It doesn’t take much research to discover that McKenzie friends are still causing controversy. Last month it was a High Court of Ireland judgment where an English couple were found to have breached a court order having supposedly acted on advice from a McKenzie friend.
Earlier this month, a Twitter anecdote sparked attention when barrister Greg Williams said he had received an ‘unsolicited’ LinkedIn connection request from a fee-charging McKenzie friend. ‘No sir, not while I still live and breathe,’ he proclaimed, revealing he had rejected the application.
Twitter is also being inhabited by McKenzies offering help with various parts of the court procedure.
Surely the time has come for the judiciary to finally act on its hugely delayed proposals to regulate fee charging McKenzies.
Early next year it will be two years since the Judicial Executive Board made its proposals, which included banning fee recovery by McKenzie friends and a code of conduct for unqualified advisers.
A working group set up in September last year to expand on those proposals is yet to report.
The Gazette has been told on multiple occasions that ‘there may be an update soon’ but nothing more concrete than that.
I have no doubt some McKenzie’s, particularly those who do not charge for their services, provide a useful or at least reassuring support for vulnerable court users who, either due to the gutting of legal aid or personal financial constraints, cannot obtain professional representation.
They are not all bad and sometimes a Mckenzie may have the right intention but the bottom line is that, for the most part, they won’t have the expertise needed to provide sound advice.
Until we at least see a hint that reform and regulation is coming the tales of unfortunate encounters will continue.