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    What exactly is a McKenzie Friend?

    What exactly is a McKenzie Friend?

    Gavel with legal icons

    Family disputes often require professional guidance to help you to a resolution and to ultimately move on with your life. In family mediation and in court proceedings, the term “McKenzie Friend” has gained prominence. But what exactly is a McKenzie Friend and how do they contribute to the resolution of family conflicts? In this blog post, we will delve into the world of McKenzie Friends, exploring their role in family mediation, court support, and the interface between these two processes.

    Understanding the McKenzie Friend

    A McKenzie Friend is an individual who assists litigants in person (individuals representing themselves in court) during legal proceedings, offering support and guidance without being formally qualified as a lawyer. The term originated from the case of McKenzie v McKenzie in 1970, where a non-lawyer friend was allowed to assist the litigant in court.

    A McKenzie Friend, as the term suggests, is a supportive companion who aids litigants in person, especially those navigating legal proceedings without formal legal representation. To gain a clearer understanding of their role, it is important to differentiate between what a McKenzie Friend is and what they are not.

    What a McKenzie Friend IS

    Supportive Companion: At its core, a McKenzie Friend serves as a supportive and empathetic companion to individuals representing themselves in legal proceedings. Navigating the legal system can be emotionally challenging, and the presence of a trusted friend can provide comfort and encouragement.

    Source of Guidance: While McKenzie Friends lack formal legal qualifications, they can offer valuable guidance on legal procedures, court etiquette, and the preparation of documents. Their role involves helping litigants understand the complexities of the legal process without providing legal advice.

    Preparation Assistant: McKenzie Friends can play a role in preparing litigants for legal proceedings. This may include assisting with the organisation of evidence, explaining relevant laws and helping to formulate coherent arguments to present in court or mediation sessions.

    Emotional Support: Family disputes, in particular, can be emotionally taxing. McKenzie Friends lend a compassionate ear, offering emotional support to litigants during mediation sessions and court proceedings.



    What a McKenzie Friend is NOT

    Legal Representation: Perhaps the most important distinction is that a McKenzie Friend is not a qualified lawyer and, therefore, cannot formally represent litigants in court. They provide support and guidance but do not have the authority to act as legal representatives.

    Legal Advice Provider: McKenzie Friends cannot offer formal legal advice. While they can share general legal knowledge and explain court procedures, they cannot replace the expertise provided by qualified legal professionals. Litigants are encouraged to seek legal advice from family law solicitors for their specific case.

    Decision-Maker: McKenzie Friends do not have the authority to make decisions on behalf of litigants. Their role is to assist and support, leaving ultimate decision-making power in the hands of the individuals involved in the legal proceedings.

    Courtroom Advocate: McKenzie Friends, while able to offer limited advocacy in terms of assisting with procedural matters, note-taking, and quiet advice during court proceedings, are not authorised to act as formal advocates in court. Litigants are responsible for presenting their own cases.

    Regulation: A McKenzie Friend is not a regulated role and if you are unhappy with the service received, or with the information provided you will not be able to complain to a governing body. This is different to the roles of solicitor or family mediator, which are both regulated by governing bodies that fall under the Ministry of Justice.

    By understanding both the role and limitations of McKenzie Friends, people in family disputes or legal matters can make smart choices about their support. Having a McKenzie Friend can be helpful, offering a mix of emotional support and practical advice as people deal with the often-tricky aspects of the legal process. They would also tend to be less expensive that having a solicitor or barrister represent you at court.

    The Role of McKenzie Friends in Family Mediation

    In family mediation, the primary goal is to facilitate communication and negotiation between parties involved in a dispute, aiming to reach an amicable resolution without the need for formal court proceedings. McKenzie Friends play a role in this context by providing practical support, helping to clarify legal issues, and ensuring that you are better-prepared for mediation sessions.


    Working alongside family mediation and court proceedings, McKenzie Friends act as valuable companions for those navigating the legal system without formal representation.

    From providing support during mediation to offering guidance in the courtroom, McKenzie Friends play a helpful role in assisting individuals achieve resolution in family disputes. They are a less expensive choice to a solicitor but it is important to understand they do not provide the same services. As with anything, it is important to shop around and get recommendations before instructing a McKenzie Friend.

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