The cuts in Legal Aid result in continued challenges for women who cannot afford legal representation themselves.

Many of our clients are forced to represent themselves in court, which can be very challenging and distressing. 

We are very grateful to law firms Duncan Lewis and Williams & Co., who each generously offer our clients a pro-bono initial consultation. This means we can run fortnightly family law clinics, either face-to-face or by telephone. They can help support legal issues such as:

  • child contact
  • child maintenance
  • non-molestation orders
  • occupation orders
  • prohibited steps orders
  • divorce

"The solicitor I saw a few months ago at your free legal surgery was fantastic, and gave me a great start to my pre-court preparation. I am sincerely grateful to you." 'Nicky', 28

We also have a group of trained McKenzie Friends, trained through us by an extraordinary panel of legal trainers organised by HH Dawn Freedman.

What are McKenzie Friends?

McKenzie Friends are 'buddies' who are allowed into court to support a person representing themselves. The McKenzie Friend has a very prescribed role in court: they can't talk aloud, they can't represent the client legally, they can't address the court, they can't sign court documents. However, what they can do, can be of enormous support. They can provide moral support, take notes, help with case papers, and give quiet suggestions if the client is struggling.

When might it be necessary to find a McKenzie Friend to go with a client to court?

Since the legal aid cuts were made last year, DV survivors have found it increasingly difficult to access legal representation. Many women are now having to represent themselves in court, as fewer and fewer solicitors are willing to work pro bono if legal aid is not being paid. The often-traumatic experience of attending court and facing her perpetrator - and her perpetrator's solicitor - is compounded by the need to do her own legal representation as well, and it can be a scary and overwhelming experience. The McKenzie Friend is there with her to accompany her, to help keep her calm and focused, and to help her manage the day.

"I cannot thank you enough ... for finding me a McKenzie Friend at the 11th hour and easing my way into the courtroom. Although I'm exhausted, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted, and it's thanks to you and the McKenzie Friend volunteer. It made a huge difference having visible support in court yesterday, and I'm really glad you nanaged to make it happen for me." 'Shosh', 41