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Legal Services Consumer Panel to investigate fee-charging McKenzie Friends

Panel identifies emerging market in the wake of the rise of litigants in person

As part of its programme of work to investigate the regulatory implications of the anticipated rise in litigants in person, the Legal Services Consumer Panel is to focus on the emerging market of fee-charging McKenzie Friends.
The Panel is an independent arm of the Legal Services Board, created in 2007 and opening for business in 2009. The Panel has a remit to represent the interests of the many different consumers of legal services, including small businesses and charities. 

The Panel notes that McKenzie Friends have traditionally operated as volunteers. However, it has identified an emerging market of individuals and microenterprises which charge for these services. There are mixed attitudes towards this development. One school of thought has concerns that these people may provide poor advice, offer little in the way of consumer protection, prey on the vulnerable, promote their own world view (e.g. on parenting) and undermine lawyers' reserved activity rights. The other school of thought says that some help for litigants in person is better than none at all, some McKenzie Friends are very competent and ethical, and that lawyers are not losing out because their services are unaffordable for the client group using these services. 

The Panel's starting position is to recognise that fee-charging McKenzie Friends are a feature of the legal system which is appearing to grow and there is a lack of knowledge about this emerging market which would be useful to address. Therefore over the next few months the Panel plans to carry out a trawl of websites and interview McKenzie Friends in order to build a picture of what's going on. It will also meet the judiciary, lawyers and stakeholders and plans to host a seminar in February to obtain views on what the main issues are and how these should be addressed.