Pioneering “Appropriate” Dispute Resolution (ADR). Member Spotlight: Chinwe Egbunike-Umegbolu

In a world where litigation has often been the dominant approach to resolving disputes, Dr Chinwe Egbunike-Umegbolu has emerged as a passionate advocate for what she refers to as “Appropriate” Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods. She refers to the “A” in ADR as “appropriate” to place it on equal footing with litigation, allowing the parties in conflict to choose the most appropriate method for resolving their disputes or conflicts. Through her podcast, blog, research, and involvement with organizations like Mediators Beyond Borders, Chinwe is firmly rooted in the growing effort to shift the existing status quo and encourage the adoption of ADR practices.

A journey to create a safer, better world

Chinwe’s journey into the world of ADR began during her legal studies in Nigeria, where she obtained an LLB and a BL to become a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. However, it was during her time at Kingston University in London, where she pursued an LLM in Dispute Resolution, that she was able to pursue her true passion for ADR. Experiencing first-hand the power of mediation, arbitration, and negotiation, Chinwe recognised the “immense potential of these processes to foster peaceful resolutions and to create a safer, better world.”

Driven by her desire to delve deeper into the realm of ADR, Chinwe began her doctoral studies at the University of Brighton. This research, conducted primarily at Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) and at Enugu State Multi-Door Courthouse (ESMDC), aimed to assess the Court-Connected ADR and the impact of the LMDC, which is the first court-connected ADR center in Africa, on other states’ adoption of similar initiatives, like the ESMDC. It was here that Chinwe discovered a pressing need for greater funding and awareness building to encourage the use of ADR methods. She observed that limited awareness among the general public and resistance from lawyers, who viewed ADR as a threat to their revenue, posed significant challenges to the adoption of these methods.

ADR-essing the awareness gap

Having successfully completed her PhD, Chinwe is now working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Brighton, as well as a fellow of the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution (Mediation Committee). Her current research focuses on the potential of ADR in resolving workplace conflict, where she seeks to compare the British,  Nigerian and American cases.

Armed with her research findings and a determination to bridge the ADR knowledge and awareness gap, in 2020 Chinwe launched a vid/podcast show called Expert Views on ADR (EVA). She uses this growing platform to demystify the Traditional African Method of Settling Disputes (TAMSD), as well as other ADR processes. Indeed, by exploring “mediation, arbitration, conciliation, collaborative law, restorative justice, and traditional African dispute resolution methods,” to name just a few examples, she aims to educate and inspire individuals and communities to consider these “appropriate” approaches to conflict resolution.

As a key part of her mission to expand her impact and collaborate with like-minded individuals, she has interviewed leading experts from around the world, including Ken Cloke, founding member of MBBI, which sparked her interest in becoming involved with the organization. She described how she was drawn to MBBI’s mission of promoting peace through mediation and conflict resolution and is keen to contribute her knowledge, experience, and passion to MBBI initiatives.

Following her passion

Chinwe’s ultimate vision is to challenge the dominance of litigation as the default dispute resolution method in Nigeria and other countries. She believes in the importance of a balanced narrative that acknowledges the indigenous methods of resolving conflicts that existed before colonization. By making ADR a compulsory part of legal education and prioritizing its inclusion in educational curricula, Chinwe aims to instill the values of peaceful resolution from an early age, transforming the legal landscape and empowering individuals to seek alternative pathways to justice.

Chinwe offers some great advice for aspiring ADR practitioners. She suggests that you should “follow your passion, as that is what will keep you motivated to work hard. Additionally, it’s important to find mentors who can offer you guidance and listen to their advice. Continuous learning is also key in this field, so make sure to always stay curious and seek out new knowledge.” Finally, Chinwe emphasises that you should “never give up and always strive to be the best version of yourself. This isn’t about competing with others but rather challenging yourself to be better every day.”

Article by Natalie Dewar, MBBI Writer