How Do I Become a McKenzie Friend?
Firstly, Why become a McKenzie Friend?
People typically want to become McKenzie friends because:
- They have been through difficulties themselves and want to help other people
- They wish to achieve change in the system
- They might be part of an organization who is training their staff to become McKenzie friends
Whatever the reasons court is a difficult place to be, a lot of people seem to think that going along to support someone and just being strong for them is enough, unfortunately it isn’t. The problem is that there is no standard as to what a McKenzie friend does, in seeing cases with McKenzie friends in court and speaking to people training with me there is a huge amount of variety, from people who know next to nothing about the court and the processes to people who are very knowledgeable and helpful to the client. Unfortunately, most people having to go through the court process are generally clueless and don’t know the difference between someone who is supportive and someone who really can help them.
Being a good McKenzie friend means that:
- You can make the court process work for your client, to show them where and in what way they need to fight their case
- You have a thorough understanding of all the Court Orders, to know what they all mean and what they do
- You know what each hearing is for and what end it is there to achieve
- You actually understand the court processes from discussions with solicitors, making agreements, or helping write statements and are able to guide your client through them
- You know what each professional’s role is
- You are able to help your client behave correctly in court
- You understand the paperwork fully and what needs to be done, outline how to write a statement for them
- Give them guidance of giving evidence, help them understand what to expect
- You know how to help plan the case, preempt issues and problems, to help your client through a traumatic experience where they themselves find it difficult to maintain a level head.
- Help the court make the best decision for your client but also the child
If you’re going to be a McKenzie friend would you like to just offer support, or actually really help people?
- You are not a solicitor so be very careful about giving someone legal advice
- You are involved in people’s lives; you are not there to shout people down or to ‘fight for a cause’
- You are there to give guidance and support; you cannot cross examine
- You can’t address the court directly, unless under special circumstances
- You can help plan the case, preempt issues and problems, to help your client through a traumatic experience where they themselves find it difficult to maintain a level head.
In short you have to be there in a professional role, you need to have the skills, understanding and ability to successfully guide people through the process and give the client the information they need to know.
Sometimes people become McKenzie friends because they have had a great many difficulties in their own case. Firstly, a McKenzie friend needs to be able to separate their own feelings from the case. Secondly does going through the system actually give you a thorough enough understanding of it, or just a working knowledge of how to get through it? Being a McKenzie friend should mean you really understand what you need to know.