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Research Report: Pathways to justice: the role of non-legal services, Justice issues paper 1
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Pathways to justice: the role of non-legal services, Justice issues paper 1  ( 2007 )  Cite this report



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Seeking assistance


The A2JLN research indicates that people do not necessarily seek help when they have a legal problem. In Justice Made to Measure, which reports on a survey of over 2400 people in NSW, participants indicated that they had sought help for their legal problems in only about half of the events reported (51%).1 The reasons that so many people did not seek any help at all will be discussed in a later paper.

Of those who did seek assistance when they had legal issues, few sought help from lawyers. Indeed, legal services were approached in only 12 per cent of events where help was sought (see Table 1). In another 7 per cent of cases, the participant approached a friend or relative who was a lawyer, while 'published information' (mainly the internet) was used in another 8 per cent of events. In contrast, general non-legal services were approached in 56 per cent of events, 'government' agencies or MPs in 20 per cent of events, and friends and relatives who were not lawyers in a further 16 per cent of events.2

As can be seen in Table 1, the range of non-legal advisers approached is broad and includes professionals such as doctors, psychologists and accountants, and agencies such as insurance companies, banks, trade unions and government organisations. This broad range may be partly attributed to people approaching the source of assistance which is most directly related to their legal issue, for example people approaching their employer or trade union regarding problems at work, or Centrelink about a social security problem. Similarly, people contacted the police in 5 per cent of events, an obvious and sensible course of action for people who have been a victim of or witness to a crime.

Table 1: Type of adviser used, all six LGAs, 2003

Type of adviser
No. of events
Adviser used % of events where help sought
Rank
LEGAL ADVISER
Traditional legal:
180
12.0
Private solicitor/barrister
143
9.6
4
Local court
21
1.4
16
Legal Aid NSW
18
1.2
18
LawAccess NSW
3
0.2
24
Aboriginal legal services
1
0.1
25
CLCs
5
0.3
21
Lawyer friend/relative
105
7.0
6
Published:
120
8.0
Internet
110
7.4
5
Self-help source
13
0.9
19
NON-LEGAL ADVISER
Other friend/relative
232
15.5
2
Government:
294
19.7
Government organisation
228
15.3
3
Local council
68
4.5
12
Member of parliament
21
1.4
16
Police/complaint handling:
82
5.5
Police
77
5.2
10
Industry complaint handling body a
5
0.3
21
Other:
829
55.5
Other professional b
367
24.5
1
School/school counsellor/teacher
85
5.7
9
Non-legal community group
56
3.7
15
Private agency/organisation c
70
4.7
11
Company/business/bank
61
4.1
14
Insurance company/broker
88
5.9
8
Trade union/professional body
96
6.4
7
Library
7
0.5
20
Employer
63
4.2
13
Other tribunal
5
0.3
21
Unclassified
3
0.2
Total
1495
d
100.0
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.
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.

Source: Justice Made to Measure, p. 104.

However, evidence from the Foundation's qualitative studies indicates that people also seek help for legal problems from the people and the services — legal and otherwise — that they happen to be in contact with. As one On the Edge of Justice participant with a mental illness said when asked who they would go to for help with a legal problem:

    Oh, with the pensions, with more like legal [problems] and… bureaucracy, I'd go and talk to my caseworker.3

The types of services that people are in contact with will in turn depend upon their geographic location, their circumstances and other needs. For instance, in No Home, No Justice? people at risk of homelessness or newly homeless were reported to turn to family and friends, schools, doctors, community health workers, youth workers, tenancy workers, welfare workers, domestic violence workers, refuge staff, housing workers and Centrelink. However, as people become entrenched in homelessness, they may lose contact with friends and family, leave school and move away from support networks and services that had previously helped them. These people may have more contact with police and Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) services.4 In other A2JLN studies, older people were reported to rely on informal resources such as family and friends and established contacts such as doctors, while people with a mental illness reported getting assistance from friends or family, social workers, mental health workers and church-run welfare groups.5

Number of agencies approached

In considering pathways to legal assistance, it is important to note that people rarely seek assistance from more than one source for each legal issue. Justice Made to Measure reported that in 78 per cent of legal events where help was sought, the individual only went to one service or adviser. Two services or advisers were approached in only 15 per cent of legal events (Figure 1). The average number of services or advisers approached was 1.3.6 The implication of this is that ideally, the first service or adviser approached should connect the client with the legal service that they require.

Figure 1: Number of advisers used per legal event, all six LGAs, 2003

.

.
Source: Justice Made to Measure, p. 102.

Coumarelos, C, Wei, Z & Zhou, A.Z., Justice Made to Measure: NSW Legal Needs Survey in Disadvantaged Areas, The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2006, p. 93.
Justice Made to Measure, pp. 103 to 105.
Karras, M, McCarron, E, Gray, A & Ardasinski, S, On the Edge of Justice: The legal needs of people with a mental illness in NSW, The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2006, p. 165.
Forell, S, McCarron, E & Schetzer, L, No Home, No Justice?, The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2005, p. 182.
On the Edge of Justice, p. 165.
Justice Made to Measure, p. 102.

 Coumarelos, C, Wei, Z & Zhou, A.Z., Justice Made to Measure: NSW Legal Needs Survey in Disadvantaged Areas, The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2006, p. 93.
 Justice Made to Measure, pp. 103 to 105.
 Karras, M, McCarron, E, Gray, A & Ardasinski, S, On the Edge of Justice: The legal needs of people with a mental illness in NSW, The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2006, p. 165.
 Forell, S, McCarron, E & Schetzer, L, No Home, No Justice?, The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2005, p. 182.
 On the Edge of Justice, p. 165.
 Justice Made to Measure, p. 102.


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Clarke, S & Forell, S 2007, Pathways to justice: the role of non-legal services, Justice issues paper 1, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney