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English survey shows high level of unmet legal needs

29 January 2020

What is said to be the largest ever survey of legal needs in England and Wales has shown that 64% of respondent adults experienced a legal problem in the last four years, including 53% who faced a contentious problem.

The survey and resulting report, Legal Needs of Individuals in England and Wales, were prepared for the Law Society of England and Wales and the Legal Services Board. It was conducted between February and March 2019 and was conducted online by YouGov with a nationally representative sample of 28,633 of the general public.

'Contentious legal work' was defined as legal matters taking place between two or more parties, such as a court hearing or tribunal hearing to resolve a dispute.

Of those in the survey who had a contentious legal problem which was resolved, 31% did not get legal help, wanted more help or their issue took longer than two years to resolve.

Respondents who received professional help were more likely to feel they had a fair outcome - 66% compared to 53% who did not receive professional help.

People were more likely to seek professional help if they understood their issue was legal in nature - just 16% of people described their contentious legal issue1 as ‘legal’, with 28% describing it as ‘economic’ or ‘financial’.

Only 21% of respondents who received professional advice shopped around. People said they didn’t shop around because they were happy with the first service they found (33%), trust a recommendation (28%) or find the matter fairly simple (22%).

“This extensive survey brings home the need to build better public understanding of legal issues and clear, accessible pathways to get professional legal advice. People need to know how to use the legal system to manage the complexities of daily life, whether that’s housing, family issues or employment," Law Society of England and Wales President Simon Davis says.

“The findings show when people do get professional legal advice – particularly from a solicitor – they are more able to resolve legal problems effectively, and far more likely to view the justice system as fair, even if they lose their case."

Last updated on the 29th January 2020