What legal powers does a (UK) person have without having full legal qualifications? I am interested as you can't represent someone in court without being a fully qualified solicitor/barrister (as far as I know), yet for "power of attorney" you can represent someone in their place but I don't know the limits to this. Is it different for someone in the process of training for a law qualification perhaps?

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    "UK" is rarely a useful term when discussing details of law. The differences between the rules in England+Wales and Scotland are quite likely to be larger than the difference between (say) Germany and France. Where are you? Dec 19, 2016 at 14:00
  • England, it can't be that different can it? Dec 20, 2016 at 8:25
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    Scotland is a completely different legal system to England (it is a mixture of Common Law and Civil Law). It really is more different than between Germany and France (which are both Civil Law systems). Examples: There is no concept of Equity in Scottish Law; you don't need consideration to establish a contract; if you live in Scotland, and have relatives they are absolutely entitled to a share of your estate - you cannot leave it all to the local cat's home. Finally, more relevant to this question, if you had been asking in 2009, Scotland would not have allowed McKenzie friends Dec 20, 2016 at 8:30
  • The "power of attorney" concerns an attorney in fact, while a lawyer representing someone else is an attorney at law.
    – phoog
    Dec 23, 2016 at 14:05

2 Answers 2


You can always (as far as I'm aware) act as a "litigant in person", which is the UK phrase for a person representing themself in court. Whether its wise or not depends on the case - because the procedural stuff can be heavy weather and lack of knowledge about legal writing and law can be a real detriment. Courts have instructions to bend over backwards to help litigants in person, but if your lack of knowhow wastes court time or causes another party to incur costs, those might be a problem on your plate.

The UK judiciary does a free PDF handbook, called a guide for litigants in person. Download it.

You can somewhat represent someone else in a manner of speaking. But not formally. For example,

  • you can write their case and letters, handle their correspondence etc, but they have to sign it and they remain responsible for its correctness.

  • in court, they can tell the court that you are better placed to discuss the legal points and they would like the court to talk to you instead of them, and the court has discretion to do so. But again, they clearly remain the litigant and the court at any time may deal with them directly, it's not a "right".

  • there are legal roles such as "MacKenzie Friends" but I don't think those are what you're after. (official guidance, eg see paragraphs 2-4 and 18-25)

  • This answer is pretty spot on, except you cant /always/ represent yourself - If the matter is serious and court thinks you are incapable of representing yourself, and doing so will result in severe consequences , they can appoint someone to represent you, although this would be very much the exception.
    – davidgo
    Dec 19, 2016 at 0:44
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    It's not clear what OP is after, but a McKenzie friend seems almost exactly what you are talking about. Dec 19, 2016 at 11:14
  • No its not. A McKenzie friend specifically lacks the key rights discussed. They are there to assist, prompt and advice but the questions asks specifically about representing another person. courtwithoutalawyer.co.uk/mckenzie-friends.html is more accurate. If a McKenzie friend was allowed to address the court or represent a party, it would be on the same basis I've described above, as it would be for any other non-qualified person - courts discretion
    – Stilez
    Dec 19, 2016 at 21:58
  • @davidgo Who pays the bill in the case where the court appoints someone - the court or the litigant (or someone else)?
    – Sean
    Dec 25, 2016 at 22:17
  • @sean - No idea who pays the bill. I'd guess the court would assign a public defender and thus the crown/government would pay for it.
    – davidgo
    Dec 26, 2016 at 1:39

There is no such thing as 'half a lawyer'; either you have the relevant qualification (such as being a trained barrister/solicitor-advocate to represent somebody in court) or you are not, in which case you have the same rights as any member of the public. Paralegals are in the second category: they can read documents and suggest a course of action (well, so can anyone on this website), but cannot act as your legal representative, nor charge for legal advice.

'Attorney' in Power of Attorney comes from the same root as 'legal attorney', but does not have the same meaning. If you hold Power of Attorney for your ailing mother, you can and in some cases must act on her behalf; for example, if the plumber fixes her washing machine, it is you who pays him. Similarly, if she appears in court you can appoint a solicitor to represent her; whether you can represent her yourself is too complex and fact-dependent to give an opinion on.

  • In that case what are the rights of a member of the public? Is defending yourself in court a legitimate right in the uk? I am aware of basic civil rights, e.g. right to silence, but would like to know more specifically Dec 17, 2016 at 17:59

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