Note: Be very careful when choosing a Mckenzie friend. I am a M F. and would never dream of charging money for anything connected to being a M.F. Beware of Associations – there are in existence organisations who will claim to offer help as M. F.’s but really all they do is gather information to use against the subject defendant[s], as has already been found out. Do not trust Associations who have no proper history of helping defendants – these are FAKE organisations and yes, they do exist in the UK!!!
Fee-charging McKenzie Friends
April 2014 Fee-charging McKenzie Friends I 2
1 Executive summary 2
2 Introduction 8
3 An emerging market 11
4 Benefits and risks 17
5 Issues 27
6 Regulatory response 35
7 Recommendations 40
Annex 1 – Volunteer McKenzie Friends 41
Annex 2 – Consumer principles worksheet 43
1 Executive summary
An emerging market
1.1. For approaching 50 years, litigants in person have used McKenzie Friends to provide moral support, take notes, help with case papers, and quietly give advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case. Traditionally, this lay support has been provided on a voluntary basis by a family member or friend, although for some time there have been people who charge a fee for this service. However, there are reports of a rise in fee-charging McKenzie Friends aiming to meet the needs of litigants who are no longer eligible for legal aid funding but cannot afford legal representation.
1.2. Such McKenzie Friends divide opinion. One school of thought is that this lay assistance improves access to justice by providing valuable support for litigants in person who face challenges using a court system which is designed around the needs of lawyers. This help is also seen to benefit other litigants and the courts. However, another view worries that McKenzie Friends may provide poor advice that harms their client and third parties, offer little in the way of consumer protection, prey on the vulnerable and exploit litigants as parrots to promote personal causes.
1.3. Little is known about these McKenzie Friends and their services. The Panel saw there was a need to build a better evidence base on the current situation in order to develop policy that strikes
the right balance between access to justice and consumer protection. We did this by gathering information through a website trawl and interviews with McKenzie Friends, discussions with stakeholders and obtaining case studies to illustrate the benefits and risks to consumers in this market.
A typology of McKenzie Friends
1.4. We have classified McKenzie Friends into four types. This is important as we think the policy response to each should differ, in particular volunteer initiatives present a lower risk profile:
The family member or friend who gives one-off assistance
Volunteer McKenzie Friends attached to an institution/charity
Fee-charging McKenzie Friends offering the conventional limited service understood by this role
Fee-charging McKenzie Friends offering a wider range of services including general legal advice and speaking on behalf of clients in court
1.5. The focus of this report is on the last two categories, although we also draw parallels with voluntary schemes to inform our assessment of risk. These initiatives are variously run by charities, local government, advice agencies and law schools, many using pro bono support from lawyers.