Written by Simon Walland

I first attended court as a McKenzie Friend in 2002 for a friend who asked for my help.  I had experience of the process from my own case the previous year, having successfully fought to gain more contact with my children after divorcing. It was a steep learning curve, but the experience inspired me to become a full time McKenzie Friend. Following this I obtained a Law degree and was called to the Bar in 2010 as a Barrister. My personal, and ample professional experience positions me perfectly to provide support, guidance and training to those who wish to either learn more about becoming a McKenzie Friend, or wishing to represent themselves in court. I run regular online training events and free seminars for those looking to learn more.

What is a McKenzie Friend?

A McKenzie Friend is someone who accompanies ‘litigants in person’ (people representing themselves in court without a solicitor or barrister), to court to provide support and advice. Often it will be someone who has had their own experience of representing themselves in court, so they’ll understand the feelings and worries surrounding self-representation.

A McKenzie Friend can be anyone. They don’t need to have any legal knowledge, or know exactly what they’re doing, but without either of those they can really only act as a source of support, keep you company in court, and perhaps take notes for you to refer back to later.

Some McKenzie friends will be professionally trained, maybe even having a law degree or other law qualification. Whilst it is not a prerequisite, it might feel more reassuring to have one that is professionally trained. McKenzie Friends are permitted to charge a fee to support clients, although this will likely be a lot less than a solicitor would charge to represent someone.

It’s best to try and find someone who has some knowledge and experience of the type of Family Law hearing you’re involved in, who can explain the process, help you prepare, and answer any questions you have.

What to look for when seeking a McKenzie Friend

It’s best to try and find someone who has some knowledge and experience of the type of Family Law hearing you’re involved in, who can explain the process, help you prepare, and answer any questions you have. Consider how and why having this support will benefit you before you go ahead and pay for a McKenzie Friend.

Your McKenzie Friend should be approachable and give you confidence, and they should be able to explain the different ways of dealing with your case so that you can decide how to approach the hearing. They should also make themselves available for discussions and, if they charge for their services, the fees should be cost effective and reasonable.

You should discuss your case in detail before the court hearing so your McKenzie Friend can understand the specific issues and help you to prepare. You should discuss the various outcomes, and they should help guide you towards your preferred outcome.

Your McKenzie Friend should indicate that they have no personal involvement in the case and that they are familiar with the confidentiality rules of family proceedings. They must adhere to a code of conduct and may have appropriate insurance in place.

How they can support you in court

There are rules on what a McKenzie Friend can and can’t do; for example, a McKenzie Friend can’t conduct litigation, that is, run your case on your behalf as a solicitor would. They also cannot exercise a ‘right of audience’, which means they can’t address the judge unless asked to, although this can be overcome by preparing a good Position Statement – you can learn more about Position Statements here on my website.

In court, your McKenzie Friend can assist you by advising you (quietly) on how to respond to questions the Judge may ask, and generally guiding you through the hearing with advice and important points to raise. They can help you to understand what’s going on, and they should be able to spot the right moment for you to speak, when to keep quiet, and when to ask the Judge for the solution you need.

Bear in mind that the outcome you want is specific to you, and you should be clear with your McKenzie Friend that they should offer you options and likely outcomes, but that the final decision is yours; it needs to be an informed decision, but yours alone as you’ll be the person living with it.

Training courses

If you’re thinking about becoming a McKenzie Friend, undertaking appropriate training will give you experience of dealing with clients, preparing a case, and court processes, as well as how to find work and establish yourself.

This is an unregulated industry, but having training will give you more confidence and enable you to stand out when looking for work, and of course enable you to charge a decent fee. You can work as much or as little as you want as a McKenzie Friend.

Everything required is covered in my comprehensive McKenzie Friend training. The training is made up of three detailed modules covering Children’s Cases, Financial Cases and Final Hearings, and you can purchase each module individually. The course is online and self-paced, so you can study whenever you like, with lifetime access to the materials.

Alternatively, if you’re representing yourself in court, my online training on various points of law will help you to prepare, and to confidently self-represent in your Family Law hearing. I’ve put all my knowledge and experience of supporting litigants in person for over 18 years into these training courses.

The training is incredibly cost-effective and covers topics such as Position Statements and Section 7 Reports, dealing with parental alienation and high conflict, preparing your own cross-examination, and representing yourself in Financial Hearings, Fact Finding Hearings, and Children Hearings.

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