Legal Need in Australia (And Canada)

The Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales has published a series of reports on legal need in the various states and the country as a whole based on empirical surveys. The Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia, for example:

provides the first comprehensive quantitative assessment across Australia of an extensive range of legal needs on a representative sample of the population. It examines the nature of legal problems, the pathways to their resolution, and the demographic groups that struggle with the weight of their legal problems.

The Legal Australia-Wide Survey

had the largest sample of the comprehensive legal needs surveys undertaken anywhere in the world. It involved 20 716 respondents across Australia, with over 2000 respondents in each state/territory.2 Thus, it allows for reliable analysis and policy implications at both the state/ territory and the national levels.

The findings in summary form are unsurprising but the detailed findings that support them would repay study here, as the legal profession enters a difficult period of self-examination and critical scrutiny from without:

the LAW Survey confirms that:

  • legal problems are widespread and often have adverse impacts on many life circumstances
  • some people, most notably disadvantaged people, are particularly vulnerable to legal problems, including substantial and multiple legal problems
  • a sizeable proportion of people take no action to resolve their legal problems and consequently achieve poor outcomes
  • most people who seek advice do not consult legal advisers and resolve their legal problems outside the formal justice system.

The Australian study is also important because it reminds us of a similar study done here for the federal Department of Justice and released in 2009: The Legal Problems of Everyday Life – The Nature, Extent and Consequences of Justiciable Problems Experienced by Canadians, by A. Currie. I wonder how many among those who are proposing various directions for the legal profession have actually read it. Not too late to tackle both reports, though.

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