: summary report (Justice Issues Paper 2, 2008)
On the edge of justice: the legal needs of people with a mental illness in NSW (2006)
No home, no justice? The legal needs of homeless people (2005)
The legal needs of older people (2004)

Integrated methods

Cognitive impairment, legal need and access to justice (Justice Issues Paper 10, 2009)
Fine but not fair: fines and disadvantage (Justice Issues Paper 3, 2008)
Pathways to justice: the role of non-legal services (Justice Issues Paper 1, 2007)

Preliminary reports

Access to justice background paper (2003)
Access to justice roundtable (2003)
Public consultations report (2003)