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Westminster law student launches ‘rent a final year’ website for struggling litigants-in-person

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Students will act as McKenzie friends, for up to £100 a day

A University of Westminster law student has launched a website that allows litigants-in-person (LIPs) to hire out wannabe lawyers for as much as £100 a day.

Fraser Matcham, who is in the second year of his LLB, is the brainchild of ‘McKenzie Friends Marketplace’. The site — which has received support from academics at Westminster University, and backing from BPP Law School and two private investors — aims to match up law students wanting to gain hands-on legal experience with members of the public who are unable to afford the services of a fully-qualified lawyer.

Taking a 5% commission fee, the site — which officially goes live at the end of the month — charges law students out at a maximum of £25 an hour or £100 for a full day. To be eligible, wannabe lawyers must be in their final year of undergraduate study or above and have to provide their own professional indemnity insurance. The website also gives LIPs the option of choosing a non-student, charged out at a maximum rate of £90 an hour or £300 a day.

The website states that McKenzie friends “can assist a litigant with an abundance of tasks,” but “must not speak on behalf of the litigant, unless such advocacy rights have been explicitly granted by the the judge.”

Speaking to BPP’s blog, the 19-year-old said:

Most forms of legal experience provided by the profession is mundane and does not expose aspiring barristers and solicitors to real practice. Acting as a McKenzie friend not only promotes social mobility within the legal sector but allows aspiring barristers and solicitors to put their skills and knowledge into practice in real cases.

Matcham — who has completed a work experience placement at international outfit Sidley Austin and plans on doing the Legal Practice Course (LPC) next year — claims to have already received 20 applications from budding McKenzie friends, including some qualified lawyers. Hoping to secure hundreds of further student sign-ups this autumn, the entrepreneurial LLB-er also plans to launch a training programme for McKenzie friends later this year.

The new site comes just months after Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton said jobless law graduates should help guide members of the public through the complex, and often confusing, world of the UK court system. Speaking at LawWorks’ annual Pro Bono Awards in October, he said:

There seems to me a good deal of force in the view that the proper administration of justice and LIPs would benefit from the assistance in court of such graduates.

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72 Comments

Lord Harley of Counsel

Where do I sign?

(36)(1)

Jones Day Partner

Me too!

(3)(0)

Anonymous

This article does not mention that the judiciary are considering banning fee charging Mckenzies. Massive omission in this one sided piece.

Also totally interprets what the Lord Chief Justice said – he was referring to law students helping through pro bono clinics under supervision, definitely not Mckenzies.

I am yet to come across any practitioner or judge who has anything positive to say about Mckenzie friends.

(4)(4)

Anonymous

I cannot think of many things more likely to give me cause for concern when reading a pupillage application form than finding out a person acted as a paid McKenzie friend.

(56)(7)

Harriet Harman MP

RACIST!!!!

(8)(7)

Concerned

Oh good more unqualified people giving advice. This can’t go wrong at all…

(32)(3)

Anonymous

They’re more legally knowledgeable than a LIP acting entirely on their own. There are lots of disputes (for example, consumer goods matters) in which its not cost-effective to engage the services of a qualified lawyer. I don’t see there’s anything wrong with what this guy is doing.

(16)(18)

Anonymous

Hi Fraser

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I’m not Fraser, you ‘tard.

(0)(4)

Anonymous

And I’m not a ‘tard, Fraser.

Anonymous

A little knowledge is dangerous

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Nonsense – a law degree (and I have one myself) is, by and in itself, of limited relevance to the issues that would arise.

(2)(0)

Person with brain

Well he might think he’s the next Keir Starmer but with a law degree from Westminster ‘University’ my 93 year-old grandma’s got more chance of getting a TC.

(36)(5)

Anonymous

Dominic Grieve (as an example) did okay with it 😉

(6)(13)

Anonymous

Lol Dominic Grieve studied at Oxford and did his GDL at Westminster. Hardly the same at all.

(32)(1)

pedant

Dominic also went to Westminster School.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Fuck you

(0)(2)

Anonymous

As he’s already done a vac scheme at Sidley Austin I’d say he’s got a decent chance, university notwithstanding.

The university snobbery on here is so boring. Presumably it’s coming from people who feel aggrieved that they went to a decent uni yet still haven’t found a TC.

(13)(3)

Anonymous

Ok it was actually a one day work placement. Having looked at his LinkedIn I’m now feeling slightly less generous.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

It doesn’t even make sense, if you’re good enough for a TC why the fuck would a name of a university that is permitted to award law degrees by the SRA make any difference?

(0)(2)

Anonymous

That it doesn’t make sense to you is an indictment of your Westminster University education.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

For the same reason not all food deemed safe for human consumption can be served at Le Gavroche.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Slightly concerned because I have acted as someone’s McKenzie Friend in a matter, and you have to sign a form stipulating you aren’t receiving payment.

So what does he plan to do when the students he recommends can’t sign that form to say they aren’t receiving payment?

(2)(3)

Anonymous

You’re wrong, there’s no problem with fee charging McKenzie Friends.

There should be though.

(19)(2)

Anonymous

There is a huge difference between studying and the realities of legal practice. Just because you do well on your LLB doesn’t mean you will be able to help a client in any meaningful way. There’s also no professional indemnity insurance for when it all goes tits up either. This seems like a very bad idea.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

Read the article. They have to have own insurance.

(10)(2)

Pantman

That’s right, but where to get such insurance!?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

This is important and should be good if run well. All too often I have seen these schemes run by failed barristers who are frankly narcissists.
I would particularly like to see judgment debt being assisted with. That destroys litigants in person.

(9)(2)

Anonymous

Shouldn’t these “schemes” be opposed whether run by failed barristers or law students? Why is a narcissistic law student better than a narcissistic failed barrister?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Surely if the other option is to be an LIP, any legal advice is better than none at all, and if they are well aware that they are paying a student and not someone qualified then they should be aware of the risks.

(8)(4)

Anonymous

I disagree, sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

When I was studying law my friends and family didn’t seem aware of these risks of which you speak.

(1)(0)

Barrister

This is a TERRIBLE idea. And I don’t agree with the poster who says it’s better than nothing. A second year Westminster law student will know sweet f**k all, but the sort putting him or herself forward for this will lack the self-awareness to realise this. The LIP will place reliance on the student as if he or she does know what he or she is doing.

In practice, a LIP with no legal knowledge is always better to encounter than one who “has done lots of research”, still less a law student who isn’t very bright. Judges will assist LIPs as will Counsel on the other side – but there is usually no assisting a LIP who thinks he knows the law and throws himself into hopeless litigation. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

Nor do I understand the claim that this will “asssit social mobility”.

(27)(2)

Barrister

Further, for £100 you could likely get a pupil barrister to attend which is surely a better option.

(30)(1)

Not Amused

He wants to be paid for his charity work? Seems a tad mercenary to me.

(9)(3)

Anonymous

It really is awful isn’t it – he should be ashamed of himself. Profiting on something like this.

He is also a second year, this is just ridiculous.

(7)(4)

Sandman

Welcome to McKenzie Friend Marketplace. Your first assignment is to act as McKenzie Friend for a serial litigant- in-person who is suing his former McKenzie Friend for negligence. Good luck!!

(22)(2)

Anonymous

I think he needs to get himself a decent lawyer to get out of all of this!

Once again, shocked that Legal Cheek are covering this sort of thing… but they will do anything won’t they?

(5)(2)

Ryan

Probably because they havent got Lord Harley to write about or students who set fire to money :-p

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This is going to be hilarious.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

There are some very good legal blogs out there explaining why this is a very bad idea. Perhaps LC could get a comment from the authors?

(7)(1)

Anonymous

I agree.. but of course they won’t do that. They just want to encourage stupid ideas like this.

Do they as law graduates not realise how awful this could be if it goes ahead?

(6)(1)

Pleading

As a successful lay LiP in a defence and also a counterclaim I must flag three worrying matters:

1. The ease of vexatious claims given by Money Claims Online – ‘spend a few minutes and a little money…’

2. The disproportionate and punitive cost of an application hearing.

3. The court’s loss of documents including bundles that they had signed for, together with administrative chaos.

I honestly doubt there is much a MF could have done to help. However, I urge those who can influence the system to do what they can please.

Fortunately the DJ dispensed justice. Unfortunately, the original claimant did not turn up to hearing; DJ “I cannot find him guilty of contempt in his absence.”

(2)(5)

Anonymous

So your concept of being successful as a McKenzie winker is that you and the defendant turn up but the claimant doesn’t.

Hardly surprising the defendant won. Even Not Amused could have won that.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

“As a successful lay LiP”

They stated they were a litigant in person, not a Mckenzie Friend.

Apparently your comprehension skills are as limited as the McFriends you criticise.

(0)(0)

The sky is still blue and pigs still can't fly

Dreadful idea. What is the entry requirement for law at Westminster – DDD? Letting these kids loose on poor LIPs is just the blind leading the blind.

Surely this idea breaches SRA regulations? Are they insured? What standard are they held to?

A better bet is to put a 1% tax on PEP. This would raise millions in the City and wouldn’t negatively affect the livelihoods of anyone. Admittedly even this has flaws but it’s better than this dire idea.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

ABB actually 😬

(1)(7)

Anonymous

If Oxbridge like you enough at interview they have been known to make an unconditional offer (which in effect means EE) to take the pressure off gifted students on exam day. Of course most of those people go on to get AAA anyway, they’re considered worth a punt for a reason, but still…

(0)(2)

Trainee Solicitor

I did well at university with my law degree and thought I knew enough to actually practise law. Citing contract and tort law cases, writing about a new legislation, etc.

Looking back, I didn’t know shit when I was at uni. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. This website thingy will prove the saying.

(13)(1)

Anonymous

For the doubters below the line, a useful overview of the many problems with this company from a serious commentator on housing law (an area of practice where vast numbers of litigants in person, many vulnerable, are in desperate need of assistance to keep their homes).

https://nearlylegal.co.uk/2017/03/bpp-fee-charging-mckenzie-friends-errors-judgment/

(7)(0)

Anonymous

This is also an excellent piece from a family practitioner, again an area where there are a lot of LIP and McKenzie friends:

http://www.pinktape.co.uk/rants/a-little-knowledge-is-a-dangerous-thing/

(4)(0)

Anonymous

There are charities such as PSU in England and Wales who do this kind of work for LIPs without charging clients. Why not stick to that instead.

(6)(1)

Comments are closed.