The Government’s proposed changes to the small claims track for personal injury cases will lead to representatives of CMCs taking on the role of McKenzie Friends prompting serious issues around consumer protection, according to the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL).
FOIL says that increasing the small claims limit to £5,000 will create the danger of “pseudo lawyers” clogging up the courts who have no legal qualifications and no professional indemnity cover.
The group agrees with recommendations from the Judicial Executive Board that McKenzie Friends should be renamed as court supporters, and that they should take on a more formalised role within the civil justice system through the rules of court. FOIL has said that it advocates a very low test for involvement of a McKenzie Friend in civil litigation, provided that the conduct is limited to the draft parameters set out in the consultation document.
Kurt Rowe, head of the CPR & protocols sector focus team at FOIL, said that while it was important that unrepresented litigants should be able to get the support they need where appropriate, it was not appropriate for unqualified and unregulated representatives to take on a semi-professional role, however well-meaning.
“Allowing remuneration would inevitably encourage more and more interest in McKenzie Friends, potentially with no legal qualifications and no professional indemnity cover, prompting serious issues around consumer protection,” he said.
“We were concerned to see reports earlier in the year that solicitors were opting to pursue the McKenzie Friends route to avoid SRA regulation.
“It is not just McKenzie Friends who are a concern. FOIL is calling for the statutory rules on representation in small claims to be considered alongside McKenzie Friends, to ensure that all lay representatives come within the new rules ensuring that the interests of those using the courts remain protected.”