Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Incidence of legal problems surveys

As the LawMatters project prepares for the second annual legal reference survey of selected BC public libraries [see blog posts of March 5 and September 10, 2009], it is interesting to see which legal topics are reported as most often experienced in other jurisdictions, and how frequently people experience legal problems.

The following are excerpts from Civil Legal Needs Research Report by Carol McEown for the Law Foundation of BC, 2nd Edition [39 pp PDF] March 2009. The report summarizes research from several provincial, national and international studies:

Results of legal needs studies

Citizens experience legal problems in the course of their daily lives. Many of these problems are seen to be difficult to resolve and have serious consequences. Canadian civil legal needs studies suggest that over 1,500,000 adults in BC will experience one or more serious legal problems in a three-year period.

  • Consumer, debt, and employment problems occur more frequently than other problems and people will most likely try to resolve these problems themselves or, in the case of employment problems, look to their union or a government agency to help.

  • Housing issues and neighbour problems rank third in the BC survey and second in the 2008 Canadian Study.

  • Family, wills, and personal injury cases also occur frequently. People most often seek legal assistance for family law problems, wills and threat of legal action.

  • People with low incomes and/or who are otherwise disadvantaged tend to experience more problems than average, especially in the areas of debt, family law, housing, income assistance, and mental health. If they are unable to find help, they tend to experience more serious consequences and have further problems that can result in a downward spiral.

    [excerpts from pp 31 - 32]

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