N THE DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CENTRE COURTS
PRACTICE DIRECTION NO. 5 OF 2013
DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme
This Practice Direction will come into effect on the date of signature. It may be cited as Practice Direction 5 of 2013 — DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme — and may be abbreviated to PD 5/2013.
This Practice Direction amends Practice Direction No. 3 of 2009 on the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme. The Guidelines which follow shall replace those found in the Practice Direction 3 of 2009.
Chief Justice Michael Hwang
Dated: 3rd June 2013
DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme Guidelines
The introduction 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 such, but who cannot afford to retain lawyers. The DIFC Courts have a mission to provide accessibility to justice and to ensure that all parties are on equal footing in proceedings before the Courts. The services offered in the Programme will be delivered to eligible individuals (“pro bono litigants”) who approach the DIFC Courts’ Registry requesting assistance. To ensure consistency of pro bono representation, information and procedures, the DIFC Courts provide the following guidelines in relation to the Programme.
In addition, to enable greater accessibility the Programme introduced Pro Bono clinics which run on a regular basis providing brief legal advice about matters relating to the DIFC.
1. The following may participate in the Programme (as a “volunteer practitioner”):
11. There can be instances in which a pro bono litigant may be entitled to a cost free trial, where he/she will not be obligated to meet the legal costs of the opposing party or parties even if the pro bono litigant loses his or her case. The pro bono litigant will only be entitled to this once an application has been approved by the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Panel (the ‘Panel’).
Not all applications for a cost free trial will be forwarded for the consideration of the Panel. Only certain qualifying applications will be put forward to the Panel for its consideration. The legal representative of the pro bono litigant (the law firm that agreed to pursue the pro bono litigant’s case) must support a pro bono applicant’s application for a cost free trial, and must certify that in their opinion there is a reasonable prospect of the pro bono applicant’s case succeeding. Similarly, the opposing party’s or parties’ legal representative will be given the opportunity to respond to the application for a cost free trial and may provide its submissions about why the pro bono litigant should not be permitted a cost free trial. A pro bono litigant may only be granted a cost free trial once the application has been forwarded to the Panel by the Programme Leader and the Panel has subsequently determined that the applicant meets the threshold of financial inability, case merit and such other criteria as the Panel may determine is relevant from time to time. The Panel has absolute discretion as to whether an applicant meets the threshold for a cost free trial. The overview by which the Panel operates is attached.
[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 FOR FIRMS
[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].
The volunteer practitioner has not been engaged to provide the following services: [list services that are outside the scope of the representation].
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.
Our expectations of you are [list any expectations concerning maintaining accurate address and contact information, responses to requests for information, communication, etc.].
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.
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].
I have read and consent to the terms contained in this letter.
DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Panel Overview
1. The DIFC Courts’ pro bono panel will comprise of seven members and will include:
2. The tenure of membership will be for a period of one year and there will be a review after that period. The review will be done by the Pro Bono Programme Leader. The Pro Bono Programme Leader will assess, among other things, the contribution of the panel members and can either:
5. The panel will have to assess two different facets of each application:
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