8667.0 - Legal Services, Australia, 2007-08 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2009   
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The statistics presented in this publication were compiled from data collected from a sample of Australian businesses and organisations mainly involved in the provision of legal services, in respect of the 2007–08 financial year. The survey was conducted as part of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) business survey program for the 2007–08 reference year. The data were collected under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

For information about the institutional environment of the ABS, including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

The main purpose of the survey was to measure the size, type and structure of legal services businesses and organisations in Australia during the 2007–08 financial year. Statistics of particular interest include: sources of income, items of expenditure, fields of work, pro bono work and state/territory data. The information is used by government departments to assist in policy formulation and review, as well as by private sector analysts.

Survey questionnaires were mailed to a sample of legal services businesses/organisations in mid-August 2008. The ABS aims to publish estimates from its business survey program within twelve months of the end of the reference period.

The ABS aims to produce high quality data from its industry collections while minimising the reporting burden on businesses. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into survey and questionnaire design, collection procedures and processing.

Every effort was made to minimise reporting error by the careful design of questionnaires, intensive training of survey analysts and efficient data processing procedures. Additionally, to ensure the accuracy of the estimates produced, the data have been checked against previous collection results and other sources, including contact with providers.

Estimates were produced using number raised estimation methodology with a sample of 1,558 legal services businesses and organisations.

Two types of error can occur in estimates that are based on a sample survey: non-sampling error and sampling error.

Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Non-sampling error also occurs when information cannot be obtained from all businesses selected in the survey. For the 2007–08 Legal Services Survey, there was an 91.7% response rate from all businesses that were surveyed and found to be operating during the reference period. Data were imputed for the remaining 8.3% of operating businesses. Imputed responses contributed 7% to the estimate of total income.

Sampling error occurs when a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed. It reflects the difference between estimates based on a sample and those that would have been obtained had a census been conducted. One measure of this difference is the standard error. There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate will differ by less than one standard error from the figure that would have been obtained if all businesses had been included in the survey, and about nineteen chances in twenty that the difference will be less than two standard errors.

Another measure of sampling error is the relative standard error, which is obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. The relative standard error is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the sampling error in percentage terms, and this avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. Relative standard errors of key estimates are available in the Explanatory Notes of Legal Services, Australia (cat. no. 8667.0).
The collection of pro bono and legal aid data is subject to non-sampling error, as barristers and other legal services businesses generally did not maintain accurate records of pro bono and legal aid work. Users are therefore advised to exercise caution when using these figures.

The ABS has been conducting surveys of legal services since 1987-88. While the ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to the survey, sound survey practice requires ongoing development to maintain the integrity of the data, their relevance to the changing needs of users and the efficiency of the survey. Additionally, given the irregular frequency of these surveys, they are not designed to monitor change over time.

Changes made to the Legal Services Survey over time include changes in scope, frame, statistical unit, concepts, data item definitions and classifications. There are some major conceptual differences between the 2001-02 and 2007-08 surveys, so historical comparisons have not been made. For a full list of changes made between the 2001-02 and 2007-08 cycles of the Legal Services Survey refer to the Explanatory Notes and Technical Note on historical comparisons in the publication Legal Services, Australia (cat. no. 8667.0).

The estimates from the Legal Services Survey are only available as original series and are not seasonally or trend adjusted. Although financial estimates in this publication relate to the full twelve months, employment estimates relate to the last pay period ending in June 2008. As such, estimates of values per person employed can be affected by any fluctuations in employment during the reference period.

Further information on terminology and other technical aspects associated with statistics from the Legal Services Survey can be found in the publication Legal Services, Australia (cat. no. 8667.0), which contains detailed Explanatory Notes, a Technical Note and Glossary.

Data from the 2007–08 Legal Services Survey are available in a variety of formats. The formats available free of charge on the ABS website are:
  • main features which include key findings commentary
  • a pdf version of the publication
  • 18 spreadsheets which contains all available data.
    Inquiries about this data can be made by contacting the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.