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Consumer organisation calls for greater recognition of ‘McKenzie friends’

A consumer legal organisation has called for greater recognition of the role played by McKenzie friends.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) said McKenzie friends provided “valuable support that improves access to justice in the large majority of cases”.

The organisation called for a “culture shift which recognises fee-charging McKenzie friends as a legitimate feature of the modern legal services market”.

McKenzie friends provide informal courtroom advice to unrepresented litigants in person. They do not need to be legally qualified. The term originates from a 1970 divorce case, McKenzie v McKenzie, during which Leveine McKenzie was initially told he could not be assisted in the courtroom by an Australian barrister not qualified to practice in the UK. He appealed and the case went to a retrial.

According to the LSCP, an increasing number of McKenzie friends have begun to charge for their services despite their lack of legal qualifications. They declare:

“There are reports of a rise in fee-charging McKenzie friends aiming to meet the needs of litigants who are no longer eligible for legal aid funding but cannot afford legal representation.”

Typical fees range from £35-60 per hour and £150-200 per day. Some earn as much as £100,000 per year.

The majority of McKenzie friends specialise in family law.

The LSCP said:

“Litigation through the courts on a family matter can be expensive and beyond the means of a great many individuals. Added to this is the withdrawal of legal aid funding, while ‘matrimonial disputes’ tend to be excluded from most legal expenses insurance policies. Therefore, for those who cannot afford legal representation, the real choice is between using a McKenzie friend or being entirely unsupported during proceedings.”

The Legal Services Consumer Panel provides “high quality, evidenced-based advice to the Legal Services Board” and represents “the interests of the many different consumers”.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Paul says:

    If it’s just a question of a father going to court after unreasonably being denied contact, then a McKenzie Friend is all you need. As I’ve said (or tried to say) many time before, the greatest victory for fathers involved in disputes over access to children has not been the change in wording of the Children Act but rather the almost complete abolition of legal aid. Private law disputes over children coming to court will now predictably fall, and drastically.

  2. russell says:

    I agree with Paul. It was high time that certain parents who would unscrupulously use Legal Aid as a way to pay for instructing lawyers in order to help them manipulate a slanted/biased system (it is biased against the Non resident parent rather than mothers/fathers (IMO) per se, to suit their own selfish agenda were stopped from abusing a system that was set up with the initial belief that it would be used for noble causes.
    I agree with many people who say that by stopping Legal Aid has the unwanted consequence of not supporting vulnerable parents/children, however those professionals who have drunk from the Legal Aid trough and have allowed clients not MORALLY deserving of legal Aid to abuse the system are the ones who have created the environment which has lead to its demise.
    Lawyers still have the option of reducing their “normal” rates down to levels where the ordinary working man or woman (or benefit receiving individual) can afford to appoint a qualified professional.
    I have learnt so much from several forums and seasoned McKenzies and then helping out others through the court process. If one has gone through the system and can help with the process for others then I don’t see the harm
    Professional would say that this would not be “suitably qualified” advice, but lets ask the question another way
    Dear Mr./Mrs. Lawyer “given the circumstance I am in, can you determine the likely outcome of the case?” the answer will invariably be No, it all depends…………. and if the professional cant guide the outcome then what are they doing there in the first place?

  3. McKenzie Friends organisation predicts damaged family law system - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] managing director of a professional McKenzie Friend service has predicted “severe detriment” to the family law system if fee-charging friends […]

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