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The Dangers of Receiving Family Law Advice from Unqualified Legal Advisers

An unqualified Legal Adviser has been ordered to pay more than £260,000 in compensation after he caused a man to miss out on compensation and incur huge losses and costs in a medical negligence case.

A High Court Judge said that the Adviser, who held himself out as a competent Legal Professional, owed a duty of care to the person who he was supposedly advising, despite him not being legally qualified.

It is the first time that the High Court has ruled on the duty owed to the public by unqualified advisers, known as “McKenzie Friends”.

A McKenzie Friend can assist people who are not represented by a Solicitor or Barrister in a Court of Law by prompting, taking notes and giving advice. They need not be legally trained or have any professional legal qualifications. 

In Family cases, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Court themselves may make available unqualified Legal representatives to unrepresented members of the public.

Whereas, volunteers provided by the Court are careful that, they do not provide formal Legal Advice and are simply there to offer support it can be very confusing as to what exactly the status and indeed legal abilities of and unqualified legal adviser actually are.

In respect of this recent case, the unqualified Legal Adviser denied liability saying that there had been no contract between him and the victim and he therefore owed no duty of care.

It is important to emphasise that, when you obtain Legal Advice from a highly qualified Solicitor in relation to family matters, not only do you receive the highest quality of professional advice but, appropriate indemnity insurance is in place to ensure that you will always be appropriately financially compensated if under any circumstances there is any element of dishonesty and/or negligence.

Free advice and/or help from an unqualified legal adviser may ultimately end up being the most costly" legal" advice you ever receive.

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