Research Alert Download PDF
December 2019
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Insights into use of self-help resources as a legal assistance service strategy 

Hugh M. McDonald, Suzie Forell and Zhigang Wei, December 2019  
New analysis of the Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey dataset examining respondents' use of self-help resources (SHRs) for legal problems reveals important findings for legal assistance service policy and practice. In the LAW Survey, respondents were asked if they had sought help for legal problems from a "website, book, leaflet or self-help guide". 

This new paper examines how often respondents used SHRs to resolve their legal problems, how helpful they found them and whether they used them in isolation or in conjunction with other problem-solving strategies. The findings provide evidence concerning the use and utility of SHRs.
Key insights:
  • SHRs were used for nearly 20% of legal problems, but were rarely the only source of assistance or type of action taken
  • When SHRs were used, respondents rated them as ‘helpful’ for 60% of the legal problems they used them for
  • Therefore, respondents found SHRs to be helpful for about 12% of legal problems
  • Use of SHRs was associated with higher rates of action and use of formal advisers
  • Use of SHRs rated as ‘helpful’ was associated with higher rates of legal problem finalisation, outcome satisfaction and outcome favourability
  • Higher outcome satisfaction and outcome favourability was found when main advisers provided pre-packaged legal information.
Download paper
While the digital transformation that is sweeping the legal sector holds the promise of increasing access to justice, digital solutions should not be mistaken as a 'silver bullet' in light of what we know about the heightened legal needs of some people in the community. Only with another, population-based, legal needs survey can we identfy the impact of this rapid digital transformation.

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Uptake of legal self-help resources 
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 by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW 
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