Demise of Legal Aid sees a rise in professional McKenzie Friends
The demise of Legal Aid has seen a growing industry of "advisers" offering their services to people in the midst of separation and divorce. Traditionally it was possible for a Litigant in Person to be assisted at Court by a McKenzie Friend - often they were friends or family members and no payment was involved.
Recently however a plethora of professional McKenzie Friends are offering their services to people going through family proceedings for a fee. This appears to have led to growing confusion amongst clients who choose this option in as much as they believe that they are receiving advice from a lawyer who simply costs them less whereas the reality may be very different.
The role of the McKenzie Friend is limited - they are not able to present the case - they are there to provide support to the Litigant - in essence they ensure that the Litigant is able to say what they wish to say and to hold their hand.
Judges have become so concerned about these "professional advisers" activities that guidance has recently been published setting out exactly what they can and cannot do in the Court room. What the guidance does not fully address however is the "advice" that may be given in those cases that do not reach the Court room. Clients rely on the advice they receive to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Some of these new advisers are legally trained but many are not - if clients wish to employ the services of a professional McKenzie Friend then they would be well advised to check that this person is a member of the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends. To be a member of this association the McKenzie Friend is required to take out professional indemnity insurance.
Since the beginning of 2015 we have seen a growing number of clients attending mediation who when asked for their solicitor's name have provided the name of one of these professional advisers - there appears to be misunderstanding and confusion in their mind over the service that they are paying for - it is to be hoped that they will not live to regret their decision not to use a solicitor.
For advice that you can rely on please contact Sheridan Ball at Rollits LLP on 01482 337361 or firstname.lastname@example.org who will direct you to the appropriate member of the Family Team to deal with your case. All Members of the Family Team are solicitors and specialists in Family Law.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.