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Mackenzie Friends v Specialist Family Lawyers

The founder of a company providing fee charging Mackenzie friends to assist family litigants, says a recognition of their acceptance in the legal landscape is a death knell for family lawyers. Well he would say that wouldn't he. He even believes they will sit above legal executives (who have some qualification) but below solicitors in the pecking order. (He lost me at "death knell")

Unqualified assistants at court are not 'representing' their clients who still have to represent and speak for themselves at court. They are not advocates. They may assist a lay person in producing documentation and advising what to say, but it is a world away from having a specialist family lawyer represent you all the way in all aspects of preparation and presentation of your case. In the worst instances this could be similar to a person being assisted by their friend from the pub who may or may not have gone through 'the worlds worst divorce.'

Highly regulated, fully qualified and with comprehensive indemnity insurance to back it all up, sometimes with additional specialist qualifications such as Marie and myself, the family lawyer is here to stay. And if ever negligent you have protection. Who else has that? There is often only one chance to get it right at court!

We (all specialist family lawyers) fully represent and support our clients who may be fighting to secure their financial security or for their children's rights to live with/see them.

Such 'extinction events' faced our conveyancing colleagues when licensed conveyancers and other non legal providers entered the market using unqualified caseworkers to undertake house sales and purchases (usually tied into the bank or estate agent). The question posed was simple. Did you want your biggest investment dealt with by an unqualified person because it was £200 cheaper or free? (someone must be benefitting and I could never see it was ultimately the customer. I have never found a free lunch yet).

However, a little quicker, a little cheaper and hopefully only a little worse will always be the only option for some people and strangely an actual choice for others who do. Yet property lawyers are still here and thriving. It was the bulk conveyancing factories full of unqualified staff, often tied in with lenders and estate agents that went to the wall.  Again, it was often a question of proportionality. As a Firm we never undertook such bulk low cost work. All property work has always been undertaken by solicitors. Not 'case workers/ paralegals (ie. Ex or current secretaries, students). Our clients know the service level and expertise they are buying and want that assurance for themselves. After all who wants to be sat in their new house only to see a walker exercising his public right of way through that new kitchen extension which sold the house to you in the first place? Whether you spend £100,000 or £5m on your home, you want to know the seller has a proper title to the house and land also that boundaries/ rights of access are all in order don't you?

With the all but extinction of legal aid there is a place for the Mackenzie friend in the family court where there may be little income or assets.

But, there is an old medical and veterinary saying, "prevention is often better than the cure." It certainly holds true in legal matters. I have lost count of the number of 'straightforward' divorces I have had to untangle because a lay person or cheap online provider has got the paperwork wrong. With the financial or children side of a separation even more is at stake than dissolving a marriage.