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Fee-charging McKenzie Friends in private family law cases

About the project

Given the dearth of evidence on the work undertaken by fee-charging lay representatives, ‘McKenzie Friends’, in the family court, the study aimed to increase understanding of the work that fee-charging McKenzie Friends do and how they approach their work.

It found a range of practices and inconsistencies between courts in the identification and registration of attendance of fee-charging McKenzie Friends. Cases involving paid McKenzie Friends in private family law proceedings appear to constitute a relatively small proportion of the total number of hearings involving litigants in person (LiPs). On balance, the contribution of the fee-charging McKenzie Friend was judged to have been positive in four observed cases, positive to neutral in one case, and negative in two observed cases. McKenzie Friends tended to support settlement out-of-court and most restrained themselves to a ‘coach’ type role in the courtroom. Mostly, they referred LiP clients to other family justice professionals, particularly direct access barristers, for specialist assistance where needed rather than seek rights of audience.

Research Team

Leanne Smith (Cardiff University) (PI) Emma Hitchings (University of Bristol) (Co-I) and Mark Sefton


The Bar Council (2016-2017) (£20,000)