February 8, 2016

DIFC Courts Lecture Series No. 1 of 2016: “Commercial Justice & the Global Village”

The first lecture of the DIFC Courts Lecture Series of 2016 was held on 1 February 2016 at the offices of Falcon & Associates in the DIFC.

The evening commenced with Chief Justice Hwang (the Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts) presenting the Work Plan for the DIFC Courts for 2016 and the 2021 Strategy.

Before revealing the Work Plan for 2016, Chief Justice Hwang announced that as of 20 January 2016, Sir John Chadwick has retired as the Deputy Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts and as a judge of the DIFC Courts but that he will remain sitting as a judge on his current matters. Chief Justice Hwang confirmed that an announcement as to Sir John Chadwick's successor would follow shortly.

Work Plan for 2016

The main highlights of the DIFC Courts Work Plan for 2016 that were outlined are as follows:

  • The DIFC Courts want to strength and increase its panel of overseas judges and Emirati judges.
  • Case management in the DIFC Courts will change so as to allow for more flexibility on hearing dates according to the diaries of the litigants legal representatives (subject to avoiding unnecessary delays).
  • The DIFC Courts are reviewing trends in costs litigation and are aiming to create a database which is accessible online with costs submissions and judgments which litigants can use and cite in costs assessment applications.
  • The DIFC Courts will reconsider the new fee structure that was introduced last year and look to reduce fees for simpler matters.
  • The first edition of commentary on a number of the DIFC Laws is currently being prepared by a few of the leading law firms in the region (including Clyde & Co) and will be made available shortly.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution methods in order to settle cases will be encouraged and judges are to be firm and robust when dealing with "Guerrilla tactics" (a term invented by Chief Justice Hwang in an article in 2005).

Commercial Justice & the Global Village

After Chief Justice Hwang presented the Work Plan for 2016, The Right Honourable The Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales took to the stage and delivered his lecture titled "Commercial Justice & the Global Village".

The crux of Lord Thomas' lecture concerned how the legal framework globally should deal with the changes in commerce which have been brought about by advances in digital technology with particular focus on commercial courts.

Lord Thomas opined that the way to deal with such changes in commercial courts is as follows:

  • Market motivated but judge led reform. Judges worldwide need to consider what "market users" want in respect of costs, dispute resolution and digital technology, then reflect on how practices have developed in other countries and what can be achieved locally. In essence, Lord Thomas considers that judges need to evaluate what "market users" want and react to those needs.  
  • Personnel. The legal framework needs to be made up of the following key groups:
    • The highest quality judges in which the public can place a significant amount of trust and confidence. It is essential for all commercial courts to attract the very best people.
    • A legal profession that it both innovative and excellent and that can move forward with changes.
    • An excellent court administration team that is adequately trained.
  • Process. Commercial courts need to have innovative and flexible court procedures and need to place more reliance on the use of technology during hearings. For example by making use of technology to avoid personal attendance at interim hearing and so that litigants can attend hearings remotely.
  • Awareness of commercial change. Judges need to be persistently aware of commercial change and that there needs to be a way to ensure that all judges are kept updated on commercial changes so that they can react.

Lord Thomas concluded the lecture by explaining that the rule of law needs to be upheld across the world and that there needs to be a systematic approach to dealing with disputes such as considering problem areas and ensuring that prosperity of the digital community is developed.

In addition, Lord Thomas concluded that we live in a transformed and interconnected world and as such the courts globally should not be left behind.

This session was summarised by Nikita Patel, Associate at Clyde & Co in Dubai.