Any litigant to an English civil or family law matter can call upon the assistance of a non-practising professional party known as a ‘McKenzie Friend’.
First coined in McKenzie v McKenzie, the phrase describes a competent person providing guidance in a court when their help can help with the flow 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
While 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.
With regard 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.
This means that in the majority of civil and family related matters, a litigant is not necessarily subjected to the automatic expense of a solicitor, nor the additional (and much higher) cost of a barrister, particularly when McKenzie Friend advocation is acceptable to the court.
All of this is wonderful news for those unable to pay a solicitor to enforce their civil or familial rights, and also why BLACK LETTER LAW® can provide affordable McKenzie Friend support exactly when you need it.