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 someone to help them and this person is called a McKenzie
Friend, named after the 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.
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.