It has been announced that the Legal Services Consumer Panel is to conduct research into McKenzie Friends, who assist people in running their cases, and in particular, those which charge for the service.
Over the last few years, the number of McKenzie Friends has increased significantly. There are no qualifications needed to act as a McKenzie Friend and no form of vetting or regulation. Whilst some offer an extremely useful service, there have been increasing concerns that some use the role as a way of furthering their own agendas, and can sometimes worsen a client’s situation, rather than help them. The investigation aims to research the market and look at the quality of service offered by those who charge for acting as a McKenzie Friend, to establish to what extent they offer value for money and genuine assistance.
Whilst McKenzie friends can be a very useful aid for people who cannot afford full court representation, it is important that people do their research and make sure that they are using someone who is offering the service for the right reasons. It is also important to remember that few McKenzie friends have formal legal training or legal qualifications and that whilst they can be of great assistance in procedural matters, they cannot always give detailed advice as to the legal position, or the best tactics in the case. In cases where there are legal complexities, it is always advisable to seek specialist advice in addition to utilising a McKenzie friend. Part of the investigation aims to ensure that people using McKenzie friends understand the parameters of their role and are not paying for something over and above what the McKenzie friend can offer.
Anyone needing legal advice and/or representation is advised to thoroughly research their options and consider what will work best for them. Slater & Gordon offer Fixed Fee services as well as “pay as you go” options, whereby clients obtain advice on discrete points, rather than being represented throughout, and such services can often work well and in conjunction with free advice services, or assistance from McKenzie Friends. Above all it is important that people understand the role and experience of whomever they instruct to help them, so they know they are getting the best possible value for money.
By Family Law Solicitor Cara Nuttall
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