Internet use anomaly

Catrina Denvir of University College London is investigating an anomaly. Young people have a higher level of access to the internet than any other age group but are less likely than other age groups to use it to help resolve a civil justice problem.

She is undertaking research to see how successful they when they do use the internet to find solutions to law-related issues.

She started with students at UCL who were asked to use the internet to answer questions on a scenario involving a legal problem.

Their search processes were logged and analysed to see how successful they were.

How well did they do?

Internet use did increase their knowledge. There was a significant increase in the number of correct answers as a result of internet searches.

  • Despite the instruction to take their time, students typically spent less than 10 minutes searching.
  • Searches were structured around search engines and individuals didn’t search within individual websites.
  • There was a failure to consider the reliability of sites. There were instances of Yahoo Answers and being used in preference to reliable sources.
  • Some participants didn’t consider jurisdictional differences – and referred to US websites.
  • Increased knowledge of rights did not translate into appropriate action. There was a failure to recognise an urgent need to get advice.

Catrina’s preliminary conclusion is that that there is an important role for the Internet to play in self-help but that it is important not to overestimate its utility.  The internet (imperfectly) increases knowledge of rights, but this knowledge does not lead to confidence or competence to take action.

Our own conclusions are that:

  • This report highlights the importance of the Advicenow service ( which checks and selects the best available rights information on the internet.
  • There is a need to improve the quality of available information to ensure it provides a guide to action. Advicenow’s own research highlights a widespread failure to do this.
  • We need to provide tutorials on how to search the internet for information on rights and the law.
Read Catrina's paper: How successful are people at using the internet to find solutions to law related issues?

Better Information Handbook: Canadian edition

Better Legal Information Handbook imageCommunity Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has published its ‘Better Legal Information Handbook: Practical tips for community workers’.

This handbook is based on our Advicenow project’s ‘Better Information Handbook' which was published in 2009.  CLEO's is the second international version of the handbook.  Victoria Law Foundation in Melbourne, Australia published their version of the Advicenow handbook in 2011.

Read more: Better Information Handbook: Canadian edition

The Advicenow handbook was funded by the Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation.

November 2013
Dominic Grieve - Attorney General

Pro bono PLE report

The Attorney General’s pro bono coordinating committee has published the report of its public legal education working group.

The report states that ‘PLE is not a “nice to have” option for our citizens. It is a statutory feature of the justice system and part of the Rule of Law which is acknowledged by Government as a cornerstone of society nationally and internationally’.

The report highlights the need for public legal education in the wake of the LASPO Act, and the urgent need to promote PLE at a time when people will increasingly have to try to resolve legal problems themselves.

It emphasises that social welfare law issues like housing, employment, benefits plus family demand priority attention.

The working group expressed  concern that specific reference to learning about rights and responsibilities has been removed from the national curriculum and concluded that ‘it is of fundamental importance to the future of PLE that the citizenship part of the national curriculum should include learning about legal rights and responsibilities’.

It also concluded that ‘collectively the legal regulatory bodies, particularly the approved regulators, should take prompt steps to enhance the legal profession’s awareness of the importance of participating in PLE activities'.

The report recognises  Law for Life as the leading organisation devoted to PLE and concludes that ‘the effective delivery of PLE by the various organisations and professional bodies should in the future be co-ordinated by Law for Life'.

For more see: Pro bono PLE report

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