McKenzie Friends ‘should be renamed’

Divorce|June 13th 2016

McKenzie Friends should be renamed ‘supporters’ and banned from collecting fees, the Law Society and Bar Council have both claimed.

In a joint response to a consultation on the future of these courtroom advisors, the two organisations claimed the current term risks confusing unrepresented litigants in person.

The term actually originates in a 1970 divorce, in which an Australian barrister living in London attempted to provide informal advice to a man divorcing his wife who had been refused legal aid. The barrister was not qualified to practice in the English courts. When the trial judge ordered him not to take an active part in the hearing, the barrister did not return for the second day of the hearing. The husband, Levine McKenzie, lost his case but then successfully appealed, arguing that he had been denied representation.

In their official response, the Law Society and Bar Council also claim there should be no formal code of practice for McKenzie Friends because this could imply they are at least partially regulated . A code might discourage the friends and family of litigants from becoming McKenzie Friends, they believe, when doing so might be appropriate.

Their stance on fees contrasts with that taken by the Legal Services Board, which recently claimed there was no justification for such a prohibition.

The consultation was launched by the Judicial Executive Board , a panel of senior judges who assist the Lord Chief Justice.

You can read more here.

Courtroom image by Michael D Beckwith via Flickr

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Comments(9)

  1. wistilia says:

    What a surprise the Bar Council and Law Society looking after their own – rather than the 65% of Court participants who cannot afford their services.

    P.S.
    Friends & Family are routinely barred from being McKenzie Friends because they might be future witnesses in proceedings and they are too emotionally involved.

  2. Luke says:

    ====
    “McKenzie Friends should be renamed ‘supporters’ and banned from collecting fees, the Law Society and Bar Council have both claimed.”
    ====
    .
    What a surprise.
    The Law Society & Bar Council represent their members – lawyers & barristers respectively, I’m not saying whether hiring a McKenzie Friend is a good idea or bad idea, but it is f******g obvious that lawyers & barristers may miss out on work if a McKenzie Friend is hired.
    So in trying to shut down the income for McKenzie Friends the Law Society & Bar Council are protecting their members’ financial interests.
    .
    Now I am sure they will argue they are pushing for this due to their concern for the general public – but it’s amazing how often their ‘concerns’ match their members’ interests 🙂
    Follow the money…

  3. Luke says:

    I missed your comment Wistilia – it seems we were coming to the same conclusions !

  4. wistilia says:

    Aye Luke.

    Money talks.

  5. Alan Finlayson says:

    In Scotland procedural rules were introduced into civil court proceedings in 2010 allowing ‘Mackenzie Friends’ to participate on behalf of litigants, although the rules use the phrase ‘lay support’. These rules, inter alia, allow such lay persons:

    “Lay support

    1.3A.—(1) At any time during proceedings the sheriff may, on the request of a party litigant, permit a named individual to assist the litigant in the conduct of the proceedings by sitting beside or behind (as the litigant chooses) the litigant at hearings in court or in chambers and doing such of the following for the litigant as he or she requires—

    (a)providing moral support;

    (b)helping to manage the court documents and other papers;

    (c)taking notes of the proceedings;

    (d)quietly advising on—

    (i)points of law and procedure;

    (ii)issues which the litigant might wish to raise with the sheriff;

    (iii)questions which the litigant might wish to ask witnesses.

    Lay support persons are not permitted to receive payment though:

    (2) It is a condition of such permission that the named individual does not receive from the litigant, whether directly or indirectly, any remuneration for his or her assistance.

    I found it surprising that we in Scotland already have these provisions available but England & Wales do not.

    The secondary legislation, or SSI (Scottish Statutory Instrument) enacting these procedures can be found here:

    legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2010/416 (although you may need to tweak a little to get the correct version)

    Act of Sederunt (Sheriff Court Rules) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) 2010 No 416

  6. Vincent McGovern says:

    Well well, how the vested interests protect themselves. I’ve been a McKenzie for over eight years, and I charge £15ph, cash in hand. I will continue doing so irrespective of self interest protectionism. Several others do the same. In an industry of universal deceit I cannot pretend to feel guilt for my earnings. And hopefully via my work with MPs I will manage to obtain better outcomes for children with far less legal eagles profiteering from their misery. Work in progress, but happily a target rich environment.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Vincent
      You charge £15 per hour for what exactly? If you want involvement in the legal process why don’t you qualify?
      Regards
      Marilyn

      • Alan Finlayson says:

        Dear Marylin

        A very good point. Also, from the perspective posted by Vincent, non-chargeable lay representation rules came into force on 1 January 2011 which is less that 6 years ago, so I cannot understand how a ‘Mackenzie Friend’ could have been operating for over 8 years.

  7. Vincent McGovern says:

    I assure you Marilyn I never wish to qualify as a lawyer. However I respect you for allowing me to post comments in response to your blog. As regards to what I charge LIP’s £15ph for:
    1. How to deal with false or grossly exaggerated allegations.
    2. How to deal with exparte non molestation orders.
    3. How to respond to and fill in C100.C1.C2,C79 applications and the process thereafter.
    4. Preparation of bundles, assistance with reading and writing statements, skeleton arguments, position statements, court ordered statements, Scott Schedule, court procedure Practice Directions.
    5. Helping parents respond to Solicitors abusing their legal knowledge.
    6. Preparation for FHDRA, DRA, FOF, Final hearings Enforcement Proceedings.
    7. Assistance in Court on all of the above.
    8. Assisting in interpreting S7 statements S47, S37 and appropriate responses.
    9. The bit I really enjoy, taking apart useless Guardians, Social Workers, Expert Witnesses on the stand where appropriate.
    10. Keeping LIP,s focused on their children and not falling into the many traps set for them by rogue Solicitors/Barristers harassing them before Court proper.

    Not all lawyers in family courts are rogue, just a depressingly high percentage. Sometimes I have felt touched by evil when in their presence. I sometimes have rights of advocacy but usually prefer to not. Ultimately I realise they are just taking advantage of a very sick situation. And I McK for mums also who are NRP because of sharp practice by an occasional scheming dad. The higher up the food chain the better is the legal practice behaviour. As in most situations. I avoid divorce proceedings and Ancillary proceedings if possible.

    Be good enough please Marilyn to respond to my answer to your question.

    Regards

    Vincent McGovern.

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