What is a McKenzie Friend?

A “McKenzie Friend” is an informal term used to describe any individual who appears before the Court and assists a self-represented litigant.

McKenzie Friends have no right to assist or appear before the Court, rather the right to audience belongs to the self-represented litigant.

The right of a litigant to be assisted by a McKenzie Friend is not automatic and is subject to the discretion of the Court, though as a general rule of thumb the presumption in favour of permitting a McKenzie Friend is a strong one.

A McKenzie Friend should not be confused with a “Litigation Friend”.  The latter is a recognized individual appointed, usually by the Court, to act for a Minor or a person with a mental disability.

Where a self-represented litigant wishes a McKenzie Friend to provide assistance at Court then the Court should be advised at the outset of the hearing that he wishes to be assisted by a McKenzie Friend and also notify the Court who that person will be.

The role of a McKenzie Friend is sometimes misunderstood.

McKenzie friends have no rights of audience unless the Court allow them to speak in exceptional circumstances.

A McKenzie friend is expected to take a more reserved role in providing the self-represented litigant with moral support, taking notes, collating and using case papers and providing quiet advice on points of law, issues to be raised and questions to be asked.

If the opposing party, or the Court suspects that a McKenzie Friend is taking too active a role in proceedings then a request can be made to seek to restrict or remove the McKenzie Friend from the hearing.

If a Court refused to allow a McKenzie Friend to act/continue to act, the Judge would be expected to provide the self-represented litigant with reasons for the refusal.  Any decision of this sort can be appealed by the litigant though not by the McKenzie Friend.

As Legal Aid is now very restricted as to the type of cases where it is available there has been an increase of recent times in the use of McKenzie Friends and the guidance given in relation to that.

Part 3 of the Legal Services Act 2007 governs rights of audience and the right to conduct litigation.  Within this act the Court have a discretion to allow rights of audience to lay people.  Only if the circumstances are exceptional will an unqualified person be granted a right of audience.   If a self-represented litigant wishes his McKenzie Friend to be granted a right of audience or a right to conduct the litigation then that person should make this known to the Court at the beginning of the hearing.

Help

At Ringrose Law we appreciate that many people feel that they cannot afford to pay for Solicitors to represent them at hearings of whatever nature.   In some circumstances we will provide representation on a fixed fee basis which means that a client can be represented by a Solicitor rather than assisted by McKenzie Friends.

If you are engaged in family proceedings and require advice in relation to this please do not hesitate to contact our family advisors who are based at our offices in Boston, Grantham, Sleaford, Spalding, Newark and Lincoln.

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