1. Let me begin by telling you how Mark was engaged. At that time a decade ago, we needed to appoint a permanent Registrar. We had two candidates to consider. One was someone who had served as Deputy Registrar of another common law court for several years, and the other (which had been found by an executive search company) was Mark. On paper, there was no contest. The other candidate was obviously well qualified for the job, whereas Mark came from a past career first in private practice, then in the commercial world, ending up with MasterCard as its General Counsel for the Middle East.
2. Sir Anthony and I interviewed both candidates, and I might have opted for the safe choice of the Deputy Registrar if the matter came down to a vote. But it was Sir Anthony who decided that Mark was the man he wanted and, if I may say so, the choice of Mark was a stroke of genius on the part of Sir Anthony, who saw something in Mark that made him decide that he was the man for the job of building and a new common law court in a civil law, Arabic-speaking environment, and developing it into a credible commercial court.
3. But that is history, and Mark is a person who makes history. When we reflect on the history of the DIFC Courts (“DIFCC”), we will realize that what we have today was not part of destiny – it was forged by the inspiration, vision and energy of Mark above all people. It is of course true that Sir Anthony Evans was the father of the DIFCC, but Mark was the person who executed Sir Anthony’s vision and developed it into something which even Sir Antony and I could not have imagined. Without him I have no doubt that we could have been a successful court in terms of what the founders of DIFC had imagined, an important pillar in keeping international investors and businesses comfortable in maintaining a system of justice based on English common law. We had good laws, the manning of the courts with experienced former common law judges from various parts of the common law world was not difficult, and there was a strong international Bar in Dubai ready and willing to support the DIFCC. We could have run a decent, traditional court which would have been reactive, rather than proactive. And it is quite possible that we would have ended up with a solid structure which would have fulfilled its original aims, with modest success, and without distinguishing ourselves from other similar courts around which have been built with a similar aim in mind.
4. But what Mark set out to do was first, to internationalize our court by making the world alive to our existence by signing MOGs with important commercial countries, not only to recognize us, but to realize that they could learn from us. And this is when he developed his aim of connecting us to as many other courts as possible not just by signing MOGs (of which we now have 11) but also establishing MOUs and other forms of relationships with them. He has been so successful in that aim that we now have a consulting division, and our most well-known client is Kazakhstan and the Astana International Financial Centre (“AIFC”) Courts. Second, he wanted to make our court an example of how a good common law commercial court operated by adopting best existing practices. So he was keen on adopting KPIs and making our courts run on the same management principles as other major institutions, so as to place us in the same league as the most developed commercial courts in the world. And indeed, we are now mentioned in the international press in the same breath as London and Singapore. Third, he wanted our Courts to adopt procedures and practices (not normally adopted by other courts) which emphasized the importance of customer (or client) reaction to our standard of service. This had my full encouragement, as I saw the need for our courts to develop, not just an institution that was meant only to hear cases, but also to contribute to the building up of a whole English speaking legal community and to involve the local and international bars in the activities normally undertaken by a Bar association which did not exist in Dubai (e.g. pro bono services and continuing legal education) . And fourth, and probably most important to him, he wanted us to be among the most technologically advanced courts in the world. We have succeeded, to a large degree, in all four endeavours, and those successes are largely attributable to Mark’s vision and drive.
5. Sir Anthony had a vision of our courthouse being a “house of justice” as he envisioned a centre for all forms of dispute resolution which would house, not only the DIFCC, but also an arbitration centre as well. Mark took that concept to a new level, by persuading the authorities to create an overarching authority for all modes of dispute resolution in the DIFC. But critically, on my urging, he persuaded the authorities to allow us to create an Academy of Law (“AOL”) based on the Spore model, which enabled us to make the DIFCC not only the home of common law justice, but also the home for research and education of all lawyers in Dubai, both in bringing common law to civil-law trained lawyers, and also civil law to common-law trained lawyers. And Mark was entrepreneurial enough to see the need for a new environment for long standing non-Muslim residents of Dubai who wished to have a more satisfactory system of distributing their assets to their families on their death. Hence the development by the DRA of the Wills and Probate Service (now known as the Wills Service Centre)
6. When I think of Mark, I think of three words, all beginning with “E”: Entrepreneurial, Energetic, and Energising.
7. Entrepreneurial -Ideas flow from him like water from a spring
8. Energetic – having conceptualized an idea, he will do everything necessary to bring it to fruition
9. Energising – and in order to do that, he has the ability to infuse those tasked to work on the project with the necessary inspiration, and encouragement to get the job done, and in time
10. These are qualities of true leadership. And, as I told the staff at their farewell party for him this afternoon, I hope that all of you will use him as a role model for your own individual careers, whatever field of interest you may have.
11. A lesson I have learnt is that it is easy to be a good no 1 if you have a great no 2. And Mark has been everything I could have wanted in a CEO and more. Without him, the DIFC Courts would not have won international renown. Without him, we would have had no DRA, and without him, we would not have brought DRA to its present state of creating a whole legal eco-system for, not only DIFC, but the whole of Dubai, and with a growing importance outside of the UAE.
12. Finally, perhaps Mark’s greatest achievement has been the way he has mentored his successor over the last decade, and given us someone fully familiar with his philosophies and his methods, and can herself claim credit for much of our success over the last 10 years. And I am sure that he will agree that his greatest legacy to us is to have nurtured and prepared his successor, Amna Al Owais, to be ready to take over his two jobs as Registrar of the DIFCC and CEO of the DRA when he was ready to step down. I believe that Amna is ready, and will do us proud to take over from where Mark has left off to lead us into the next decade of our history as a worthy successor to Mark.
13. We have much to be proud of in the DIFC of the state of our legal framework, our courts and our legal community. Many people have contributed to the development of a mature legal environment, but at the heart of that development has been Mark. Dubai owes Mark a debt that it cannot repay, except by giving due recognition to all his outstanding achievements over the years to the cause of justice and legal developments in Dubai. He has been a Registrar and CEO without peer, and leaves Dubai after a decade of exemplary service with the gratitude of the DIFC Courts and the DRA on whose behalf I speak. So we have a lot to thank Mark for, and I am sure I am echoing the feelings of all here when we wish him, not a happy retirement, because he does not have a retiring nature, but a meaningful and rewarding next phase in his career and personal life. We hope that he and his family will leave with happy memories of his life in Dubai, and secure in the knowledge that he has left a legacy that Dubai should be grateful for.
14. So Mark, you will always be remembered by your former colleagues and the legal community for your incomparable achievements of which you can be justly proud. On their behalf I bid you and Adi adieu but not farewell as you will always be welcome here and we hope to see you again back in Dubai from time to time.
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