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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 5. Seeking help for legal events



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Summary: seeking help for legal events


This chapter examined the 1496 legal events where participants sought help, detailing the advisers used, the type of assistance received and the barriers to accessing assistance.

For over three-quarters (78.4% or 1167) of the legal events where help was sought, participants only used one adviser.

Participants did not limit themselves to traditional legal advisers, using a broad range of advisers in response to legal events. Traditional legal advisers, such as private lawyers, local courts, Legal Aid NSW, LawAccess NSW, Aboriginal legal services and CLCs were used in only 12.0 per cent of events where participants sought help. In almost three-quarters of cases, the advisers used were neither traditional legal advisers nor less formal legal advisers, such as friends or relatives who are lawyers, and published sources. The most commonly used advisers were non-legal professionals such as doctors, accountants, psychologists and counsellors (24.5% of events); friends or relatives who are not lawyers (15.5%); government organisations (15.3%); private solicitors/barristers (9.6%); the internet (7.4%); friends or relatives who are lawyers (7.0%); trade unions or professional bodies (6.4%); insurance companies/brokers (5.9%); school staff (5.7%); and the police (5.2%).

The type of adviser used tended to vary appropriately according to the type of legal event experienced.23

For at least one-quarter of the events where help was sought, only non-legal help was sought or provided. The type of help received appeared to depend on the type of adviser.24 For example, traditional legal advisers tended to be more likely than other advisers to provide some form of legal information, advice or assistance. Advice or assistance of a medical, financial or insurance nature tended to be provided more commonly by non-legal rather than legal advisers. The type of help received also appeared to vary with the type of legal event.25 For example, specific legal advice was provided for relatively high proportions of wills/estates (52.3%) and family (34.2%) events. Medical advice or assistance was provided for relatively high proportions of accident/injury (47.8%) and health (31.4%) events. Non-legal counselling or support was provided for relatively high proportions of domestic violence events (40.7%).

Barriers to obtaining assistance were reported for almost two-fifths of the legal events where participants sought help. The most commonly reported barriers to accessing assistance were difficulty getting through on the telephone (18.4%), delay in getting a response (17.0%), difficulty getting an appointment (11.0%), the lack of local services (8.1%), problems with opening hours (7.6%), difficulty affording the assistance (6.0%), and difficulty understanding the advice or information given (4.7%).

The types of barriers reported in obtaining assistance from traditional legal advisers were largely similar to those for other advisers.

Participants did not need to travel to access assistance for 44.0 per cent of the legal events where they sought help. However, participants travelled more than 20 kilometres in response to 12.4 per cent of the events where help was sought and over 80 kilometres in response to 4.9 per cent of events. The distance travelled significantly depended on participants’ region of residence. Whereas approximately one-quarter of participants living in a rural/remote area travelled over 20 kilometres, only 6.5 per cent of Sydney and Newcastle respondents travelled this distance.



A significance test was not conducted.
A significance test was not conducted.
A significance test was not conducted.

23  A significance test was not conducted.
24  A significance test was not conducted.
25  A significance test was not conducted.


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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