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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 9. Discussion



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Satisfaction with the assistance for legal events


Satisfaction with client services is used as an indicator of the quality of those services and as a yardstick for improving and regulating services (Armytage 1996; Oliver 1997). While, as discussed earlier, obtained satisfaction rates across different studies are likely to be influenced by the precise definition and measurement of satisfaction used (Oliver 1997), it is nonetheless notable that the present study found relatively high rates of satisfaction with the assistance received for legal events. Across all types of legal and non-legal advisers, almost four-fifths of those who sought help, advice or information for legal events in the present study were satisfied with that help, and only 13 per cent were dissatisfied. High satisfaction with the assistance received was also reported for traditional legal advisers such as private lawyers and local courts (81%). Pleasence et al. (2004b) similarly found that just over three-quarters of advisers were rated as either helpful or very helpful. The LJF (2003) pilot study reported a somewhat lower percentage of respondents who were satisfied with the help they received (69%).

The high rates of satisfaction with the assistance received from traditional legal advisers in the present study are notable, particularly given the low rate of use of such advisers.31 The rare use of traditional legal advisers is consistent with anecdotal reports of public scepticism towards the legal profession in Australia (Evans 1995), and with Cass and Sackville’s pioneering Australian study in 1975, which concluded that ‘Australians may be more cynical than the British in their attitudes towards lawyers and legal institutions’ (p. 84). However, the present high rate of satisfaction with the help obtained when people do actually seek help from lawyers and local courts suggests that any lack of confidence in the legal profession may in part be misplaced. Similarly, a number of recent Australian studies have reported reasonably high rates of satisfaction with lawyers (e.g. Evans 1995; Firth & Munday 2003; James & Associates 1998).

Factors related to satisfaction with assistance for legal events

The present study found that the type of legal event was a significant predictor of satisfaction with assistance. Respondents were less likely than average to report being satisfied with the help they received for traffic offence events and more likely than average to report being satisfied with the help they received for accident/injury and wills/estates events. This finding may partly reflect that it is easier or more straightforward to provide clear and helpful advice for some types of events than others. It may also in part be due to the tendency for participants to report being satisfied with the assistance they received for events where they were satisfied with the outcome. The latter explanation is consistent with participants being particularly likely to report satisfaction with the outcome of accident/injury and wills/estates events and is discussed further in the section Factors related to satisfaction with the outcome of legal events, below.

Respondents also reported being less satisfied with the advice they received for unresolved rather than resolved events. This finding stresses the value people place on legal services that provide quick and satisfactory resolution of legal issues. Sociodemographic characteristics were not significant predictors of satisfaction with assistance.

In keeping with past findings (Pleasence et al. 2004b), satisfaction with assistance also appeared to vary somewhat according to the type of adviser used. For example, satisfaction with the assistance received was reported in over nine-tenths of the events where the main adviser was a friend or relative (regardless of whether the friend/relative was a lawyer), in about four-fifths of the events where the main adviser was a private lawyer or local court,32 but in only about three-fifths of the events where the main adviser was a company, business or bank, a local council, an employer or a government organisation. This finding may in part be an artifact of the different types of legal problems handled by different types of advisers.33 That is, the apparent greater satisfaction with the assistance received from some advisers may partly be due to these advisers providing advice on problems that are relatively easier to resolve.



Those who sought help in response to legal events sought help from a traditional legal adviser in only 12% of cases.
The percentage for local courts is based on fewer than 20 events and could be unreliable.
The relationship between type of adviser and satisfaction with assistance was based on a chi-square test that did not control for any effect related to type of legal event.

31  Those who sought help in response to legal events sought help from a traditional legal adviser in only 12% of cases.
32  The percentage for local courts is based on fewer than 20 events and could be unreliable.
33  The relationship between type of adviser and satisfaction with assistance was based on a chi-square test that did not control for any effect related to type of legal event.


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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