New Zealand National Survey

Slaw readers may be interested in a major new survey of legal information needs [pdf] from the Legal Services Agency in New Zealand. Keen readers may recall that we blogged about the announcement of this survey being launched – now the resultsIn addition to its legal aid role, the LSA has an express research mandate:

To fund, provide and support community legal services for the public or any section of the public with particular regard to:

* setting up, contracting with and funding community law centres
* providing or funding law related education and legal information
* undertaking or funding research into:
* existing or proposed schemes and community legal services
* the unmet legal needs of communities and how they may be met..

“The survey is the largest of its kind in the world, and provides us with a comprehensive base of evidence. The next steps for the Agency involve assessing the gaps to help improve people’s access to services.”

The survey findings show where people seek help with their legal problems, where they encounter problems getting services, and what happens if services are not available for them. The findings cover information about the law, as well as face to face legal advice, assistance and representation.

Over one third of people with problems (34% or 148,000 people) said that they only wanted legal information so that they could sort the problem out for themselves (Section 7.2). A further third (35% or 149,000 people) wanted information and a basic level of support. 11% (or 49,000 people) wanted someone to help sort out their problem for them.

The majority of people who accessed services did so by personal visit. This is especially evident for doctors and other health professionals, friends and family/whanau, and private lawyers. Visits are also quite common when help is sought from ministers of religion, Māori organizations, mediation or reconciliation services and the Police.

State funded legal services, such as community law centres and legal aid lawyers are visited more often than telephoned, though non-governmental organizations providing free legal information or advice, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux and other social services/advocacy organisations, provide a higher incidence of telephone advice. Telephone has its greatest use with insurance companies.

The internet is used primarily when people access leaflets, booklets or other publications, although these are more often acquired or used via a personal visit, telephone or mail. Mail is relatively well used when people need to access help, advice or information from insurance companies and members of parliament.

The technical design paper [pdf] technical / methodology paper is also worth looking at.

As for Canada, the closest thing is now over 30 years old, Marty Friedland’s study on Access to the law conducted for the Law Reform Commission of Canada.

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