By Shane McGinley
The service offers free legal advice and is the first of its kind in the Middle East
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts has called on more lawyers in the emirate to sign up to its Pro Bono Programme - the first of its kind in the Middle East - and offer free legal advice to those who cannot afford it.
The DIFC Courts, the special English language judicial system dedicated to the financial free zone, organised the region’s first ever pro-bono clinic in February this year, in a bid to widen access to the legal system for those who cannot afford it.
Currently, 30 Dubai firms are registered for the programme, offering their legal advice for free, but officials have called on more firms to take up the opportunity to help those in need of assistance.
Clinic volunteers, who must be qualified lawyers but do not need to be currently practicing with a law firm, would be expected to spare a couple of hours to advise individuals on questions of commercial or civil law and within the DIFC jurisdiction.
“Our Pro Bono Programme is crucial in advancing the DIFC Courts’ goal of making world class justice accessible to all in the UAE. The Clinic proactively takes the Programme to the community and it has been both very popular and very successful,” said Amna Al Owais, Deputy Registrar and Pro Bono Programme leader.
“Lawyers that participate in the Clinics generally find the sessions very rewarding and some great work has been done in the three Clinics held to date. We are truly grateful for the support of all the individuals who have given their time and effort in helping those less fortunate and in need of legal support," she added.
Last November, it was reported businesses in Dubai can now opt to take their disputes to the DIFC Courts, following an overhaul of the Gulf emirate’s commercial legal system.
The Dubai Government widened the court’s jurisdiction to allow companies based outside the tax-free business park to bring their cases before the common law court.
Under the new rules, companies can opt to resolve their disputes in DIFC courts if both parties agree to its jurisdiction. Contracts can also include a clause binding both parties to use the English-language court in the event of a disagreement.
“[The decision] provides businesses with more choice; choice to have their cases heard in Arabic or English, using civil or common law procedures,” Michael Hwang, Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts, told Arabian Business.
Companies outside the free zone were previously tied to bringing cases before the Arabic-language Dubai Courts in the event of a dispute.
Applicants for the Pro Bono Clinic must make an appointment for the Clinic by calling 04 427 3333. Further information on eligibility and the application process can be found at www.difccourts.ae