You are a litigant in person, you can’t get legal aid or you are paying for yourself, so what do you do? What are your options?
Following a delay in publishing its report - of nearly a year after it was submitted - the Ministry of Justice’s report published yesterday looks at the options, or lack of them, available in family law cases.
It concluded that the Citizen’s Advice Bureau often disappointed because of its inability to actually assist with the case itself. It records that free or ‘Pro Bono’ schemes and duty lawyer schemes are yet to develop and both have problems.
The report addressed that the unbundling of services, i.e. paying for a discrete piece of advice or representation in court, was an option but that some of those involved in the study found difficulty in finding solicitors who would work that way. That left professional McKenzie friends - people who have no legal qualifications and who can only act as your spokesperson in court, with not ability to advise along the way. Without regulation or insurance the report did not advocate the further widespread use of professional McKenzie friends.
However, the report mentioned that direct access barristers could provide ‘extensive assistance’ but very few people were aware they could use them. The report chose to copy comments from a focus group that even goes on to say that used this way ‘barristers are likely to offer as good if not better value for money’ than even non-qualified McKenzie friends.
The conclusion of the report is that initial advice is any case is key and it recommends universal initial advice is made available to all. Before that happens however, if you want representation direct access barristers are the way to go.