In light of the LASPO cuts, business for paid McKenzie Friends appears to be booming, but against the backdrop of their apparent success the debate over the legitimacy of fee-charging non-qualified legal advisers rages on.
Despite calls from the Legal Services Consumer Panel as early as April 2014 to acknowledge the role of the paid McKenzie Friend within an evolving legal services market resistance to the unqualified and unregulated business men and women continues, fuelled by horror stories of their inappropriate and intimidating behaviour inside and outside of the court room.
The judiciary is expected to publish a report soon which, according to the Law Society Gazette this week, ‘could be a deciding factor in whether the government legislates to ban the provision of unqualified assistance as a business’.
In 2011, the judiciary recommended the introduction of a code of conduct for fee-charging McKenzie Friends. Although this recommendation was not taken up by the government,21 members of the Society for Professional McKenzie Friends have recently committed to complying with a code.
Chairman of the Society, Ray Barry, has suggested that all paid McKenzie Friends should sign up to the code and speculated that the court could draw a distinction between those who are being paid for their services, who would be permitted to address the court, and those who were giving their time free of charge who could only ‘quietly advise the litigant’.
Traditionally McKenzie Friends, like volunteers at the Personal Support Unit a charity offering assistance but not legal advice to litigants in person, do not have rights of audience although may be permitted to speak at the discretion of the judge involved.
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