Hired Help: The Rise and Risks of the MacKenzie FriendSeptember 06, 2017
If you are going to court over children or financial matters but can’t afford a solicitor, you may be tempted to use a MacKenzie Friend.
What is a MacKenzie Friend?
MacKenzie Friends are people who offer assistance to litigants in person in court proceedings. It could be a friend offering their support and assistance or a professional MacKenzie Friend who charges for their services.
The use of Mackenzie Friends has been on the rise since the removal of Legal Aid for many types of family matters in 2013.
Are they legally qualified?
MacKenzie friends do not have to have any legal qualifications and are not regulated in any way.
What can they do?
MacKenzie Friends were initially limited to:
- Provide moral support
- Take notes
- Help with court papers
- Quietly advise on any aspect of the conduct of the case
Their role has since been extended over the years to include:
- Ancillary tasks outside court connected to the proceedings
- Speaking on behalf of the client in Court
What kind of people choose to be a MacKenzie Friend?
Research* suggests that people who choose to be a MacKenzie Friend generally fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Business opportunist
- Redirected specialist
- Good Samaritan
- Family Justice Crusader
What are the risks of using a MacKenzie Friend?
Using a friend for moral or organisational support is fine but the rise of the professional (paid) Mackenzie Friend raises a number of concerns:
- Risk of poor advice
- Lack of regulatory protection
- Threat to the administration of justice through, for example, their inexperience, lack of knowledge, obstructive behaviour
- Risk of them having their own personal agenda
Whilst it may be tempting to employ the services of a MacKenzie Friend, it is no substitute for expert legal advice which is properly regulated to ensure you are protected against negligent or incorrect advice.
* ‘A Study of Fee-Charging MacKenzie Friends and their work in Private Law Family Cases’ by Leanne Smith, Emma Hutchings and Mark Sefton, June 2017