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Research Report: Data digest
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Appendix 1: Data sources, legal assistance services


This section gives a brief description of the legal assistance services covered in Section 1 and data they provided.

Table 1-1:  Matrix of data collected by each service
Organisation
Area of law
Age
Region
Gender
Indigenous Australian
Country of birth
Source of income
Disability
Source of inquiry
Referral destination
Legal Aid NSW Information/Advice Service
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES Advice only
YES Advice only
YES Advice only
NO
YES Advice only
YES Information only
Legal Aid NSW Duty Solicitor Service
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
NO
NO
NO
LawAccess NSW
YES
YES
YES
YESa
NO
NO
NO
NO
YESb
YES
NSW Community Legal Centres
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES Advice only
YES Advice only
YES Advice only
NO
NO
YES
Chamber Magistrate Service
YES
NO
YES
NO
NO
NO
NO
NO
NO
NO
a  LawAccess NSW gender data were not used due to an error in the data collection process for the period covered. This has been rectified for data collected after 2002.
b  LawAccess NSW source of inquiry data were not used due to the high proportion of service users who found out about the service through the parent bodies of LawAccess—Legal Aid NSW and the NSW Law Society.

Legal Aid
http://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/lac.nsf/pages/aboutus

Data

Period Covered: 2000 to 2002
Total number of inquiries: 611348

Data were provided for information, advice and Duty Solicitor inquiries. Due to the overlap of services and clients, and variations in how the terms are defined, information and advice inquiries were grouped together as the Information/Advice Service. Where data is only collected for information or advice inquiries, Legal Aid NSW Information Service or Legal Aid NSW Advice Service is used. The Duty Solicitor Service was analysed separately, as it represents a different set of service users and legal problems. Duty Solicitor Service data were not analysed in relation to the types of legal matters of particular demographic groups, due to the high proportion of inquiries about Criminal Law.

Information/Advice Service (367026 inquiries): Free telephone or in person information, advice or minor assistance. May include assistance with correspondence or making a phone call on behalf of a service user. The service is provided from the following locations: Legal Aid NSW Head Office, 19 regional offices, and outreach advice clinics in metropolitan and country centres. Information/Advice data also include telephone assistance from the Legal Aid helpline (until Oct 2001) and 5 specialist services—Mental Health Advocacy Service, Prisoners Legal Service, Veteran’s Advocacy Service, Child Support Service and the Legal Aid HotLine for Under 18s. Information/Advice does not include advice provided to a client on a Legal Aid grant. LawAccess NSW data were excluded as this service is reported separately.

Duty Solicitor Service (244322 inquiries): Advice or representation for clients on their first appearance in one of the Local Courts distributed throughout NSW. Advice which does not relate to a court appearance that day is recorded as Advice and would be counted as part of the Information/Advice Service.

Legal Aid NSW data relating to Cases (case grants and client representation) were not analysed as these were not regarded as an initial point of contact.

Legal Aid NSW receives its income from the Commonwealth and NSW governments, the Public Purpose Fund of NSW and Legal Aid clients

Role

To assist socially and economically disadvantaged people understand and protect their legal rights. Services include free legal information, advice and minor assistance in all areas of law, grants of legal aid, a Duty Solicitor Service at Local Courts, alternative dispute resolution, a domestic violence court assistance program and community legal education programs.

The data were received as cross-tabulations of legal matter by a number of requested variables for each calendar year. Table 1-2 shows the variables for which data were provided in each service type.

Table 1-2:  Data received from Legal Aid NSW, by service type
Variable
Information
Advice
Duty
Gender
yes
yes
yes
Age (grouped)
no
yes
yes
Indigenous Australians
no
yes
yes
Source of income
no
yes
yes
Country of birth
no
yes
yes
Postcode
yes
yes
yes
Source of referral
no
yes
no
Referral destination
yes
no
no

Phone/counter inquiries

Many of the Information/Advice Service inquiries were simply classified as phone/counter inquiries within the major law categories of Family Criminal and Civil (there were only 140 phone/counter inquiries over the 3 years in the Duty Solicitor Service). These have been excluded from the analysis of legal matter because of the lack of detail and the potential lack of reliability about the classification of legal matter. The overall effect on the distribution of inquiries to the Information/Advice Service across each broad area of law that resulted from the removal of phone/counter inquiries is seen in Table 1-3.

Table 1-3:  Distribution of inquiries including and excluding phone/counter inquiries by broad area of law
Legal Aid NSW Information/Advice Service, 2000-2002
Phone/counter inquiries
Family
Crime
Civil
%
%
%
With
39.6
26.1
34.2
Without
38.9
23.5
37.6

LawAccess NSW
http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Data

Period covered: 2002
Total number of inquiries: 61100

Data include information and advice inquiries provided via the telephone service. Data were provided as unit records (with personal information excluded) in an Excel spreadsheet. The variables provided were: type of legal matter, gender,40 age, postcode, source of inquiry41 and referral destination.

Some calls led to more than one problem. The analysis is of problems rather than calls. There were 60413 calls which resulted in 61100 problems. Because 98.95 per cent of calls (59779) resulted in only one problem, the problems can be assumed to be statistically independent.

Role

A free service providing a single point of access to legal and related assistance services in New South Wales. LawAccess NSW provides legal information, advice and referral services via a central call centre and the Internet. The service is available to anyone who has a legal problem in NSW. Priority for legal advice is given to customers with urgent inquiries, with disabilities, from non-English speaking backgrounds and/or from rural and regional areas.

LawAccess NSW was established in September 2001 as a result of the amalgamation of the Legal Aid Commission of NSW ‘Legal HelpLine’ and Law Society of NSW ‘Community Assistance Department’.

LawAccess NSW is funded by the New South Wales government and the Public Purpose Fund of New South Wales.

NSW Community Legal Centres
http://www.naclc.org.au

Data

Period covered: 1999 to 2002
Total number of inquiries: 380619

Data include activity in the following areas: Information, Advice, and Case. These were not provided as separate variables and are reported together.

Only NSW Generalist and Specialist Community Legal Centres funded by the Commonwealth Government were included, as listed in Table 1-4.42

Table 1-4:  Specialist and Generalist Community Legal Centres in NSW for which data were provided
GeneralistAlbury Wodonga, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Far West, Kingsford, Hawkesbury/Nepean, Hunter, Illawarra, Inner City, Macarthur, Macquarie, Marrickville, Mt Druitt, North and North West, Northern Rivers, Redfern, Shoalcoast, South West Sydney, Western NSW.
SpecialistAged-Care Rights Service, Consumer Credit Legal Centre, Environmental Defenders Office, Disability Rights Service, HIV/Aids Legal Centre, Immigration Advice and Rights Centre, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, National Children's and Youth Law Centre, Tenants' Union of NSW, Welfare Rights Centre, Women's Legal Resources Centre.

Data were provided as Excel spreadsheets for the following variables cross-tabulated with legal matter for each calendar year: gender, age,43 country of birth, Indigenous Australian status, source of income, postcode, source of inquiry and referral destination.

A number of the demographic variables had a large proportion of missing values. Information about age, country of birth or Indigenous status is not collected for information inquiries and for some telephone advice inquiries. Collection of information about source of income is optional. As missing values were not randomly distributed across year and broad area of law, a weighting process was used to adjust the missing values to reflect this distribution. See Appendix 4 for details on how this was done.

Data for referral and problem types count each problem type within each service user matter. Thus, the numbers represent the count of all problem types (up to 4, minimum of 1) within all matters which had some activity within the nominated period.

Chamber Magistrate Service
http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/locations/locnsw.nsf/pages/nswmap/

Data

Period covered: 1999 to 2001
Total number of inquiries: 447080

The data were provided as a cross tabulated Excel spreadsheet and included the variables area of law, Local Court and year.

The type of legal matter was only provided at the broad level of family, domestic violence and other. Hence further analysis could not be carried out on the nature of legal matters.

Chamber Magistrate regions were converted into Australian Bureau of Statistics statistical divisions and subdivisions. The process for determining statistical division was to find the postcode of the courthouse, then to determine the statistical division. This could only be done approximately. It was assumed that an inquirer resided in the same statistical division as the location of the courthouse where they made their inquiry. This assumption is likely to be false for a number of inquiries in the Sydney region and for some inquiries to country courthouses located close to statistical division boundaries.

Role

The Chamber Magistrate Service provides information to members of the public on basic legal problems and the options available to assist them. The Chamber Magistrate Service is available to provide guidance on Court processes and procedures, and to assist the public in the drafting of legal documents used in cases before the Local Court. The Chamber Magistrate does not represent clients in court and cannot determine cases. Anybody is able to use the service.

Chamber Magistrate Services are provided at over 160 Local Courts across NSW on a face-to-face basis or via the telephone. In addition, a number of Chamber Magistrates offer an outreach service within the community in order to provide assistance to those who may not be able to attend the court. In smaller Courts, the Chamber Magistrate Service is often provided by the Clerk of the Court.

The Chamber Magistrate Service is funded by the NSW Attorney-General’s Department.

It was not possible to carry out analysis of gender due to an error in the data collection process for the period covered. This has been rectified for data collected after 2002.
LawAccess NSW source of inquiry data were not used due to the high proportion of service users who found out about the service through the parent bodies of LawAccess, Legal Aid NSW and the NSW Law Society.
See Combined Community Legal Centres Group, Directory of New South Wales Community Legal Centres, Surry Hills, 2002, for details of all community legal centres in NSW.
Age was provided in pre-defined categories and could not be mapped to Law and Justice Foundation categories.

40  It was not possible to carry out analysis of gender due to an error in the data collection process for the period covered. This has been rectified for data collected after 2002.
41  LawAccess NSW source of inquiry data were not used due to the high proportion of service users who found out about the service through the parent bodies of LawAccess, Legal Aid NSW and the NSW Law Society.
42  See Combined Community Legal Centres Group, Directory of New South Wales Community Legal Centres, Surry Hills, 2002, for details of all community legal centres in NSW.
43  Age was provided in pre-defined categories and could not be mapped to Law and Justice Foundation categories.


CLOSE
Scott, S, Eyland, A , Gray, A, Zhou, A & Coumarelos, C 2004, Data digest, a compendium of services usage data from NSW legal assistance and dispute resolution services 1999-2002, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney, 2004