Your McKenzie Friend

Your McKenzie Friend
‘A Helping Hand’ by William Beckwith McInnes

As was first established in McKenzie v McKenzie, a litigant to an English civil or family law matter may, where needed, rely upon the assistance of an unqualified and yet professional party under the guise of a ‘McKenzie Friend’, which is itself a label to describe a lay or competent person able to provide guidance within a court setting where such presence is contributory to the expedience of justice.

In most instances, the McKenzie Friend is able to appear before the magistrates courts, county courts, High Court of Justice and Court of Appeal (Civil Division), which demonstrates a very inclusive stance to legal support by those capable of offering it.

Typically speaking, a McKenzie Friend is lawfully permitted to:

  1. Provide moral support 
  2. Take notes
  3. Assist with case papers
  4. Quietly advise on any aspect of the conduct of a case

However where circumstances dictate, the litigant in person may appeal to the court so as to allow the McKenzie Friend a right to audience, and where such instances may demonstrate that:

  1. The McKenzie Friend is a close relative of the litigant
  2. The litigant is suffering from health problems which prevent the litigant from addressing the court or conducting litigation, and is unable to retain a qualified lawyer due to financial difficulties

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

While in relation to payment, s.27 of the McKenzie Friend Practice Note 2010 further 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.”

And 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.

Thus it would appear that 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 deemed acceptable to the court, and thereby invaluable to the expedience of judicial time and the natural flow of justice.

This is again fantastic news for those in need of strong legal counsel and vital court support, but who simply cannot even begin to consider the high cost of instructing a qualified (solicitor/lawyer/attorney) when looking to fight for their civil or familial rights, or just uphold their claims in an English court of law.

In closing, this page would serve only as a reminder to anyone reading that I am now offering my services as a law consultant and legal adviser, and would naturally relish any opportunity to extend my support through the moniker of a ‘McKenzie Friend’. 

And so should you find yourself in need of my assistance, please get in touch using the web form below, or simply email me at contact@theblackletter.co.uk where we can then begin a swift discourse to explore to what extent my help is needed, and when.