As the practice of Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR) continues to expand in Ghana, the role of lawyers in ADR often becomes an issue to contend with.
Studies have shown that the success and growth of ADR, to a significant extend, depends on the contribution of the lawyer who parties often rely on for advice in choosing ADR. The financial interest they hold in cases often determine the advice they offer to their clients regarding the choice of ADR.
The situation presents a dilemma for young ADR practitioners as well as trainees and aspiring ones as to whether legal education should be a pre-requisite for ADR practice.
However, there is a consensus among ADR practitioners that legal education should not be a pre-requisite for a successful ADR practice.
ADR practitioners who contributed to the topic, “Must a Mediator have legal education,” on an ADR Daily’s online forum, were convinced that well trained ADR practitioners could practice successfully without a formal legal education.
“You don’t have to be a lawyer to be a mediator. All you need is a working knowledge of the law,” says Mr Austin Gamey, a leading ADR practitioner.
According to him, the ADR profession dwells on an interest-based approach and therefore, does not require the legal practice which is a preserve of litigation.
He pointed out that most successful ADR practitioners are not lawyers. Therefore, young practitioners should not be too worried about legal education, but just be good at what they do.
Similarly, Isaac Asare, an ADR practitioner and Administrator of the Ghana Association of ADR Practitioners (GNAAP), indicated that having a legal education is useful in ADR practice.”
“However, one does not need to be a legal practitioner before they can practice mediation,” he said.
That, he explains, is because mediation is informal and it does not follow strict legal procedures as compared to the court.
“The most important thing is to understand the principles of mediation, the role of the parties and the mediator,” he argued.
He also indicated that majority of successful mediators are not legal practitioners.
For her part, Mrs Lizzy Ann Kwagbedzi, an ADR practitioner said practitioners only need working knowledge of the law covering their areas of specialisation.
Giving an example, she said for instance once you decide to mediate or arbitrate aviation cases, you have to acquaint yourself with the law and regulations related to the industry.
Mrs Joyce Atta-Gyamfi, a lawyer and ADR practitioner, in an interview off the platform, believes that although it should not be a pre-requisite, a basic knowledge of the law would offer an advantage for the ADR practitioner.
That, she believed, would enforce the confidence of the practitioner in dealing with legal issues during mediation sessions.
Many other contributors shared a similar opinion, indicating that ADR practice is a unique profession which does not rely on the legal education.
It has its independent structure and different principles and regulations guiding the practice.
They contend that ADR is not para-legal and not an alternative to the legal profession. It is an entirely unique profession on its own.
By: Nii Adotey/adrdaily.com