Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Vol 1, No 6 (2011)

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What Really Drives Advice Seeking Behaviour? Looking Beyond the Subject of Legal Disputes

Pascoe Pleasence, Nigel J. Balmer, Stian Reimers

Abstract


When faced with a broad range of justiciable problems, people seek advice for around half of them, and advice from lawyers on around 13% of occasions. Various factors have been found to link to advice seeking behaviour, but it is commonly recognized that problem type ‘swamps’ other factors. This study draws on an Internet survey of 1,031 respondents, aged between 16 and 66, in which respondents were presented with a range of problem scenarios and asked to place them on a severity scale, characterize them (as legal or otherwise) and suggest an appropriate source of advice. The study assesses the impact of problem severity and legal characterization on the likelihood of identifying legal advice, advice sector advice or other advice as being appropriate. Even having controlled for problem type, both problem severity and characterization have a highly significant impact on adviser choice. As severity increases, so does the likelihood of suggesting legal advice is appropriate. Where problems are characterized as legal, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of suggesting a lawyer across problem types. However, choice of advice sector advice was relatively unaffected by characterization. The findings move us beyond problem type being the primary explanation of advice seeking behaviour, and are discussed in the context of legal service delivery as well as with reference to Felstiner et al’s model of disputing behaviour.

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