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MacKenzie Friend or Foe

(44 Posts)
babybarrister Thu 28-Mar-13 10:20:59

blog.raydensolicitors.co.uk/practical-tips/mckenzie-friend-or-foe/?goback=%2Egna_2964143

Now that there is no legal aid, please stop and think very carefully before paying for any "services" of a McKenzie Friend. They are not qualified lawyers although there are a few struck off lawyers charging for their services as MF hmm. Some may be very useful in preparing bundles and giving basic advice but please bear in mind that they are not fully trained, probably not insured and are certainly not regulated in any shape or form.

The rules on McKenzie Friends in family proceedings are such that paid MFs are generally NOT allowed to be advocates - only qualified lawyers are allowed under the Courts and Legal Services Act to charge for advocacy.

You can nnow go directly to a barrister in family matters and may find that a junior barrister will work out a lot cheaper as whilst their hourly rate may be more [though not that much more], they will need to do many fewer hours ...They will of course be properly trained and subject to quality checks ....

Be warned

lostdad Fri 05-Apr-13 11:37:45

ladymuckbeth some McKenzies do, some don't. The ones that do work in different ways. There are ones who charge fixed fees for hearings (I've never known a 30 minute hearing to start on time or actually last 30 minutes) although charging a fixed fee for a case is a problem as you never know how many hearings it will take till the case is closed. In my personal experience fee-charging McKenzie Friends cost around a quarter what a solicitor would.

Most are more than happy to give free advice, help draft letters, etc. but charge for helping prepare court paper work and attending hearings.

As a general rule though, the more work the LIP does the cheaper it is. A lot of it isn't rocket science and certainly low-end solicitors are nothing more than expensive letter writers you can do without.

My personal case is a good illustration. A long five year case that took 15 hearings to get to a final (well...the second final hearing) cost me around £5,000. I estimate my son's mother's costs were around £20,000. I did all of the paperwork myself (with the assistance of a few McKenzie Friends). My son is now with me 40% of the time and all was agreed by consent - even in the face of my ex refusing to agree to anything more than a contact centre initially.

I can't recommend this course of action more. As it was my case I knew it inside out and also had the motivation to do everything I could to achieve what I sought. My McKenzie Friends told me when I was acting unreasonable, told me when I was barking up the wrong tree and held my hand when I needed it - they were available pretty much 24/7 when I needed them too.

I could not afford solictor or MF so had to represent myself and tbh not as bad as I thought it could be and yet xh solictor charged loads for load of paper shuffling and was pretty shit say the least .

So you say MF no good well can tell you not all solicitors are good either .

Oh and I won smile his solictor lost case adding in get got told of by that judge to

Money no gurantee

McKenzie13 Fri 05-Apr-13 18:16:32

Ladymuckbeth: All cases have the capacity to be "complicated" so, whilst I don't know the details of your case, I doubt that a solicitor would not take it on for that reason.

There are various McKenzie Friends. Some charge. Some don't. Some operate a fixed fee and/or an hourly rate.

I agree with some of Babybarristers concerns. The drop in legal aid has certainly prompted a wide arrray of people putting themselves forward as a McKenzie Friend.

A McKenzie Friend has to put forward a CV to the court on relevant experience. Like with any service you use I would always ask to see a CV, request if they have insurance and ask for references.

A McKenzie Friend isn't a lawyer and nor should they pretend to be. Many McKenzie Friends do have a legal background and therefore are a great asset to the Litigant in Person, helping case manage; drafting documents and attending court but they are also there for support. As McKenzie Friend don't have automatic Rights of Audience it's important for their role to be a more varied one. It is a role that offers support; availibility for their clients out of usual office hours and the ability to respond quickly and efficiently both in their case and on a practical level.

I have worked in litigation for over 15years myself and I choose to be a McKenzie Friend. I find the role immensley rewarding.

babybarrister Fri 05-Apr-13 23:14:59

Let's be honest about the level of knowledge of MFs of the law and procedure though .... One of the larger commercial MF firms offers a 4 day training course hmmconfused
I studied for 2 years plus a further year of apprenticeship envy
The real difficulty is that the way the MF websites present themselves to the public makes it very difficult for an uninformed person to realise that they are not legally trained and they should ask whether they are insured and for a CV etc

People on this thread may understand only too well the differences. I suspect most of the public do not

lostdad Sun 07-Apr-13 16:05:15

`One of the larger commercial MF firms offers a 4 day training course'

I assume you're not basing your view on all MF's on this are you?

I once met a barrister who told me about a `father's rights to see a child' but couldn't get out of the door fast enough when I asked him which section of the Children Act that was in.

The real difficulty with using `legal professionals' is the sometimes often unfounded belief that their training and qualifications will help your case as opposed to costing you tens of thousands of pounds.

I'm guessing that the uninformed people who use them don't know what the insurance you're referring to is for either...protecting themselves against being sued by clients for incompetence, having costs awarded against them, etc.

Costs are very rarely awarded in Family Law too although I have noticed an increase in threats just recently - although I imagine that's a result of the changed to legal aid, with lawyers trying to recoup funds for clients who would have formerly been eligible for it.

And I repeat: All the McKenzies I know have insurance.

babybarrister Sun 07-Apr-13 19:18:07

And I repeat - NONE of the MFs I have encountered will openly state that they are being paid ( which I strongly suspect was untrue) and therefore it would be very unlikely they were insured ..
Are you in favour of regulation?

Xenia Sun 07-Apr-13 19:45:24

I think any competition tends to be good for people. There are loads of areas you can set up without any qualifications eg counsellor, therapist, tutor etc etc. Only certainly words are legally restricted - eg solicitor, barrister, nurse etc when you have to have the exams although what is said above about who is allowed to represent who in court is correct.

In most family law matters it is much much better to resolve things without going to court. In a sense you've failed if you have to end up in court and on contact disputes there are so few penalties if people disobey an order you might win in court but still not see the child. Psychology is as important as law and compromise is usually the better course.

There are lots of people who do better for using solicitors or barrister in their family disputes but it needs to be proportionate. If the sum in dispute is £50k which is not unusual in divorces that is a fairly small amount compared to the costs of going to court. Conversely if the sum in dispute is many many times more than the legal costs might be it can be worth spending money on good lawyers.

babybarrister Sun 07-Apr-13 20:23:53

Totally agree re being commercial in relation to disputes about finances - people's feelings come into
Play though re children ..
I have no objection to regulated and insured MFs who are upfront about their qualifications. Reality is generally very different ....

lostdad Sun 07-Apr-13 20:48:48

babybarrister - seems a strange thing to ask a MF at a Family Court hearing. Would be interested to hear how you feel asking that question at a has any relevance. confused

Seems as relevant as a party to hearings asking if you are free charging or working pro bono!

As you'll know from Practice Guidance: McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts) :

27) Litigants can enter into lawful agreements to pay fees to MFs for the provision of reasonable assistance in court or out of court fees to MFs for the provision of by, for instance, carrying out clerical or mechanical activities, such as photocopying docu ments, preparing bundles, elivering documents to opposing parties or the court, or the provision of legal
advice in connection with court proceedings. Such fees to MFs for the provision of Fees cannot be lawfully recovered from the opposing party.

http://www.familylaw.co.uk/system/uploads/attachments/0000/8125/McKenzie_Friends_Practice_Guidance_July_2010.pdf

lostdad Sun 07-Apr-13 20:54:54

...and as for qualification we provide a CV as per Practice Guidance too (which you'll also know!)

6) A litigant who wishes to exercise this right should inform the judge as soon as possible indicating who the MF will be. The proposed MF should produce a short curriculum vitae or other statement setting out relevant experience, confirming that he or she has no interest in the case and understands the MF’s role and the duty of confidentiality.

www.familylaw.co.uk/system/uploads/attachments/0000/8125/McKenzie_Friends_Practice_Guidance_July_2010.pdf

babybarrister Sun 07-Apr-13 21:47:47

Don't be provocative - you know perfectly well that it directly affects whether a judge would grant rights of audience so of course it is relevant as you would know better than anyone ....

As FPR the issue of whether I am acting pro Bono - of course I would answer that as it would be relevant to any issue as to costs

babybarrister Sun 07-Apr-13 21:48:49

Again re CVs - what MFs should do and what they do do are two entirely different matters and in the real world they get away with it all the time ...

3xcookedchips Mon 08-Apr-13 00:04:11

BB and Coll you have both attacked the quality of MFs and questioned if they should be allowed anywhere near family law cases and felt the need to justify your professional charges.

1) i don't believe anyone as has asked either of you to justify your fees. Its only been stated that using the services of a solicitor and or a barrister is expensive. That is fact.

2) You choose to ignore there is poor service solicitors out there also. How much more do they cost in wasted time and outcomes.

3) You are not able to propose what alternative an LIP has when faced with going in to court alone or with an MF?

lostdad Mon 08-Apr-13 10:29:58

babybarrister - `you know perfectly well that it directly affects whether a judge would grant rights of audience'

The only link in the practice directions between remuneration for a McKenzie Friend and their being granted rights of audience are in paragraph 30 and that states that fees are recoverable `in principle'.

If it's an important enough question to require an answer it would best raised before a judge for the court's consideration.

If it's not, it's not relevant.

And as for what MFs do and what they shouldn't do...I think we'd both agree that applies to lawyers too.

lostdad Mon 08-Apr-13 10:32:35

My CV is always presented to the court complete with case law relevant to the use of McKenzie Friends. On the rare occasions I have been examined on it the court has been satisfied by my responses.

ladymuckbeth Mon 08-Apr-13 11:51:41

Asking the lawyers here - how do you think things are going to change now that LA is almost no more? Do you think lawyers will ever bring their prices down?

Surely something's going to have to change radically - either McKenzie Friends becoming far more prominent (with more regulation?) or lawyers adapting somehow to help people who can't afford the fees.

As I said earlier in the thread, my lawyer's firm have just started offering 'fixed fee' structures, but already mine has said she's not prepared to offer me that, because my case is too complex/involved. McKenzie13 - so you see, it's not that she's refusing my case, just refusing to charge me on a FF basis. And I can understand that - I don't really see that fixed fees change much if inherently they're being costed at the lawyers usual rate and assuming next to no divergence from a set expected course of procedures.

But unless lawyers become cheaper, surely more people will be looking to see what they can get by paying eg. £50 per hour.

Xenia Mon 08-Apr-13 12:47:36

What has happened in other areas is that unless you have private means or are so left wing you are happy to live on £10k - £20k a year you move away from areas which are badly paid in law and anything else into areas which are better paid rather than prices reducing. I would certainly recommend people pick work they like but which also pays them reasonably well. I don't fear competition at all and every week I send people off to cheaper or free alternative sources of advice (I am nothing to do with family law but got interested in it on my divorce).

There are schemes where you can borrow the fees - eg say husband is worth £10m and you have nothing and it is pretty clear you might get £2m you could be loaned for the fees until the assets are recovered. Legal aid was always a loan which you paid out of the assets you obtained I think.

I believe most expects that for the lower value cases (i.e. most divorces) people will represent themselves. You can ask people qualified and unqualified to bid for work for you for individual tasks on website sites like peopleperhour. Most people are happy to give a fixed price for a fixed bit of work eg if you know writing a particular letter will take you one hour then you can say a price for that. My ex husband and I did most of the negotiating etc ourselves and we just used lawyers as back up and I paid both side's lawyers as I earn more.

babybarrister Mon 08-Apr-13 14:59:13

Lostdad - I think you are being a little disingenuous. You know perfectly well that at para 23 of the Guidance one of the factors likely to be considered in relation to whether to allow an MF rights of audience is whether they are a 'professional' - whether for reward or otherwise.
Of course complain about fees all the time grin - a good part of our additional costs though goes in regulation and insurance - that is why it is not a level playing field!!!
as I said below, I did write to my MP about the cutting of legal aid ( though I do not do it myself) . I feel strongly that there everyone has the right to be represented by a fully qualified lawyer at v stressful times of separation should they want to be so represented.
I entirely agree that particularly in simple children act disputes, lawyers may not be necessary and what is needed is some straight talking and common sense on both sides ...that may be by mediation or negotiation using friends, MFs etc
Can you please resins to my question as to whether you wish to be regulated?

lostdad Mon 08-Apr-13 15:22:24

I agree with regulation for MFs but strongly believe that if it's on a par with the regulation of lawyers it's meaningless. As I've said before there is very little penalty for any kind of wrongdoing even when it is blatant and proven.

On a personal note I must say that I chose to represent myself not for financial reasons but because I mistrusted a lawyer to properly represent me. While I understand there are good and bad lawyers I was not prepared to take the gamble of getting a good one.

And yes: I have met good solicitors and barristers in court. I've met bad MFs too. And vice versa. wink

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