Research conducted for the Law Society by Ipsos MORI shows a clear statistical link between getting early legal advice and resolving problems sooner.
“Without early advice, relatively minor legal problems can escalate, creating health, social and financial problems, placing additional pressure and cost on already stretched public services,” said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws.
Anyone who can't afford to pay for early legal advice may struggle to identify solutions– meaning simple issues spiral and can end up in court bringing unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.
The analysis adds weight to the argument that early legal advice – much of which was removed under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) - should be reinstated.
The research shows that, on average, 1 in 4 people who receive early professional legal advice had resolved their problem within 3-4 months. For those who did not receive early legal advice, it was not until 9 months after the issue had first occurred that 1 in 4 had resolved their issue.
This analysis has found that, between an issue arising and the problem being resolved, people who did not receive early advice were 20% less likely than average to have had their issue resolved.
Christina Blacklaws added: “The benefits of early advice are clear. We are calling on the government to ensure justice is accessible to those who need it.”
Early advice is vital in housing law. For example, a lack of early advice for minor disrepair issues can mean issues such as faulty electrics or a leaking roof escalate, potentially creating health, social and financial problems.
Early advice is also important in family law, but is no longer available for family breakdown and child custody. Because of this mediation referrals have plummeted, putting pressure on courts and therefore public finances.
Christina Blacklaws said: “The current situation is unsustainable. If early advice was available to those who need it, issues could be resolved before they worsen and become more costly for the individual - and the public purse.
“We are calling for legal aid for early advice from a lawyer to be reinstated for housing and family cases. We are keen to work with the government to address this issue.”
Notes to editors
-Early professional legal advice was defined as ‘within 3 months of the issue first occurring’ as analysis showed that this is a reasonable definition on average across the 17 issues considered. Professional legal advice covered advice from a solicitor, or other professional advisors such as Citizen Advice Bureaux or trade unions.
-The analysis showed that early advice has a statistically significant effect on the timing of the resolution of people’s legal issues.
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