One in Five Americans Had a Legal Issue in the Last Year That Could Have Involved Hiring a Lawyer, Says New Survey

Lawsuits, estate planning and housing the most common legal issues

Jan 06, 2010, 05:20 ET from

EAGAN, Minn., Jan. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- One in five Americans faced a legal issue in the last year that could have involved hiring an attorney, according to a new national survey by (, the most popular legal information Web site.

Twenty-two percent of American adults say they had a legal issue in the last year that potentially warranted hiring an attorney. More than one out of every 10 Americans (12 percent) say they did hire a lawyer in the last year. Eleven percent said they could have hired a lawyer to handle their legal issue but elected not to. And 5 percent said they tackled the issue by representing themselves and appearing in court without a lawyer.

The most common legal issues faced by people in the last year were:

  • Lawsuit or civil law: 25%
  • Estate planning or wills: 22%
  • Housing: 20%
  • Personal injury: 15%
  • Traffic violation or DUI: 12%
  • Bankruptcy or financial: 10%
  • Criminal: 9%
  • Employment: 8%
  • Divorce: 7%
  • Discrimination: 5%
  • Other: 25%

The issues for which people were most likely to hire a lawyer were divorce, estate planning and housing. People involved in lawsuits or civil actions, personal injury, and discrimination issues were the least likely to hire an attorney.

"The law intersects our lives in numerous ways every day," said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor with "Our personal, financial and work lives are constantly impacted by laws, whether it's conditions of our employment; buying, selling or renting housing; contracts; divorce; as well as many other aspects of our lives. With the current economy, it's not surprising that many Americans say they are facing legal issues involving housing, bankruptcy and other financial issues. Because of this, it's important for people to be aware of both their rights and their responsibilities under the law. People also need to know where they can get help in dealing with legal issues, whether it's through the Internet, an attorney, local bar association or Legal Aid Society."

Free Internet resources such as FindLaw ( can provide helpful information about laws and understanding legal issues, as well as directories to help find an attorney in your area.

The survey was conducted using a demographically balanced telephone survey of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Note to editors: Full survey results and analysis are available upon request.