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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

4. Nature of legal problems



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Problem recency


The survey measured the prevalence of legal problems in the 12-month period prior to interview, including both problems that began within this period and problems that began earlier but were still ongoing during this period. The recency of each problem was measured by asking respondents to provide the month and year that the problem started.(4) Problem recency was provided for 19 241 problems. Figure 4.1 shows that 46.1 per cent of the problems began less than seven months prior to interview. The remaining 53.9 per cent of the problems started at least seven months prior to interview, with a minority of these problems starting more than 12 months prior to interview.(5)

Figure 4.1: Problem recency, Australia

Note: N=19 241 problems. Data were missing for 147 problems.

Table 4.3 breaks down the recency of legal problems by their rated severity. The relationship between problem recency and severity was significant. As Table 4.3 shows, 42.2 per cent of the problems that started less than seven months prior to interview were rated as problems that had a substantial impact on everyday life, whereas 50.7 per cent of the problems that had persisted for at least seven months were rated as having a substantial impact.

Table 4.3: Problem recency by problem severity, Australia

Problem recency
Problem severity
Total
Minor
Substantial
%
%
%
N
7+ months49.350.7
100.0
10 369
≤6 months57.842.2
100.0
8 871
All problems53.246.8
100.0
19 241

Note: N=19 241 problems. Data were missing for 147 problems. ?2=141.34, F1,10320=85.31, p=0.000.


4. Thus, problem recency was estimated to the nearest whole month and had no fractional values.

5. Note that whereas the category of ‘less than seven months prior to interview’ spanned a finite period, the category of ‘at least seven months prior to interview’ spanned a longer, more indefinite period. The apparently higher percentage of problems falling within the latter category is consistent with this category spanning a longer time period. However, as discussed in Chapter 1, ‘Methodology of legal needs surveys: Reference period and memory effects’ section, memory effects can impact on the accurate recall of problems, including the recall of their recency.

  


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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