Natasha Bakirci is Assistant Registrar of the DIFC Courts and a SCT Judge. A qualified lawyer, she joined the Courts in 2012 following five years with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Here, Natasha explains what it is like to mediate and adjudicate a case before the SCT.
What is a typical day like for a SCT Judge?
A typical morning spent preparing for a Hearing involves checking all the submitted files and ensuring that the correct documentation is in place. A Hearing will then typically last for between 1-2.5 hours, with the rest of the day spent drafting the resulting Judgment or Order, preparing for the next case, and handling ad-hoc enquiries that come into the Tribunal.
What is the best thing about being a SCT Judge?
First and foremost, you are helping people to solve problems that while relatively small in scale might have a major impact on their lives or business. Being able to help parties resolve a bitter dispute in a matter of weeks and in complete confidence offers a lot of job satisfaction. We also deal with a wide variety of disputes, from employment cases through to disputes between companies, so every case brings a different challenge.
And what are the biggest challenges you face in the job?
Parties usually represent themselves in SCT cases, with the absence of lawyers actually helping to speed up the process. However, if the case is very emotive, parties sometimes struggle to fully articulate their arguments, which can lead to delays. Similarly, if parties fail to submit the correct documents, or submit them in a disorganised fashion, the case can be delayed needlessly.
What qualities make a good SCT judge?
First, you need to have empathy. You are dealing with people who are often under a great deal of stress and being able to understand their position is an essential part of the process.
Second, you must be impartial. You must listen to both parties and consider all the relevant information before forming any opinions and making any decisions.
Third, you need to be flexible. While a financial settlement is the most obvious settlement, there may be many more other solutions that might actually lead to better outcomes for both parties.
How can someone become a SCT mediator or Judge?
Mediators oversee the Consultation phase, where the emphasis is on finding an amicable settlement. SCT mediators typically have a background in law or a profession like chartered surveying. Since you are seeking to resolve disputes between people, a good level of both professional and real life experience is essential to being a good mediator. Training and certification is also available through organisations like the UK’s Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
If an amicable solution cannot be found at the Consultation stage, the case will progress to a Hearing before a SCT Judge, who will assess the legal merits of the case. DIFC Courts Registrars can serve as SCT Judges as they are legally qualified and sufficiently experienced.