Two in three people across England and Wales have faced legal problems

New research by the Law Society and the Legal Services Board reveals that two thirds of adults in England and Wales (66%), have experienced at least one legal issue in the last four years.

The Legal Needs Survey 2023 looks at the legal issues and needs of individuals across England and Wales and found:

  • The most common legal issues are related to employment, finance, welfare and benefits (28%), wills, trusts and probate (26%), consumer problems (26%) and property, construction and planning (25%).
  • Of those who had a legal issue, half (52%) received professional help, while 38% did not receive any help.
  • Around two-fifths (57%) of those experiencing an issue have a contentious legal problem, which is more likely to involve a court or tribunal process. Half (51%) of these said they needed support to deal with the problem.
  • Almost a third (32%) did not have their issue resolved adequately and had an unmet legal need. A fifth (20%) had an unmet need because they did not get professional help.
  • Two in five (19%) of adults who did get support with their legal issue said a solicitor was their main advisor. One in 10 (11%) received non-professional help, including from friends or family.
  • One in seven (15%) adults said that their legal issue was caused by the increasing cost of living, and one in 10 (12%) said their issue was caused by the pandemic.
  • Around a quarter said that their issue was made worse by the increasing cost of living (26%) or the pandemic (23%).

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said:

“With two in three people experiencing at least one legal issue, it is evident that the legal system continues to play a vital role in everyday life.

“Solicitors are the most frequently used adviser by individuals with legal issues. Out of those who received professional help, almost nine in ten were satisfied with their legal adviser and seven in ten believe that the help they received allowed them to get a better outcome.

“The research shows the essential support solicitors provide to the public and presents an opportunity to raise awareness of how people with legal needs can seek professional help.

“We will use these findings to improve understanding of the legal profession and boost access to justice. The upcoming proposals of our 21st Century Justice project** aim to address the issue of unmet legal needs amongst those on low incomes and narrow the access to justice gap.”

Alan Kershaw, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:

“People frequently require legal services when they are going through important life events. They are also often vulnerable because they may have been a victim of crime, dealing with a high-value transaction, or seeking compensation for a loss. Everyone should have access to professional legal support when they need it. But this survey shows people don’t always get it.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have caused people’s legal issues to worsen, and it is concerning that some people feel they need to rely on friends or family who are not legally qualified rather than seek professional legal support.

The level of unmet need demonstrates the size of the market legal providers could tap into. We hope regulators and providers use the insights from this survey to find new opportunities and drive competition.

Regulation has a vital part to play in creating a legal services market where people can identify that they have a legal issue, easily shop around for support, compare prices, and choose a provider that meets their needs. We are pressing forward with our work to ensure that regulators’ efforts to empower people who need legal services are sufficient. If our expectations are not being met, we will not hesitate to act.”

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