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

    International Association for Court Administration (IACA)

    Mark Beer is President of the International Association for Court Administration, a visiting fellow at Oxford University and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Expert Network. He is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Global Legal Action Network, advisor to the Board of Resolve Disputes Online, a member of The Innovation Working Group of the Task Force on Justice focussed on addressing UN SDG 16.3 and a member of the International Council of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

    Mark served as the Chief Executive of the Dubai International Finance Centre’s Dispute Resolution Authority, Registrar General of the DIFC Courts and a Small Claims Tribunal judge for over 10 years, recently returning to the UK. During his 21 years in the United Arab Emirates, Mark also held various board positions, including four years as Chairman of the British Business Group, Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

    Before joining the DIFC Courts in 2008, Mark served as Regional Counsel for South Asia, Middle East and Africa, and then Vice President, Sales and Corporate Services, for MasterCard. Prior to that, he started out in his career as a company and commercial lawyer for Edge and Ellison before joining Clyde & Co in Dubai. He has also worked as corporate finance lawyer at Man Investments in Switzerland.

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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

    Professor of Law
    University of Toronto

    Gillian Hadfield is Professor of Law and Professor of Strategic Management. Her research is focused on innovative design for legal and dispute resolution systems in advanced and developing market economies; governance for artificial intelligence (AI); the markets for law, lawyers, and dispute resolution; and contract law and theory. She teaches Contracts; Problems in Legal Design; Legal Design Lab, and Responsible AI.Prior to rejoining the University of Toronto in 2018, Professor Hadfield was the Richard L. and Antoinette Schamoi Kirtland Professor of Law and Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California from 2001 to 2018.

    She began her teaching career at the University of California Berkeley and was previously on the University of Toronto Faculty of Law from 1995-2000. 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 2017.Professor Hadfield served as clerk to Chief Judge Patricia Wald on the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit. She was the Daniel R. Fischel and Sylvia M. Neil Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago (Fall 2016), the Eli Goldston Visiting Professor (Spring 2012) and the Sidley Austin Visiting Professor (Winter 2010) at Harvard Law School, and the Justin W. D’Atri Visiting Professor of Law, Business and Society at Columbia Law School (Fall 2008.) She was a 2006-07 and 2010-11 fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution in 1993.

    She also has held Olin Fellowships at Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School, and USC and is a member of the Comparative Law and Economics Forum. She is past president of the Canadian Law and Economics Association and a former director of the American Law and Economics Association and the Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics and a member of the American Law Institute. She is on the editorial committee for the Annual Review of Law and Social Science and previously served on the editorial boards for Law and Social Inquiry and the University of Toronto Law Journal.Professor Hadfield is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Future Council for Agile Governance and co-curates their Tranformation Map for Justice and Legal Infrastructure; she previously served on the Forum’s Future Council for Technology, Values and Policy and Global Agenda Council for Justice. She is currently a member of the American Bar Association’s Commission on the Future of Legal Education, and the Dubai Courts of the Future Forum.

    She is a Senior Policy Advisor for OpenAI in San Francisco, and an advisor to courts and several organizations and technology companies engaged in innovating new ways to make law and policy smarter, more accessible, and more responsive to technology and artificial intelligence including the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law, the National Center for State Courts, LegalZoom, Responsive Law, Sagewise (building a digital jurisdiction for blockchain technology and smart contracts) and RhubarbFund (developing a blockchain-based system for online dispute resolution).

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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.

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    Mr. Abdulla Al-Majid

    Assistant Undersecretary
    Ministry of Justice, UAE

    Currently H.E Al Majid is the Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice, UAE. He is responsible for formulating strategies and driving the Ministry Of Justice in its modernization efforts to become the first in smart eJustice governance in the world. Prior to his current appointment Mr. Al-Majid has held several key posts. In his role as the Federal eGovernment Director, he has spearheaded several major eGovernment projects.

    In the Commercial Sector, as Programme Manager of Microsoft MENA he was instrumental in several new developments and white papers for products for the ME market.
    H.E Mr. Al-Majid completed his Graduate Degree and Master of Business Administration (MIS) and is currently pursuing a PHD.

    Human Resource
    Project Management

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    Dr. Catalina Goanta

    Assistant Professor
    Maastricht University, the Netherlands

    Founder, CSR+ Lab: Set up a student-centered framework within the Faculty of Law (Maastricht University) and the United Nations University (together with Prof. Shyama Ramani and Sueli Brodin) to empower students to explore extracurricular projects dealing with sustainability.

    Co-founder, Technolawgeeks: Independent initiative designed to bring together law, business and computer science students and staff, to nurture interdisciplinary solutions to global contemporary challenges. Co-founded with Caroline Calomme & Arturo Sanchez Barbado.

    Co-founder, Maastricht Mediation Clinic: Together with Mark Kawakami, set up a clinical education extracurricular environment and established collaborations with local and regional mediation institutions (Nollen&Kneepkens Mediators and Trajekt Neighborhood Mediation) to expose students to 21st-century skills.

    2018: Non-residential fellow, Stanford Law School: Doing research on the impact of technology disruptions on private law for the StanfordTransatlantic Technology Law Forum.

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    Mr. Nasser Ali Khasawneh

    Managing Partner
    Middle East at Eversheds Sutherland, Commercial, TMT and Arbitration Specialist

    Nasser Ali Khasawneh is Eversheds Sutherland’s Middle East Chairman and Head of the firm’s TMT sector. Early on in his career, he worked at the United Nations Compensation Commission which was set up to adjudicate the compensation claims arising out of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991.

    He then worked as an in-house Legal Counsel at Procter and Gamble, followed by 4 years as an in-house Corporate Attorney for Microsoft Corporation, before setting up Khasawneh & Associates in 2003 (which subsequently merged with Eversheds Sutherland).

    He has been Vice President of the Business Software Alliance, the leading international association in the field of software rights, from 1999 to 2003 and has been a Domain Name Panelist with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Geneva since 2003.Nasser plays an active role in the legal community and has been very active in the International Bar Association, currently serving as Co-Chair of the IBA’s Arab Regional Forum. He has been a guest lecturer at over a hundred conferences organized by the Business Software Alliance, WIPO and various other organisations in the Middle East and Europe.

    He has acted for leading regional and international companies in various sectors. Nasser is primarily focused on 2 areas: commercial/TMT and disputes. Nasser has represented some of the world’s largest information technology, media and consumer companies, advising them on various commercial, licensing, IP rights, labour law, and other issues. His practice covers legal issues around data protection, cloud computing, cybersecurity and other facets of digital transformation.

    As for his disputes work, Nasser has advised on and managed a number of major litigation and arbitration cases. Nasser’s work covers advice on various commercial legal issues in multi-jurisdictional litigation and arbitration. He has acted as counsel in major arbitration cases in various sectors, and has acted as an arbitrator in numerous cases. Nasser graduated in law from the University of Oxford, and also has an LLM from the University of London. He is a registered legal consultant in Dubai and is also admitted to the New York bar.

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    Mihaela Moldoveanu

    Associate Director, DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority, Honorary Secretary
    Courts of the Future Forum

    Ella’s academic record combines economics, law and policy, within a Master’s study in Public Policy and Human Development at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance (The Netherlands). Her interdisciplinary background and BA in European Studies has been geared to prepare her for policy, legal advisory work in administrative reforms. She brings 14 years of work experience, amongst which previous appointments at the European Parliament and the United Nations.

    A Belgian national, with fluency in six European languages, she applied her skills in a variety of management and consultancy positions, overseeing projects in Europe, the United States and Central Asia. Before joining the DIFC Courts in 2014, she was based in Kabul (Afghanistan) for 4 years, where she drafted the new Competition Law for Afghanistan, contributed to the National Trade Policy and helped design the first Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre for Commercial Disputes, in Afghanistan.

    With her solid understanding of strategy, she has been appointed in 2014 as Project Manager at the DIFC Courts to oversee a novel development, namely the design and launch of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry, including the drafting of its legal basis. After managing the Registry of a year, she took over the role of Associate Director at the DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority (the umbrella body overseeing the DIFC Courts, Academy of Law, the Wills Registry and the Arbitration Institute).

    In her current role, she is in charge of the DRA advisory, leading the effort to set-up a common-law English-language commercial court and an arbitration centre in Kazakhstan’s international financial centre (AIFC), similar to the dispute resolution system of the DIFC. Additionally, she is responsible for strategy development, business excellence and strategic partnerships for the DRA and its divisions. As of 2018, Ella has also been appointed as Honorary Secretary to the Courts of the Future initiative. Contact her on:

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    Dr. Maliha Hashmi

    Executive Director and Head for the Health & Wellbeing

    Dr. Maliha Hashmi is the Executive Director and Head for the Health & Wellbeing at NEOM. Dr. Maliha Hashmi also served as the Executive Director for Strategic Partnerships at NEOM. Dr. Maliha Hashmi has also served as an Executive Director, Senior Legal Advisor, Director for Research Programs, Partnerships & Legal, and Legal Consultant for various sectors and globally renowned non-profits organizations, companies, foundations, think tanks, firms, startups, hospitals, research centers, and universities including but not limited to the Massachusetts General Hospital, Emaar the Economic City, Red Sea Foundation, KFCRIS at the King Faisal Foundation, DLA Piper, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the United Nations.

    She has assisted healthcare and technology startups legally and strategically to develop, grow and become sustainable globally. Dr. Hashmi played a lead role for the United Nation’s Wellbeing efforts for the World Food Program’s Freerice initiative in collaboration with the Harvard Law School’s Berkman Klein Center of Internet & Society. She is an expert in Strategy, Strategic Planning, Healthcare, Food and Drug Law and Education. In a Senior Advisory role, Dr. Hashmi has advised on multiple International Telemedicine initiatives. Dr. Hashmi has globally engaged in strategic partnerships in four continents with eminent scholars and world leaders. Dr. Hashmi is also a CEO of an Educational Consultancy Firm in Bahrain.

    Dr. Hashmi received her Doctor of Law & Jurisprudence Degree from Harvard Law School, and her Masters degree in History of Medicine & Ethics from Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Her concentration has been on Healthcare systems, Healthcare law, Public Health Law, Healthcare regulations, and Innovative Health Solutions. Furthermore, she also has a Master’s degree in Systems Design Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering and MIT Sloan School of Management. She has authored various publications in the research, academic and corporate sector. She was listed as one of the Top Twenty College Women in the Nation in United States of America making it into the Who’s Who in America List.

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