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Adrian Corbould: Say hello to my little friend, the Mckenzie Friend.

Hello, I’m Adrian Corbould, Accredited Specialist, Wills & Etates at Turnbull Hill Lawyers with the Battle of Wills series, where I talk about contested estates and wills generally.

In court, a party is either legally represented by a barrister or a solicitor, or they are self-represented. That barrister or solicitor must be admitted in that jurisdiction in order for them to present to court, to address the judge, address the court, cross-examine witnesses, submissions, everything like that.

If they are not an admitted legal practitioner, they may not address the court. The other alternative is someone self-represented, meaning they conduct the case completely by themselves. There is an exception to that in what is known as a Mckenzie Friend. A Mckenzie Friend, this expression comes from a 1970 case of a family law case where a husband could no longer afford legal representation, his lawyers stood down, but the barrister said he would help out. He sat next to him and he prompted him, gave him advice, recommended how he cross-examined witnesses.

On the first hearing, the judge said, “No, you can’t have that person assist you.” On appeal, the court of appeals said, “You can have someone who is not legally representing you aid you in your court case. It’s very limited in that they cannot advocate for you, but you can give little prompts, take notes, little things that don’t obstruct with the hearing itself.” Mckenzie Friend. Actually, that was a British case, and the McKenzie Friend is a current practising Queen’s Counsel in Queensland.

Why am I talking about a Mckenzie Friend? Having run many cases in the supreme court of New South Wales, I have observed it is not a friendly place to be if you do not know what you are doing. Generally, a party is represented by a solicitor, and they have the assistance of a barrister who is advocating for them. That barrister and solicitor generally should know all the rules of the court, of which there are many, rules of evidence, rules of procedure and practice, countless things which takes years of experience and knowledge to assist the client.

A self-represented person often is at ends with they just cannot know all the things they need to know to run a case properly, so a McKenzie Friend can help out, making notes, giving assistance. But if they’re not legally trained, they may not know how to help them effectively. You can self-represent and have someone who’s not legally trained assist you, a Mckenzie Friend, but the courtroom is a bit of a coliseum. It’s not a forum where you want to be if you don’t know what you’re doing, hence the benefit of having proper legal representation.

I hope this has been of interest. Talk again next time.

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