There are a number of reasons why you might have chosen to represent yourself in court. Perhaps the solicitor or barrister fees are just too expensive, or you’re unable to find one to suit your circumstances. Perhaps you want closer control over how your case is run, or feel that you need more emotional support than a solicitor or barrister can give.
Whatever your reasons, it can be reassuring to know that you can still call on the assistance of a McKenzie Friend to help you through the legal process when you go to court.
In a previous blog post, we took you through the basics of what a McKenzie Friend can offer and why you might benefit from such guidance. McKenzie Friends are a knowledgeable, valuable and respected option when representing yourself, and can help you, as a litigant, to navigate through your family law case. It is important to recognise, however, that not all McKenzie Friends are corporate members of the Institute of Paralegals and as qualified and experienced as Family Law Decisions McKenzie Friends are. As we always recommend, it’s essential to make sure you’re choosing an informed and effective individual to assist with your case, rather than relying on novice or incompetent assistance which can actually hinder your progress. But more on this later.
In this blog post, we wanted to go into more detail as to exactly what a McKenzie Friend can and can’t do for you during the legal process, to make it as simple and easy as possible for you to make the appropriate decision for your situation.
What a McKenzie Friend can offer you
Let’s start with all of the ways in which you might benefit from the services and help of a McKenzie Friend:
- Communication of information – you can communicate information, including filed evidence, to your McKenzie Friend to obtain advice or information in relation to proceedings. The opposing legal representatives or Litigant in Person should ensure that documents are served to you in good time so that you can seek assistance regarding their content from your McKenzie Friend in advance of any hearing or Advocate’s meeting.
- Guidance on the options – what is the best way forward in your situation? Information can be provided by your McKenzie Friend which helps you to choose the best way to approach Court matters in the circumstances.
- Drafting Position Statements & Witness Statements – we can assist you to draft statements from the relatively simple to the complex.
- Application Forms – some application forms can be daunting, we can help you complete them so you start off with the relevant issues for the Court and give the right impression.
- Offering advice and support in court on your case – a McKenzie Friend can quietly provide advice on any aspect of your case in court. There are also a relatively few times when a McKenzie Friend can speak for you in court if there is good reason or special circumstances – although the judge needs to have granted Rights of Audience in order for this to happen or it can happen informally at times.
- Taking notes – if you’re representing yourself in court, you already have enough to think about without worrying about taking notes on proceedings. A McKenzie friend can take informative and detailed notes for you.
- Helping with case papers – the admin associated with your case can pile up quickly and become quite complex. A McKenzie friend can help you keep on top of your papers, and make sure everything is in order.
- Offer moral support – the legal process can potentially be lengthy, tiring and emotionally draining. But you don’t need to go through everything alone – a McKenzie Friend is on hand to offer moral support and advice when you need an informed second opinion.
- Lawful agreements for paying fees – you can enter into a lawful agreement to pay your McKenzie friend for their assistance with duties such as; carrying out clerical or mechanical activities, or the provision of advice in connection with court proceedings. McKenzie Friends can provide advice and information for this remuneration.
What a McKenzie Friend cannot do
It’s important to distinguish the limits as to what a McKenzie Friend can do to enable you to make the most informed decisions when representing yourself in court. A McKenzie Friend is not permitted to:
- Act as your agent in relation to proceedings – you must represent (speak or act) on your own behalf in all legal matters.
- Manage any aspects of your case outside of court – a McKenzie Friend or a barrister is not permitted to act or sign documents on your behalf.
- Address the court – unlike a solicitor or barrister, a McKenzie Friend cannot advocate (speak) for you in court, only addressing the court if Rights of Audience has been granted.
Why choose a Family Law Decisions McKenzie Friend?
We’ve already mentioned the fact that not all McKenzie Friends are created equal – while some are experienced and professional, others just won’t have the expertise and knowledge your case requires. Therefore, it’s important to choose a McKenzie Friend with skills you can trust.
Here at Family Law Decisions, our McKenzie Friends are experienced, knowledgeable and accomplished, we’re also enthusiastic about what we do. We are fully insured for your peace of mind – Our McKenzie Friends and you benefit from access to Professional Indemnity Insurance, Public and Products Liability insurance in the extremely rare event it is required. In addition, we are Corporate Members of The Institute of Paralegals (IOP) and have agreed to be bound by the rules and constitution of the Institute; to honour the Paralegal Code of Conduct and to comply with Continuing Professional Development obligations.
If you have any further questions about the role of a McKenzie Friend or how Family Law Decisions might be able to help you, call us or fill out our simple Contact Us form.