Spotlight on Her: “I am dedicated to advancing the cause of peace-building and conflict resolution on a global scale.” – Adaeze Mgbeahuru

Adaeze Mgbeahuru is a distinguished legal professional renowned for her excellence and innovation in the field of law. With a remarkable track record as an award-winning lawyer and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioner, she has earned widespread recognition for her outstanding academic achievements and impactful contributions to the legal community.

Currently serving as the Contracts and Compliance Manager/Human Resources Coordinator at USP Holdings in Washington, DC, in the United States of America, Adaeze oversees contract compliance and policy adherence. Her strategic guidance ensures that her team operates in accordance with labor laws, employment regulations, and company policies, fostering a culture of professionalism and compliance within the organization.

Prior to her role at USP Holdings, Adaeze embarked on international endeavors as an intern at the United States Federal Trade Commission within the Office of International Affairs. Here, she worked under the international consumer protection team, showcasing her commitment to global advocacy and legal diplomacy. Before her international engagements, Adaeze established herself as a formidable legal practitioner in Nigeria, serving as the Senior Magistrate of the Abia State Multi-Door Courthouse under the Abia State Judiciary. In this capacity, she mediated over 100 cases, leveraging her expertise and technological acumen to drive efficiency and innovation in dispute resolution.

Beyond her legal practice, Adaeze is a sought-after speaker on youth and gender empowerment platforms, including Google Women Will Aba. She is also a prolific contributor to reputable legal publications such as the Global Arbitration Review, Arbitration Brief, and International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) Alternatives, where she shapes discourse and advances thought leadership in the legal sphere. Adaeze is a distinguished alumna of American University, Washington College, where she graduated in the top 10% of her class with a Master of Laws degree in International Arbitration and Business Law.

She earned the prestigious Global Talent Scholarship and the 2023 CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Legal Drafting: International Contracts, reflecting her commitment to academic excellence and professional development. Adaeze holds memberships in esteemed national and international organizations, including the International Mediation Institute, WIPO ADR Young, the American Bar Association, and the Nigerian Bar Association, underscoring her dedication to professional excellence and global collaboration.

Adaeze has also been selected to judge the work of others in her field by serving as a judge for international law and arbitration moot court competitions, and she has chaired panels for esteemed competitions like the Cross-Examination Moot Court and acted as a judge in the semi-finals of the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition. 

Throughout her illustrious career, Adaeze has been honored with scholarships from esteemed institutions such as the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the American University Washington College of Law. Her journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of dedication, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to excellence in the legal profession.

Tell us about your background and what motivated you to pursue a degree in law. From my earliest memories, I recall the simple joy of watching court shows with my parents, an experience that ignited within me a profound fascination for the legal profession. As a child, I would playfully wield the TV remote as if it were a phone, mimicking the solemnity of a judge addressing a courtroom, much to the amusement and pride of my parents. It was in these moments that my aspiration to become a judge took root— a dream nurtured by their unwavering support.

As I matured into my teenage years, my childhood dream evolved into a passionate commitment to combat jungle justice, a pervasive issue in society at the time. This drive to ensure equitable access to justice for the marginalized propelled me to delve deeper into the intricacies of our legal system, culminating in my final year law faculty project titled “The Bar, the Bench, and the Administration of Justice in Nigeria: A Critical Appraisal.”

During this research, I stumbled upon the concept of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and its potential to revolutionize the administration of justice in Nigeria. This discovery ignited a newfound determination to master ADR techniques and fulfill my vision of delivering swift and affordable justice to those in need. Throughout my university journey, I actively engaged in legal advocacy, volunteering at the law clinic, and providing pro bono legal services to prison inmates. Moreover, recognizing the importance of leadership in effecting change, I immersed myself in student politics, holding various positions of responsibility within the university student union government/community, the apex of which was the Vice President of the Faculty of Law. As I reflect on my journey thus far, I am filled with a profound sense of purpose and excitement for the path ahead. I am a firm believer in the transformative power of justice, and I am committed to leveraging my skills and passion to make a meaningful impact in the legal field and the society at large.

Did you achieve your childhood dream of becoming a Judge? Yes, indeed. I achieved my childhood dream of becoming a judge. After practicing law for three years, I was appointed as a senior magistrate in 2015. In this role, I served as a Senior Dispute Resolution Officer at the Abia State Multi-Door Courthouse (ABMDC), where I utilized my expertise in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve disputes between parties.

I was fortunate to enter the judiciary at a time when the ABMDC was implemented as an ADR annex to the High Court, allowing for swift access to justice through ADR methods, particularly in resolving longstanding disputes like land disputes within families. Witnessing the positive impact of ADR on disputing parties, especially those who had been estranged for years, was immensely fulfilling. Over the course of seven years in this position, I resolved over 100 disputes, ranging from community-level issues to high-profile cases.

Seeking to broaden my impact on a global scale, I pursued a Master of Laws in International Arbitration and Business Law in the United States, specifically in Washington, DC. This academic pursuit was aimed at equipping me with the skills and knowledge to contribute to the global arena of ADR and peacebuilding, further fulfilling my lifelong aspiration to make a difference through legal expertise.

Tell us about your work with USP Holdings as the Contracts and Compliance Manager/Human Resources Coordinator.   I am grateful for the opportunity to work for USP Holdings and feel honored to have been given this level of responsibility. As the Contracts and Compliance Manager/Human Resources Coordinator at USP Holdings, I play a crucial role in maintaining legal compliance and fostering a harmonious work environment. My responsibilities encompass reviewing contracts, agreements, and legal documents to ensure adherence to terms and conditions, while also monitoring contract performance and deadlines. In the realm of human resources, I prioritize resolving employee disputes and ensuring compliance with employment laws and labor regulations, particularly in the District of Columbia, United States of America. 

I actively contribute to the review, distribution, and enforcement of company policies and regulations and play a key role in drafting contracts and addressing disputes as they arise. Furthermore, I facilitate the recruitment process by coordinating interviews, managing pre-employment documentations, and overseeing employee onboarding and payroll procedures. Collaborating closely with HR leadership, I address compliance issues and implement corrective actions when necessary.

By staying updated on relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards, I ensured that USP Holdings maintained a positive and legally compliant work environment, fostering employee satisfaction and contributing to the company’s overall success.

What are the key skills necessary for an effective Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioner, and how have you developed these skills throughout your career? Effective Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioners require a diverse skill set to facilitate fair, impartial, and efficient conflict resolution. Key skills include strong communication, active listening, problem-solving abilities, neutrality, emotional intelligence, flexibility, proficiency in conflict resolution techniques, and adherence to ethical standards. 

These skills enable practitioners to build rapport, manage emotions, navigate complex dynamics, and guide parties towards mutually beneficial solutions while upholding integrity and credibility throughout the resolution process. I have honed my ADR skills through extensive training with renowned national and international organizations, coupled with over a decade of hands-on experience in the field. My training includes programs with prestigious institutions such as the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, the National Judicial Institute, the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NAILS), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Arbitrators (ICMC), covering arbitration, mediation, conciliation, and hybrid ADR techniques.

Additionally, I have been awarded competitive scholarships by international bodies like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), focusing on conflict management, peacebuilding, and high-profile leadership in peacebuilding courses. My dedication to mastering ADR led me to study abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, where I immersed myself in the ADR systems of organizations like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This diverse training has equipped me with the expertise needed to excel in the field of ADR.

Furthermore, I have served as a senior magistrate for over seven years, resolving over 100 disputes, further enhancing my practical skills, and deepening my understanding of effective conflict resolution strategies.

Given your experience across different legal systems, how would you say cultural differences impact mediation processes? Cultural differences can significantly impact mediation processes, influencing communication styles, conflict resolution approaches, and the interpretation of legal concepts. Understanding and respecting these cultural differences is essential for effective mediation. For example, in some cultures, direct confrontation may be perceived as confrontational, while in others, it may be considered necessary for resolution. Moreover, cultural values and norms can shape parties’ expectations, attitudes towards authority, and willingness to compromise. Mediators must navigate these differences sensitively, adapting their approach to accommodate diverse cultural perspectives and foster mutual understanding and trust among parties.

Could you elaborate on the significance of your memberships in organizations like the International Mediation Institute and the Nigerian Bar Association for your professional growth?  Membership in organizations like the International Mediation Institute (IMI) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has been instrumental in my professional growth. These memberships provide invaluable opportunities for networking, continuous learning, and staying updated on industry trends and best practices. Through my participation in conferences, seminars, and workshops organized by these organizations, I have been able to enhance my skills, expand my knowledge base, and establish connections with experts and peers in the field. Additionally, being part of these esteemed professional bodies underscores my commitment to upholding ethical standards and promoting excellence in legal practice and alternative dispute resolution.

Your achievements include numerous scholarships and awards. Please share how these recognitions have influenced your career trajectory and opportunities. The scholarships awarded to me by ECOWAS and GCSP served as transformative experiences that broadened my perspective on global conflict resolution and peace-building efforts. Through these opportunities, I gained invaluable insights into the intricate dynamics of peacekeeping and international diplomacy, deepening my commitment to leveraging alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods for the greater good.

Expanding beyond my initial focus on addressing jungle justice and ensuring access to justice for the underprivileged in Nigeria, my passion evolved to encompass a broader vision of contributing to global peace and stability. This shift in perspective was particularly evident during my interactions with various stakeholders, including diplomats and representatives from WTO member states, at round table discussions held at the WTO headquarters in Geneva.

One of the most significant highlights of my study abroad experience was engaging in dialogue with the ambassadors of the United States and China on resolving trade disputes between their respective countries. These interactions provided first-hand insight into the complexities of international trade relations and the role of dispute resolution mechanisms in fostering cooperation and preventing conflict escalation.

During these discussions, the concerns raised by the United States regarding the functioning of the WTO’s Appellate Body became apparent. The US has expressed reservations about judicial activism and the potential overreach of the Appellate Body, leading to a blockage of new appointments to the Body since 2017. This situation underscored the critical importance of effective dispute resolution mechanisms, such as the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), in maintaining the stability of international trade relations and promoting global peace.

As a result of these experiences, I have been inspired to explore ways to contribute to the restoration of the DSU within the WTO framework. I believe that an effective DSU is not only essential for resolving trade disputes promptly and fairly but also plays a pivotal role in fostering mutual trust and cooperation among nations. By advocating for reforms within the WTO and promoting dialogue between member states, I am dedicated to advancing the cause of peace-building and conflict resolution on a global scale.

How do you plan to leverage your expertise in ADR to support and empower your local and global communities? As a seasonal judge in international law and arbitration moot court competitions, I evaluate student participants globally and compile detailed reports for each round, offering performance evaluations and suggestions for improvement. In this role, I have chaired panels for prestigious competitions such as the Cross-Examination Moot Court and served as a Judge in the semi-finals of the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition. I remain committed to supporting and guiding aspiring professionals in their legal endeavors.

I intend to leverage my experience with national and international organizations to contribute to peace-building efforts and conflict-resolution initiatives. This involves developing literature and resources in the field of ADR, collaborating with governments and organizations to de-escalate disputes, and advocating for the implementation of effective conflict resolution mechanisms.

By bridging local and global perspectives, I aspire to foster dialogue, cooperation, and mutual understanding across communities. Through these efforts, I am committed to promoting peace, justice, and stability on both local and international levels, ultimately striving to create a more harmonious and equitable world for all.

Can you share any upcoming projects or initiatives you are working on that aim to promote ADR practices or legal education within your community? Yes, certainly. Last year, I engaged in a consultation agreement with an international arbitration professional to address investor-state disputes in various countries. My focus was on providing dispute resolution solutions for African nations, with the aim of developing a system to prevent such disputes from escalating and mitigating issues related to expropriation. 

We came up with a solution that we are currently developing. Like I said earlier, I plan to leverage my extensive experience with both national and international organizations to contribute to peace-building efforts and conflict-resolution initiatives. This includes developing literature and resources in the field of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), collaborating with governments and organizations to de-escalate disputes, and advocating for the implementation of effective conflict resolution mechanisms.

What advice would you give to young legal professionals aspiring to make a difference in this world? My advice to young legal professionals striving to make a difference is to prioritize continuous learning by staying updated on legal developments and seeking mentorship. Find your passion within the law and align your career with causes that resonate with you. Embrace diversity and inclusion, build strong relationships, and stay true to your values of integrity and justice. Lastly, remain resilient in the face of challenges, as making a meaningful impact often requires perseverance.

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