x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Reforms 'may cost Emirati law firms'

Lawyers caution that the new DIFC court may cause jurisdictional issues.

DUBAI // Emirati lawyers may lose business after reforms to the commercial legal system allow foreign firms to take disputes to the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, attorneys say.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, issued a decree expanding the jurisdiction of the financial centre courts.

But Diana Hamade, an advocate and panellist at the recent International Bar Association conference, said the move may cause clients to choose western law firms instead of those operated by Emiratis.

Ludmila Yamalova, a lawyer from HPL Yamalova and Plewka JLT Legal Consultancy, disagreed, saying the number of cases settled out of court meant there were plenty of opportunities for Emirati lawyers.

"Under common law very few cases litigated do not get settled before the end of the case," Ms Yamalova said.

"The majority of cases get settled. Therefore, there will be still a lot of clients looking to use the local court system to finalise their cases."

Other firms also welcomed the move.

"Knowing that they have a forum here where a common law judge interprets agreements will sit better with investors," Benjamin Newland, a partner at King and Spalding, said in a statement.

One difficulty, however, could be that although there are many foreign lawyers in the UAE, only a few have the experience needed to work in a courtroom.

"There are a few barristers in the UAE who can litigate a case before courts," said the counsellor Herbert Wolfson, from the US firm Emirates Law Network.

Ms Yamalova said: "It will be at least a year before we see the results of this expansion.

"Currently the courts are handling their backlog and there are yet to be cases registered under these new provisions."

amustafa@thenational .ae