Going to court can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people. Without any legal knowhow, this task is an uphill battle unless you hire a lawyer. However, they can sometimes be quite expensive. Occasionally, the only option might be to represent yourself in court.
A McKenzie Friend is someone who helps or assists if you are acting without legal representation in a common-law court; usually voluntarily by a family member or friend. Although, for some time now, there have been people who charge a fee for this service.
In recent time, a growing number of McKenzie Friends have been charging a fee to match the ever-increasing number of litigants who are no longer eligible for legal aid.
McKenzie Friends can be classified in the following categories:
- A family member or friend who gives one-off assistance
- A volunteer McKenzie Friends attached to a charity,
- Fee-charging McKenzie Friends offering wide-ranging service including general legal advice and speaking on your behalf in court.
This can make representing yourself in court more manageable and can help with most aspects of law at a fraction of the cost of a solicitor.
On the other hand, rather than improve access to justice by providing valuable support for litigants, some McKenzie Friends provide poor advice that harms their client and third parties. Other times, they offer little in the way of consumer protection and exploit the vulnerable at the expense of their gain.
Benefits of having a McKenzie Friend by your side in court
Firstly, let’s take a look at the benefits of having a McKenzie Friends by your side in a court proceeding.
- Improve access to justice enabling greater equality; mainly when a lawyer represents the other side. Very often, litigants find themselves with a choice of either being entirely unsupported or having a McKenzie Friend by their side at a time of high emotional stress in unfamiliar territory.
- Court cases tend to progress more smoothly when a McKenzie Friend is assisting a litigant as quite often the former will support the latter in separating emotions from facts. Thus, enabling cases to progress more smoothly in the interest of both parties.
- McKenzie Friends provide competition to lawyers to even the type of client who can afford one. The litigant may want better control over a case and feels lawyers are too busy to provide the emotional support they desire.
- In some instances, the litigants are too scared to defend themselves. In rare cases, they are allowed to talk on behalf of the litigant. They can speak in court on your behalf if they have permission from the judge – called the right of audience.
- If a McKenzie Friend is a member of a professional institution, they must follow a code of conduct and have professional indemnity insurance.
The downside of having a McKenzie Friend
Below are a few reasons why you should stay clear of McKenzie Friends.
- The real worry that the provision of services provided is entirely unregulated. They can offer a piece of poor advice that can harm your case. Imperfect information can lead to a litigant losing a perfectly good suit. There is a significant risk a McKenzie Friend may not be aware of your rights and cost you dearly by getting the law wrong.
- Some McKenzie Friends are agenda-driven, where they deliberately set out to be disruptive or pursue a cause without your consent.
- Sometimes, McKenzie Friends exaggerate the assistance they can provide. They overstep their boundaries by, say, conducting litigation as an unauthorised and non-exempt person – committing a crime along the way.
- McKenzie Friends will get entrusted with sensitive information; especially in family court hearings; where the nature of the case is heard in private. On occasions, there can be a breach of privacy where your details are inadvertently disclosed on social media.
- There are evident cases where the litigants have paid upfront; while the services promised are not being delivered. Others exceed the initial estimate provided before taking the case.
- Unlike lawyers, McKenzie Friends are unregulated; which means; they don’t have to follow a code of conduct. Most don’t have insurance to cover claims if anything goes wrong. This means no rules are declared how they must behave, and you have no refuge if their advice is incorrect.
McKenzie Friends can be a helpful moral support to litigants. However, you often get what you pay for. Therefore, while your McKenzie Friend may offer you guidance, it is essential to remember that it is your case and your opportunity to present your side of the dispute. The McKenzie Friend is there to assist you.
The best recommendation is to get professional advice from a qualified law expert. Visit Qredible.co.uk.
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