Findings have been published from an Ipsos MORI survey conducted for the Law Society and the Legal Services Board. Gathering information about nearly 17,000 legal issues from over 8,000 individuals across England and Wales, it has been described as the largest legal needs survey ever carried out in the UK.
One of the key findings of the survey was the number of cases in which the people concerned sought formal, professional legal advice. This was done in less than a third of cases, with people seeking but failing to successfully access legal advice in a further 5%. The issues in which people were most likely to feel the need to seek legal support were divorce, wills and probate, and conveyancing. The areas in which people were least likely to seek support from a legal professional, on the other hand, were problems with neighbours and issues relating to mental health.
Almost half of all legal issues faced by the survey’s respondents, on the other hand, were handled either alone or with the help of family members or friends. In almost a tenth of cases, it was the “fear that doing otherwise would cost too much” that led people to eschew legal advice and go it alone. This stemmed from concerns about court fees as well as the costs of professional legal support.
Younger people – specifically those under 35 – were the least likely to seek legal assistance, according to the survey. 161 individuals in the 11-15 age bracket were also surveyed. 70% of these young people said they had experienced at least one legal issue that fell within the scope of the survey, of which more than two thirds said they would be comfortable to seek legal advice from a teacher. Only 27% would be comfortable accessing legal help from a solicitor, and 32% from the police.
The survey also showed the number of people who had checked whether the professional legal adviser they were dealing with was regulated or not. This was done by less than half of respondents who sought professional legal advice, with those in the over-55 age bracket being the most likely to check. More than 50% of those who did not check whether their primary legal adviser was regulated simply assumed this was the case. 8% reported that they did not know how to find out about regulation, and the same number claimed to not even know what regulation meant in the context of legal services.
Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society, expressed concerns about the survey’s findings. Smithers said: “The most trained and qualified providers are the most regulated while those who may have no formal legal training may be unregulated. This can be confusing and can result in people not making informed decisions about the legal services they buy.”