Just a Phone Call Away: Is Telephone Advice Enough?

Posted: 23 Jun 2015

See all articles by Nigel J. Balmer

Nigel J. Balmer

University College London; University College London - Faculty of Laws

Marisol Smith

Government of the United Kingdom - Legal Services Research Centre (LSRC)

Catrina Denvir

University College London

Ash Patel

Government of the United Kingdom - Legal Services Research Centre (LSRC)

Date Written: June 22, 2015

Abstract

Over the last two decades the public sector has embraced new modes of service delivery, with a shift away from traditional face-to-face provision towards Internet and telephone based advice and information. While telephone provision has played an increasingly significant role in overall provision of legal advice in recent years, there has been limited empirical research which compares telephone to face-to-face services. Utilising administrative data from the Legal Services Commission (LSC) on legal aid services for housing problems, this paper explores the similarities and differences between the two delivery modes. We examine the client groups and matter types which tend toward particular channels of advice, the relationship between mode of advice and the outcome of cases for clients and the relationship between mode of advice and advice time. We find that there are significant differences in mode of advice among clients with particular demographic characteristics, with clients under the age of 18 and clients living with an illness or disability more likely to use face-to-face services. Our findings also suggest differences among the types of problems being addressed by telephone based services. On the surface there are small differences between modes of advice and the proportion of cases which lead to a substantive benefit outcome. However, once we disaggregate the data and investigate specific outcomes, there are pronounced differences in the outcomes achieved. Having controlled for key variables such as client demographics, case type and particularly stage reached, we find that telephone advice takes, on average, 14 minutes longer than face-to-face advice (compared to an hour less when examining the raw data). The implications of these findings for the future development of telephone based services in light of current policy in legal services are discussed.

Keywords: Legal, telephone advice, rural, legal services

Suggested Citation

Balmer, Nigel J. and Smith, Marisol and Denvir, Catrina and Patel, Ash, Just a Phone Call Away: Is Telephone Advice Enough? (June 22, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2621892

Nigel J. Balmer

University College London ( email )

Bidborough House
Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

University College London - Faculty of Laws ( email )

Gower St
London WC1E OEG, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Marisol Smith

Government of the United Kingdom - Legal Services Research Centre (LSRC) ( email )

London WC1A 8TX
United Kingdom

Catrina Denvir (Contact Author)

University College London ( email )

Gower St
London WC1E OEG, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Ash Patel

Government of the United Kingdom - Legal Services Research Centre (LSRC) ( email )

London WC1A 8TX
United Kingdom

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