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Supporting access to justice in the Middle East

Lawyers from our Dubai office are proud to work with the DIFC Courts Pro Bono Clinic (“the Clinic”). This Clinic is part of the DIFC Courts’ Pro Bono Programme which is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the Middle East. Established in 2009, the Programme provides access to justice to those who are financially in need and who have legal issues that arise within the DIFC area of Dubai or otherwise fall within the DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction.

The Programme’s services range from free legal advice to full case management and representation in court proceedings to individuals in the local community who cannot afford a lawyer. Since its establishment, the face-to-face clinics and online platforms have helped over 4,700 individuals to date. 

The Programme runs a weekly consultation pro bono clinic located at the DIFC Courts on legal issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts, most commonly relating to employment matters or property and tenancy disputes. Potential litigants are able to walk in on the assigned days to meet a volunteer lawyer, who advises on actual or prospective claims and provides general legal advice. The Clinic only deals with matters of DIFC law, which is codified and closely follows English law. 

The Clinic provides a valuable source of legal support to those who have no other means to access it and there is plenty of demand for appointments, indicating the need. Hayley Norton, Pro Bono Programme Leader at the DIFC Courts, said of the clinic: “The pro bono support provided by the Programme’s volunteer lawyers means that we can meet the growing need for free legal advice in the DIFC area. This support ensures that we can continue to secure swift, transparent and accessible justice to DIFC Court users, to allow all parties to be on an equal footing in proceedings before the Courts”. 

Lawyers in our Dubai office have been staffing appointments at the clinic since September 2022 and have supported many clients. Peter Smith, Legal Director in Commercial Dispute Resolution, has sat on the Pro Bono Committee at the DIFC Courts since 2021 and has been covering appointments with the Clinic for seven years. Peter says, “Assisting with the Pro Bono Clinic is a very worthwhile activity. It is extremely satisfying helping people with their problems, particularly when the magnitude of those problems can be so great.”

If you are interested in getting involved with the DIFC Courts Pro Bono Clinic, please contact the Pro Bono team.

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