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Law School volunteers provide a friendly service at court

Posted on 26 November 2015

Students from the University of York’s Law School are taking part in a trial scheme which provides help and support to members of the public attending court unrepresented.

Known as McKenzie Friends, the students will be able to offer moral support and help people understand the process if they attend court without a barrister or solicitor.

The University is collaborating with YORLAW at Citizens Advice York (YCAB) and the University of Law to provide a panel of around 25 volunteers who can act as McKenzie Friends.

Under the scheme, which will be reviewed in the New Year, YCAB will refer cases where their clients need the help of a layperson to assist them in preparing for and attending court hearings.

A McKenzie Friend does not act as a lawyer and does not advocate or plead the client’s case. All the volunteers taking part will be suitably trained and accredited.

The scheme’s organisers say courts are facing unprecedented numbers of litigants turning up unrepresented and it is hoped this service - which will initially focus on family law cases involving children – will help ease some of the pressure on the system. The scheme has the approval and support of the Family Court at York.

Clare Trevenna, Pro Bono Officer from York’s Student Law Society, said: “We are very happy to be working with YCAB and the University of Law on this scheme. It provides a rare opportunity for the students to experience working with a client in court.

“It is great to know that this scheme is helping clients by easing the court process. This also assists judges and ensures that court hearings run effectively.

“I have every confidence that the panel of McKenzie Friends will do a brilliant job helping their clients and law students will also gain some insight into their potential future career paths.”

Jo Trythall, of YORLAW at Citizens Advice York (YCAB), said: “We are very pleased to make the service available to the residents of York in partnership with University of York Law School. Anyone needing assistance should make initial enquiries to Citizens Advice York.”

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