By: Reem Al Shihhe, Chief Operating Officer, DIFC Courts, and ICCE Representative for DIFC Courts,  Member of Executive Committee.

How did DIFC Courts approach court excellence?

When it comes to court excellence, it is not enough to review policies, rules and procedures.

We took a step back, thought afresh and tried to see the court experience through the eyes of the court user. What is the court user’s experience of the journey, from filing a claim, to when the judgement has been given. Is the journey smooth; can the process be more efficient?

How long does it take to achieve excellence, and what are the project milestones and performance drivers? 

DIFC Courts is one of the leading commercial courts today, by design. Our ambition to become a top commercial court gained momentum in 2012, when DIFC Courts studied the International Framework for Court Excellence (IFCE) standards and conducted a self-assessment. From there, a concerted effort was made to implement the IFCE standards across the organisation, and to close the gaps that we had discovered.

In 2013, as a result of our commitment to court excellence, DIFC Courts became the first court in the world to achieve the International Standard for Service Excellence (TISSE) certification.  In addition to this, in 2014 we attained the 5 Stars Customer Excellence Award by the UAE Prime Minister – the first non-federal UAE government entity to do so.

In 2016, DIFC Courts proudly became a member of the International Consortium for Court Excellence (ICCE), becoming one of the premier league of courts working actively to assist judiciaries across the world to adopt the International Framework for Court Excellence.

Under the framework, seven main factors drive overall performance for a court:

  • Court leadership and management- how proactive is the management and how can the leadership can drive the strategy and drive the court towards excellence?
  • Court planning and policies- every court in the world has a policy in place, but also need to look at how planning and processes are met
  • Court resources – covering human resources, infrastructure and finance
  • Court proceedings and processes – for example, is workflow adequately captured and documented?
  • Client needs and satisfaction
  • Affordable and accessible court services
  • Public trust and confidence.

What advice would you give to Courts aiming to achieve court excellence? 

Adopt the framework! Work hard to incorporate the framework and do the self-assessment. Run this assessment; benchmark your performance against world standards, and identify the gaps in the seven areas.

Be honest. It could be management, procedures, client satisfaction –  but work on improving it. Do this year after year, and then from there, the performance will slowly become aligned with that of high-level courts.

Fundamentally, it is really just about the court having the right people, processes, leadership, and planning in place. Once that is there, all of these factors will contribute to a positive outcome, and excellence will become an organisational habit.

Reem Al Shihhe, COO of DIFC Courts will be attending the 2017 IACA Conference with a focus on developing the International Framework for Court Excellence as the representative for DIFC Courts, ICCE.