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McKenzie Friends – The usual professional conspiracy against the public

Summary:
We’re told that there has been a boom in the use of McKenzie Friends in the court system. Therefore McKenzie Friends must be banned from the court system:A new breed of untrained legal advocates who are ripping off the public with “flawed” and “dangerous” legal advice should be banned, lawyers’ leaders and politicians have urged ministers. The Bar Council, Law Society and head of the Commons Justice Committee are alarmed by cases where unregulated and uninsured advocates - known as McKenzie Friends - have left “vulnerable” clients out of pocket or even led them into breaking the law through their poor advice.The past few decades have seen a determined fight against the professional conspiracy which is that neckchoke lawyers have upon the general public. Solicitors now can appear in court,

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We’re told that there has been a boom in the use of McKenzie Friends in the court system. Therefore McKenzie Friends must be banned from the court system:

A new breed of untrained legal advocates who are ripping off the public with “flawed” and “dangerous” legal advice should be banned, lawyers’ leaders and politicians have urged ministers.

The Bar Council, Law Society and head of the Commons Justice Committee are alarmed by cases where unregulated and uninsured advocates - known as McKenzie Friends - have left “vulnerable” clients out of pocket or even led them into breaking the law through their poor advice.

The past few decades have seen a determined fight against the professional conspiracy which is that neckchoke lawyers have upon the general public. Solicitors now can appear in court, this is no longer the preserve of the barrister caste. House sales can now be dealt with by someone merely trained to deal with house sales, not a full blown solicitor.

The background being, as Adam Smith pointedly noted, that professional guilds always do devolve down into being conspiracies against that general public. By limiting who may do what it is possible to ensure juicy fees and to channel them to the favoured, insider, few.

The rise in McKenzie Friends is just a further eating away at the privilege of monopoly and as such is to be welcomed for itself. Except, obviously, by those who run the legal profession, that one being nibbled away at. Thus the opposition and the call to ban. Almost as an aside we’d note that the first three listed members of the Justice Committee are, by profession, barrister, solicitor, barrister - we’ve the interests of that general public well represented here.

Their argument, at root, being that there never has been a lawyer who is a dullard, dolt, drunk or dingbat and that therefore we should all be protected from the possibility that our legal adviser should be any of these. Given who the courts have, at times, seen arguing cases this is not an entirely supportable contention. Actually, as Bernard Levin used to claim, it’s not certain that the system has managed to ensure this of the judges, let alone the advocates.

In short, we’ve known all about this since 1776:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

– The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter X.

Or, as we can put it more simply, the use of McKenzie Friends annoys people who should be annoyed. More power to McKenzie Friends therefore.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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