A particular emphasis on this trip was to promote the Bar in International Arbitration and a new guide/directory “Barristers in International Arbitration 2009/10” was launched on this visit which will also over the next few weeks be mailed to around 1,000 law firms and in-house legal departments in priority markets. (This can be downloaded from the Bar Council website and hard copies are available from the International Secretariat.) This guide includes a directory of barristers practising in this field. Its publication marks an important step forward in the Bar Council’s efforts to provide greater information about the Bar’s services for overseas clients. It will provide those wishing to instruct an international arbitration barrister with all the necessary information in a concise form.
The first stop on the mission was Dubai where the delegation met with Deputy Chief Justice Michael Hwang SC and Judge Ali Shames Al-Madhani of the newly created Dubai International Financial Centre Court. The Court has many common law features and before which all practicing members of the English Bar can obtain rights of audience. The workload of the Court is beginning to grow with around 15 cases currently on the docket. The small claims court has over 50 cases pending. The judges told us that there is need for pro bono employment law advice and this would be good opportunity for interested barristers to gain experience in the DIFC Court. The Court is currently working on a Code of Conduct for counsel appearing before it and the International Committee will The delegation visited the long-established Dubai International Arbitration Centre as well as the new DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre. The arbitration market is clearly developing fast with the DIAC workload up by around 100% on last year.
The delegation also met with three leading local law firms who expressed interest in instructing the Bar directly in appropriate circumstances. To conclude its stay in Dubai the delegation held an extremely well attended seminar on ‘Post Credit-Crunch Dispute Resolution: Finance, Chancery, Commercial and Construction Aspects’, followed by an equally well-attended reception for the local legal community. On the second stop in Abu Dhabi, the Chairman had a very productive meeting with the Private Secretary to the Federal Minister of Justice. It was agreed to work towards the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to set up an exchange programme for young practitioners. The delegation also had a meetings with local law firms and held a reception in the British embassy which was attended by leading in-house counsel, MDs and CEOs from the local business community. The final stop in Bahrain featured several successful elements. The delegation held a second well-attended seminar on ‘Post-Credit-Crunch Dispute Resolution’, followed by another successful networking reception in the residence of the British Ambassador Jamie Bowden, who, together with his team, provided unparalleled support to the Bar Council delegation.
Important meetings were held with the Minister of Justice, the Central Bank, the Islamic Finance Regulator AAOIFI, the Economic Development Board, and the new Bahrain Dispute Resolution Centre (BDRC), which is still under construction.
As a result of these meetings a number of follow-up initiatives are likely which will significantly increase the profile of the Bar in what is the traditional banking centre of the Gulf.
Firstly, the International Committee will offer placements for young Bahraini lawyers in chambers and for young barristers in Bahraini firms and in-house departments. We equally offered advice on the regulation of the local legal profession, the setting up of a dispute resolution model for disputes in relation to Islamic financial instruments and with case management techniques.
Secondly, the International Committee will provide advice on the Draft Code of Procedure for the BDRC and assist with seminar/training support for lawyers using the Centre.
Finally it will organize a joint seminar with AAOIFI for interested SBAs and commercial/chancery judges on issues relating to the regulation of Islamic financial instruments. This will hopefully take place in September in London.
In addition to the abovementioned seminar and reception, the understanding for the Bar’s services in Bahrain was also significantly enhanced by a Business Breakfast with around 100 members of the British-Bahrain Business Forum. This allowed the delegation to explain international direct access in some detail which generated significant interest.
The Bar’s mission to the Gulf, and the publication of the international arbitration brochure, are particularly important in the current economic situation in key markets around the world. Mutual exchange of experience is vital for the future of the UK as the leading global legal centre. The Bar, particularly the commercial Bar, has long contributed to the City of London’s earnings, with overseas exports of all legal services representing more than £2billion in total. The Bar’s cost-effective, specialist service continues to attract clients to the UK as their jurisdiction of choice and the visit by this delegation was an important contribution to maintaining London’s position and to increase international work for the Bar.