Anyone who is confident and capable is entitled to represent themselves in court. You do not need to employ a solicitor or barrister. If you choose to do this you are known as a Litigant in Person – LIP.

A LIP may be accompanied in Court by someone to help them. This person is known as a McKenzie Friend, named after the divorce case which established the principles in 1970. This is not an automatic right, but a judge would only refuse to allow a LIP to have the help of a McKenzie Friend for a good reason.

With Legal Aid having been removed from all but a few family law issues, more and more people are conducting their own cases in court, without a solicitor or barrister, most often because they cannot afford lawyers’ fees.

Representing yourself in court is not difficult and worrying as it may sound, especially if you have the help of a McKenzie Friend to assist in preparing the case beforehand and to sit along-side you in court.

What a McKenzie Friend is allowed to do:

• Provide moral support for the LIP

• Take notes for the LIP during the court hearing

• Help with case papers, preparation of court documents and statements

• Quietly give advice during the hearing on:

• points of law or procedure

• issues that the litigant may wish to raise in court

• questions the litigant may wish to ask witnesses.

What a McKenzie Friend is not allowed to do:

• A McKenzie Friend has no right to ‘act’ on behalf of a LIP. He may not act as the LIP’s agent in relation to the proceedings nor manage the case outside court, for example, by signing court documents, writing to the court or other people involved in the case.

• A McKenzie Friend is not entitled to speak to the court on behalf of the LIP, nor ask questions of any witnesses. However, in exceptional circumstances, a court may grant a McKenzie Friend what is termed ‘rights of audience’in a case. The McKenzie Friend would then be allowed to speak to the court and conduct the litigant’s case for him, as a solicitor or barrister would normally do.

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