Professor David McQuoid-Mason of UKZN’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies discussed the African perspective on the number of lawyers and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms during a presentation at an International Institute for the Sociology of Law Workshop – themed Too Much Litigation?: Facts, Reasons, Consequences, and Solutions – in Onati, Spain.
Presentations were also made by researchers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Russia, Israel, Singapore and South Africa. Sessions covered: (a) Defining the questions and challenging the conceptions; (b) Too much or not enough? And access to justice; (c) Means of volume control – how the courts address ‘too much litigation’; (d) Represented, unrepresented, lawyers and ADR; and (e) Comparative methods of delivering justice in different legal systems.
McQuoid-Mason’s topic during the ADR session was: Too Much Litigation? Could Traditional Dispute Resolution Mechanisms be the Solution to Post-Colonial Developing Countries – Particularly in Africa. His paper covered: (i) the impact of the paucity of lawyers on litigation in African countries; (ii) the traditional approach to dispute resolution; (iii) traditional methods of dispute resolution; (iv) Western-based legal processes versus traditional dispute resolution processes; (v) can traditional dispute resolution mechanisms be integrated into Western-based legal processes?; and (vi) challenges when integrating traditional dispute resolution mechanisms into Western-based legal processes.
Most of the presenters from other countries were engaged in empirical research and there was a healthy exchange of ideas.
Although McQuoid-Mason relied mainly on desk top research, he included a few of the findings of some of the empirical research on dispute resolution mechanisms in Africa. As a result of the suggestions from the other researchers, McQuoid-Mason compiled a list of the empirical research questions that contemporary African researchers might want to consider in order to test the validity of many of the assumptions made by them.