Going to court can be a stressful experience. It can be made easier by using a regulated lawyer such as a solicitor. But not everyone can hire a lawyer. Sometimes, the only option might be to represent yourself in court.
If you represent yourself, having someone who can encourage and help you in court can make a big difference. People who offer this sort of support are known as McKenzie Friends.
There are different types of McKenzie Friends, including:
- family members, or friends, who provide moral support in court and do not charge a fee
- voluntary helpers attached to institutions or charities, who generally do not charge for their help
- fee-charging McKenzie Friends, who offer support with court proceedings.
What can a McKenzie Friend do?
McKenzie Friends can help with court proceedings by:
- providing moral support
- taking notes
- helping with case papers
- quietly giving advice.
McKenzie Friends cannot:
- speak in court (i.e. question witnesses or talk to the judge)
- manage cases outside court
- act as an agent.
Very rarely, a McKenzie Friend may be allowed to speak in court if they have permission from the judge—this is called right of audience.
Are McKenzie Friends regulated?
The activities of McKenzie Friends are not controlled. Anyone can call themselves a McKenzie Friend. Some McKenzie Friends have professional qualifications in law or in other subjects. Others do not.
Some fee-charging McKenzie Friends are members of a professional institution. For example, the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends was set up as a voluntary self-regulatory body to help protect consumers and courts. Its members must be insured, have qualifications and comply with court rules and good practice.
There is also the McKenzie Friend Organisation, its members have agreed to follow the Practice Direction for McKenzie Friends and the Organisation has its own formal complaints procedure.
How are you protected if you use a McKenzie Friend?
If you pay for the services of a McKenzie Friend, you should be treated fairly and get a good level of service under the Consumer Rights Act 2015
If you use legal services provided by a McKenzie Friend, and things go wrong, you will not have the same protections that you would if you had used a regulated firm. See our legal options page to learn more.
If a McKenzie Friend is a member of the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends, they must follow a code of conduct and have professional indemnity insurance. This gives you at least some protection if they fail to meet the Society's standards.
A McKenzie Friend could explain their terms and conditions to you and be insured. However, most don't have insurance to cover claims if anything goes wrong. And they don't have to follow a code of conduct. This means there are no rules stating how they must behave.
Top tip: Before agreeing to use a McKenzie Friend, always ask them what protections will be available to you. Check if they are insured, follow a code of conduct or belong to a membership body. You can find this information from the McKenzie Friend’s website or by asking them. Find out from the membership body directly what they can do if anything goes wrong.
What can I do if I have a complaint about my McKenzie Friend?
If you aren't happy with the way things are going with your McKenzie Friend, don't be afraid to speak up. Contact your McKenzie Friend to tell them what's gone wrong, and ask them to put things right. If you are paying your McKenzie Friend, you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
If your McKenzie Friend is a member of the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends, and if you feel he or she has not met the service standards expected of the Society's members, then the membership body could investigate your complaint. If you're still unhappy, the membership body may pass on your complaint to an external adjudicator.
How should I pay for a McKenzie Friend?
McKenzie Friends may offer their service for free—for example, support from family, friends or volunteer McKenzie Friends attached to charities. Other McKenzie Friends charge fees—their rates vary.
Top Tip: Before using a McKenzie Friend, ask them to tell you what work they will do for you and to fully explain what the costs will be or how they will be worked out.
Where can I find a McKenzie Friend?
- If you know someone who has knowledge of the court process or is willing to offer moral support, you could ask them to be your McKenzie Friend.
- You could ask someone you know to recommend a McKenzie Friend they have used.
- Contact charities who may have voluntary helpers willing to act as McKenzie Friends (e.g. the Personal Support Unit).
- Search the directory of self-regulated McKenzie Friends.
- Search for businesses offering McKenzie Friend services.