Outcome of legal problems
In all jurisdictions, LAW Survey respondents reported that about two-thirds of finalised legal problems (64–71%) had favourable outcomes. There were no significant differences in these rates between states/territories, according to both chi-square and regression analyses.(99)
Several past surveys have also found that most people perceive the outcomes of their legal problems as satisfactory (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Dignan 2006; Genn 1999), although some of the US surveys using disadvantaged samples found satisfaction rates below 50 per cent (Dale 2005, 2007; GKA 2008; Task Force 2003).
Predicting favourability of outcome of legal problems
In each jurisdiction, a regression was conducted to examine the legal problem characteristics, strategies and demographic characteristics related to achieving favourable outcomes for legal problems (see Table 9.7). Although regression analysis can be used to show where relationships exist, it cannot explain any relationships. Nonetheless, the regressions on favourability of outcome help to signal the types of problems and demographic groups which may benefit most from initiatives that aim to improve outcomes, and also help to identify the strategies to be encouraged. As discussed below, problem group and the strategy used in response to legal problems were invariably significant predictors of whether legal problems resulted in favourable outcomes. However, there were very few significant relationships between demographic characteristics and achieving favourable outcomes for legal problems.
Table 9.7: Regression summaries — favourability of outcome of legal problems, each jurisdiction [click to enlarge]
Legal problem characteristics
Based on the regressions across jurisdictions, problem group was an important predictor of the types of outcomes achieved for legal problems (see Table 9.7). In fact, problem group was the strongest significant predictor in all jurisdictions apart from the ACT, where it was the second strongest predictor. In most jurisdictions, the outcomes of accidents and personal injury problems were significantly more likely to be rated as favourable, while the outcomes of crime and government problems were significantly less likely to be rated as favourable. Some past surveys have similarly found that the type of legal problem affects perceived outcomes. However, the types of problems linked to particular outcomes have varied across studies (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Genn 1999; Genn & Paterson 2001). Like the LAW Survey, the NSWLNS found higher satisfaction with the outcomes of accident/injury problems and lower satisfaction with the outcomes of government and general crime problems (Coumarelos et al. 2006).(100)
In addition, other types of statistical analyses showed that the severity of legal problems was significantly related to the outcomes achieved. Substantial problems were less likely than minor problems to be perceived as having favourable outcomes, according to chi-square analyses in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Australia as a whole.(101)
Similarly, according to Somers’ d analyses in all jurisdictions, legal problems that caused a greater number of adverse consequences were less likely to be perceived as having favourable outcomes.(102)
The present regressions confirm past results that the strategy used in response to a legal problem is a critical determinant of the outcome achieved (ABA 1994; AFLSE 2007; CEALS 2001; Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Dale 2000, 2007, 2009; Dignan 2006; Genn 1999; LSNJ 2009; Maxwell et al. 1999; Miller & Srivastava 2002; Pleasence 2006). LAW Survey respondents who took no action in response to legal problems achieved the poorest outcomes.(103)
In most jurisdictions, both seeking advice for legal problems (66–74%) and handling legal problems without advice (69–76%) were significantly more likely to result in favourable outcomes compared to taking no action (54–62%; see Table 9.7). Past surveys have similarly found that doing nothing, and trying but failing to obtain advice, result in poor outcomes (ABA 1994; Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Dale 2009; Dignan 2006; Maxwell et al. 1999; Miller & Srivastava 2002; Pleasence 2006). For example, Coumarelos et al. (2006) found higher satisfaction with the outcomes of problems when help was sought than when no action was taken. Pleasence (2006) found that respondents were more likely to achieve their objectives if they obtained advice or handled problems alone rather than if they tried but failed to obtain advice.
Age, gender and disadvantaged groups
Like past surveys, the present survey found that the favourability of the outcomes achieved for legal problems was not consistently related to demographic characteristics in general or to disadvantage more specifically (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Genn 1999; Genn & Paterson 2001). In all jurisdictions, gender, Indigenous status, disability status, family status and main income were not significantly related to whether favourable outcomes were achieved for legal problems. Age, education, employment status, housing type, main language and remoteness of residential area were significantly related to the outcomes of legal problems in only one or a few jurisdictions, and these relationships were not always significant in Australia as a whole (see Table 9.7). In addition, when significant, demographic characteristics invariably had a weaker effect than problem group, and, with one exception, they also had a weaker effect than strategy. Thus, like past surveys, the present survey found that the type of legal problem and the strategy used were the main predictors of the favourability of the outcomes achieved for legal problems, and that demographic characteristics had comparatively little influence.
99. x2=13.02, F7,71 995=1.59, p=0.134. See Appendix Figure A9.9. The chi-square test compared state/territory rates of favourable outcomes given their actual demographic and problem profiles. The regression analysis examined the odds of favourable outcomes after differences in demographics, problems profiles and strategies used had been taken into account. This regression involved re-running the Australian model on favourable outcome (see Table 8.5 in the Australian LAW Survey report) with the addition of state/territory as a potential predictor variable or ‘fixed effect’. See Appendix Tables A2.8 and A2.9 (model 8b) for further details and Appendix Table A9.6 for the full results.
100. Coumarelos et al. (2006) found higher odds of satisfaction with the outcomes of accident/injury and wills/estates problems and lower odds of satisfaction with the outcomes of business, consumer, government and general crime problems.
101. See Figure 8.3 in the LAW Survey report for each jurisdiction for full results.
102. See Table 8.2 in the LAW Survey report for each jurisdiction for full results.
103. Similarly, problems finalised as a result of respondents not pursuing the matter further also had poor outcomes.