Leanne Smith, University of Exeter
Emma Hitchings, University of Bristol
Keywords: McKenzie Friends - family lawyers - non-lawyers - professionals - partisans - family disputes - emotional and legal support
This article seeks to shift the focus of recent debates around the work done by fee-charging McKenzie Friends in some family law disputes. It takes some key findings from a study of fee-charging McKenzie Friends conducted by the authors and situates them in the context of two bodies of literature: first, work exploring challenges to traditional legal services made by non-lawyers; and secondly work exploring the practices of family lawyers. Through an analysis of the services offered by fee-charging McKenzie Friends (the ‘partisans’ of our title) and the views of their litigant in person clients, we argue that the service offered by many McKenzie Friends appears to contrast with aspects of the services offered by lawyers (the ‘professionals’) that have been recognised as problematic in family law for decades. This presents a challenge for family law practitioners, policy-makers and researchers – namely, to reflect on whether the appeal of fee-charging McKenzie Friends highlights a need to address some long-recognised shortcomings in the support that family lawyers are able to offer to their clients.
This article has been accepted for publication in Child and Family Law Quarterly in Issue 4, Vol 31, Year 2020. The final published version of this article will be published and made publicly available here 24 months after its publication date, under a CC-BY-NC licence.