Legal update: Can a litigant in person be represented by an unqualified person?

1310 月2017

Parties to legal proceedings in the Hong Kong Courts are entitled to represent themselves. When they do, they are referred to as Litigants in Person (LIP). The court also has inherent jurisdiction to permit a LIP to receive assistance from, or be represented by, an unqualified person. This person is often referred to as a ‘McKenzie friend’.

To what extent a McKenzie friend is permitted to be involved in proceedings is in the court’s discretion. A McKenzie friend’s involvement will ordinarily be to attend hearings in support of the LIP, take notes, make suggestions and offer advice to the LIP. In more exceptional circumstances, though it is not common, the court might permit a McKenzie friend to take an active role in proceedings and to represent the LIP as an advocate for the LIP’s case.

The Hong Kong courts have considered a number of factors in determining whether to allow a McKenzie friend to assist a LIP in proceedings. Some examples of these include:

  • The LIP’s medical history where it impacts his or her need for assistance in proceedings.
  • The extent and potential impact of the emotional involvement of the intended McKenzie friend in the proceedings. Will the friend’s emotions cloud the central issue?
  • When an application is made for leave for a McKenzie friend to address the court, have exceptional circumstances been proven to justify this?
  • Are the proceedings being heard in open court or in chambers? If in chambers, which proceedings are confidential?

LIPs and McKenzie friends are increasingly common in Hong Kong legal proceedings. However, LIPs and McKenzie friends often find the role to be even more onerous and challenging than they expected, and may choose to refer the LIP to an experienced litigation lawyer during the progress of the action.

Mark Side

The above is not intended to be relied on as legal advice and specific legal advice should be sought at all times in relation to the above.

If you are a LIP, or are overwhelmed by the task of assisting a LIP, please consider contacting: 

Mark Side
Partner and Head of Litigation | Email

Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.