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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

6. Advice for legal problems



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Nature of contact with main adviser


The survey identified the main adviser used by respondents and then asked a series of further questions about this main adviser, including the modes of communication used with this adviser, how respondents sourced this adviser, any barriers experienced when trying to access this adviser and the types of help received from this adviser.

When respondents used only one adviser for a legal problem, this sole adviser was deemed to be the main adviser for analysis purposes. The main adviser for respondents who consulted multiple advisers for a legal problem was the adviser who they nominated as the most useful of their advisers (see Appendix A1, question A21).

Mode of communication with main adviser

Respondents were asked in a series of closed-ended questions to indicate the various modes of communication that they used with their main adviser. It is worth noting that the LAW Survey did not measure the number of times that each respondent had contact with their main adviser — only the different types of communication used.

It was fairly common for respondents to use more than one mode of communication with their main adviser. At least two modes of communication were used in almost half of the cases# (see Figure 6.4).(11)

Figure 6.4: Number of modes of communication with main adviser, Australia

Note: N=9268 problems where sought advice. Data were missing for 515 problems.

Table 6.5 displays the different modes of communication used with the main adviser. For each mode of communication, the table shows the percentage of problems where that mode of communication was used at some point during the consultations of the respondent with their main adviser. Telephone contact and in-person contact were by far the most common ways that respondents communicated with their main adviser. Each of these forms of communication was used in approximately two-thirds of cases at some point. Contact via email or post was less common, each being used in less than one-fifth of cases.

Table 6.5: Mode of communication with main adviser, Australia

Mode of communication
N
%
Telephone
6 110
65.9
In person
6 060
65.4
Email
1 548
16.7
Post
1 421
15.3
All problems where sought advice
9 268
Note: N=9268 problems where sought advice. Data were missing for 515 problems. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple modes of communication were used for some problems.

For the 5101 problems where only one form of communication was used (see Figure 6.4), it was highly unlikely to be communication via email (2.2%) or post (1.1%) and was much more likely to be face-to-face (54.1%) or telephone (42.6%) communication.

The modes of communication used were significantly related to the type of main adviser consulted (see Table 6.6). For example, relatively fewer of the problems where the main adviser was a health or welfare adviser involved telephone communication (32.9% versus 65.9% on average). A greater proportion of the problems where the main adviser was a legal or a health or welfare adviser involved face-to-face communication (75.2–94.9% versus 65.4% on average). Only a small proportion of the problems where the main adviser was a government or a health or welfare adviser involved email contact. Communication via post was used for relatively more problems where the main adviser was a legal or dispute/complaint-handling adviser and for relatively fewer problems where the main adviser was a government adviser or a health or welfare adviser.

Table 6.6: Mode of communication with main adviser by adviser type, Australia

Main adviser typea
Mode of communication
Total
Telephone
In person
Email
Post
%
%
%
%
N
Legal adviser
73.4
75.2
28.4
28.9
2 029
Dispute/complaint-handling adviser
86.3
20.7
20.4
22.2
472
Government adviser
71.8
56.1
8.9
11.6
2 329
Trade or professional association
75.5
51.4
37.5
14.6
385
Health or welfare adviser
32.9
94.9
4.4
4.6
1 639
Financial adviser
85.3
41.8
18.6
17.3
1 429
Other adviser
49.9
79.3
18.9
8.1
985
All problems where sought advice
65.9
65.4
16.7
15.3
9 268

a See Table 6.2 for further details on each adviser type. Adviser types are identical to those in Table 6.2.
Note: N=9268 problems where sought advice. Data were missing for 515 problems. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple modes of communication were used for some problems. Telephone: x2=1345.74, F6,38160=135.97, p=0.000. In person: x2=1703.13, F6,38 136=178.62, p=0.000. Email: x2=617.45, F6,38 049=60.43, p=0.000. Post: x2=521.80, F6,38 105=55.33, p=0.000. Bonferroni correction applied, x2 significant if p<0.013.

Telephone, email and postal modes of communication with the main adviser were not related to remoteness. However, there was a significant difference in the use of face-to-face communication by remoteness. Face-to-face communication with the main adviser was higher in regional areas than in major city areas (69.1% versus 63.6%).(12) Note, however, that these findings were based on the proportion of problems where each form of communication was used. The survey did not measure the number of times that each mode of communication was used with the main adviser or the mode of the initial contact with the main adviser.

Distance travelled to main adviser

For the problems where respondents consulted their main adviser in person, they were asked to estimate the distance they usually had to travel to see this adviser (see Table 6.7). For almost one-quarter of these problems, respondents reported that they didn’t need to travel to consult their main adviser face-to-face. For example, this proportion would include cases where the main adviser was a relative or friend, where the main adviser travelled to the respondent (e.g. various professionals and tradespeople) and where the main adviser was at the same workplace as the respondent (e.g. boss, work colleague, trade union official). However, in 8.6 per cent of cases, respondents reported travelling more than 40 kilometres to consult their main adviser.

Table 6.7: Distance usually travelled to consult main adviser in person by remoteness, Australia

Distance usually travelled (kilometres)
Remoteness
All problems where consulted main adviser in person
Remote
Regional
Major city
%
%
%
%
Didn’t need to travel
28.7
17.4
24.3
22.1
≤5
37.3
33.0
33.5
33.4
6–10
1.8
12.2
15.6
14.1
11–20
1.7
10.1
13.5
12.1
21–40
7.2
12.2
8.6
9.8
41–80
4.2
6.7
2.8
4.2
81+
19.0
8.4
1.7
4.4
Total
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
N
139
1 988
3 768
5 895

Note: N=5895 problems where consulted main adviser in person. Data were missing for 165 problems. A chi-square rather than a Somers’ d test was run, because there was particular interest in whether differences due to remoteness would be evident at larger distances. There was no expectation that such differences would be evident at smaller distances, and, thus, there was no expectation of a trend effect across all distances. x2=360.47, F10,107 869=18.42, p=0.000.

There was a significant relationship between distance travelled to consult the main adviser in person and remoteness (see Table 6.7), with respondents in remote and regional areas travelling further than those in major city areas. For example, whereas residents of remote and regional areas travelled more than 80 kilometres to consult their main adviser in 19.0 and 8.4 per cent of cases, respectively, residents of major city areas travelled this distance in under two per cent of cases.

Sourcing main adviser

For 5092 problems, the main adviser was a legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government adviser.(13) Respondents were asked how they sourced these types of main adviser (see Appendix A1, question A22).(14) Respondents provided this information for 4720 problems (see Table 6.8).

Table 6.8: Source of main adviser — legal, dispute/complaint-handling and government advisers only, Australia

Source of main adviser
N
%
Personal resources/networks
3 571
75.7
Prior knowledge or experience
1 509
32.0
Referred by a relative/friend/acquaintance
648
13.7
Adviser was a relative or friend
532
11.3
Used this adviser or service before
151
3.2
Telephone book
427
9.1
Internet
304
6.4
Referred by legal professional
274
5.8
Not-for-profit legal servicea
197
4.2
Other legal professionalb
77
1.6
Referred by non-legal professionalc
237
5.0
Advertising
193
4.1
Media
109
2.3
Pamphlet/leaflet/poster
84
1.8
Walked in off the street
158
3.3
Contact with other side
74
1.6
Contacted by this adviser or person handling matter
92
1.9
Referred by other persond
122
2.6
All problems with legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government main adviser
4 720
100.0
a E.g. ALS, CLC, court service, LawAccess NSW and Legal Aid.
b E.g. private lawyer, lawyer not further specified, legal telephone line/organisation.
c E.g. dispute/complaint-handling professional, government professional, trade union or professional association, health or welfare professional, financial professional.
d E.g. business/service provider, work-related person, non-legal community group/organisation, school-related person, real estate agent.
Note: N=4720 problems with legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government main adviser. Data were missing for 372 problems.

Respondents whose main adviser was a legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government adviser sourced this adviser through a variety of different means. In the majority of cases (75.7%), respondents used their own personal resources or networks to find their main adviser. For example, they relied on their own prior knowledge or similar previous experience (32.0%), obtained a referral from a relative, friend or acquaintance (13.7%), consulted an adviser who was a relative or friend (11.3%) or whom they had used before (3.2%), and used the telephone book (9.1%) or the internet (6.4%).

Sourcing main advisers via referrals from professionals occurred in only a minority of cases. Referrals from legal professionals occurred in 5.8 per cent of cases, with the referral coming from a not-for-profit legal service such as an ALS, a CLC, a court service, LawAccess NSW or Legal Aid in 4.2 per cent of cases, and from a private lawyer or other legal professional in 1.6 per cent of cases. In a further 5.0 per cent of cases, respondents were referred by a non-legal professional, such as a government, health or financial professional.

Infrequently, respondents sourced their main adviser via advertising (4.1%), by walking in off the street to consult the adviser (3.3%), as a result of being contacted by the adviser or the person handling the matter (1.9%) or via contact with the other side (1.6%).

Table 6.9 also examines main advisers who were legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government advisers. It shows that the means used to source these main advisers was significantly related to adviser type. For example, legal advisers were:
    • more likely to be sourced via referrals from relatives, friends or acquaintances (22.3% versus 13.7% on average) or via referrals from professionals (18.7% versus 10.8% on average)
    • more likely to be known to the respondent, either because they were a relative or friend or because the respondent had consulted the adviser previously (24.7% versus 14.5% on average)
    • less likely to be sourced via the telephone book or internet (11.7% versus 15.5% on average.

Table 6.9: Source of main adviser by adviser type — legal, dispute/complaint-handling and government advisers only, Australia

Source of main advisera
Main adviser typee
All problems with legal,
dispute/complaint-
handling or government main adviser
Legal
Dispute/ complaint-handling
Government
%
%
%
%
Personal resources/networks
Prior knowledge or experience
14.3
26.3
48.7
32.0
Referred by a relative/friend/acquaintance
22.3
12.9
6.3
13.7
Knew adviser or used beforeb
24.7
3.7
7.6
14.5
Telephone book or internet
11.7
29.3
16.0
15.5
Referred by legal or non-legal professionalc
18.7
11.3
3.8
10.8
Otherd
8.3
16.5
17.5
13.5
Total
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
N
1 997
457
2 265
4 720

a See Table 6.8 for further details on each source of main adviser. Apart from the exceptions noted below, sources of main adviser are identical to those in Table 6.8.
b Combines the following categories from Table 6.8: ‘adviser was a relative or friend’ and ‘used this adviser or service before’.
c Combines the following categories from Table 6.8: ‘referred by legal professional’ and ‘referred by non-legal professional’.
d Combines the following categories from Table 6.8: ‘advertising’ (including ‘media’ and ‘pamphlet/leaflet/poster’), ‘walked in off the street’, ‘contact with the other side’, ‘contacted by this adviser or person handling matter’ and ‘referred by other person’.
e See Table 6.2 for further details on each adviser type.
Note: N=4720 problems with legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government main adviser. Data were missing for 372 problems. x2=1212.65, F10,102 182=76.83, p=0.000.

In addition, both legal advisers (14.3%) and dispute/complaint-handling advisers (26.3%) were less likely than government advisers (48.7%) to be sourced via respondents’ prior knowledge or similar experience.

Barriers to obtaining help from main adviser

For the 5092 problems where the main adviser was a legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government adviser, respondents were asked whether they had experienced any barriers in trying to obtain help from this adviser in a series of closed-ended questions and one open-ended question (see Appendix A1, questions A27.1–A27.12). This information was provided for 4825 problems.

Table 6.10 details the information provided via the closed-ended questions. It shows that no barriers were reported for 59.2 per cent of the 4825 problems, but at least one barrier was reported for the remaining problems. Barriers to the accessibility of the main adviser were frequently endorsed, such as difficulty getting through on the telephone (16.5%), the adviser taking too long to respond (14.0%), the adviser being too far away or too hard to get to (7.9%), inconvenient opening hours (7.5%) and difficulty getting an appointment (7.2%). Cost (10.8%) and inadequate or poorly explained advice (10.1%) were also endorsed as barriers in approximately one-tenth of problems.

Table 6.10: Barriers to obtaining help from main adviser — legal, dispute/complaint-handling and government advisers only, Australia

Barrier type
N
%
No barrier
2 855
59.2
1+ barriers
1 970
40.8
Inconvenient opening hours
362
7.5
Difficulty getting through on telephone
797
16.5
Difficulty getting appointment
348
7.2
Took too long to respond
675
14.0
Too expensive
522
10.8
Too far away or too hard to get to
379
7.9
Inadequate or poorly explained advice
489
10.1
Difficulty understanding because non-English speakera
14
0.3
Didn’t cater for people with disabilitiesb
64
1.3
Didn’t cater for coming with young childrenc
104
2.2
Other barrierd
204
4.2
All problems with legal, dispute/complaint-handling
or government main adviser
4 825
a Only respondents whose main language was not English were asked about this barrier. Data were provided for 169 problems, with 23 of these problems coming from non-English interviews.
b Only respondents with a disability were asked about this barrier. Data were provided for 1284 problems.
c Only respondents with children under 18 years were asked about this barrier. Data were provided for 2158 problems.
d Comprises the barriers provided from the open-ended responses (see Appendix A1, questions A27.11–A27.12), whereas the other categories are based on the closed-ended questions (see Appendix A1, questions A27.1–A27.10).
Note: N=4825 problems with legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government main advisers. Data were missing for 266 problems. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple barriers were reported for some advisers.

Other types of barriers when trying to obtain help from the main adviser who was a legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government adviser were provided from the open-ended question for 204 or 4.2 per cent of problems. The most common of these barriers were that the main adviser:
    • was indifferent or unprofessional
    • had limited authority to assist or was hampered by red tape, confidentiality, conflict of interest or freedom of information restrictions
    • was difficult to access, due to staffing issues (e.g. understaffing, rostering, turnover).

Table 6.11 breaks down the barriers experienced by type of main adviser. There were some significant differences in the barriers experienced according to whether the main adviser was a legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government adviser. Specifically, respondents were more likely to experience at least one barrier when the main adviser was a legal adviser (47.9% versus 35.4–37.3%). In addition, legal advisers were more likely to be too expensive (23.0% versus 2.0–2.3%) and to be too far away or too hard to get to (10.6% versus 5.0–10.3%). In fact, cost was the most common barrier to obtaining advice from main advisers who were legal advisers. The finding that legal advisers were more often reported to be too far away or too hard to get to may in part reflect the greater use of face-to-face consultation with legal advisers (see Table 6.6). No significant differences between these three types of main advisers were found for the remaining barrier types.

Table 6.11: Barriers to obtaining help from main adviser by adviser type — legal, dispute/complaint-handling and government advisers only, Australia

Barrier type
Main adviser typeb
All problems with legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government main adviser
Legal
Dispute/ complaint-handling Government
%
%
%
%
No barrier
52.1
62.7
64.6
59.2
1+ barriers
Inconvenient opening hours
7.0
10.6
7.3
7.5
Difficulty getting through on telephone
17.0
20.0
15.4
16.5
Difficulty getting appointment
8.4
7.2
6.2
7.2
Took too long to respond
11.9
14.8
15.6
14.0
Too expensive
23.0
2.3
2.0
10.8
Too far away or too hard to get to
10.6
10.3
5.0
7.9
Inadequate or poorly explained advice
8.5
9.7
11.7
10.1
Other barriera
9.0
6.3
6.4
7.5
All problems with legal, dispute/ complaint-handling or government main adviser
N
2 026
468
2 330
4 825

a Combines the following categories from Table 6.10: ‘difficulty understanding because non-English speaker’, ‘didn’t cater for people with disabilities’, ‘didn’t cater for coming with young children’ and ‘other barrier’.
b See Table 6.2 for further details on each adviser type.
Note: N=4825 problems with legal, dispute/complaint-handling or government main advisers. Data were missing for 266 problems. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple barriers were reported for some main advisers. No barrier: x2=74.11, F2,7699=22.53, p=0.000. Inconvenient opening hours: x2=7.16, F2,7707=2.28, p=0.103. Difficulty getting through on telephone: x2=6.45, F2,7707=1.95, p=0.142. Difficulty getting appointment: x2=8.11, F2,7711=2.71, p=0.066. Took too long to respond: x2=12.82, F2,7687=4.10, p=0.017. Too expensive: x2=535.34, F2,7711=158.90, p=0.000. Too far away or too hard to get to:x2=53.00, F2,7662=17.19, p=0.000. Inadequate or poorly explained advice: x2=12.54, F2,7715=4.06, p=0.017. Other barrier: x2=12.05, F2,7691=3.83, p=0.022. Bonferroni correction applied, x2 significant if p<0.006.

11. Cases where only one form of communication was used include all cases where there was only a single contact with the main adviser, as well as some cases where there were multiple contacts with the main adviser.

12. Telephone: x2=11.58, F2,12 644=3.57, p=0.029. In person: x2=26.90, F2,12 765=8.03, p=0.000. Email: x2=6.05, F2,12 679=1.55, p=0.213. Post: x2= 2.57, F2,12 494=0.79, p=0.451. Bonferroni correction applied, x2 significant if p<0.013.

13. See the ‘legal adviser’, ‘dispute/complaint-handling adviser’ and ‘government adviser’ categories in Table 6.2.

14. It is worth noting that respondents may have found out about the main adviser prior or subsequently to the occurrence of the legal problem for which they sought advice from this adviser.

  


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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