Legal and Accounting Services

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

    The 1987-88, 1992-93 and 1995-96 cycles of this survey covered both Legal and Accounting Services businesses. However, the 1998-99 and 2001-02 cycles covered Legal practices and organisations only, with a separate Accounting Services survey being conducted in 2001-02.

    The collection is a survey of businesses and organisations primarilyly engaged in providing legal (or accounting) services.
    The Australian Legal Directory produced by the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Document Exchange Pty Ltd (AUSDOC) will provide the collection frame for the Legal component. The unit for which statistics are to be reported is the practice (combination of business and service company management units). Development involves consultation with peak bodies and industry sources including potential data users. These consultations will assist in determining survey scope and content, including requirements for activity data and provide some appreciation of the level of coverage provided by the Australain Legal Directory.

    To provide key measures on the performance of the Legal (and Accounting) Services industry. To identify the nature and structure of the industry/activity in terms of employment, income, costs and its contribution to the Australian economy.

    The Law Council of Australia and the corresponding state bodies (ie. the State Bar Councils and State Law Associations) have a strong interest in better understanding the structure of the Legal Services Industry in terms of employment and financial contribution.

    Internally the collection will be primarily driven by National Accounts requirements for industry aggregates within ANZSIC class 7841 with the Environmental Statistics Unit identified as another major client. This demand is for Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification (ANZSIC) class data. The Economic Activity Survey (EAS) collects employment and detailed financial data from a wide range of industries, including the Legal Services industry. To avoid duplication, the Legal Services Industry Survey collects some employment and financial data from a subset of its sample at a level of detail that meets various EAS needs (EAS in turn, collects even more detailed financial information from a subset of its sample to meet the needs of the Input-Output Section of the ABS). All internal users will need to be made aware of the fact that this is a non-business register survey and that non-standard collection units will be used.

    The Legal Services Industry survey is conducted as part of the Business Services survey.
    A range of profit and loss, balance sheet and employment details will be sought from businesses.
    Development of the survey will involve consultations with a number of organisations including the Law Council of Australia, the State Bar Councils, the State Law Associations, the Attorney's General and other industry sources to establish views on significant aspects/outputs of the industry which could be incorporated in the collection.
    Published data will reflect a range of standard outputs including: business employment details, income and expense dissected by major component and financial performance ratios together with a set of activity data outputs.


    The scope of the survey was all units on the Australian Legal Directory (ALD), that would be classified to class 7841 – LEGAL SERVICES of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC). ANZSIC class 7841 consists of businesses mainly engaged in providing legal services. The scope was then broadened to capture the following additional legal services organisations: legal aid authorities, government solicitors and public prosecutors, community legal centres, and patent attorney businesses.


    The statistical unit used to represent private legal businesses, and for which statistics are reported, was the legal practice. Many legal practices consist of a single entity. Other practices consist of more than one entity (e.g. legal firm and a service entity, such as an administration or service company or trust).

    For the purposes of this survey, where a practice was conducted through a legal firm and a separate service or other entity, these entities were consolidated and treated as one practice if the service entity provided resources to a single legal practice. Where a service entity provided services to more than one legal practice, the service entity was excluded from the results presented in this publication.

    The concept of the legal practice is not commonly used for legal aid authorities, community legal centres, government solicitors or public prosecutors. The term organisation is used to describe these business entities, and the organisation was the statistical unit for these business types.


    The frame used for the Legal Practices Survey was taken from the Australian Legal Directory (ALD). The ALD is primarily based on registrations of solicitors and barristers to the relevant state regulatory bodies. The directory is updated annually to take account of new registrations.

    The coverage provided by the ALD was supplemented with a list of government solicitors, public prosecutors and legal aid authorities operating in each Australian jurisdiction, a list of patent attorney businesses provided by the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, and a list of community legal centres provided by the National Association of Community Legal Centres.


    Conceptual framework
    The data items will be consistent with Economic Activity Survey (EAS) specifications, and outputs will provide key financial statistics in respect of ANZSIC 7841 and National Accounts requirements. Some activity data is also proposed in line with external user interest.

    Main outputs
    The publication Legal Practices, Australiais produced from the survey. The publication will contain summary employment, income, and expenses tables covering ANZSIC Class 7841.

    The tables in the publication include:

    • sources of income
    • items of expenditure
    • characteristics of employment
    • main occupation of persons employed
    • selected statistics by employment size groupings
    • selected performance ratios

    The tables contain data at the Australia level with one state table showing:
    • number of businesses
    • employment
    • wages and salaries
    • gross income

    The data outputs provided to the Economic Activity Survey (EAS) include all of the above data plus data on assets, liabilities and capital expenditure.

    Input/Output use all of the data plus data used by EAS as well as a more detailed breakdown of expenses.

    The ANZSIC class for Legal Services is 7841. This class consists of units mainly engaged in providing legal services.

    The Legal Services Industry Survey collects data classified according the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC). Each business unit is classified to a single industry. The industry allocated is based on an estimate of the primary income earning activity of the management unit irrespective of whether a range of activities or a single activity is undertaken by the unit. Businesses were selected on the basis of being an entry in the legal directory which corresponds to ANZSIC (7841) on the business register plus non-employing legal service units.

    Data will be available at the ANZSIC class level for ANZSIC 7841.

    The publication will contain one table of data cross classified by the following size groupings:

    0 - 4 persons
    5 - 9 persons
    10 - 19 persons
    20 - 99 persons
    100 or more persons

    The Legal Services Industry Survey uses ABS standard data items

    Other concepts (summary)
    Income from legal services has been split up into industry specific categories.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions


    Frequency comments
    There has been a 3-yearly cycle in place since 1992-93, but there is no guarantee this will be retained.

    The survey of the Legal Services Industry for the 2001/02 reference year is the fifth collection conducted by the ABS for this sector, the four previous being in 1995/96, 1992/93, 1987/88 & 1998/99.

    In the first three surveys Legal Services has been conducted alongside a Survey of Accounting Services and the output of these two surveys has been produced in a single publication. The 1998/99 Legal Services Survey has been conducted without a corresponding Accounting Services Survey, and this will result in a specific Legal Services publication. A separate survey of Accounting Services will be conducted in conjunction with the 2001/02 Legal Services Survey, but will have a separate publication.


    Data availability comments
    Data available in publications:
    Legal Services Industry, Australia (cat. no. 8667.0)
    Legal and Accounting Services, Australia (cat. no. 8678.0)

    17/09/2004 08:31 AM