I am proud tonight to launch the new DIFC Courts’ “Academy” – and I am honoured that this important educational programme has been selected by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the DIFC, as one of his 2012 Initiatives for Legal Excellence.
It is also an honour for the DIFC Courts to be co-hosts for such an important evening, together with our colleagues and friends from the Dubai Courts – as both organisations announce significant steps to improve the structure of legal training and development in the United Arab Emirates.
The DIFC Courts, as most of you here will know, are different from other courts in the UAE because of three important factors. First, we operate in the English language; second, we settle commercial disputes and third, our experienced international judges’ decisions are based on the ‘common law’ system used for centuries in many leading trading nations – a historical legal process that is familiar to much of Dubai’s flourishing business community.
The DIFC Courts were established in 2004 and mainly began hearing cases in 2006, only six years ago. Initially, cases were confined to companies located within the Dubai International Financial Centre, or those doing business with them.
Through the hard work of many people, Emirati and expatriate, the DIFC Courts became increasingly successful. Cases grew in number, as did the distinguished local and foreign legal practitioners registered with us. Our importance as a commercial legal centre is testified to by the fact that a former Attorney General as well as a former Lord Chancellor of England have appeared in our Courts to argue cases before us.
As a result of this success, the second stage in our development was announced on October 30 last year, when His Highness the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, extended our jurisdiction worldwide. Now, companies from all over the world – who wish to have their cases heard in DIFC Courts – can simply state our jurisdiction in their contracts.
I believe that the Dubai Government’s strategy throughout has been very clear and very consistent! Its aim has always been to promote global trader and investor confidence in the Emirate: and the Government’s vision has led it to reinforce that confidence by establishing and expanding a world-class international judiciary to serve the market’s needs.
You will not be surprised to hear that, in the first half of 2012, the number of cases coming before us has doubled over 2011 – in the same way as Dubai’s own reputation as a business hub is advancing throughout the world.
In that context and against that background, I am pleased to make my announcement tonight: the creation – in partnership with Thomson Reuters – of the DIFC Courts’ Academy, an institution which will carry out the first training programme in English common law anywhere in the Middle East!
The aim of the Academy is to give practitioners (including those with a Civil Law background) a better understanding of English Common Law and court procedure as applied in the DIFC Courts. We particularly hope – and indeed expect – to attract a significant number of Emirati participants who have the ultimate aim of becoming registered practitioners before the DIFC Courts.
How will the Academy function?
The first session will be aimed at practitioners who are fluent in English and already have a working knowledge of common law, but require education in the specific laws of the DIFC. We are running two modules – Module A in DIFC Laws and Module B for DIFC Procedures. In Module A we will have 3 sessions, first a general overview of DIFC Laws followed by two sessions on the law of contract and the law of companies, including some aspects of insolvency, as they are the foundation of most of the cases coming before the DIFC Courts.
These practitioners will also need a working knowledge of the Rules of the DIFC Courts, and Module B will provide will provide 7 sessions on DIFC Courts’ Procedures covering selected aspects of court procedures which are most important for court practitioners, from filing a claim to seeking interim relief and disclosure of documents to evidence at trial, costs and enforcement.
We will also be introducing a separate course designed to educate practitioners who are fluent in English, but have been trained in civil law systems with no working knowledge of the common law. That course will provide an introduction to common law principles, with some reference as to how they are applied in the DIFC, and will be a platform from which civil law practitioners can eventually progress to the more advanced course that we are launching tonight — which will be repeated from time to time.
And even further down the line, we are hoping to work with local Emirati partners to develop an awareness course in Common Law and DIFC Laws and Procedures in Arabic for Emirati and other civil law trained practitioners to understand how the legal system of the DIFC works so as to be able to advise their Emirati (and regional) clients as to when it would be appropriate to bring their cases in the DIFC Courts.
Please understand that, for the present, the Academy is a virtual institution, so don’t look for a new building springing up in the DIFC!
Classes will take place at the DIFC Courts’ premises – most probably in the Court room itself – offering students the opportunity to further familiarise themselves with the Courtroom environment. Students will achieve a certificate in “DIFC Court Law and Procedure” upon successful completion of the course.
The Legal Affairs Department of the Government of Dubai is currently making strides towards accrediting the Academy with the equivalent of CPD recognition. This is expected to come to fruition in 2013.
The Academy is a first step in encouraging wider training in common law in the Emirates.
We particularly want to grow the number of Emirati advocates registered with us – and we see the Academy as a vital first step in developing the necessary expertise and understanding.
So I am happy now to formally launch the DIFC Courts’ Academy – a virtual college for the development of common law and common law procedures in the Emirate.