Partner Julian Bremner was recently featured on the BBC Inside Out programme which discussed the pros and cons of hiring a professional McKenzie friend to help litigants in person at court. Julian pointed out that McKenzie Friends have no legal training and are not regulated by the Law Society. They offer to assist parties with their litigation but often at a fee. He said that “It is quite dangerous to leave major life decisions about your children or financial matters to someone who has no legal experience or knowledge.”
“Whilst some McKenzie Friends may be helpful, it is my experience that most are not. McKenzie Friends often make a bad situation worse as their lack of training and expertise in the law mean they take poor points and aggravate matters, rather than facilitate dialogue and settlement.”
Litigants in person who do not have the benefit of legal representation are entitled to have assistance at court. There are rules about McKenzie Friends, generally they are not permitted to speak in court or ask questions or speak to witnesses. They can provide moral support, take notes or offer general help with a case. The demise of the legal aid has fuelled a new industry of unregulated paid McKenzie Friends.
If you missed the programme click here to see the programme. (Julian’s section is after the first 13 mins 9 seconds of the programme, if you would like to fast forward to this section).