A body representing court advisors has announced a set of professional standards for its members.
Members of the recently established Society of Professional McKenzie Friends will be required to have a qualification in law, or another relevant subject, equivalent to an A level or higher, or three years experience, along with professional indemnity insurance.
McKenzie Friends provide courtroom advice and support to people without legal representation. Sometimes this is done on an informal basis but the services of fee-charging McKenzie Friends are also available. The majority assist with family law cases.
The role dates back to a 1970 family law case, McKenzie v McKenzie, during which one of the parties sought the assistance of an Australian barrister not qualified to practice in the UK.
The Society’s announcement follows the publication in April of a report into the role of fee-charging McKenzie Friends by the Legal Services Consumer Panel. This noted that McKenzie Friends do provide some support to litigants unable to afford legal representation. It made a number of recommendations, including a trade association. The Society of Professional McKenzie Friends was established as a result.
The Legal Services Board, which oversees the regulation of lawyers, endorsed the reports’ recommendations in September, accepting, for example, the suggestion that official regulation might drive fee-charging McKenzie Friends out of business.
Ray Barry is the joint founder and Director of the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends. He said:
“There are major shifts taking place in the market, and in the demands of consumers, to which some practitioners, both lawyers and McKenzie Friends, are adapting better than others.”