The Role of Regulators in Promoting Fairer Legal Services: Responding to Issues of Vulnerability and Legal Capability
People often need legal support at a point when their circumstances – a relationship breakdown, bereavement, unemployment – make them more vulnerable. Sometimes people’s personal characteristics, such as poor mental health or learning differences, mean that they already have a degree of vulnerability before they face these same life changing events. Research shows that a person’s legal capability – in essence, the knowledge, skills and confidence to deal effectively with legal issues – is a key influence on their experience of accessing legal services and the outcomes they achieve.
The way that markets operate, services are designed, and providers behave, can all lead to outcomes that are worse for some people than for others. This unfairness in markets is often avoidable and may result from a lack of understanding on the part of service providers. Reducing vulnerability and improving legal capability are important strategies for ensuring that everybody can access and use legal services when they need them.
- What is legal capability and how does it affect people’s experience of legal services?
- How can regulation help to ensure fairer treatment of people with low legal capability or other vulnerable circumstances?
- Should lawyers have a duty to take additional care to ensure vulnerable people receive outcomes that are as good as for other consumers?
- How can inclusive design principles – designing services so that they can be accessed by everyone – inform approaches to this issue?
- Steve Brooker, Head, Policy Development and Research, Legal Services Board
- Nigel John Balmer, Professor, Research Director, Victoria Law Foundation
- Martin Coppack, Director, Fair By Design
- Margaret Hagan, Stanford Legal Design Lab
- Michael Katagaya, Team Leader, Evidence and Methods Lab