A McKenzie Friend is a personal supporter, chosen by the SRL, who sits “upfront” and can take notes, pass documents, or even just sit there as moral support. They do not address the court or offer any legal advice, but they can help the SRL to stay focused and calm during a hearing, and can debrief with them after.
This is important because not only are many SRL intimidated with the court process and having to appear in court, they often find it difficult to accurately and fully recall what they were told by a judge because of courtroom nerves.
Although the concept originated in the UK, it is now becoming more widely supported in Canada. You do need to ask the court for permission to have a MacKenzie Friend sit up-front with you, but chances are good you will receive a positive response.
Even better than knowing you can request to have a MacKenzie Friend with you in court is the newly-created Guide, "The McKenzie Friend: Choosing and Presenting a Courtroom Companion”. This new Guide was created by written and researched by Judith DaSilva with Julie Macfarlane (she of the National Self-represented Litigant Project fame).
The new Guide – which includes a Worksheet with a series of questions for SRLs to work through in order to assess their needs, and then to identify a person best able to assist them (and least likely to raise the ire of the other side) is available on our website for free downloads. We would like to strongly encourage not just SRLs but also agencies, paralegals and lawyers serving the primarily self-represented to take a look at this resource and consider making it available to clients.You can read more about the origin of the MacKenzie Friend, as well as the process leading to the creation of The McKenzie Friend: Choosing and Presenting a Courtroom Companion here.
Honestly, if I were any of one of you and I was considering heading off to court without a lawyer*, I would be on to this in two minutes flat.
Did I mention that it's free?
* Yes, that would include a situation where 1) I had used a lawyer to help me prepare for court but was heading into the