This report covers four types of McKenzie Friends:
- one off helpers
- occasional and regular volunteers
- fee-charging ‘amateurs’
- fee-charging ‘professionals’
Struck off lawyers may also turn into McKenzie Friends.
The report aims at balancing between ‘access to justice‘ and ‘consumer protection‘ and makes 15 recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Fee-charging McKenzie Friends should be recognised as a legitimate feature of the evolving legal services market.
Attitudes of judges and lawyers
Recommendation 2: The training courses on litigants in person which the Judicial College has been asked to consider should include content on McKenzie Friends.
Recommendation 3: Guidance notes issued by professional bodies on litigants in person should include content on McKenzie Friends.
Recommendation 4: The Practice Guidance should be reviewed and amended to portray McKenzie Friends in a more positive way.
Recommendation 5: Education and advice directed towards litigants in person should set out the benefits of using a McKenzie Friend as one form of support available to them.
Recommendation 6: A white label consumer guide on McKenzie Friends should be produced, with the assistance of Law for Life, for use by the advice sector.
Recommendation 7: More details of judgements, which highlight where the rights of McKenzie Friends who have behaved improperly have been restricted by the use of Civil Restraint Orders, should be routinely published on www.Gov.uk.
Litigation: a grey area?
Recommendation 8: The Legal Services Board should review case law on the definition of the conduct of litigation and publish a document which seeks to clarify its meaning. Depending on the findings of this research, the Board should consider recommending to the Law Commission that the law in this area be reviewed.
Recommendation 9: The Legal Services Board should consider the findings of this report as part of its ongoing work on simplifying legal services regulation.
Rights of audience
Recommendation 10: An automatic right of audience should not be granted to McKenzie Friends.
Recommendation 11: The Practice Guidance should be updated to take account of recent case law. In an ideal world, the Panel would like judges to have a wide discretion to grant a right of audience when this would be in the interests of justice.
Recommendation 12: There should be consistent use of CVs, notices or other simple tools that can help assess the credentials of McKenzie Friends when considering applications for a right of audience to be granted.
Recommendation 13: External regulation of McKenzie Friends should not be introduced.
Recommendation 14: Fee-charging McKenzie Friends should form a recognised trade association.
Recommendation 15: The Civil Justice Council’s draft code of practice should be updated to include measures targeted at the unfair commercial practices described in this report.
Our preferred approach
All in all, the panel that put the report together has clearly no experience with
- fraudulent bankruptcies and home repossessions that gave rise to publishing Victims Unite
- child snatching as the most heinous of all white collar crimes with the least reliable of lawyers, barristers and judges in secret family courts
- what’s dishonest with our money system as the ultimate root of all evil.
But it does recognise
Fee-charging McKenzie Friends is just one example of the flaws in the current system becoming exposed in harsher focus, as the market adapts to the legal aid and competition reforms … in order to further the interests of consumers.
In may naive assumption I imagine consumers to expect:
- fair trials and compensation, i.e. access to justice and compliance with the law;
- public authorities to deliver public services, i.e. paid for by the tax payer, not from ‘cost orders’;
- public servants to operate in the public interest, i.e. applying to common sense, decency, fairness and justice…