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McKenzie Friends: as good as lawyers?

Jan 7, 2019, 08:45 AM
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A caution over unqualified legal advice, by Rebecca Ranson, a solicitor at Maguire Family Law.

Last week, The Law Society Gazette published an article regarding a former police chief inspector who has taken on the task of convincing people across the UK to “self-litigate” and use McKenzie Friends rather than lawyers to conduct their family law proceedings.

Philip Kedge will be launching his ‘Blue Light McKenzie Friends’ website at the end of the month. It is reported that he has recruited around 100 former police officers who will ‘help’ litigants in person to navigate their way through the court process.

Concerningly, Mr Kedge has also been reported as stating that ‘you don’t need lawyers in a family court’ and ‘the legal system in family law is no more than human disagreement – there are no legal questions’. Clearly, almost every family lawyer in the country would disagree with this.

 

Family law is based on statutes, legal provisions and case law as with any other area of law. These are not always written in a way which is easy to understand and interpret. Coupled with this, many of our clients are struggling emotionally with the impact of their proceedings and this can affect their ability to look at maters objectively. We deal with every day people whose assets will inevitably deplete as a result of their relationship breakdown and we understand the pressure that this can cause in terms of paying legal fees.

Expert, well timed, practical, qualified legal advice can help clients to save money in the long term.

That is not what you can expect from a McKenzie Friend. McKenzie Friends are not legally trained, nor do they have to have any legal background whatsoever. Mr Kedge’s ‘bright’ idea of Blue Light McKenzie Friends shows just that. Police officers do not deal with family law and would have no experience of this unless they have gone through the proceedings themselves. Being a police officer does not mean that you are automatically an expert in all other areas of law, just like we family lawyers would not be experts in medical negligence.

You should be very cautious when using McKenzie Friends, as ultimately they are charging you £60 – £100 per hour for their time, not their skills or advice. One website describes their McKenzie Friends as ‘experts in child custody’ and as ‘professional established Mckenzie friend lay lawyer’. There is no such thing as a lay lawyer, and equally, there is no such thing as ‘child custody’ in English law.

There are important differences between family law solicitors and McKenzie Friends:

Family Law Solicitors


McKenzie Friends

Highly-qualified and well experienced in family law matters.

No qualifications of any sort required.

Can provide legal advice and guidance with an in-depth knowledge of their field.

Cannot give legal advice due to lack of training and knowledge of the relevant legislation.

Can prepare court documents for you and advise you on what to include, and the impact of your responses on your overall case.

Can prepare court documents for you but cannot advise you on what to include or the relevance of your responses.

On-going requirement to update skills and knowledge.

No requirement to train.

Strictly regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority and the Legal Ombudsman.

Unregulated.

Required by the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority to hold a valid practising certificate and be insured by their firm.

No requirement to notify any regulatory authority nor be insured.

Entitled to be heard by judges and magistrates in Tribunals, Coroners Courts, Magistrates Courts, County Courts, the Family Court and European Courts.

No entitlement to be heard in any court. Must request to enter the courtroom with the client on the day of the hearing.

 

Rebecca Ranson studied Law at Sheffield Hallam University and went on to complete her Legal Practice Course at BPP University in Manchester whilst undergoing her training contract. Rebecca is currently finishing her Master’s Degree in Legal Practice by distance learning.

Rebecca qualified as a solicitor in September 2018, having trained at a Cheshire firm. During her training, Rebecca predominantly worked in the Family department gaining experience in divorce, financial matters, children, cohabitation disputes and injunctions. She can be reached via +44 1625 544667 or rebecca.ranson@family-law.co.uk

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