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Who can act as a legal representative in court

This content applies to England & Wales

Permitted legal representatives depend on the type of court and proceedings, and the parties may speak for themselves in all courts.

High Court

In the High Court, only barristers or solicitors with higher court advocacy rights may appear in open court (although solicitors without advocacy rights can appear in unopposed applications). In private hearings, any legal representative can appear.

County court

In the County Court, in addition to solicitors or barristers, a party can be represented by:

  • an authorised person from a local authority in local authority possession proceedings
  • a 'McKenzie friend' (someone who can assist and advise a 'litigant in person' in court)
  • a lay advocate with permission of the court
  • legal executives (in private hearings only).

The County Court has an inherent jurisdiction to allow any person to speak on behalf of a party on a case-by-case basis, or a general basis for certain types of cases. The Lord Chancellor has the power to make orders providing for unrestricted rights of audience in a number of types of cases.[1] Currently, orders have been made in relation to small claims arbitrations only. 

Solicitors are less likely to be involved with small claims arbitrations as legal aid is usually unavailable (see the section on Costs for more information).

Court help desks and duty schemes

Some County Courts have help desks staffed by advice agencies and/or duty solicitors who are available to help a defendant who is unrepresented. These are most commonly available where housing possession cases are to be heard. 

Information about duty schemes should be available from the court clerk who can also introduce a defendant to the duty representative before the hearing.


In tribunals any representative may appear. Lay advocated commonly represent clients in tribunal hearings.

Litigants in person

Advicenow has published a series of guides for people who are going to court or a tribunal without the help of a lawyer. One of the guides covers hearings, tribunals and appeals.

The Bar Council has also published 'A guide to representing yourself in court'.

[1] s.11 Courts and Legal Services Act 1990.

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