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Practice Direction No. 3 of 2009 DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme

Practice Direction No. 3 of 2009 DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme

October 9, 2009

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IN THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY OF THE DUBAI INTERNATIONAL
FINANCIAL CENTRE
DIFC COURTS PRACTICE DIRECTION NO 3 OF 2009

DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme

Citation

This Practice Direction brings into immediate effect the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme, which shall operate pursuant to the attached Guidelines. The administration of the Programme shall be the responsibility of the Pro Bono Programme Leader, who shall be appointed by the Chief Justice from time to time. My first appointment is Amna Sultan Al Owais, the Deputy Registrar to the DIFC Courts and Registrar to the Small Claims Tribunal

This Practice Direction may be cited as Practice Direction 3 of 2009 — DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme and may be abbreviated to PD 3/2009.

Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts

Dated:


DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme
Guidelines

Purpose

The adoption of the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme (the “Programme”) derived from a need in the community for pro bono legal representation. The DIFC Courts’ aim is to facilitate representation of individuals that are in need of legal representation and assistance, but who cannot afford to retain lawyers. The DIFC Courts have a mission to provide accessibility to justice and to ensure that both parties are on equal footing in proceedings before the Courts. The services offered in the Programme will be delivered to eligible individuals that approach the DIFC Courts’ Registry requesting assistance. To ensure consistency of representation, information and procedures for pro bono legal representation, the DIFC Courts provide the following guidelines in relation to the Programme.

Guidelines

1. In order to participate in the Programme, law firms and individual practitioners (“volunteer practitioners”) must be registered and in good standing under Part I of the DIFC Courts’ list of registered practitioners.

 

2. A register of volunteer practitioners will be created and maintained by the Pro Bono programme leader (the “Programme Leader”). When a pro bono litigant is referred to the Programme, the name of the pro bono litigant, the volunteer practitioner who has agreed to act for them on the relevant matter and the general subject matter of the dispute in question will be entered into a register (the “Pro Bono Register”). The Pro Bono Register will also be used to track the number and types of referrals to volunteer practitioners and to monitor progress.

 

3. The Programme Leader will be chosen by the Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts. The Programme Leader will be responsible for all aspects of the operation and administration of the Programme.

 

4. Each person or firm wishing to take part in the Pro Bono Programme should complete a registration form and submit it to the Pro Bono Programme Leader. Any firm wishing the register shall include in that registration form, among other things, the details of a person in the firm with whom the DIFC Courts shall liaise for pro bono matters, including the referral of pro bono litigants.

 

5. As far as reasonably practicable, the pro bono applications will be shared equally among those on the pro bono register and volunteer practitioners will be assigned on a roster basis. The Programme Leader will endeavour to refer no more than one pro bono litigant to each volunteer practitioner at any given time. However, there may be instances when that number may be exceeded.

 

6. A pro bono litigant shall apply to the Programme Leader briefly describing the nature of their claim and the type of remedy sought. In order for a pro bono litigant to be eligible for the Programme, and to continue to retain free legal services, the pro bono litigant must provide evidence that he or she cannot afford a lawyer. Based on that evidence, it is then for the Programme Leader to decide whether the litigant is eligible for the Programme. It must be recognised that the decision of the Programme Leader (after consultation with the Registrar) shall be final. The pro bono litigant must also notify the volunteer practitioner and the Programme Leader if, at any time during the pro bono representation, his or her financial position changes such that he or she is, or will be able, to retain a lawyer.

 

7. Prior to the confirmation of their appointment as legal representative of a pro bono client, and prior to the provision of any pro bono assistance to a pro bono client or participation in a case, the volunteer practitioner’s pro bono status will be verified by the Programme Leader on the Pro Bono Register to ensure that the volunteer practitioner is in good standing and still meets the DIFC Courts’ requirements for inclusion in the Programme, as outlined in these guidelines and in the DIFC Courts’ Code of Professional Conduct.

 

8. When a volunteer practitioner takes on a pro bono engagement, both the volunteer practitioner and the pro bono litigant shall sign a letter of engagement which outlines the scope of the pro bono engagement (a sample of which is attached). One copy will be retained by the volunteer practitioner; one copy will be provided to the pro bono litigant and a third copy will be provided to the Programme Leader.

 

9. Each pro bono engagement must be clearly defined in the pro bono letter of engagement in respect of the type of service and scope of work to be provided. Pro bono engagements can range from basic advice to full case management and trial, as well as representation in proceedings. The pro bono engagement only encompasses the Court of First Instance. If the pro bono litigant and the volunteer practitioner agree to continue the representation to cover an appeal or additional claim, a new pro bono letter of engagement will need to be submitted to the Programme Leader. In the absence of such agreement, the pro bono litigant may apply to the Programme Leader requesting a referral to another volunteer practitioner.

 

10. If a pro bono litigant is not satisfied with the type of service and/or scope of work offered by the volunteer practitioner or for any other valid reason, he may approach the Programme Leader to request a change in representation. The Programme Leader has the absolute discretion to determine whether to assign the pro bono litigant an alternate volunteer practitioner.

 

11. Volunteer practitioners shall ensure that pro bono litigants and matters are administered and handled to the same high standards as for their paying clients. Volunteer practitioners who represent pro bono clients in proceedings before the DIFC Courts must act in accordance with the Code of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners issued by the DIFC Courts from time to time.

 

12. In the interests of promoting accessibility to representation for pro bono litigants, the DIFC Courts reserve the right to waive the requirement of Part II registration in order for a volunteer practitioner (and where the volunteer practitioner is a firm, for lawyers of that firm) to appear in Court in relation to pro bono cases only. Upon application to, and acceptance by, the Programme Leader a volunteer practitioner registered under Part I of the DIFC Courts’ list of registered practitioners may (and where the volunteer practitioner is a firm, a lawyer of that firm may) represent the pro bono litigant in Court.

 

13. A pro bono litigant can apply to the Programme Leader to have court fees waived, but if the pro bono litigant’s action is successful and the litigant is awarded costs, the fees become payable to the DIFC Courts by the unsuccessful party.

 

14. A list volunteer practitioners participating in the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme will be maintained on the DIFC Courts’ website. If a pro bono litigant directly contacts a volunteer practitioner, the volunteer practitioner should ask the individual to contact directly the Programme Leader for assistance.

 

15. The Programme Leader will maintain a confidential spreadsheet detailing the number of occasions that a volunteer practitioner has declined to provide assistance to a pro bono litigant. From time to time, the spreadsheet will be reviewed by the Programme Leader to determine whether the volunteer practitioner should remain on the pro bono register.

[Note: This is a sample form only. Use of this letter will help to establish clear expectations and avoid misunderstandings between you and the pro bono litigant.]


 

DIFC COURTS’ PRO BONO PROGRAMME
[SAMPLE] LETTER OF ENGAGEMENT

[Date]

[Pro Bono Litigant Name & Address]

Re: Scope of representation

Dear [Pro Bono Litigant]:

This letter will confirm the terms of our representation. Our work will begin upon receipt of a signed copy of this letter.

[Name of volunteer practitioner] will provide legal services to [Pro bono litigant name], and the scope of services we will render and other aspects of the proposed representation are mutually agreed to be as follows:

Services to be Provided:

The volunteer practitioner has been engaged to provide the following services: [list services to be provided].

Excluded Services

The volunteer practitioner has not been engaged to provide the following services: [list services that are outside the scope of the representation].

Expenses:

We may incur various expenses in providing services. We will inform you before incurring expenses for your approval. You agree to pay all such expenses and to reimburse us for all out-of-pocket expenses that we pay on your behalf provided you had prior notification and gave your approval to the disbursement. Whenever possible, we will forward bills for any expenses incurred on your behalf directly to you and you agree to make prompt payment directly to the originator of these bills. Expenses that may be incurred include, but are not limited to, photocopying, faxing, courier fees, court fees, expert’s fees and mailing disbursements.

Client Cooperation

Our expectations of you are [list any expectations concerning maintaining accurate address and contact information, responses to requests for information, communication, etc.].

Documentation

The DIFC Courts will keep copies of all of your case related documents and correspondence once a claim is filed with the Court. We will keep copies of this information as well. If you wish to have your own copies of these documents you may request copies from the DIFC Courts’ Registry and pay the appropriate copying charges. Once we have completed the legal work necessary to conclude this matter, we will close our file and return any original documents to you.

Your Right to Terminate Representation

You may terminate this representation at any time with or without cause by notifying us and the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme Leader in writing of your desire to do so. Upon receipt of the notice to terminate representation, we will stop all legal work on your behalf immediately. You will be responsible for paying all expenses incurred on your behalf in this matter before the date of written notice of termination was received.

Our Right to Terminate Representation

We may terminate our representation (to the extent permitted by the DIFC Courts’ Code of Conduct and the Rules of the DIFC Courts) at any time if you breach any material term of this agreement or fail to cooperate or follow our advice on a material matter, if a conflict of interest develops or is discovered, or if there exists at any time any fact or circumstance that would, in our opinion, render our continuing representation unlawful, unethical, or otherwise inappropriate. If we elect to terminate our representation, you will take all steps reasonably necessary and will cooperate as reasonably required to free us of any further obligation to perform legal services, including the execution of any documents necessary to complete our withdrawal from representation. In such case, you agree to pay for all expenses incurred before the termination of our representation in accordance with the provision of this agreement.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme and to continue to retain our legal services, you have certified to the DIFC Courts that you cannot afford a lawyer, along with providing relevant evidence. You must notify us and the Pro Bono Programme Leader if at any time during this representation your financial position changes such that you would be able to retain a lawyer to represent you.

If any of the terms stated in this letter are not consistent with your understanding of our agreement, please contact us before signing the agreement. Otherwise, please sign the agreement in the space provided below and return it to [email address and/or postal address information]. Also, please provide a signed copy to the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme Leader.

If you have questions, please feel free to call me at [telephone number].

Yours sincerely,

[Volunteer Practitioner]

I have read and consent to the terms contained in this letter.


Signature


Printed Name


Date