The UAE’s DIFC Courts were applauded by the region’s legal community when they implemented the Middle East’s first Pro Bono Programme in 2009.
In developing the initiative, the DIFC Courts’ Deputy Registrar and Pro Bono Programme Registrar, Amna Al Owais sought guidance on best practice from the International Bar Association, the Singapore Bar Association and the Pro Bono Council in the UK, to tailor the programme for the Courts’ community. The plan was then offered for a period of public consultation, before its launch in 2009.
On 30 June 2015 The DIFC Courts Pro Bono Programme was transferred from DIFC Courts to the Academy of Law.
The Academy of Law will continue to refine and develop the Academy of Law Pro Bono Programme, (“Pro Bono Programme”) which offers services from basic advice to full case management and representation in proceedings for eligible individuals.
The Pro Bono Programme is designed to ensure that professional legal advice is available to anyone who can demonstrate that they are unable to afford legal representation. It is a public expression of the DIFC Courts’ mission to provide swift, transparent and accessible justice to Courts’ users and to ensure that all parties are on equal footing in proceedings before the Courts, which the Academy of Law supports. Currently, a volunteer register of 39 legal firms has been created, which are a mix of both international and local Emirati law practices.
Pro Bono Clinics
The Academy of Law’ Pro Bono Programme was taken to the people, in the form of a Pro Bono Clinic initiative which was initially launched by DIFC Courts at the start of 2012. These Clinic sessions take place twice every month at the Academy of Law. At the Clinic sessions, potential litigants are able to meet with Pro Bono Programme volunteer lawyers for legal advice on matters that are DIFC-related. They offer potential pro bono litigants one-to-one quality time, in confidence, with legally qualified practitioners.