In 2018 to 2019, Legal Utopia undertook one of the largest market research studies of legal consumers with collaborative academic partner – University of Westminster – in the UK focused on the expression of legal problems by consumers.
Our research study provided numerous opportunities arising from our research team presence within social and legal services providers, as well as access to consumers and computer science expertise. During the course of the 15-month study, Legal Utopia took the opportunity to analyse the lexical composition of legal consumer explanations and descriptions data of consumer legal problems both pre and post-receipt of professional legal advice.
Research Co-ordinators selected a number of legal services providers and researchers to conduct data collection from legal consumers by asking 500 legal consumers to describe their legal problem before seeing a legal professional for legal advice.
The natural language data was then reviewed and labelled to determine the field and sub-field of law that would apply to the particular legal problem explained/described. This natural language data was then passed to the development team comprised of computer scientists to compose into a format capable of generating measurable insights concerning the frequency of legal terms.
The objective of this sub-project was to take widely accepted and pre-defined legal terms commonly used by lawyers across and applicable to a broad spectrum of legal fields. An algorithm was trained to differentiate between legal and non-legal terms within the natural language data to determine the frequency used. This was then segregated to each label category of legal fields applied to each data file during review.
As the above table provides, the frequency of legal terms used by legal consumers varies between legal fields at the pre-advice stage. In these circumstances, the natural language data provides that legal consumers are generally more attuned to the use of legal terms when explaining/describing a contract law related legal problem. This result would be logical as legal problems related to contracts are more likely to be accompanied by a written document opposed to other legal problems.
In comparison, the data also provides the corresponding legal term frequency to the same legal problem but post-legal advice. The assumption is the provision of professional legal advice will inform and educate its recipient to better understand the legal nature of the legal problem. From this, the legal term frequency is proposed to increase to reflect a greater level of understanding by the legal consumer demonstrated in the lexis used to explain/describe their legal problem.
The data from the above table indicates that legal consumers use more legal terms when explaining or describing their legal problem after receiving professional legal advice. The assumption applied considers that if legal consumers are using more legal terms post-advice then legal consumers must have a greater understanding of the legal problem they have and, as such, are more informed of resolving their legal problem.
This insight is one of many from our published study which consisted of Legal Utopia collaborating and consulting with a total of 12 organisations (including 5 international law firms, 1 banking institution, and two UK regulators) and engaged with over 142 industry stakeholders. The project, over its 15-month duration, included 75 team members, undertook a total of 18,347 research interviews, 151,221 manual file reviews and included 27,817 research participant responses to a total of 28 line of enquiry, market research and consumer consultations.
You can download a copy of the full study here.