Why are television shows about lawyers so popular? Perhaps because viewers are looking for tips for their own court appearances.

According to a recent FindLaw.com survey, 37 percent of Americans have been to court. Of that number, 44 percent of surveyed men have had a brush with the bar, while only 31 percent of women have made an appearance before the bench.

The results dispel the myth that the legal system is geared toward corporations and criminals. “We often think of the courtroom as being this almost mysterious place depicted in the news or TV dramas, but the reality is that many of us go there to settle disputes that affect various aspects of our daily lives,” according to Stephanie Rahlfs, a FindLaw.com attorney and editor.

If you’re curious about the kinds of issues prompting these court visits, the top five kinds of cases were:

  • Traffic (18 percent)
  • Family/divorce (11 percent)
  • Small claims, bankruptcy, and criminal (7 percent, each)
  • Landlord-tenant/real estate (5 percent)
  • Civil lawsuit, personal injury, worker’s compensation, or juvenile matter (3 percent, each).

Here’s a graph with the complete results:

Three of most common court issues — family/divorce, bankruptcy, and real estate — also ranked among Americans’ top five legal needs in 2011.

Also noteworthy? Though Hollywood focuses the camera lens on criminal law, only 7 percent of court cases deal with criminal matters.

Whether facing a legal question in or out of the courtroom, consumers turn to FindLaw.com — the Internet’s top source for legal information — to learn about the law, ask questions, and find lawyers. With almost four out of every ten Americans reporting that they have been to court for a legal issue, it’s no wonder that over 5 million people visit FindLaw.com each month.

— Michelle Croteau, Director of Marketing Communications
with Robyn Hagan Cain, FindLaw Audience Team

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