Anyone who is mentally competent is entitled to represent themselves in court (they
do not need to employ a solicitor or barrister) and if they choose to do this they
are termed a Litigant in Person (LIP).
A LIP may be accompanied by a friend; this common law right goes back nearly 200
“ Any person, whether he be a professional man or not, may attend (court) as a friend
of either party, may take notes, may quietly make suggestions, and give advice."
(Lord Chief Justice Tenterden ,1831)
In the case of McKenzie v McKenzie in 1970, this right was challenged, and upheld,
giving rise to the term now used: “McKenzie Friend.” This is not an automatic right,
but a judge would only refuse a LIP the help of a McKenzie Friend for a good reason.
More and more people are conducting their own cases in court, without a solicitor
or barrister, often because they cannot afford lawyers’ fees, and Legal Aid to pay
these fees is becoming harder to obtain.
Representing yourself in court is not as daunting 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.
How can a McKenzie Friend help?
What a McKenzie Friend May Do:
• Provide moral support for the LIP
• Take notes
• Help with case papers
• Quietly give advice 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 May Not 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.
• A McKenzie Friend is not entitled to address the court, nor examine any witnesses.
However, in exceptional circumstances, a judge may grant a McKenzie Friend what is
termed “right of audience” in a particular case. The McKenzie Friend would then be
allowed to address the court and conduct the litigant’s case for him, as a solicitor
or barrister would normally do.