Tip of the iceberg? You don’t say… the McKenzie Friend research

NOAAS National Ocean Service on Flickr

The research commissioned by the Bar Council in to fee paid McKenzie friends has been published today. In truth it contains few surprises, notwithstanding the Bar Council’s faintly bemused tone at the discovery that McKenzie Friends are McKenzie-ing mainly outside of courtrooms, where they are unregulated and unscrutinised and free to compete without the watchful eyes of a judge or disapproving lawyer upon them. Of course they are!

To those of us who pay attention to social media and what our clients and opponents tell us or let slip, the biggest “issue” with McKenzie Friends, is what goes on outside court. The “advice” before the hearing that colours the behaviour and responses of a litigant in sometimes imperceptible and sometimes oh so obvious ways – but always in ways which are difficult to deal with, because the whisperer is unseen and his advice can only be guessed at. And because such advice will often include cautions against trusting, believing or engaging with lawyers. Litigants come primed with suspicion.

There is plenty in the legal press already about this research report. You can read The Law Society Gazette here, or Barrister Magazine here. The former is said to be inaccurate by the lead researcher, the latter is not criticised by her – I agree that the Barrister Magazine piece is a useful potted summary of the research and its conclusions. In this post, rather than rehearsing all that, I want to offer some comments that have not been mentioned already and might otherwise not be aired.

Like the researchers, i would not want to condemn all McKenzie friends, some of whom are in fact an invaluable support to those who have nobody else to help them (whatever we think of the principle), and some of whom are indeed very experienced. But I have always been frank about my concerns as regards the absence of regulation of the activities of McKenzie Friends, because of the risk in any individual case that the McKenzie Friend selected will not turn out to be on of those invaluable ones, but will turn out to be positively dangerous or incompetent. This research doesn’t really allay those concerns any, not least because I don’t think it was focussing on areas where I see most risk for litigants.

The research is independent, but the reality is that the Bar Council will have commissioned it out of a concern that there were both access to justice issues AND issues for the profession. And it is to those twin purposes that will have shaped the framing of the brief.

It’s a shame in a way that the study was limited in the way it was, as a result I suspect of the Bar Council being (understandably) focussed on its own sphere of existence – the resulting study is open in saying that it was looking primariiy at on the role played by paid McKenzies in court, and in private law cases. Any fule could have told them that they were looking in the wrong place, just as we all said in response to the Judicial consultation that they were trying to regulate something that was mainly being done outside the Judges’ jurisdiction – and which was perfectly permissible in law as it was not a reserved legal activity – legal advice. Coming to court and sitting quietly in the open where we can spot someone being a bit of a pain or a wally – not our biggest problem. Not the biggest problem for anyone frankly. Sometimes very helpful.

There is in the response of the bar council a sort of weird slippage between McKenzie Friends doing McKenzie-ing (quiet support etc) and McKenzie friends exercising rights of audience. RoA is a whole different task which brings with it a whole different set of issues. There seems to be a prior assumption (not borne out by the research) that fee paid McKenzies would want to and were exercising RoA regularly, in some sort of project creep. In my experience it is often an exasperated judge who will grant RoA to a helpful McKenzie in order to achieve some semblance of clarity / progress – and not the other way around. The research bears this out – again no big surprise.

But it is not the bar’s advocacy toes that are at risk of being trodden on here – even those McKenzie friends are in court (paid or unpaid) rarely exercise rights of audience – and where they do this is usually because a court has decided it is likely to assist rather than hinder the individual case. No, it is our advisory toes that are being trodden on day in day out. But we haven’t noticed because we’ve got our bloody big clod hoppers on and are stamping around like the big beasts of the courtroom.

Litigants these days do their own legal research. They research the law, they research McKenzie Friends and yes, my friend, they research you and I. They choose in significant numbers to take advice from McKenzie Friends – sometimes paid, sometimes not. Litigants are most vulnerable to exploitation and bad advice long before they come into a court room. If this research is a good indicator many of them are more satisfied with their experience of McKenzie Friends than lawyers. We should reflect on that. And we should have enough humility to recognise that there may be some things McKenzies are doing as well as us or (gasp) that from the perspective of what some clients want and need, some may offer something we can’t (or won’t).

This research acknowledges frankly that it is likely to have produced a skewed and overly positive sample of McKenzies and their clients. The research makes the point that there are some good McKenzies out there. And it makes the point that in court things are perhaps not as bad as the hype. Most of the McKenzie clients reported satisfaction with the service and support provided – and in particular McKenzies come out well for client care. Legal professionals could, if they were wise, consider what lessons we might take from the fact that many (if not all) of those who have chosen this path, are happy with the outcome. That ought to tell us something about our client care as a profession (I say this whilst acknowledging of course that some of the more chummy approaches taken by McKenzies would not be compatible with appropriate professional boundaries / distance, and our duties to the court. I think that we can and should invest more energy into explaining better why a lawyer can’t be a “friend”, and help clients to understand our professional distance is a positive benefit, and not evidence that we don’t care or are simply money grabbing).

But what the report doesn’t (and doesn’t try to) convey, is the risk and prevalence of actual bad experiences that are likely to be befalling litigants outside court. That is a whole other research study. And it is for me where the real meat of it is (in saying this I’m not denying those who provide good help outside court.). For me, it ISN’T just about fee paid McKenzies – many of the good samaritan rogue / family justice crusader type McKenzies are (in my experience) NOT fee paid (or charge inflated “expenses” that they maintain are not fees at all). And they don’t operate just in private law field where there is no legal aid (the research only looked at private law). They operate too in the public law field where parents are entitled to legal aid. And they hold influence even over parents who are represented through social media and the internet and through networks of parents turned advisor/ campaigner (these McKenzies don’t have their own websites, they aren’t members of nascent “professional” bodies, and they operate through closed Facebook groups and private communication / word of mouth). I am unashamedly adopting a broad and unconventional definition of McKenzie Friends (Which technically is a term that only applies in court). Again, the numbers may not be great (although frankly it’s difficult to say – I could make a pretty long list of names myself), but that the problem exists is clear to those who care to look or listen to what parents are saying. Many of those parents however, do not view the McKenzies as the problem, but instead see it in the lawyers, the social workers, the system. And any negative outcome they have experienced is most likely to be interpreted as the inevitable result of the corrupt system than the result of acting on the advice received. Those cases make me very sad. They are lost opportunities – lost children – emblematic of the failure of the legal profession to make our case to the people we can help most.

And here’s the thing : in both fields (public and private law), a McKenzie Friend may be offering entirely lawful – but bad and unhelpful -“legal advice” alongside or instead of the instruction of a lawyer – suspected but unseen, and corroding the working relationship between a litigant and their own lawyer, let alone the other lawyers or professionals in the case. Difficult to deal with in individual cases, difficult to evidence, difficult to research. These are never going to pop up in a self-selecting sample.

Next time The Bar Council has a chunk of money burning a hole in their pocket I’d like to see them spend it on a research project about this issue (not holding my breath). And not one which self-selected the good guys*. But one which roots out the ones who are lurking in the shadows and messing up people’s cases. There may not be many, and they may not represent the typical – but they are there and they are dangerous,  And they are right under our noses if only we would bother to look. I foresee considerable methodological challenges with capturing this information and in finding a solution, but fortunately I am merely a lowly blogger and do not have the unenviable task of devising such a research project.

I hope I’ve accurately summarised the scope of this study, having put this post together after a long day at court and a long train journey with a patchy wifi signal. My area of interest really is in the stuff that hasn’t yet been looked at – I think the study is really valuable and hopefully will get the bar thinking about its “offer” (yucky jargon) – but I also think that it is not the whole picture. The study says the picture is mixed : indeed. But my own experience suggests that it is more complex and more varied than is represented in the sample that came forward for scrutiny. So we have a way to go before we really understand the risks and the benefits.

In the meantime the legal profession could focus on getting our message across more clearly, and on listening to what clients actually want from us. Our strength may be in our difference from the great unregulated – but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to learn.

 

*here again, I acknowledge the good guys but do not need to spend much time writing about them. I acknowledge also that the researchers tried to get a representative sample – but this was practically unachievable.

 

Feature Pic : NOAAS National Ocean Service on Flickr (creative commons licence – thanks!)

14 thoughts on “Tip of the iceberg? You don’t say… the McKenzie Friend research

  1. Totally Confused

    I never ever ‘rock up’ to court unless a Judge has approved my attendance in advance.

    I have only in 9 years had one Judge refuse me RoA. (I was allowed in but told to keep my mouth shut; so lots of note passing!)

    I make a point of calling myself a ‘Non-Fee Charging Lay Advisor’; because a) I don’t charge and b) the term ‘McKenzie Friend’ has become so tainted through people charging huge fees; I explained that to a Judge and he burst out laughing ‘I like you already’ and c) whilst I have some law course experience/quaifications, it is not for me to call myself a solicitor because I am not.

    (Ironically, I actually received an email from a social worker yesterday, referring to me as a solicitor!)

    I do work on private law cases but also public law. I have had cases where the solicitor and barrister have invited me to come to court; basically to knock some sense into their clients and using plain English, get them to understand what is happening. When the legal aid is gone, and an appeal needs to be lodged, people come back to me. By this point, I know the individual and the case better than most solicitors. (Because they just don’t have the time.)

    I now limit the number of cases I take; at one point I was juggling 25; It became too much. (Plus I am a full time carer)

    I am not afraid to look at paperwork and be blunt ‘You have no chance’ or to say ‘This is wrong- let’s work out how to fight this’.

    I read case law every day. I had a case where baby was removed at birth; LA were offering Mum 2x 2hours a week contact. She wanted to breast feed. I gave a ruling to the Barrister; she got 2x 2 hours, 5 days a week; He took it into court; the Judge said ‘I can’t fight against this one’. The Barrister thanked me ‘You are useful in these situations.’

    Many McKenzie Friends don’t like me and how I do the role. I am not in this for popularity. I don’t do it for my ego.

    My rule of thumb after reading the paperwork and getting to know the person is ‘Would I trust them to look after my cat?’ So yes, in theory, I can pick and chose.

    I do this because I genuinely believe that frequently the wrong children are taken from parents and those that should be removed are ignored.
    TC

    • I wouldn’t trust some of my clients with my cat, but I represent them to the best of my ability anyway. Because that’s what we do. And because sometimes it turns out they can care for a cat after all.

  2. Richard Hoseason

    Hello once again Lucy (bar fans),
    I see we once again travel familiar country. I am one of the gifted amatuer gurus operating primarily from social media your article and the study refers to. I was aware of this study although I did not take part. I know many of my clients did though. To explain my role I do not charge fees and very seldom charge costs. Yesteday I gave clients money to travel 270 miles and stay in B&B to pursue a three day hearing for their daughter after being tortured for four years in the Fam Div and running out of money. I have never made a penny profit from parents or children and I never will. That is my choice.

    I note your attempts to at least attempt a blanced approach yet, with all due respect, it is still laden with presumption and relies on ‘accepted wisdoms’ that are questionable, in reality.

    Terms of reference : as revealed in the study and I have stated before the majority of our work goes on outside court. We are not McKenzie Friends at all really. We are lay practitioners. Terming us as McKenzies is closed thinking and an assumption that our role should be confined to ‘quiet advice’ at best. There is no such verb as McKenzieing and the role of lay practise has never been limited to quiet advice anyway. This has only been the tradition adopted while the court sits. There are no laws or regulations to this effect and the MKF guidelines are simply that. They are guidelines that cannot infringe people’s fundamental human rights anyway. To append such nomenclature is an attempt to impose the assumption that lay practitioners should not dare to stray from the path of quiet advice in courts. I see it as a veiled slur like dubbing someone a conspiracy theorist without due regard for the quality of their theorem.

    Motivation : as you point out the Bar Council commissioned this study out of concern for their own self preservation. These studies and scandals always come from the professional bodies who feel their role threatened and will mask their actions by faux expressions of concern for the client body. Each year they inflate and deflate with outrage and indignation that those from ‘Alsatia’ dare to offer unqualified opinion or breath the rarified air enjoyed in the four inns. Their black arts are apparently so mystical and convoluted that no mere sorcerer’s apprentice can hope to grasp or martial them without bringing disaster to all those around them. They will cite their lofty qualifications and just how long they spent gaining them. (although not how much money they were able to borrow to do it) These manifestations of fear and panic never come from the body of clients and users. There simply is no campaign from the millieu to have lay practise regulated and there never has been. I doubt if there ever will. There are literally thousands of campaigns out there right now led by parents decrying the perceived corruption and incompetence in the family division and it’s attendant professions but not one that is opposed to lay practise even in the full knowledge of some of the scandals caused by rogue practitioners. Nevertheless here comes the good old Bar Council to the rescue to pull away one of their few remaining rugs imbued with the conviction of Zealots so desperate are they to create a problem where none exists and divert attention from their own failings.

    Good v Evil : it is manifestly apparent from this study that lay practitioners do far more good than harm although this does not militate complacency in areas where harm does occur. An assumption is made that lay practitioners are not self regulating at all and this is not the case. Again I stress that it was myself and other concerned practitioners that brought the antics of the convicted David Bright to attention of the courts by gathering dozens of statements. Not the Bar Council or police or the benchers and barristers and solicitors in the Family Division. Work continues afoot right now regarding other unscrupulous practitioners. A further assumption is made that statutory regulation is required to iron out these problems without questioning the logic of this. Barristers and solcitors are subject to statutory regulation but they are the ones failing in the eyes of the public and scandals abound every day. ‘BUT THERE ARE SYSTEMS OF REDRESS FOR THESE’ I hear you cry. Well there are systems of redress for David Bright victims and Nigel Baggalay victims too.

    Relay Cases : cases are relayed to or from me in two ways. Most often clients have already exhausted their funds and often their patience with professional lawyers before they get to me out of desperation and I am expected to dig them out of deep holes. In other cases I pass them on to friendly and trusted solcitors and barristers particularly for fully contested hearings where ROA is likely to have more of an effect. I see the most nightmarish gross incompetency and indifference from lawyers ever single day of my life without exaggeration. Even while writing this I have just answered the phone to a parent driven to distraction by the most inexcusable bungling and foot dragging imagineable although I won’t bore you with the details. Regulating lay practitioners will do nothing to improve the exponentially greater numbers of ‘qualified’ screw ups at all. Indeed increasing their monopoly will only serve to bolters their indifference to clients.

    Make no mistake – as Lucy Reed says she is not against all lay practitioners and sees much good in many so I am not against all professionals either and I depend heavily on the the outstanding work of those who have offered their time to actively support my law project. However lawyers were likened to sharks long before McKenzie Friends came into being. Don’t blame us or the clients. q. Mahatma Ghandi “If you seek fault then use a mirror and not a magnifying glass”

    The Third Way : this debate essentially falls into two camps at present. The regulationists from the professions and those from the lay millieu who advocate laisser faire. If your motivation is truly about raising standards and access for end users then there is a third option between the two. Instead of seeking to regulate amorphous groups and dodgy individuals you could choose to support them by offering supplementary training and conferencing to registered practitioners and groups. These would receive ‘approval’ if they demonstrate appropriate levels of proficiency. There is the challenge. Do you really want to help parents and children or are you more concerned about professional encroachment? You might have to dip your hand into your pocket and help people out like I do. You may have to give some of your spare time. You may have to stow your predatory instincts.

    Right I’m going to go and get changed in the phone box. I have a city to save. (it’s a lot harder being caped crusader since the advent of mobile phones)

    • Richard,
      Thanks for your (very long) comment. Just taking the headlines:
      Terms of reference: I appreciate the term mckenzie friend / mckenzieing is not terribly apt for the stuff done outside of court (I think I made that point briefly or possibly cut it out as my blog post was getting a trifle long). I don’t care much what these non-lawyer helpers are called really. McKenzie friend was always a stupid label, whatever it is applied to. So no, from my perspective using the term McKenzie isn’t a slur – it was just the easiest term to use given the research that prompted the post.
      Motivation: I don’t think (and nor do I say) that the Bar Council are totally motivated by self preservation. That is undoubtedly part of it, but the BC does have a public service ethos too (see footnote 5 here: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media-centre/news-and-press-releases/2017/june/new-research-shows-paid-mckenzie-friends-operating-mostly-outside-the-courtroom/). It is very cheap and easy to dismiss everything the Bar say as self-interest – but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have nothing worthwhile to say or that they don’t have genuine expertise or real concern for litigants. Just as it is wrong to say all McKenzies are bad and naughty.
      Good v Evil – I don’t think it IS “manifestly apparent” that lay practitioners do far more good than harm. That might be true but the evidence base just isn’t there. And the research authors quite properly acknowledge their sample is not representative. For me its not so much about how many individual litigants are being disadvantaged (its always very difficult in any event to say what the alternative reality would have been and how much is down to the lack of a lawyer or the active harm caused by a particular McKenzie – or bad luck on the day), but about the high stakes for some – if its a cock up its your kids or your house lost for you. People shouldn’t dabble. The best McKenzies are the ones who know when its time to refer on or to say “I don’t know”.
      As for your third way : I’ve attempted to work with groups and individuals helping parents without great success. I produced some podcasts for FNF some years ago which as far as I can tell they never made available to their members (despite paying me to produce them). The sorts of individuals and organisations I’ve encountered and who I worry about are not amenable to guidance or suggestions or criticism – because they are always right and anything that we lawyers say is obviously said from some venal motivation or because we are all generally corrupt and devoid of humanity. However, I’ve written Family Courts without a Lawyer, which I understand many McKenzies rely on (though that wasn’t its initial purpose). I get a little bit in the way of royalties but nothing that will ever compensate me for the time spent on it, each day of which represents lost income and more work required on another day to make sure I can pay my bills at the end of the month. When I first wrote it colleagues told me I was helping the enemy / selling out. I ignored them because they were talking bollocks.

      So if you don’t mind me saying so its a bit of a cheek to suggest I might have to give some of my spare time or dip into my pocket or stow my predatory instincts. I don’t write this blog or FCWAL or do Transparency Project or http://www.familycourtinfo.org.uk or Bar Pro Bono Unit because I’m a predator or interested in financial matters. I agree with a lot of what you say in your comment but I get very cross at the suggestion made by lay advisors, mckenzies or whatever that lawyers are somehow to be denigrated because they earn money from their job. I am happy that you have the luxury to work as a superhero for free, but I don’t. I have a mortgage and kids to feed and a husband who is very tolerant of me working every hour god sends so I can keep up the finances AND do the stuff I think is important.

      So, get back in your phonebox on that one.

      • Richard Hoseason

        With respect Ms Reed I was not stating that you are personally predatory or unprepared to help out others. My comments and moreover the challenge in that regard were directed to the Bar Council and barristers generally. Rest assured that your good reputation precedes you and I have followed your good works with keen interest. Sadly not all those called to the bar share your enthusiasm for philanthropy and as you point out some have a predeliction for talking bollocks. Having said that chatting bollocks is not unique to them and I have been guilty of same many times in the past and I’m sure I will continue to do so.

        I don’t have the luxury of working as a super hero for free. I have to pursue more mundane tasks to pay for all the above just as mild mannered Peter Parker did as a journalist in order to be Spiderman at night. (perhaps that was a poor analogy given some of the roof top protests but anyway…)

        The criticisms is not that barristers earn money for their work. Indeed many lay practitioners do too. The criticism are far more varied but I shall not dwell on them as they are impertinent to the topic.

        If you are supportive of my suggestion that a ‘third way’ is more appropriate than open or closed doors to ‘plug that gaps’ and feel your efforts are falling on stoney grounds with FNF then by all means feel free to contact me through the Men’s Aid Legal Services team (we help women equally it must be said) or the McKenzie Friends of Children group on social media which acts as an adjunct and we will snap you up in precisely 2.3 shakes of a lamb’s tail. We have the reputation for being the ‘legal aid board for FNF’ anyway. I already have a small but loyal band of lawyers who give us invaluable help anyway but we always need more. We are in the business of bringing meaningful changes to the lives of parents and children requiring legal remedies. Any suggestions, input or participation would be more that gratefully recieved.

        My apologies if my remarks seemed unkind and directed personally at you. I am truly grateful that you choose to elevate the exposure of this and many other relevant matters in the public and professional eye and do them justice.

        • Well I’m sorry if I took your remarks the wrong way. I have to say though that many lawyers are in a similar position – they do have bills to pay. And there are some real ethical challenges for those of us who believe that actually the right answer would be the equitable provision of legal aid for those most in need and who worry about the increasing demands that we prop up the system by working for free. In the long run we may not be helping people by doing so, or so the argument goes. It is a difficult balance to strike and there is no right answer. I wouldn’t condemn those who don’t do pro bono or who don’t do extra-curricular stuff.

          • Richard Hoseason

            I’m not in the business of lambasting barristers here. (or at least not on this thread) The article pertains to the relentless cries from the bar that lay advocates need scrutiny and investigation and hopefully regulation and even prohibition. The BC funded this study in the hope it would produce them with the ammunition to lobby for same. I suspect it has fallen far short of their expectations.

            The ‘paying the bills’ argument leaves me cold though. Barristers earn far more than required to merely pay bills. (unless of course they go about taking on ever more luxurious bills) Lay advocates have to pay bills and so do parents. They have to face massive and crippling legal bills too. Not because the chose to buy a luxury item because their relationship broke up or their child was perceived as being needy or at risk. Those who have walked a few miles in their shoes will feel empathy. The reason I help people is because I’ve been through it all myself and people helped me. I doesn’t matter if they are barristers or brick layers. People are people. Some are bad but most are good and if a crisis is great enough and the demand high enough some of us wil fill the vacuum. The vacuum in the Family Division is created by a combination of higher divorce rates and repeat relationships, withdrawal of legal aid and ever more authoritarian interventions by local authorities. One child in three is now effectively driven away from at least one parent by circumstances beyond their control. What we are seeing is a very real tear in the fabric of society. Whole generations blighted by a system that doesn’t care yet has the gall to style itself as acting in the true paramount interests of the child. As a result UNICEF records us as having one of the lowest levels of social well being among children in the world.

  3. AutoPublicLaw

    You have the wrong end of the stick regarding Public Law.

    The vast majority of parents involved in Public Law proceedings follow their Lawyers advice and engage with Social Services ‘as best they can’.

    However, with the time constraints and lack of resources in these proceedings, many parents and their children are simply on a conveyor belt towards a Final Care Order / Adoption.

    These parents seek out other sources of advice ‘after’ they realise they are going to lose their children most often. By that time it is far too late as the system has ticked the boxes and the children are permanently removed.

    The lack of resources to support parents to have their children live with them is an utter disgrace and shameful for this country. Many of these parents would be able to change their lives and their children’s if they were given the right support over time.

    Unfortunately, the system has its time limits and limited resources. Therefore the conveyor belt continues churning parents over and removing children from parents who with the right support could give their children a good enough upbringing.

    Blaming it on those who support parents ‘after’ the important decisions have been made misses the point.

    The system needs reform with far more resources pumped into support for parents so they can care for children. Too many children are removed from parents when it is not necessary if they are given a little support over time.

    • Yes yes, we’re all professional losers. Yawn.

      I’m not talking about those who help parents after decisions are made. I’m talking about those who undermine the advice I’m giving before I’ve even been instructed, who have primed my clients with the unshakeable belief I am not to be trusted and they should do the exact opposite of what I suggest at the first and subsequent hearings.

      Though there is of course a particular difficulty in that after C & P orders are made there often isn’t any legal aid, so parents are even more vulnerable.

      I agree that there is a problem in that legal aid has been cut to the bone meaning that solicitors in particular really struggle to make time to see their clients as often as they should or to explain what is happening so they are properly informed. I understand WHY it is that parents go elsewhere, not least because it is easier to hear that what is happening is unjust and corrupt and not their fault than to hear that actually (as is sometimes the case) what is happening is an inevitable result of their own poor choices and nothing can be done.

      The problem with telling parents that they are on a conveyor belt and its a box ticking exercise is that they lose faith and disengage before the thing has been decided – and I have lost count of the times I have felt that it is this disengagement that has led to an outcome that was not, at the start, inevitable at all. This is what I worry about. I do sometimes have to tell clients that sadly I don’t think I can work magic, but it is NOT a foregone conclusion just because the thing is in court. If it is a forgone conclusion it is because the evidence is stacked against a parent and they are not giving me the tools with which to challenge that evidence.

  4. One extract from the summary report:

    “Many of the clients we interviewed gave accounts that suggested the services they had purchased were far cheaper than services they had previously purchased from solicitors (almost all had used solicitors prior to contacting a McKenzie Friend)”

    Now if people have used a solicitor or barrister and then move to a McKenzie Friend and decide the cost saving is worth the change in level of “service” the logical conclusion is litigants find lawyers poor value for money.

  5. Down on the other side of the world very similar issues have gone on in our (NZ) family court. I’ve been helping as a Mckenzie friend for the last twelve years. Partially it was as a way for myself to gain knowledge and experience so that when I went to court I would be more comfortable in the role as a self litigant. Prior to becoming a self litigant I’d paid a lawyer more than NZ$20k, and achieved very little. I carried on with the role and the judges and (most) lawyers (often have always been accommodating.
    As with a previous commenter mentioned as a Mc friend you can pick and choose who to help.
    Despite my relative lack of knowledge of the law I know I’ve been able to assist the men in achieving practical, reasonable and workable results.
    The most un-practical, un-workable and ultimately expensive (for the tax payer) parenting order I’ve seen was written by a judge of 30 years experience, if only he (the judge) had this Mckenzie friend advising him he’d have saved two years of tax payer $ and countless angst for the father and his daughter! Sometimes it has nothing to do with the law but more to do with commonsense and a knowledge of how un-reasonable people can choose to behave if allowed the opportunity.

  6. Mckenzie friends or any friends ,should be able to represent parents in court . The Children Act stopped parents choosing a friend to represent them and restricted their choice to qualified lawyers or a person with parental responsibility for the child in question.
    What a pity………….

    • Erm. They are able to quietly assist parents in court. If the court permits they may represent.
      Nothing in The Children Act prevents that or indeed changes the law on this in any way whatsoever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *