Should you use a solicitor or a McKenzie Friend?

Elle Quinlan

A McKenzie Friend is the name given to a person without any formal legal training, who assists somebody with a Court case.

McKenzie Friends have become more common in recent years, with the demise of legal aid and changes to no win no fee agreements.

However, whilst many unpaid McKenzie Friends can provide useful assistance for people struggling to deal with cases on their own, there is a growing trend for paid McKenzie Friends who are in some cases charging more than junior Barristers and providing a very poor service indeed.

The Bar Council, the representative body for Barristers in England and Wales, commissioned a “study of fee charging McKenzie Friends and their work in private family law cases”. This study found that in the family courts, fee charging McKenzie Friends fall into three main categories, business opportunists, rogues who behave inappropriately and family justice crusaders. 

There have been cases where McKenzie Friends have been criticised in Court for adding fuel to the fire of disputes and last year a paid McKenzie Friend was actually sent to jail after making false statements about a psychologist’s report. That particular McKenzie Friend was found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

Last year, a ban on fee charging McKenzie Friends was proposed after a consultation by HM Judiciary, which also recommended that all McKenzie Friends be required to sign a code of conduct. However, no steps have been taken to regulate this problem, and until paid McKenzie Friends are banned, or they are required to undertake some formal training and sign up to a code of conduct, people who need legal assistance will continue to be taken advantage of by these unqualified practitioners.

At Samuels Solicitors, based in Barnstaple North Devon, we provide expert advice to clients struggling with litigation, as well as assisting clients on a whole range of other types of cases.  Whilst an unpaid McKenzie Friend might provide useful help and support at a difficult time, generally speaking, paying a McKenzie Friend would be a waste of money, and your money would be better instructing a proper lawyer.

We have a range of flexible funding options to assist clients who cannot afford to pay all of our legal fees upfront, and if you have a strong case we will do our very best to find ways to assist you.

Contact us today for a discussion about your case.