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FAQ: 'professional' McKenzie Friends

24 February 2015

The Law Society’s Practice Advice Service offers guidance on handling so-called ‘professional’ McKenzie Friends.

I am acting for a claimant in a civil litigation matter. I have been contacted by someone without any legal qualification who calls himself a 'professional McKenzie Friend' and says that he is representing the defendant. He is insisting that I send all communications to him rather than to the defendant directly. Do I have to do that?  

No. If you receive correspondence from a McKenzie Friend on behalf of a Litigant in Person (LiP), you should respond to the LiP directly and not to their McKenzie Friend.

As far as the court is concerned the defendant is a LiP. McKenzie friends can provide useful help to LiPs in court but they do not 'represent' a party in the way that a solicitor or other appropriately qualified legal representative on the court record would do.

IB(11.4) SRA Code of Conduct 2011(the Code) indicates that you should not communicate with another party when you are aware that the other party has retained a lawyer in a matter.

It appears from the facts given that this individual is not a 'lawyer' as defined in the Code so you would not be prevented by reason of the Code from communicating directly with the defendant. You may wish to suggest to the defendant that he takes his own legal advice from someone appropriately qualified.

If there is any possibility that the McKenzie Friend is being paid for his services (which is suggested by the word 'professional') and, if those services include reserved activities, such as conducting litigation or acting as an advocate, you need to consider whether any offence under the Legal Services Act 2007 is being committed. You should be wary of colluding in the commission of any such offence which arguably could be the case if you correspond with the McKenzie Friend. Accordingly, the safest course is to correspond with the defendant directly.

For further information please see the Law Society’s Practice Note on Dealing with litigants in person.

Call us on 0200 7320 5675 or email us.

Disclaimer

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided by the Practice Advice Service, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.