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How people solve legal problems: level of disadvantage and legal capability

Poverty Law Legal services Social disadvantage Australia

The paper provides compelling new evidence from the Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey demonstrating the lower legal capability of multiply disadvantaged people. The most disadvantaged respondents were found to be significantly more likely to take no action in response to their legal problems. In addition, when they did take action, they were significantly less likely to use self-help resources, and significantly more likely to use not-for-profit legal services, than those less disadvantaged. Further, despite their greater use of not-for-profit legal services, the most disadvantaged group had significantly lower awareness of such services. Implications for policy and effective legal assistance services are discussed. The findings clearly signal the vital role of not-for-profit legal services in extending access to justice to the most disadvantaged members of the Australian community. In addition, given the high use of health or welfare advisers by the most disadvantaged group, the results also point to collaboration between these advisers and public legal services as a key strategy to enhance access to justice for the most disadvantaged.

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