Legal needs of individuals in England and Wales report

These reports present the findings of the 2019 survey of the legal needs of individuals in England and Wales. The survey was jointly commissioned by, and undertaken on behalf of, the Law Society and the Legal Services Board by YouGov plc.

The work represents the biggest legal needs survey ever run in England and Wales, based on data collected online between February and March 2019 from 28,663 people. This sample is broadly representative of the population of England and Wales and covers 34 different legal issues.

It’s the first study in this jurisdiction to use OECD guidance on how to develop legal needs surveys. It includes measures of legal capability to profile the population by their experience and perceptions of the legal system.

Our objectives with this work were to:

  • allow us and our members to gain a detailed and up-to-date understanding of the drivers and shape of the market and how people’s legal demands/needs can be best met
  • provide evidence to support our policy work on behalf of members, including in response to the Competition and Markets Authority
  • help shape our member offer and to refine support for members and future investments
  • ensure we continue as a leader in understanding legal demands/needs and access to justice

Key findings

  • Six in 10 adults (64%) based in England and Wales experienced a legal issue in the last four years
  • 53% of people who had a contentious legal issue say they experienced stress as a part or result of it and 33% lost money
  • 55% of people with a legal issue got professional help
  • 66% of those who got professional help felt the outcome was fair compared to 54% who either got non-professional help or no help
  • An estimated three in 10 respondents had an unmet legal need for a contentious legal issue, where either they did not receive any help or wanted more help to resolve their issue
  • 85% of people who got help were satisfied with the service they received from their professional adviser, with people who received services from solicitors being most satisfied (90%)
  • Consumers with low legal confidence (that they could get a fair and positive outcome in different legal scenarios) find it harder to find professional help and are more likely to get worse outcomes
  • 21% of people did not try to get help (for contentious or non-contentious issues) from a professional adviser because they assumed it would be too expensive
  • 57% of those who did get professional help did not have to pay
  • 45% of adults in England and Wales strongly agree that legal aid is a good thing
  • 85% of people who have a household income of £32,000 or less (and responding about a legal issue eligible for legal aid) do not think they are eligible for legal aid

When looking at data at the total population level, for example, incidence of legal issues and attitudes towards the legal system, inferences can be made that the views of the sample collected here represent the views of the wider population.

However, it’s also important to acknowledge potential limitations. Due to the research having been conducted online, it’s possible that the incidence of certain legal issues (for example, having a home repossessed) could be understated as a result of limitations to internet access.

Where possible, the authors conducted comparative analysis with official statistics and have a good degree of confidence in the reliability of the online method for accurately reflecting the experiences of the overall population.

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS