Any form of litigation is a frightening and lonely experience. Going to court is the last thing any sane person should do and going alone is madness.
Everyone knows hiring a solicitor, barrister or advocate costs serious money. Legal aid is more and more difficult to obtain so hiring a lawyer might not be an option open to you. This means that many people going to court are finding they have no choice but to represent themselves or try to get some help from someone other than an expensive lawyer. One such resource is a ‘McKenzie friend’.
What is a McKenzie Friend?
Anyone involved in a family law or civil case in a court in England or Wales is entitled to represent themselves in court (they do not need to employ a solicitor or barrister) and if they choose to do this they are termed a Litigant in Person (LIP). In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of LIPs due to the costs of hiring a solicitor or barrister and the reduction of legal aid availability.
A LIP may be accompanied by someone to help them and this person is called a McKenzie Friend, named after the case which established the principles in 1970*.
What can a McKenzie Friend do?
The court issued guidance in July 2010 to those who wished to come to court with a McKenzie friend, including the following:
- provide moral support for litigants;
- take notes;
- help with case papers
- quietly give advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case.
What McKenzie Friends may not do
MFs may not:
- act as the litigants’ agent in relation to the proceedings
- manage litigants’ cases outside court, for example by signing court documents; or
- address the court, make oral submissions or examine witnesses.
While litigants ordinarily have a right to receive reasonable assistance from MFs the court retains the power to refuse to permit such assistance. The court may do so where it is satisfied that, in that case, the interests of justice and fairness do not require the litigant to receive such assistance. Paragraph 12 of the court guidance provides more details. The court cannot refuse to allow a MF to assist just because the proposed MF belongs to an organisation that promotes a particular cause or because the proceedings are confidential and the court papers contain sensitive information relating to a family’s affairs.
Going to court can be a daunting process, and having someone to stand by and offer moral support is a great boon.
We offer an affordable McKenzie Friend service.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, free estimate or interview, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss matters with you.
We look forward to being your McKenzie Friend.