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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

7. Finalisation of legal problems



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Manner of finalisation of legal problems


For the 12 327 legal problems reported as being over, respondents were asked by what means the legal problems had been finalised (see Appendix A1, question A35). As shown in Table 7.3, most commonly, legal problems were finalised through agreement with the other side (29.9%) or as a result of the respondent not pursuing the matter at all or deciding not to pursue the matter further (29.8%).

Table 7.3: Manner of finalisation of legal problems, Australia

Manner of finalisation
N
%
Court or tribunal
410
3.4
Dispute resolutiona
176
1.5
Complaint-handling bodyb
231
1.9
Another agencyc
1 814
15.0
Lawyer’s help
196
1.6
Someone else’s help
575
4.8
Agreement with other side
3 615
29.9
Other side didn’t pursue further
907
7.5
Respondent didn’t pursue further
3 603
29.8
Other
563
4.7
All finalised problems
12 090
100.0

a E.g. formal dispute resolution, mediation, conciliation.
b E.g. ombudsman, commissioner.
c E.g. government body, insurance company, police.
Note: N=12 090 finalised problems. Data were missing for 237 problems.

Only a minority of legal problems were finalised through legal proceedings in a court or tribunal (3.4%), and only a further 3.4 per cent were finalised through formal dispute resolution (1.5%) or complaint-handling processes (1.9%). However, 15.0 per cent were finalised through the decisions or actions of other agencies, such as government bodies, insurance companies or the police.

Lawyers were perceived to have brought about the finalisation of only 1.6 per cent of legal problems, even though, as noted earlier, private lawyers were consulted for 21.3 per cent of the problems where advice was sought (see Table 6.2). This finding suggests that private lawyers provided information, advice or assistance in a considerable number of cases that eventually concluded through other means — for example, through:
    • legal resolution processes, such as court or tribunal proceedings, or formal dispute resolution or complaint-handling processes
    • agreement with the other side
    • one of the parties deciding not to pursue the matter further.

The manner in which problems were finalised was significantly related to problem severity (see Table 7.4). For example, substantial problems were significantly more likely than minor problems to be finalised by court or tribunal proceedings (5.1% versus 2.3%), formal dispute resolution or complaint-handling processes (5.0% versus 2.4%) or the help of a lawyer or someone else (7.6% versus 5.6%). Minor problems were significantly more likely than substantial problems to be finalised via other agencies, such as government bodies, insurance companies or the police (17.5% versus 11.0%) or via agreement with the other side (31.5% versus 27.3%).

Table 7.4: Manner of finalisation of legal problems by problem severity, Australia

Manner of finalisationa
Problem severity
All finalised
problems
Minor
Substantial
%
%
%
Court or tribunal
2.3
5.1
3.4
Dispute resolution or complaint-handling bodyb
2.4
5.0
3.4
Another agency
17.5
11.0
15.0
Lawyer’s or someone else’s helpc
5.6
7.6
6.4
Agreement with other side
31.5
27.3
29.9
Other side didn’t pursue further
7.5
7.6
7.5
Respondent didn’t pursue further
29.1
31.0
29.8
Other
4.1
5.5
4.7
Total
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
N
7 506
4 584
12 090

a See Table 7.3 for further details on manners of finalisation. Apart from the exceptions noted below, manners of finalisation are identical to those in Table 7.3.
b Combines the following categories from Table 7.3: ‘dispute resolution’ and ‘complaint-handling body’.
c Combines the following categories from Table 7.3: ‘lawyer’s help’ and ‘someone else’s help’.
Note: N=12 090 finalised problems. Data were missing for 237 problems. ?2=256.30, F7,72 104=22.98, p=0.000.

Table 7.5 displays the manner of finalisation broken down by the strategy used by respondents in response to their legal problems. Although a significance test was not conducted on this relationship, some trends are evident.(2) Problems involving advice appeared to be finalised more frequently than problems handled without advice via court or tribunal proceedings (6.0% versus 2.0%) or via formal dispute resolution or complaint-handling processes (5.7% versus 1.9%). Problems involving advice also appeared to be finalised more often than problems involving one of the other strategies via other agencies, such as government bodies, insurance companies or the police (24.1% versus 4.9–11.3%). In addition, problems handled without advice tended to be more likely than other problems to be finalised via agreement with the other side (47.8% versus 20.2–23.7%) or via the other side not pursuing the matter further (10.2% versus 5.9–6.4%). Unsurprisingly, problems where no action was taken appeared to be more likely than other problems to be reported as concluding via the respondent not pursuing the matter further (48.1% versus 24.5–24.6%).(3)

Table 7.5: Manner of finalisation of legal problems by strategy in response to legal problems, Australia

Manner of finalisationa
Strategy
All finalised
problems
Sought
advice
Handled
without advice
Took no
action
%
%
%
%
Court or tribunal
6.0
2.0
0.1d
3.4
Dispute resolution or complaint-handling bodyb
5.7
1.9
0.8d
3.4
Another agency
24.1
4.9
11.3
15.0
Lawyer’s or someone else’s helpc
8.6
4.9d
3.9d
6.4
Agreement with other side
20.2
47.8
23.7
29.9
Other side didn’t pursue further
6.4
10.2
5.9
7.5
Respondent didn’t pursue further
24.5
24.6
48.1
29.8
Other
4.6
3.7
6.2
4.6
Total
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
N
5 478
3 904
2 697
12 079

a See Table 7.3 for further details on manners of finalisation. Apart from the exceptions noted below, manners of finalisation are identical to those in Table 7.3.
b Combines the following categories from Table 7.3: ‘dispute resolution’ and ‘complaint-handling body’.
c Combines the following categories from Table 7.3: ‘lawyer’s help’ and ‘someone else’s help’.
d By definition, ‘took no action’ excluded problems involving court or tribunal proceedings or formal dispute resolution; and both ‘handled without advice’ and ‘took no action’ excluded problems where a lawyer was consulted.
Note: N=12 079 finalised problems. Data were missing for 248 problems.

The manner of finalisation was also significantly related to the type of problem (see Table 7.6). For example, compared to all problems on average:
    • accidents problems were more likely to be finalised via an agency such as an insurance company (60.4% versus 15.0% on average)
    • consumer problems were more likely to be finalised via agreement with the other side (53.5% versus 29.9%) or via the other side not pursuing the matter further (11.2% versus 7.5%)
    • credit/debt problems were more likely to be finalised via agreement with the other side (44.9% versus 29.9%)
    • crime problems were more likely to be finalised via the respondent not pursuing the matter further (44.7% versus 29.8%) or via an agency such as the police (25.5% versus 15.0%)
    • employment problems were more likely to be finalised via the respondent not pursuing the matter further (39.1% versus 29.8%)
    • family problems were more likely to be finalised via agreement with the other side (39.0% versus 29.9%) or via court, tribunal, formal dispute resolution or complaint-handling processes (24.0% versus 6.8%)
    • government problems were more likely to be finalised via the respondent not pursuing the matter further (37.5% versus 29.8%) or via the other side not pursuing the matter further (10.3% versus 7.5%)
    • health problems were more likely to be finalised via the respondent not pursuing the matter further (52.5% versus 29.8%)
    • housing problems were more likely to be finalised via agreement with the other side (35.7% versus 29.9%) or via the other side not pursuing the matter further (12.5% versus 7.5%)
    • money problems were more likely to be finalised via court, tribunal, formal dispute resolution or complaint-handling processes (12.3% versus 6.8%)
    • personal injury problems were more likely to be finalised via the respondent not pursuing the matter further (35.6% versus 29.8%) or via an agency such as a government body, insurance company or the police (18.7% versus 15.0%)
    • rights problems were more likely to be finalised via the respondent not pursuing the matter further (40.8% versus 29.8%).(4)

Table 7.6: Manner of finalisation of legal problems by problem group, Australia

Problem group
Manner of finalisationa
Total
Court, tribunal, dispute resolution or complaint-handling bodyb
Another agency
Other side didn’t pursue further
Respondent didn’t pursue further
Otherc
%
%
N
%
%
%
%
N
Accidents
1.0
60.4
17.9
2.7
11.7
6.3
100.0
1 127
Consumer
5.0
2.4
53.5
11.2
20.6
7.3
100.0
2 853
Credit/debt
3.6
2.6
44.9
7.2
34.4
7.3
100.0
497
Crime
7.2
25.5
5.6
3.4
44.7
13.6
100.0
2 121
Employment
8.5
3.9
24.6
8.1
39.1
15.7
100.0
732
Family
24.0
5.2
39.0
3.6
14.8
13.3
100.0
389
Government
7.6
9.1
29.0
10.3
37.5
6.4
100.0
1 013
Health
2.3
2.9
17.4
4.9
52.5
19.9
100.0
325
Housing
7.7
12.4
35.7
12.5
21.2
10.6
100.0
1 155
Money
12.3
5.5
31.9
7.7
20.0
22.6
100.0
497
Personal injury
6.8
18.7
22.4
3.3
35.6
13.2
100.0
742
Rights
7.9
8.3
19.8
7.8
40.8
15.4
100.0
639
All finalised problems
6.8
15.0
29.9
7.5
29.8
11.0
100.0
12 090

a See Table 7.3 for further details on manners of finalisation. Apart from the exceptions noted below, manners of finalisation are identical to those in Table 7.3.
b Combines the following categories from Table 7.3: ‘court or tribunal’, ‘dispute resolution’ and ‘complaint-handling body’.
c Combines the following categories from Table 7.3: ‘lawyer’s help’, ‘someone else’s help’ and ‘other’.
Note: N=12 090 finalised problems. Data were missing for 237 problems. ?2=4746.38, F54,553 788=54.34, p=0.000.


2. A significance test was not conducted, because some strategies by definition rendered certain manners of finalisation highly unlikely. First, ‘took no action’ meant that respondents had reported that court or tribunal proceedings and formal dispute resolution had not occurred and were unlikely to occur (although a few such respondents across Australia reported finalisation via court orders). Second, both ‘handled without advice’ and ‘took no action’ meant that a lawyer had not been consulted.

3. It is worth noting that 23.7 per cent of problems where no action was taken were reported by respondents as concluding via agreement with the other side, even though these respondents had answered ‘no’ to the question asking whether they had tried to resolve the problem directly with the other side (see Appendix A1, question A31). Many of the verbatim responses in these cases revealed that the respondent had come to a quick, on-the-spot agreement with the other side, without actually trying to resolve the problem in their own favour. These cases tended to be cases where the respondent was at fault or the incident was minor (e.g. a minor motor vehicle accident).

4. For all manners of finalisation with the exception of ‘other’, percentages not described in the list above were either significantly lower than average or not significant. For example, the percentage of credit/debt problems finalised via the respondent not pursuing the matter further was 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