Proposals to curtail the ability of ‘McKenzie Friends’ to recover fees in the wake of a successful court action were today backed by the Law Society of England and Wales, which warned that the Legal Services Board (LSB) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) were wrong to suggest legal aid cuts could be offset by unleashing non-professionals on the courts.
Proposals by the Judicial Executive Board to prohibit non-professionals who charge for legal services from recovering fees for litigation or advocacy by inserting a ban into the rules that govern courts were backed by Law Society President Jonathan Smithers.
He said: ’There are different types of McKenzie Friends. They could be family or friends, or pro-bono scheme volunteers who may have some legal background; and then there are those who charge for their services, possibly selling an expertise they are not qualified to offer.
’Prohibiting the recovery of fees will still allow judges to consider requests from McKenzie friends to participate in court proceedings under the Legal Services Act 2007. But prohibiting McKenzie friends from recovering fees for litigation or advocacy strikes the right balance between respecting Parliament’s will - that it is in the public interest for reserved legal activities to be conducted by a legal professional, while allowing judges to retain the flexibility to allow McKenzie friends to litigate in exceptional circumstances.
’Clients of fee-paid McKenzie Friends have no assurance of their legal knowledge, and are left with no redress if things go wrong. They are not necessarily cheaper than solicitors, who are highly regulated and deliver a high standard of quality service. Our members have witnessed the damage done by the unscrupulous, so we very much welcome any steps that bring clarity to the support that a McKenzie Friend can give.”