Professor Gordon Woodman has had a long career at Birmingham Law School and has been a consultant for governments, aid agencies, NGOs and the World Bank, and an expert witness in court proceedings which involve issues of African law.
Gordon Woodman went in 1961 to Ghana work for his PhD, which was on the subject of customary land law in Ghana. After completing it he became a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Ahmadu Bello University Nigeria for two years. Thereafter he returned to the University of Ghana as a lecturer, where he stayed until 1976, becoming an Associate Professor and editor of the University of Ghana Law Journal. While a member of this School since 1976, he has frequently travelled and worked for periods of time in universities elsewhere, including New York University, the University of Papua New Guinea, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of the West Indies, the University of Mauritius, the University of Vienna, the International Islamic University Malaysia, and the University of Dar es Salaam.
Professor Woodman studies and writes about law in Africa generally, and is author of Customary Land Law in the Ghanaian Courts (Ghana Universities Press, 1996), co-editor with A O Obilade of African Law and Legal Theory (Dartmouth, 1995), and co-editor with Ulrike Wanitzek and Harald Sippel of Local Land Law and Globalization: A comparative study of peri-urban areas in Benin, Ghana and Tanzania (LIT, 2004).
He has made a study of customary laws generally in the modern world, in addition to those in African countries, and related issues in legal theory concerning the nature of customary law and the forms of legal pluralism. He was President of the Commission on Folk Law and Legal Pluralism from 1984 to1990, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law from 1994 to 2011. He has edited and contributed to a number of books in these fields, including People's Law and State Law (Foris, 1985, edited with Antony Allot), Indigenous Law and the State (Foris, 1988, edited with Bradford W Morse),Between Kinship and the State: Social Security and Law in Developing Countries (Foris, 1988, edited with Franz von Benda-Beckmann and others), Law and Religion in Multicultural Societies (DJØF Publishing, 2008, edited with Rubya Mehdi and others), and Risk and the Law (Routledge-Cavendish, 2008, edited with Diethelm Klippel).
He has been a consultant for governments, aid agencies, NGOs and the World Bank. He has played a part in recent work which aims to have an impact on the World Bank and other international development agencies, leading them to take more informed and favourable attitudes to customary laws in developing countries. He has acted as an expert witness in court proceedings which involve issues of African law, and is involved in debate which aims to make the judicial system more receptive to to particularities of minority cultures both in the UK and internationally. He is writing a book on customary law and legal theory. For his work on law in Africa he has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Bayreuth (Germany) and the University of Ghana.