In July 2010 the Master of the Rolls and President of the Family Division issued joint Practice Guidance (the Guidance) concerning the proper approach courts should take to the provision of reasonable assistance by non-lawyers to litigants-in-person (LIPs) in respect of legal proceedings. Such non-lawyer assistants are generally known as McKenzie Friends. Since the Guidance, which summarised the case law as it stood in 2010, was introduced there has been a significant increase in the number of both LIPs and McKenzie Friends. There has been a noted increase in the number of McKenzie Friends, commonly known as ‘Professional McKenzie Friends’, who provide their services to LIPs on a fee-paid basis.
In the light of these developments the then Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and the Judicial Executive Board asked Mrs Justice Asplin to convene a Working Group to examine the issue and suggest possible reform. The Working Group’s conclusions provide the basis for a consultation on possible reform and replacement of the Practice Guidance with, for instance, rules of court or updated Practice Guidance. The consultation also raises the question how any such rules of court or updated Guidance should approach the issue of ‘professional McKenzie Friends.
The response to the consultation has been published online.