Law, Society, and Economy: Centenary Essays for the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1895-1995

By Richard Rawlings | Go to book overview

is not to say that ADR is to be avoided, but that it is to be introduced with care--and so far as possible monitored. One problem there is the fact that ADR typically takes place in private, which makes it extremely difficult to find out how it is working.

Alternative dispute resolution is in itself neither good nor bad. The question always is, how does it work, does it give satisfaction, is it quicker or cheaper and, if so, what of importance or value is sacrificed or lost in the process? Experience suggests that ADR will not decrease pressure on the courts. It is probably better to think of ADR as a series of additional rather than alternative means of settling disputes.


CONCLUSION

In summing up my approach to the issue of access to justice as we confront it, close to the turn of the century, I have three main points to make. The first is that we need to look far and wide for reforms and innovations that will improve access to justice. This is today engaging the attention of experts in many countries. In Australia, for instance, the Commonwealth Attorney General recently had a 500 page report from an advisory committee entitled Access to Justice: an Action Plan. The report made nearly a hundred recommendations. In Ontario, there is a major civil justice review underway. In the United States, there continue to be all sorts of initiatives. We need to take advantage of the best thinking in other jurisdictions, as well of course as assembling all our own wisdom and ideas. An incoming Labour Lord Chancellor should consider establishing a special task force for a report on what one could call 'access to justice ideas' worth at least testing. One that I would commend is whether the hitherto somewhat frosty dialogue between Parliamentary counsel and the Plain English campaign32 could fructify in more user-friendly drafting techniques for statute law. But that is only one example from a long list that one could recount if space permitted.

Secondly, we must do something about the lack of research on these issues in this country. The record of the Lord Chancellor's Department in the field of legal system empirical research has been deplorable. Repeatedly to go ahead with reform proposals that are not properly grounded in objective knowledge and real understanding of the systems

____________________
Decline' ( 1986) 53 University of Chicago L. Rev, 494; "'Many Doors? Closing Doors? Alternative Dispute Resolution and Adjudication'" ( 1995) 10 Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution212.
32
See M. Cutts, Lucid Law ( London, 1994). The government's new initiative in launching the re-writing of the whole of tax law in more user-friendly style and language looks like a very important step in the right direction: see Inland Revenue, Tax Law Rewrite, A Consultative Document, July 1996.

-354-

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