Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas ( 2006 ) Cite this report
Ch 9. Discussion
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.