Legal needs survey

Legal needs survey

The Legal Australia-Wide Survey is the largest survey of legal needs ever undertaken. Over 20,000 people across all states and territories, including over 4000 in Victoria, were interviewed.

The survey provides insight into the legal problems people face, the actions they take, where they go for advice, and the outcomes they achieve. It also examines the demographic groups that are particularly vulnerable to legal problems.

The eight state and territory legal aid commissions commissioned the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales to conduct the research. An in-depth analysis of legal need at both the state/territory and national level was published in October 2012.

Victorian key findings

Legal problems are widespread and often have an adverse impact on many life circumstances.

Of those surveyed, 48% reported having experienced a legal problem in the 12 months preceding the survey. Based on these findings, we estimate that as many as two million Victorians will experience a legal problem in any given year.

Some people, most notably disadvantaged people, are particularly vulnerable to legal problems, including substantial and multiple legal problems.

For example, people with a disability were twice as likely to experience legal problems compared to other groups surveyed. People experiencing unemployment, single parents, people living in disadvantaged housing and people whose main source of income was government payments were also more vulnerable to legal problems.

A sizable proportion of people take no action to resolve their legal problems and consequently achieve poor outcomes.

While Victorians sought advice for half of their legal problems, they handled 32% of these problems without advice and took no action for 18%. 

Most people who seek advice do not consult legal advisors and resolve their legal problem outside the justice system.

Of all the legal problems experienced by Victorians, help was sought from a legal professional for only 16% of those problems.

Read the Law and Justice Foundation's report about legal need in Victoria.

National key findings

Legal problems are widespread.

About 8.5 million Australians over 15 years of age (almost half the population) will have experienced a legal problem in the past 12 months. About 22% will have experienced three or more legal problems.

Some people are particularly vulnerable to legal problems.

People with a disability and single parents were more than twice as likely to experience legal problems. Unemployed people and those living in disadvantaged housing were also more likely to experience legal problems.

Legal problems have a severe, negative impact on people’s lives.

People with legal problems get sick, have relationship breakdowns or may lose their home.

Australians do not automatically seek legal help.

People sought professional advice (legal or non-legal) for 51% of their legal problems, handled 31% of legal problems without advice and took no action for 18% of legal problems. A legal professional was only used for a minority of all legal problems.

People who take no action experience poor outcomes.

Reasons for taking no action were often related to stress (30%), cost (27%) or not knowing what to do (21%).

Read the Law and Justice Foundation's report about legal need in Australia.

More information

The complete national report and Victorian state report are available from the Law and Justice Foundation website.

The Law and Justice Foundation has also published:

A table of key facts of the national survey is available on the National Legal Aid website.