Two out of three people have experienced at least one legal issue in the past four years, according to 2023 research published by the Law Society in conjunction with oversight regulator the Legal Services Board. But only half of them obtained professional help.

The Legal Needs Survey, last conducted in 2019, canvassed the needs of individuals across England and Wales. Notable variances on 2019 include a two-percentage point fall - to 19% - in the use of solicitors as main adviser on contentious issues. There was a notable rise in the use of insurance companies as main adviser for such advice,  from  6% to 8%. Doctors ranked second, on 10%.

There has been an increase of four percentage points in searching for services on 2019, to 25%; a four percentage-point rise in the proportion of people experiencing a legal issue concerning wills, trusts and probate; and a three percentage-point rise in people suffering legal problems concerning conveyancing/residential property. 

Almost nine in ten (88%) of those who had a main adviser were satisfied with their services, but younger people were generally less satisfied than those aged over 65.

Headline findings included:

  • The most common legal issues relates 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 three in five (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.
  • One in five (19%) of adults who did get support with their legal issue said a solicitor was their main adviser. 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, one in 10 (12%) by the pandemic - and one in 20 by Brexit.
  • Around a quarter said that their issue was made worse by the increasing cost of living (26%) or the pandemic (23%).

Alan Kershaw

Kershaw: 'Unmet legal need'

Source: LSB

 The Law Society said: 'While the Legal Needs Survey 2023 shows that 8% of respondents approached insurance companies for legal advice, solicitors are still the most frequently used main advisers, with consumers expressing high levels of satisfaction with the service they provide.

'Almost 1 in 5 individuals across England and Wales choose solicitors as their main advisor. The data suggests that there might be a gap in respondents' knowledge regarding the nature of their issue and therefore, seek alternative professionals for advice. These findings present an opportunity for legal professionals to address a large untapped market of individuals who could benefit from solicitors to resolve legal needs. It also raises questions about the inadequacies in the wider justice system and weak public legal education that prevents people from seeking professional legal help.

'We are determined to use these findings to improve accessibility of the profession so that the justice system is accessible to all.'

Alan Kershaw, chair of the Legal Services Board, said: ’Everyone should have access to professional legal support when they need it. But this survey shows people don’t always get it. 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.’


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