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An Introduction to McKenzie Friends

An Introduction to McKenzie Friends

An introduction to the role of the McKenzie Friend

When you attend Court as a Litigant in Person (LIP) you may bring with you if you wish a lay advisor to support and assist you.  Such a person is referred to as a ‘litigation friend’ or McKenzie Friend.

This will be someone who is probably not a professional solicitor or barrister, but who nevertheless has some knowledge of family law and court proceedings.  McKenzie Friends are commonly associated with fathers acting as litigants in person but they will also act for mothers.  You can take anyone you like to court with you (with some exceptions we shall look at), but you are advised to find someone who has acted as a McKenzie before and has a successful track record.

A McKenzie Friend may:

· Provide you with moral support;

· Take notes;

· Help you to organise your documents; and

· Quietly make suggestions – for example, as to questions to put to a witness.

A McKenzie Friend is NOT a legal representative in the same way that a solicitor is.  The Legal Services Act prevents them from representing clients; they can advise, but they cannot act.  This is not a minor point: it is established in statute law and cannot be changed without a change in the law.

The name derives from the divorce litigation in 1970 between Mr and Mrs McKenzie, and in particular to Mr McKenzie’s appeal to the Court of Appeal (McKenzie v McKenzie [1970] 3 WLR 472 CA).  The original McKenzie friend was Ian Hanger, a newly-qualified Australian barrister then working a gap year in London, and subsequently a highly respected QC.

One may cite in support of the practice the statement of Lord Tenterden CJ in Collier v Hicks [1831] 2 B & Ad 663 that,

Any person, whether he be a professional man or not, may attend as a friend of either party, may take notes, may quietly make suggestions, and give advice.

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