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

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By Thomas Connelly on

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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