Just a Phone Call Away: Is Telephone Advice Enough?

This report compares telephone legal help services with in-person legal help services. The researchers note that there is an increasing shift away from face-to-face services toward advice hotlines, but that empirical research predating the study described in the report was limited.

The researchers compare data from the United Kingdom Legal Services Commission to learn about the similarities and differences between telephone and in-person legal help services. They found that, on average, telephone advice takes 14 minutes longer than face-to-face advice. They also observe that there are major differences between certain demographic groups in the channels they used to seek advice: people under the age of 19 and clinics living with an illness or disability were more likely to access face-to-face services.

The report concludes that forecasted resource gains from the shift to telephone legal help services might never be realized, given the increased time spent providing telephone advice. It also suggests that the existing telephone advice service they reviewed does not necessarily lead to an expansion of services, especially for marginalized groups who cannot afford to pay for in-person legal advice.