The Legal Services Consumer panel is to focus its attention on the emerging market of McKenzie Friends who are charging for their services.
A McKenzie Friend assists a litigant in person in Court proceedings, however this person does not need to be legally qualified. Changes in Legal Aid have resulted in many individuals having to pay for legal representation where previously they would not have had to.
A McKenzie Friend is likely to be a cheaper alternative than representation by a Solicitor or Barrister however crucially, unlike Solicitors and Barristers, they are not legally qualified and neither are they covered by professional indemnity insurance.
In 2010 Sir Nicholas Wall and Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, in their respective roles as President of the Family Division and Master of the Rolls, issued practice guidance on the use of McKenzie Friends within Court proceedings. Despite this however, concerns have arisen that some McKenzie Friends may provide poor advice, offer little in the way of consumer protection, prey on the vulnerable and promote their own views.
The counter-argument is that they offer help to litigants in person and some are very competent and behave in an ethical manner. The Legal Services Consumer Panel's starting point is to recognise that fee-charging McKenzie Friends are a feature of the current legal system and the lack of knowledge in this area needs to be addressed.
Over the next few months the situation will be reviewed in order to ascertain the current picture.
At Slater and Gordon Lawyers we offer both flexible pricing and fixed fees for all our family law and divorce services. This ensures that our clients can keep their legal fees proportionate and affordable.
For a free initial consultation call Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online.