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Research Report: Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas
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Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas  ( 2006 )  Cite this report

Ch 7. The outcome of legal events



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Factors related to the resolution of legal events


A mixed-effects logistic regression model was used to examine whether the various sociodemographic variables, the type of legal event, the recency of the event and the action taken in response to the event were independent predictors of the resolution status of legal events.2 In the regression analysis, two categories of resolution status were used: resolved events3 were compared with the remaining events that were not fully resolved (i.e. events that were either unresolved or were in the process of being resolved).

Table 7.1 provides a summary of the regression results. The regression revealed that age, disability status, legal event group, the recency of the event and the action taken in response to the event were statistically significant independent predictors of whether or not the event had been resolved at the time of the survey. Gender, Indigenous status, country of birth, personal income and education level were not significant independent predictors. The full results of the regression analysis are presented in Appendix Table C31. The results of the regression are further detailed below, with reference to the relevant descriptive statistics.

Table 7.1: Summary of mixed-effects binary logistic regression for resolution status

SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES
VariableComparison
Odds ratioa
Age (years)b15–24 versus 65+
ns
25–34 versus 65+
ns
35–44 versus 65+
ns
45–54 versus 65+
ns
55–64 versus 65+
ns
Disability statusDisability versus no disability
0.6
Legal event groupcCivil
Accident/injury versus average
2.5
Business versus average
0.4
Consumer versus average
ns
Credit/debt versus average
ns
Education versus average
ns
Employment versus average
0.6
Government versus average
0.6
Health versus average
0.5
Housing versus average
ns
Human rights versus average
ns
Wills/estates versus average
2.1
Criminal
Domestic violence versus average
ns
General crime versus average
ns
Traffic offences versus average
ns
Family
Family versus average
0.6
Recency of event7–12 months ago versus 0–6 months ago
1.9
Action takenHandled alone versus sought help
2.4
Did nothing versus sought help
0.7
NON-SIGNIFICANT VARIABLESGender, Indigenous status, country of birth, personal income, education level
a An odds ratio greater than 1.0 indicates the first category in the comparison had higher odds than the second.
An odds ratio less than 1.0 indicates the first category in the comparison had lower odds than the second.
b Although age was a significant predictor in the regression, none of the specific comparisons tested were significant.
c Each legal event group was compared to the average effect for all legal event groups (rather than to any specific legal event group).

Notes: N=2211 events and 1142 participants. Data on one or more potential predictor variables were missing for 662 events where information was provided on resolution status.
‘ns’ indicates the odds ratio was not statistically significant, that is, the odds for the first category in the comparison were not statistically different from the odds for the second (even though the overall variable was significant).

Sociodemographic factors

As already noted, the regression revealed that whether or not events were resolved significantly depended on age. Although age was a significant predictor overall, none of the comparisons tested between the oldest age group (the reference category) and each other age group was significant (see Table 7.1). However, the comparison between the age group with the highest resolution rate and the age group with the lowest resolution rate was not tested in the regression. As shown in Table 7.2, the youngest age group had the highest resolution rate (71.1%), while the 55 to 64 year group had the lowest resolution rate (54.0%). The oldest age group (65 years or over) had the second highest resolution rate (67.2%). The 45 to 54 year age group had the second lowest resolution rate (56.0%).

According to the regression, people with a chronic illness or disability had lower odds of resolution compared with other people (see Table 7.1). This relationship was independent of any effect due to the recency of legal events. Only 51.3 per cent of the events experienced by participants with a chronic illness or disability were reported to be resolved, compared with 63.7 per cent for other participants (see Table 7.2).

Table 7.2: Resolution status of legal events by each sociodemographic factor, all six LGAs, 2003

Sociodemographic factor
Resolution status
No. of events
Resolved
% of events
Being resolved % of events
Unresolved
% of events
GenderFemale
58.1
10.8
31.1
1445
Male
63.2
11.4
25.4
1428
Total
60.6
11.1
28.3
2873
Age (years)15–24
71.1
7.5
21.4
523
25–34
58.7
12.8
28.5
666
35–44
58.8
11.9
29.3
639
45–54
56
12.9
31.1
557
55–64
54
10.9
35.1
285
65+
67.2
8
24.9
201
Total
60.6
11.1
28.3
2871
Indigenous statusIndigenous
47.7
11.7
40.5
111
Non-Indigenous
61.1
10.8
28.1
2447
Total
60.5
10.8
28.7
2558
Country of birthEnglish speaking
60.8
11.3
27.8
2526
Non-English speaking
59.1
9.4
31.5
340
Total
60.6
11.1
28.3
2866
Disability statusDisability
51.3
10.8
37.9
710
No disability
63.7
11.1
25.2
2154
Total
60.6
11.1
28.3
2864
Personal income0–199
59.7
12.3
28
479
($/week)200–499
58.3
9.2
32.4
919
500–999
62.3
10.8
27
938
1000+
65.5
16
18.5
325
Total
60.8
11.2
28
2661
Education levelDidn’t finish/at school
61
7.8
31.2
269
Year 10/equivalent
61.1
12
26.9
700
Year 12/equivalent
65.3
7.5
27.2
577
Certificate/diploma
58.2
11.4
30.4
572
University degree
58.3
14.1
27.7
745
Total
60.6
11.1
28.3
2863
Note: Where the total for a given sociodemographic factor is less than 2873, data were missing on that factor.

Type of legal event

Legal event group was a significant predictor in the regression, indicating that some types of legal events were more likely than others to be resolved by the end of the reference period. As shown in Table 7.1, the odds of resolution for business, employment, government, health and family events were lower than average. Figure 7.2 shows that the resolution rates for these event groups ranged from 39.1 to 49.5 per cent. According to the regression, accident/injury and wills/estates events were significantly more likely than average to be resolved (see Table 7.1). The resolution rates for these event groups were 79.7 and 73.2 per cent, respectively (see Figure 7.2).

Figure 7.2: Resolution status of legal events by legal event group, all six LGAs, 2003


Notes: N=2868 events. Five unclassified events were excluded.

Chi-square analyses were conducted on the 1741 events that participants reported had been resolved to examine the relationship between the method used for resolution and the type of legal event.4 Table 7.3 presents the method of resolution used for resolved events broken down by broad area of law. The chi-square test revealed that the method of resolution was significantly related to broad area of law. Whereas only 4.8 per cent of civil events were resolved through legal proceedings in a court or tribunal, over one-quarter of criminal and family events were resolved through legal proceedings. Participants resolved three-quarters of civil events on their own, but they only resolved about three-fifths of criminal and family events on their own.

Table 7.3: Method of resolution for resolved legal events by broad area of law, all six LGAs, 2003

Area of law
Method of resolution
No. of events
On own
% of events
Through legal proceedings % of events
Some other way
% of events
Civil
75.6
4.8
19.6
1493
Criminal
57.9
25.7
16.4
171
Family
61.3
28
10.7
75
Total
73.3
7.8
18.9
1739
Notes: Two unclassified events were excluded.
x2=138.91, df=4, p=0.000.

Also based on resolved events, Figure 7.3 presents a breakdown of the method of resolution by legal event group.5 Although civil law events tended to be resolved less frequently through legal proceedings in a court or tribunal when compared with both criminal and family events, a few of the civil event groups also showed sizeable percentages being resolved through legal proceedings. In particular, 16.3 per cent of business events, 8.2 per cent of wills/estates events and 7.8 per cent of employment events were resolved through legal proceedings. In contrast, none of the credit/debt, education, health or human rights events were resolved through legal proceedings.

Figure 7.3: Method of resolution for resolved events by legal event group, all six LGAs, 2003


Notes: N=1739 events. Two unclassified events were excluded.
A significance test was not conducted due to small numbers in some cells.

Recency of legal event

It would be expected that legal events that occurred some time ago would have more chance of being resolved than events that occurred more recently. As a result, participants were asked to report the number of months that had elapsed since their legal events had occurred.6

According to the regression, events that occurred seven to 12 months prior to the survey had odds of being resolved that were almost twice as high as those for more recent events (see Table 7.1). As shown in Table 7.4, whereas 70.8 per cent of the 346 events that occurred 10 to 12 months prior to the survey were resolved, only 50.7 per cent of the 1124 events that occurred no more than three months prior to the survey were resolved.

Table 7.4: Resolution status of legal events by recency of legal events, all six LGAs, 2003

Recency of event: no. of months prior to survey
Resolution status
No. of events
Resolved
% of events
Being resolved
% of events
Unresolved
% of events
0–3
50.7
14.9
34.3
1124
4–6
68.1
8.7
23.2
655
7–9
69.1
7.6
23.3
576
10–12
70.8
8.7
20.5
346
Total
61.4
11.1
27.5
2701
Note: Information on the recency of legal events was missing for 172 events where information was provided on resolution status.

Action taken

As discussed in Chapter 4, participants took three main types of action in response to the 2921 legal events where they provided information on their responses. Participants sought help in response to 1496 events (51.2%), handled the event themselves in 467 cases (16.0%) and did nothing in response to the remaining 958 events (32.8%).

According to the regression, the odds of resolution were lower if participants took no action rather than if they sought help (see Table 7.1). Interestingly, the odds of resolution were more than twice as high for legal events that participants handled on their own than for events where participants sought help.7 Table 7.5 shows that the highest resolution rate (75.8%) was reported by participants who dealt with the event on their own, while the lowest resolution rate (53.5%) was reported by participants who did nothing. Those who sought help reported a resolution rate of 60.1 per cent.

Table 7.5: Resolution status of legal events by action taken in response to legal events, all six LGAs, 2003

Action taken
Resolution status
No. of events
Resolved % of events
Being resolved % of events
Unresolved % of events
Sought help
60.1
12.9
27
1476
Handled alone
75.8
10.4
13.9
462
Did nothing
53.5
8.5
37.9
925
Total
60.5
11.1
28.4
2863
Note: Information on action taken was missing for 10 events where information was provided on resolution status.

Chi-square analyses were conducted on the 1741 events that participants reported had been resolved to examine the relationship between the method used to resolve the event and the action taken in response to the legal event.8 The chi-square was significant. Not surprisingly, the large majority of those who handled the matter on their own (87.1%) thought that they were responsible for the resolution of the event, whereas only 61.1 per cent of those who sought help thought they were responsible for resolution (see Table 7.6). Eleven per cent of those who sought help reported that the event had been resolved through legal proceedings in a court or tribunal, but only 3.7 per cent of those who dealt with the matter themselves reported that the event had been resolved through legal proceedings (see Table 7.6).

Table 7.6: Method of resolution for resolved legal events by action taken in response to legal events, all six LGAs, 2003

Action taken
Method of resolution
No. of events
On own
% of events
Through legal proceedings % of events
Some other way
% of events
Sought help
61.1
10.8
28.1
887
Handled alone
87.1
3.7
9.1
350
Did nothing
84.6
5.9
9.5
495
Total
73.1
8
18.9
1732
Notes: Information on action taken was missing for nine resolved events.
x2=135.84, df=4, p=0.000.

An interesting question for the sub-group of participants who sought help in response to their legal events is whether the resolution status of events was related to the particular adviser used. Table 7.7 is based on the 1496 events where help was sought and presents data on the resolution status of events broken down by the 10 most frequently used types of advisers. The descriptive statistics suggest that the rate of resolution apparently varied with the type of adviser used.9 Resolution rates of under 50 per cent were reported for events where trade unions/professional bodies (40.4%) or government organisations (49.6%) had been approached for assistance, but resolution rates of more than 60 per cent were reported where insurance companies/brokers (72.7%), school staff (67.5%), private solicitors/barristers (61.5%) or non-legal professionals such as doctors, accountants, psychologists and counsellors (61.5%) had been approached.

Table 7.7: Resolution status of legal events by 10 most frequently used advisers, all six LGAs, 2003

Type of adviser
Resolution status
No. of events
Resolved % of events
Being resolved % of events
Unresolved % of events
LEGAL ADVISERTraditional legal:
Private solicitor/barrister
61.5
9.8
28.7
143
Lawyer friend/relative
51
13.5
35.6
104
Published:
Internet
52.7
11.8
35.5
110
NON-LEGAL ADVISEROther friend/relative
57.4
12.2
30.4
230
Government:
Government organisation
49.6
16.1
34.4
224
Police/complaint handling:
Police
56
14.7
29.3
75
Other:
Other professionala
61.5
14.3
24.2
364
School/school counsellor/teacher
67.5
8.4
24.1
83
Insurance company/broker
72.7
10.2
17
88
Trade union/professional body
40.4
18.1
41.5
94
Total
60.1
12.9
27
1475
a Includes doctor, accountant, psychologist, counsellor, etc.
Notes: Information on resolution status was missing for 21 events where help was sought. Multiple advisers were sometimes used for the same event. A significance test was not conducted.

It is worth remembering, however, that participants tended to use different types of advisers for different types of legal events (see Table 5.4). Thus, the fact that some advisers apparently seemed to be more successful than others may simply reflect that they tended to deal with events that are generally easier to resolve. Consistent with this argument, the relationship between resolution status and type of adviser (see Table 7.7) was generally consistent with the relationship between resolution status and type of legal event (see Figure 7.2). For example, there were similar resolution rates for events where school staff were used (67.5%) and education events (67.1%, see Table 7.7 and Figure 7.2, respectively). This finding is consistent with school staff being the advisers most frequently consulted for education events (see Table 5.4). Similarly, given that trade unions/professional bodies were the most common advisers for employment events (see Table 5.4), it is not surprising that there were similar (relatively low) resolution rates for events where trade unions/professional bodies were used (40.4%) and employment events (48.3%, see Table 7.7 and Figure 7.2, respectively).

A mixed-effects logistic regression was used because some participants had more than one legal event for which information was collected on resolution status. Recency of events was coded into two categories for the regression: 06 months prior to the survey and 712 months prior to the survey.
Resolved events included events that were resolved by participants on their own, events resolved through legal proceedings in a court or tribunal and events resolved some other way.
This relationship was not examined in the regression.
This relationship was not examined in the regression. A chi-square test was not conducted due to small numbers in some cells.
The Bega pilot survey (LJF 2003) did not measure the recency of legal events within the 12 months prior to the survey. An additional question was added to the main survey to measure recency. Participants who reported more than three legal events in the l2-month reference period were asked to report the recency of only their three most recent events.
This finding may reflect the possibility that participants tended to handle easier problems on their own but tended to seek help for more difficult problems.
This relationship was not examined in the regression.
This relationship was not examined in the regression. Given that multiple advisers were sometimes used for the same event, the observations were not independent. A significance test was not conducted.

 A mixed-effects logistic regression was used because some participants had more than one legal event for which information was collected on resolution status. Recency of events was coded into two categories for the regression: 06 months prior to the survey and 712 months prior to the survey.
 Resolved events included events that were resolved by participants on their own, events resolved through legal proceedings in a court or tribunal and events resolved some other way.
 This relationship was not examined in the regression.
 This relationship was not examined in the regression. A chi-square test was not conducted due to small numbers in some cells.
 The Bega pilot survey (LJF 2003) did not measure the recency of legal events within the 12 months prior to the survey. An additional question was added to the main survey to measure recency. Participants who reported more than three legal events in the l2-month reference period were asked to report the recency of only their three most recent events.
 This finding may reflect the possibility that participants tended to handle easier problems on their own but tended to seek help for more difficult problems.
 This relationship was not examined in the regression.
 This relationship was not examined in the regression. Given that multiple advisers were sometimes used for the same event, the observations were not independent. A significance test was not conducted.


CLOSE
Coumarelos, C, Wei , Z & Zhou, AH 2006, Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney