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

Ch 5. Seeking help for legal events



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Type of adviser


Participants who sought help, advice or information in response to legal events were asked to identify all the advisers they had used in relation to each event. Participants sometimes used more than one adviser in response to a legal event. Figure 5.1 presents a frequency distribution showing the number of advisers that participants reported using in response to the 1496 events where they sought some form of help. For 1167 or over three-quarters (78.4%) of the legal events where help was sought, participants reported using only one adviser.2 Two advisers were used in response to a further 14.8 per cent of the events, and three or more advisers were used in the remaining 6.9 per cent of events. Approaching five or more advisers was quite rare, occurring in response to only 0.5 per cent of all events where participants sought help. When some form of help was sought in response to a legal event, the average number of advisers used was 1.3.

Figure 5.1: Number of advisers used per legal event, all six LGAs, 2003

Notes: N=1488 events. Information on number of advisers was missing for eight events where help was sought.

Participants were asked to identify all the advisers they used in response to legal events from a list comprising a wide range of both legal and non-legal advisers. Legal advisers included traditional legal advisers, such as private solicitors/barristers, local courts, Legal Aid NSW, LawAccess NSW, Aboriginal legal services, community legal centres (CLCs), as well as less formal legal advisers such as friends or relatives who are lawyers, and published sources (e.g. the internet). Non-legal advisers included friends and relatives who are not lawyers, government sources, police, complaint handling bodies, and other professionals and agencies.3

Figure 5.2 presents the percentage of events where participants who sought help used one or more legal advisers. It can be seen that participants did not limit themselves to legal advisers, but approached a broad range of sources in response to legal events. In fact, one or more legal advisers were used in response to only 25.6 per cent of the events where participants sought help. In the remaining three-quarters of the events where help was sought, participants used only non-legal advisers.

Figure 5.2: Use of legal versus non-legal advisers, all six LGAs, 2003

Notes: N=1495 events. Information on type of adviser was missing for one event where help was sought.
Events where both legal and non-legal advisers were used are included within the ‘legal adviser(s) used’ category.

Table 5.1 presents more detailed information about the types of legal and non-legal advisers used by participants. It presents both the percentage of events where a given adviser was used, and the percentage of events where a given adviser was the first adviser used.4 The table also provides the rankings corresponding to these percentages.

As shown in Table 5.1, traditional legal advisers, namely private lawyers, local courts, Legal Aid NSW, LawAccess NSW, Aboriginal legal services and CLCs, were used in response to only 12.0 per cent of events where help was sought. Private solicitors/barristers constituted the most commonly used traditional legal adviser, approached in 9.6 per cent of events where participants sought help. Local courts, Legal Aid NSW, LawAccess NSW, Aboriginal legal services and CLCs were each used in under 2.0 per cent of events where help was sought.

Interestingly, the most commonly approached advisers in response to legal events were non-legal professionals, such as doctors, accountants, psychologists and counsellors. Non-legal professionals (i.e. ‘other professionals’) were approached for help in response to 24.5 per cent of the events where help was sought. The next nine most common advisers were friends or relatives who are not lawyers (15.5%), government organisations (15.3%), private solicitors/barristers (9.6%), the internet (7.4%), friends or relatives who are lawyers (7.0%), trade unions or professional bodies (6.4%), insurance companies/brokers (5.9%), school staff (5.7%) and the police (5.2%). There were only three categories of legal advisers among the 10 most frequently used types of advisers: private lawyers, the internet, and friends or relatives who are lawyers.

Table 5.1: Type of adviser used, all six LGAs, 2003

Type of adviser
Adviser used
Adviser used firste
No. of events
% of events where help sought
Rank
No. of events
% of events where help sought
Rank
LEGAL ADVISER
Traditional legal:
180
12
150
10.3
Private solicitor/barrister
143
9.6
4
119
8.2
4
Local court
21
1.4
16
13
0.9
16
Legal Aid NSW
18
1.2
18
13
0.9
16
LawAccess NSW
3
0.2
24
2
0.1
21
Aboriginal legal services
1
0.1
25
1
0.1
25
CLCs
5
0.3
21
2
0.1
21
Lawyer friend/relative
105
7
6
77
5.3
5
Published:
120
8
67
4.6
Internet
110
7.4
5
59
4.1
10
Self-help source
13
0.9
19
8
0.5
19
NON-LEGAL ADVISER
Other friend/relative
232
15.5
2
168
11.5
3
Government:
294
19.7
233
16
Government organisation
228
15.3
3
172
11.8
2
Local council
68
4.5
12
51
3.5
12
Member of parliament
21
1.4
16
10
0.7
18
Police/complaint handling:
82
5.5
68
4.7
Police
77
5.2
10
65
4.5
9
Industry complaint handling bodya
5
0.3
21
3
0.2
20
Other:
829
55.5
692
47.6
Other professionalb
367
24.5
1
293
20.1
1
School/school counsellor/teacher
85
5.7
9
73
5
6
Non-legal community group
56
3.7
15
29
2
15
Private agency/organisationc
70
4.7
11
51
3.5
12
Company/business/bank
61
4.1
14
46
3.2
14
Insurance company/broker
88
5.9
8
71
4.9
8
Trade union/professional body
96
6.4
7
72
4.9
7
Library
7
0.5
20
2
0.1
21
Employer
63
4.2
13
53
3.6
11
Other tribunal
5
0.3
21
2
0.1
21
Unclassified
3
0.2
-
-
-
Total
1495d
100
1455f
100
a Includes Banking Ombudsman, Insurance Complaints Scheme.
b Includes doctor, accountant, psychologist, counsellor, etc.
c Includes debt collection agency, employment agency, real estate agent.
d Information on adviser was missing for one event where help was sought.
e For 78.4% of events, the first adviser used was the only adviser used.
f Information on the first adviser used was missing for 41 events where help was sought.

Notes: Multiple advisers were sometimes used for the same event. Advisers were classified as legal advisers only if one of their primary roles is to provide legal information, advice, assistance or representation. Individuals and organisations who sometimes provide legal information or advice as a subsidiary activity are classified as non-legal advisers.
Sub-totals show the number of events where at least one of that type of adviser was used. E.g. One or more traditional legal advisers were used in 180 events.

As shown by the ranks in Table 5.1, the 10 types of advisers used most frequently were also the 10 types of advisers that were most often approached first for help. The advisers that were most likely to be consulted first were non-legal professionals (in 20.1% of events where help was sought), government organisations (11.8%), and friends or relatives who are not lawyers (11.5%).

Participants who sought help in response to legal events were also asked whether or not each adviser was ‘useful’. There was considerable variation in the perceived usefulness of different types of advisers (see Table 5.2). The advisers that were most often rated as useful were friends or relatives who are lawyers (90.5%), the internet (89.1%), other friends or relatives (82.8%), non-legal community groups (76.8%) and other non-legal professionals (76.6%). Traditional legal advisers such as private lawyers (65.7%), local courts (76.2%) and Legal Aid NSW (66.7%) were also rated as useful in the majority of cases.5 Advisers who were least frequently perceived as useful were members of parliament (33.3%).

There was also considerable variation in how often each type of adviser was rated as the ‘most useful’ adviser when more than one adviser was used for the same event (see Table 5.2). The advisers that were most often rated as the most useful adviser when they were one of multiple advisers were private lawyers (72.7%).

However, as will be discussed later, different types of advisers tended to be consulted for different types of events. Thus, differences in the perceived usefulness of different advisers may in part reflect differences in the nature of problems handled.

Table 5.2: Usefulness of advisers, all six LGAs, 2003

Type of adviserAdviser usedAdviser was one of multiple advisers
No. of events% of events used where rated as usefuldNo. of events% of events rated as most useful advisere
LEGAL ADVISER
Traditional legal:
180
67.8
41
73.1
Private solicitor/barrister
143
65.7
33
72.7
Local court
21
76.2
8
-
Legal Aid NSW
18
66.7
7
-
LawAccess NSW
3
-
1
-
Aboriginal legal services
1
-
0
-
CLCs
5
-
3
-
Lawyer friend/relative
105
90.5
44
50
Published:
120
87.5
86
33.7
Internet
110
89.1
81
34.6
Self-help source
13
53.8
8
-
NON-LEGAL ADVISER
Other friend/relative
232
82.8
139
33.8
Government:
294
55.4
112
47.3
Government organisation
228
57
84
44
Local council
68
45.6
38
34.2
Member of parliament
21
33.3
13
23.1
Police/complaint handling:
82
51.2
31
29
Police
77
49.4
29
27.6
Industry complaint handling bodya
5
-
2
-
Other:
829
67.4
225
56
Other professionalb
367
76.6
110
53.6
School/school counsellor/teacher
85
55.3
24
20.8
Non-legal community group
56
76.8
28
46.4
Private agency/organisationc
70
71.4
23
30.4
Company/business/bank
61
47.5
21
38.1
Insurance company/broker
88
46.6
25
36
Trade union/professional body
96
57.3
33
54.5
Library
7
-
5
-
Employer
63
63.5
24
25
Other tribunal
5
-
1
-
Unclassified
3
-
0
-
Total
1495
a Includes Banking Ombudsman, Insurance Complaints Scheme.
b Includes doctor, accountant, psychologist, counsellor, etc.
c Includes debt collection agency, employment agency, real estate agent.
d Of the events where this adviser was used, the percentage where the adviser was rated as useful. E.g. Private lawyers were rated as useful in 65.7% of events where they were consulted.
e For the events where an adviser was not the only adviser consulted, the percentage of times this adviser was rated the most useful of those consulted. E.g. In 33 events, a private lawyer was one of two or more advisers consulted. In 72.7% of these 33 events, the private lawyer was rated as the most useful of the advisers consulted.

Notes: Information on adviser was missing for one event where help was sought. Due to their unreliability, percentages are not provided for advisers used in response to fewer than 10 events. Multiple advisers were sometimes used for the same event.
Sub-totals show the number of events where at least one of that type of adviser was used or was one of multiple advisers used. Respondents sometimes used more than one of a particular type of adviser (e.g. more than one type of traditional legal adviser). E.g. One or more traditional legal advisers were rated as useful in 67.8% of the 180 events where they were consulted.

Table 5.3 shows how participants found out about the particular advisers they used in response to the legal events they experienced in the 12 months prior to the survey. Where participants approached more than one adviser in response to a legal event, they were only asked how they found out about the adviser they judged to be the most useful.6

Table 5.3: Source of knowledge about sole or most useful adviser, all six LGAs, 2003

How found out about adviser
Events where help sought
No.
%
General knowledge
436
30.2
Used the adviser/service before
256
17.7
Adviser was a friend or relative
241
16.7
Other agency/person
210
14.5
From a friend or relative
126
8.7
Telephone book
44
3
Pamphlet/poster
33
2.3
Internet
30
2.1
Media
26
1.8
Walked in off the street
16
1.1
CLC
14
1
Adviser approached them
6
0.4
Other
8
0.6
Total
1446
100
Note: Information on source of knowledge about sole or most useful adviser was missing for 50 events where help was sought.

Participants found out about their sole or most useful adviser from a variety of sources. In almost one-third of cases, participants relied on their own general knowledge, in 17.7 per cent of cases the participant had used the adviser before and in a further 16.7 per cent of cases the adviser was a friend or relative. Participants also found out about the sole or most useful adviser from friends or relatives (8.7%), or from another person or agency (14.5%). Less often, participants found out about the adviser from the telephone book, pamphlets/posters, the internet, the media or CLCs. Participants reported that they found out about the adviser from a CLC in only 1.0 per cent of cases.

Type of adviser for different types of legal events

Table 5.4 shows the types of advisers used for different types of legal events. The table presents this information for the 10 types of adviser used most frequently overall. In some cases, participants used more than one adviser for the same event. The descriptive statistics suggest that the type of legal event experienced to some extent guided participants’ choice of adviser, with the choice of adviser generally appearing to be appropriate.7 For instance, in response to education events, the advisers most commonly approached for help were school staff such as teachers or school counsellors. School staff were used in response to 82.9 per cent of education events where some form of help was sought. Non-legal professionals such as doctors, psychologists and counsellors were the advisers most commonly approached in response to health events (54.5%) and in response to accident/injury events (53.6%). The most common advisers were government organisations for government events (41.3%), trade unions for employment events (40.5%), private lawyers for wills/estates events (33.5%) and police for general crime events (27.1%).



Information on number of advisers used was missing for eight events where help was sought.
Note that advisers were classified as legal advisers only if one of their primary roles is to provide legal information, advice, assistance or representation. Thus, individuals and organisations who sometimes provide legal information or advice as a subsidiary activity are classified as non-legal advisers. For example, police are classified as non-legal advisers because their central activity involves law enforcement even though they will often be the first point of professional contact for criminal law events and may provide some legal information or advice about such events.
Note that for 78.4 per cent of events, the first adviser used was the sole adviser used.
LawAccess NSW, Aboriginal legal services and CLCs were only used in a few instances. Consequently, there were insufficient numbers for computing reliable ratings on the perceived usefulness of these legal service agencies.
It is worth noting that participants may have found out about this adviser prior or subsequent to the occurrence of the legal event for which they sought help from this adviser.
Given that multiple advisers were sometimes used for the same event, the observations were not independent. A significance test was not conducted.

 Information on number of advisers used was missing for eight events where help was sought.
 Note that advisers were classified as legal advisers only if one of their primary roles is to provide legal information, advice, assistance or representation. Thus, individuals and organisations who sometimes provide legal information or advice as a subsidiary activity are classified as non-legal advisers. For example, police are classified as non-legal advisers because their central activity involves law enforcement even though they will often be the first point of professional contact for criminal law events and may provide some legal information or advice about such events.
 Note that for 78.4 per cent of events, the first adviser used was the sole adviser used.
 LawAccess NSW, Aboriginal legal services and CLCs were only used in a few instances. Consequently, there were insufficient numbers for computing reliable ratings on the perceived usefulness of these legal service agencies.
 It is worth noting that participants may have found out about this adviser prior or subsequent to the occurrence of the legal event for which they sought help from this adviser.
 Given that multiple advisers were sometimes used for the same event, the observations were not independent. A significance test was not conducted.


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