McKenzie Friend firm grows – and thanks judiciary and Bar for the publicity
Grayson: senior judges more friendly
With the unregulated sector and McKenzie Friends under growing scrutiny, one firm of fee-charging McKenzie Friends is continuing to expand by opening new offices and taking on a trainee, who will eventually qualify as a lawyer, its senior partner has said.
He also said that opposition to the notion of fee-paying McKenzie Friends by the likes of the judiciary and the Bar had actually raised his firm’s profile.
The Kent-based firm, Grayson’s Legal (not to be confused with Sheffield-based Graysons Solicitors), already has one paralegal, Marcus Azal, a member of the Institute of Paralegals (IoP) who is currently in the process of becoming a chartered legal executive.
There are four McKenzie Friends in the business altogether. The new trainee is due to join early next year and the firm is paying for his studies for a legal qualification.
It has also recently set up “satellite offices” in east London and Romford in Essex.
The firm’s website did list two solicitors who it said worked “within” the practice – and to whom Grayson’s Legal referred work where needed – but they have subsequently been removed.
Founder and senior partner, Mark Grayson, styles himself as The Hon. Lord Grayson. He said he inherited a hereditary title late in life after being adopted as a baby. His website, mckenzie-friend4you.com, gives instructions on how to address a lord: “You call them simply, ‘My Lord’… You shouldn’t at any time call them ‘Mr.’!”.
Mr Grayson, born in 1963, who left school at 16, has recently started training with the IoP and the website said he “will qualify to be a solicitor in about five years”.
Speaking to Legal Futures, Mr Grayson said the unregulated provider – which at any one time has between 25 and 40 cases on its books – was diligent about referring work to qualified lawyers “whenever we have a case that is too big or complicated for us to handle”.
On rights of audience in court, he reported that the more senior the judge, the more likely they were to grant the right. Lay magistrates “virtually never” let him speak in court because they followed the advice of legally qualified clerks, who invariably pointed out that narrow guideline exceptions for allowing McKenzie Friends audience rights – such as where litigants-in-person have speech problems – did not apply.
However, more senior judges were more accommodating. District judges were generally “perfectly happy to let us stay to assist the litigant-in-person”. Further, In a recent case, a circuit judge had granted him the right of audience and the other side had not objected. He expected this to continue when the case went to trial next year. “I’ll be basically doing the same job as a barrister,” he said.
He argued that the withdrawal of legal aid in many cases had enhanced his role and that many people couldn’t afford to pay lawyers’ rates. On the firm’s website, it says: “A solicitor can charge from £200 per hour and from £500-£600 (PLUS VAT!) for a day in court… our services are the same but better value for your money.”
Mr Grayson said he charged £350 per day for a basic children’s case in the family courts: “ [My rate is a] fixed fee which includes things like telephone consultations, letter writing, preparing court bundles, writing statements for court, cross-examinations, court attendance, negotiating before the hearing, and taking notes in the courtroom. So that £350 covers a hell of a lot.”
He said that “mostly I find I get on fine” with qualified lawyers he encounters in the courts, but occasionally found himself “cold shouldered” by them.
He said members of the public were now more likely to have heard of McKenzie Friends because “the judiciary and barristers kicked up such a fuss about us that in some ways they have done us a favour – they’ve made people aware that we are here.”
He said he would welcome formal regulation of McKenzie Friends: “I think it would be very, very good for us to have a regulatory body, as paralegals have, as legal executives have, as solicitors have… It would get rid of the charlatans and the ones who are in it for a quick buck.”
He went on: “I see them in the court sometimes… I saw a chap the other day in one of the courts who was very poorly dressed. I always wear pin-stripes or a black suit to court… I have a proper solicitor’s briefcase… Everything looks good when we arrive and I think that’s very important.”
He said his business had professional indemnity insurance to £1m. “I felt [that] to do that was to really show the client that we are a proper, bona fide, McKenzie Friend, not some Joe Bloggs.” He continued: “I’ve done a McKenzie Friend training course with Simon Walland Family Law so I’m certified in that sense… I consider that my clients when they come to us are in good, safe hands.”
Mr Grayson said he was very clear with clients that he was not legally qualified. In June the Legal Services Board said unregulated legal providers can be good for consumers so long as they know what they’re buying.
Tags: McKenzie Friend
Leave a comment
* Denotes required field