Making justice more accessible

The PULS is a survey about how people see the law, and how they experience and respond to everyday legal problems. They may not identify their problems as legal, or that legal services are relevant to them but this bottom-up perspective, which focuses on how people see the world, is key to the PULS being useful to a wide range of groups.

Ultimately, the PULS benefits the general public by making justice more accessible.

We hope that findings from the survey will help policy makers, advisers and service providers make decisions on sound evidence of need.

Findings might inform:

  • how or where advice or information is delivered
  • the level of service different people might need
  • how we prioritise services
  • where education or self-help could help
  • where regulation or reform is relevant
  • where we need to do further research

The rigour of the PULS survey method means everyone interested in how the law functions, for whom and how well, will have a sound foundation on which to make key decisions.

Courts and tribunals

Around the world, only a small percentage of justiciable problems are resolved using courts or tribunals. Nonetheless, the PULS data will reveal a wide range of critical information for courts and tribunals

PULS data will reveal:

  • who uses courts and tribunals and who doesn’t
  • which problems tend towards courts and tribunals and which don’t
  • what other factors are associated with use of courts and tribunals, for example legal capability
  • which people see courts and tribunals as more or less accessible
  • how perceptions relate to use


Making decisions on the location and types of services needs a reliable evidence base. However, relying on information from public interactions with legal services and processes will only ever present a partial picture.

Effective evidence-based legal service design and delivery requires data that captures the whole picture, regardless of whether or not they engage with legal services. This is where the PULS comes in.

The PULS can show:

  • how common different kinds of justiciable problems are among different groups
  • how people respond to them - if at all, and when legal services and processes are involved
  • how people think of legal services and processes and what this might mean for design and delivery
  • how current service provision compares to actual problem experience – what’s the gap?

One thing the PULS won’t do is allow us to quantify the difference legal advice or representation makes. This requires a different approach and is something we will look to explore as research develops at the VLF.

Private profession and their peak bodies

Most people with legal problems do not use legal services to resolve them. Nonetheless, the last major legal need survey conducted in Victoria – the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW’s LAW Survey in 2008 – indicated that private lawyers were the single most common adviser when faced with justiciable problems.

Understanding what people think of lawyers, when they choose to use them and when they don’t, are core components of the PULS. In addition to the invaluable demographic and geographic information which can help practitioners understand their market, the survey will offer insights into:

  • the extent to which different groups view lawyers as inaccessible
  • whether people see lawyers as trustworthy
  • who uses lawyers when faced with justiciable problems
  • why people did not seek legal advice
  • the types of problems that tend to involve legal advice and the types which do not
  • how perceptions of lawyers relates to their use.

Law reform

Sometimes laws need updating. An important consideration when thinking about priorities for law reform is how the public currently experiences and understands their law. Here too PULS can help. The PULS will reveal what the Victorian public think the law currently is across a range of scenarios in six key areas of law – consumer, employment, family, housing, money/debt and neighbours.

These scenarios allow you to:

  • identify areas where public understanding is inline with the law, and where it diverges
  • explore whether particular groups are more likely to misunderstand the law
  • explore how understanding of the law relates to problem-solving behaviour and use of legal services
  • see how people view the law and how this relates to their understanding and action
  • explore the extent to which people see everyday justiciable problems as legal


The PULS is being conducted in Victoria, but its methods, findings and tools will be widely relevant. The PULS will form part of a global effort to understand how people understand and interact with law and understand how we might design services which give the public a voice and genuinely respond to their needs.

We are keen to share our findings, methods, data and tools so the work is as useful as possible in Victoria or further afield.

All measurement tools we develop will be publicly available. The approach, and the rationale behind it, will be set out in detail, and we would be delighted if others used questions, tools or methods like ours.

PULS will:

  • measure aspects of legal capability which have only been theorised about until now.
  • integrate significant questions on capability, the PULS sets out a new approach to legal need survey work
  • be publicly available, and we look forward to others using it and collaborating with us where appropriate

Victorian public

6,000 Victorians will be respondents to the PULS and their answers will give the public a powerful voice in policy and decision-making. Speaking to a representative sample across the state means all the relevant parts of the justice system can respond more effectively to legal need with a solid base of evidence and certainty.

Read the latest PULS report

This first volume updates the broad picture of access to justice and legal need, explores how justiciable problems are experienced, what people do about them, and how they progress and conclude (if they conclude).
Everyday Problems and Legal Need