Thinking aheadfor businesses of the future

Courts of the Future Forum

This initiative has been established to create rules through a cross-functional group of subject matter talent from around the world, bringing practitioners and those in industry together to identify the challenges of the future, and to agree how Courts should best address them.


To advise the Courts on

• current performance and reputation of the Courts as perceived by the Forum members in relation to handling of the disputes of the future

• strategic direction required for the Courts to maintain and improve their knowledge, performance and reputation regarding future IP, construction, technology and other related disputes

• developments and trends in the arena of international dispute resolution which may have an impact on the DIFC Courts and its operation and which, if adopted, might benefit the DIFC Courts and its users in resolving disputes of the future.

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  • Members Logo

    Amna Al Owais

    Chief Executive
    DIFC Courts

    Amna joined the DIFC Courts in 2006, she became the Deputy Registrarin 2008 and Deputy Chief Executive of the Dispute Resolution Authority in 2014. Previous to her employment at the DIFC Courts, she practiced as a lawyer in the litigation department with Hadef Al Dhahiri and Associates (Hadef& Partners now) in Dubai. Prior to that, she trained at the UAE Ministry of Justice and was admitted to practice in both the Dubai local and federal courts. Amna obtained her Masters (LLM) with Commendation in International Commercial Law from Kingston University, London.

    In addition to her role as Registrar of DIFC Courts she is also Registrar of the Special Tribunal Related to Dubai World, Chairwoman of the DIFC Courts’ Users’ Committee, a member of the Consulting Council for the University of Sharjah College of Law. In 2014, after an extensive selection process Amna was selected to join the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Leadership Development – the Young Leaders category and in the same year, appointed to the Advisory Board of the International Bar Association’s Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee.

    Amna has played a key part in the establishment and development of the DIFC Courts and creation of the Dispute Resolution Authority in 2014. She spearheaded the establishment of the DIFC Courts’ Pro-Bono Programme launched in 2009, which is the first scheme of its kind in the Middle East. In 2011 Amna was recognised by the International Bar Association as one of the top 3 young lawyers in the world.

    Within her role as Registrar of DIFC Courts Amna undertakes various judicial functions and other duties as prescribed in Article 17 of the DIFC Courts Law No. 10 of 2004. AsRegistrar of the Small Claims Tribunal, one of the busiest of the DIFC Courts, Amna coordinates all of the claims lodged and undertakes case consultations with the parties.

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    Mark Beer, OBE

    Co-Chief Executive and Registrar General
    DIFC Courts

    In addition to his role as Co-Chief Executive and Registrar General of the DIFC Courts, Mark is a member of the Rules Subcommittee and Registrar of the Special Tribunal Related to Dubai World. In 2010 Mark was appointed for a year’s term as a Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the International Legal System and he remains a member of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network for Justice. Mark is also the President-Elect of the International Association for Court Administration (IAC).

    Mark joined the DIFC Courts after five years working at MasterCard Worldwide in Dubai where he served as the company’s Regional Legal Counsel for South Asia, Middle East and Africa and was later promoted to Vice President, heading MasterCard’s Government Relations and Corporate Services across the same region. Previously, Mark worked in the corporate finance team of Man Investments in Switzerland and prior to that in private practice both in the UK and the UAE.

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    Simon Bradford

    Public Sector Director
    Microsoft Public Sector, MEA

    Simon brings a passion for technology and innovation as well as broad industry experience from his 18 years of working in Enterprise IT.

    Since joining Microsoft in 2008, where he was responsible for running the Justice Sector business in the UK, Simon has had a focus on modernising the sector and driving digital efficiencies. During this time Simon drove key projects such as the modernisation of the UK Judiciary with the “eJudiciary” project. The digital transformation of the UK Supreme Court, introduced Skype and the virtual trail concept into the courts as well implement the paperless working of the Magistrate and Crown Courts with the eBundle solution.

    In 2014 Simon moved into his current role as the Public Sector Director, Middle East and Africa (MEA). Bringing his experiences from the UK he has continued to drive modernisation in jurisdictions from Kenya to Nigeria, as well being involved in significant innovations in leading markets such as the UAE.

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    Gillian Hadfield

    Richard L. And Antoinette Schamoi Kirtland Professor of Law and Professor of Economics
    University of Southern California (USC)

    Gillian K. Hadfield is the Richard L. And Antoinette Schamoi Kirtland Professor of Law and Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California (USC). She studies the design of legal and dispute resolution systems; the nature of normative systems; contracting; and the performance and regulation of legal markets and the legal profession. Her book, Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent It for a Complex Global Economy was published by Oxford University Press in November 2016.

    Professor Hadfield holds a B.A.H. from Queen’s University, a J.D. from Stanford Law School and Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. She has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, and NYU law schools, a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Technology, Values, and Policy.

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    Tom Hudson

    Managing Director
    Kestrel Global

    Tom Hudson is Managing Director of Kestrel Global, headquartered in the Dubai International Financial Centre.

    Tom first moved to the UAE in 2006, and has worked for a number of companies before, including Linklaters, Credit Suisse, Olive Group Capital and, most recently DP World.

    In 2014 he was nominated by Arabian Business as one of the top 20 most influential Brits in the UAE, and was Highly Commended at the Corporate Council Middle East Lawyer of the Year Awards in 2015.

    In 2016, Tom was asked to set up Kestrel, with the aim of working with international innovative companies that want to set up in Dubai in line with various Dubai Government Strategic initiatives.

    Tom is particularly interested in the legal framework for all these new technologies.

    Tom was educated at Eton, commissioned as an officer from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, studied History at Bristol University and converted to law at the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice.

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    Tom Montagu-Smith

    XXIV Old Buildings, UK

    Tom is a barrister practicing in court and arbitration in London and Dubai. Tom has appeared in many of the leading cases in the DIFC Courts, including Pearl Petroleum v The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq[2017] DIFC ARB 003 (US$2.1bn arbitration enforcement), Barclays Bank v EGFL [2016] DIFC CFI 036 (US$170m enforcement of New York judgment), Protiviti v Al-Mojil [2016] DIFC CA 003 (leading case on forum non conveniens) and DNB Bank v Gulf Eyadah (landmark case on “conduit” enforcement of foreign judgments).

    Tom assisted in drafting the Rules of the DIFC Court and drafted the Rules of the Dubai World Tribunal. He is currently engaged in drafting the rules of the Court and arbitration centre at the Astana International Financial Centre.

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    Anders Nilsson

    Managing Partner
    Bird & Bird, UAE

    Anders is the Managing Partner, UAE, at international law firm, Bird & Bird.He is also head of our Corporate and Aviation practices in the region. Anders relocated to the UAE in 2014 from the Stockholm office, where he headed the Corporate Team for many years.

    An experienced corporate and M&A specialist, Anders also advises local and multinational corporations, with international experience in complex corporate transactions in the technology and aviation sectors. He has considerable national and international experience in public and private M&A, including take-overs and IPOs, corporate restructuring, joint ventures and co-operation arrangements. He also advises clients in relation to aircraft purchase and finance transactions.

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    Dr. Noah Raford

    Chief Operating Officer & Futurist-in-Chief
    Dubai Future Foundation

    Dr. Noah Raford is the Chief Operating Officer, “Futurist-in-Chief” at the Dubai Future Foundation and a former advisor on futures, foresight, and innovation in the UAE Prime Minister’s Office.

    Noah helped establish the country’s first national foresight unit, the Dubai Future Foundation and the Museum of the Future, and is part of a team that identifies emerging opportunities, develops strategic partnerships, and prototypes future initiatives for the Government of Dubai.

    Some the projects he has recently been involved with include the Dubai Global Blockchain Council; the UAE Drones for Good Award; the UAE Robotics for Good Award; the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy; the Dubai Self-Driving Vehicle Strategy; and the International Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (iCAIR)

    Prior to his work in the UAE, Noah was a senior manager at the strategy consultancy Monitor/GBN, CEO of the technology foresight company Futurescaper LLC, the North American Director of Space Syntax Limited, and the Senior Research Advisor to Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment.

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    Phil Reynolds

    Board Member and General Counsel
    Pyypl Group FZ-LLC

    Phil is an internationally experienced legal practitioner, in-house General Counsel, corporate executive and Non-Executive Director (NED). He has experience across regulated industries and emerging markets, handling the complexities of start-up enterprises, mergers and acquisitions and public listings. Phil’s core experience is in the communications, media, information and technology industries.

    Phil started the Virgin Mobile Middle East group of companies in 2006 and held C-level and NED posts for over nine years. He is also a NED, consultant and advisor to other international technology start-up entities in the FinTech, UAV, and AI and AR sectors. In past, held Executive Director-level posts in three Fortune 500 global telecommunications companies.

    A professional member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD), the Institute of Directors (MIoD), the Law Society of New South Wales and various professional information associations and societies.

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    Dimitrios Vourakis

    Managing Director

    Dimitrios Vourakis is the managing director of Curiositas, an innovation firm researching and developing emerging technologies.

    He is researching the potential of these technologies to shape the economy, culture and society.

    He guest lectures at London Business School and is a regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the Middle East and Europe.

    Dimitrios is a former technology and finance lawyer having practised in law firms and corporations in five countries. He is a qualified solicitor (England), holder of an MBA in Finance (London Business School), LLM (King’s College, London) and LLB (University of Athens).

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    Matthew S. Erie

    Associate Professor
    University of Oxford

    Matthew S. Erie (J.D., Ph.D.) is an Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Studies and Associate Research Fellow of the Socio-Legal Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. Professor Erie’s interdisciplinary work stimulates conversations between law and anthropology to study the procedural aspects of domestic and cross-border commercial dispute resolution. In particular, he investigates the emergence and reconciliation of conflicts of law and normative pluralism in the course of increasing intersections of non-liberal values and Anglo-American common law.

    Funded by a €1.5 million European Research Council Starting Grant, his current research project examines the impact of Chinese investment, trade, and financing on law and development in two respects. The first focuses on international commercial law through a novel heuristic: legal hubs. Legal hubs are sub-national jurisdictions that develop and implement their own procedural law for cross-border commercial dispute resolution. Legal hubs, including those in London, Singapore, Hong Kong Dubai, Astana, and Shenzhen/Shanghai, invite re-evaluation and sharpening of the orthodox understanding of international private law, including, in particular, concepts such as jurisdiction, choice of law, and enforcement.

    A second level of the project is the study of the impact of Chinese capital on the legal systems of fragile states, and, more broadly, what these interactions may tell us about law and development. The hypothesis is that law may matter, but not in the way liberal legalism prescribes. His articles on dispute resolution, property rights, and the legal profession have appeared in law reviews and peer-review journals including the American Journal of Comparative Law, Hong Kong Law Journal, Journal of Legal Education, Law and Social Inquiry, Islamic Law and Society, Journal of Law and Religion, and American Ethnologist. His 2016 book, China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law, is published by Cambridge University Press.

    Professor Erie previously held academic positions at Princeton University, NYU Law School, and the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU, and was a visiting scholar at the National University Singapore Law Faculty. He practiced law in the New York and Beijing offices of Paul Hastings LLP where he focused on corporate real estate transactions and white-collar investigations (e.g., FCPA). He holds degrees from Cornell University (Ph.D., Anthropology), University of Pennsylvania (J.D.), Tsinghua University Law School (LL.M.), and Dartmouth College (B.A). Professor Erie is a member of the New York Bar, the American Society of International Law, the Law and Society Association, the Society of International Economic Law, and the Young International Council for Commercial Arbitration.

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    Nick West

    Chief Technology Officer
    MDR Lab

    Nick is the Firm’s Chief Technology Officer and Director of MDR LAB, a programme for tech start-ups in the legal space.

    Nick is one of the foremost experts in LegalTech and the application of AI to the legal market, having spent the majority of his career working at the forefront of innovation in the legal industry. Formerly Managing Director of Axiom in the UK and Director of LexisNexis’s UK Legal Business, Nick’s expertise lies in the field of technology, knowledge and new business models in the legal sector. Nick began his career as a competition lawyer at Linklaters and then as a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Co.

    Nick is a Visiting Professor at the University of Law, where he lectures on Law, Business and Technology and an Advisor to BPP Law School on LegalTech Innovation.

Thinking ahead


February, 2018

Courts of the Future Forum Inaugural Meeting

The next meeting of the Courts of the Future Forum will take place in February 2018, where members will review feedback from the open-source global consultation of Part 40,000: Founding Principles

14 Days
1 Mins
1 Secs