McKenzie friend

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A McKenzie friend assists a litigant in person in a court of law in England and Wales, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and Australia by prompting, taking notes, and quietly giving advice. They need not be legally trained or have any professional legal qualifications.

The right to a McKenzie friend was established in the 1970 case of McKenzie v McKenzie. Although in many cases a McKenzie friend may be an actual friend, it is often somebody with knowledge of the area and the presumption is heavily in favour of admitting a McKenzie friend into court. He or she may be liable for any misleading advice given to the litigant in person but is not covered by professional indemnity insurance.

A similar, modified principle exists in Singapore.

A McKenzie friend should not be confused with an amicus curiae.


McKenzie v. McKenzie was a divorce case in England. Levine McKenzie, who was petitioning for divorce, had been legally aided but the legal aid had been withdrawn before the case went to court. Unable to fund legal representation, McKenzie had broken off contact with his solicitors, Jeffrey Gordon & Co. However, one day before the hearing, Jeffrey Gordon sent the case to an Australian barrister in London, Ian Hanger, whose qualifications in law in Australia did not allow him to practise as a barrister in London. Hanger hoped to sit with his client to prompt him, take notes and suggest questions in cross-examination, thereby providing what quiet assistance he could from the bar table to a man representing himself. The trial judge ordered Hanger not to take any active part in the case (except to advise McKenzie during adjournments) and to sit in the public gallery of the court. Hanger assumed his limited role was futile and did not return for the second day of the trial.

The case went against McKenzie, who then appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that he had been denied representation. On 12 June 1970, the Court of Appeal ruled that the judge's intervention had deprived McKenzie of the assistance to which he was entitled and ordered a retrial.

As of 2022, Ian Hanger AM KC, the original McKenzie friend, is a King's Counsel (KC) at the Queensland Bar.

See Also

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