McKenzie Friend

A Helping Hand

Any litigant to an English civil or family law matter may call upon the assistance of an unqualified yet professional party known as a ‘McKenzie Friend’.

First coined in McKenzie v McKenzie, the term is used to describe a lay or competent person able to provide guidance within a court setting where their presence is required for the expedience of justice.

In most instances, the McKenzie Friend is able to appear before any magistrate court, county court, High Court of Justice and Court of Appeal (Civil Division).

A McKenzie Friend is lawfully permitted to:

Provide moral support 

Take notes

Assist with case papers

Quietly advise on any aspect of the conduct of a case

However in some circumstances, the litigant in person may ask the court to allow the McKenzie Friend a ‘right to audience’ when:

The McKenzie Friend is a close relative of the litigant

The litigant is suffering from health problems preventing them from addressing the court or conducting litigation and is unable to retain a qualified lawyer due to financial difficulties

Although the courts typically refrain from granting audience rights on a case-by-case basis, s.1(2)(b) of Sch.3 of the Legal Services Act 2007 states that such a person is exempt from refusal where the court has granted a right of audience in relation to the proceedings attended.

In relation to payment, s.27 of the McKenzie Friend Practice Note 2010 also reads that:

“Litigants can enter into lawful agreements to pay fees to McKenzie Friends for the provision of reasonable assistance in court or out of court by, for instance, carrying out clerical or mechanical activities, such as photocopying documents, preparing bundles, delivering documents to opposing parties or the court, or the provision of legal advice in connection with court proceedings.”

While recovery of costs from the opposing party are not typically recoverable where a case is successful and where an audience before the court has been granted, those costs can be recovered under Rule 48.6(2)(3)(a)(ii) of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Hence, in the majority of civil and family related suits a litigant is not necessarily subjected to the automatic expense of lawyer retention, nor the additional (and much higher) cost of a barrister where advocation through a McKenzie Friend is acceptable to the court and invaluable to the expedience of hearing time and the natural flow of justice.

While this is great news for those who cannot afford to pay a solicitor to enforce their civil or familial rights in an English court of law, BLACK LETTER LAW is happy to provide affordable McKenzie Friend support if you need it, so if this applies to you then contact us today for a free consultation with your success in mind.

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