In celebration of International Law Day which falls on the 13th of September, and stemming from its role in raising legal awareness in the Emirate, the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department hosted a Conference on (Legal Work in the Time of Covid-19) held remotely with the participation of a number of government entities and legal firms practicing in the Emirate of Dubai, which was watched by over 500 attendees.
This conference, first of its kind to be held remotely in both Arabic and English, aimed to discuss the consequences of the Corona crisis in legal work and its implications for individuals and institutions from a legal point of view as well as the suitability of the laws and legislation for these exceptional circumstances.
In his opening statement, His Excellency Dr. Lowai Mohamed Belhoul, Director General of the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department, affirmed that the Corona Virus crisis has led to profound social and economic repercussions and transformations. It has created exceptional circumstances, which cast long shadows and implications on both the individual and society. Its force majeure has dominated different aspects of life, which includes the legal field with all its legislation and procedures. His Excellency stressed on the role of the legal sphere in dealing with the many changes and their overreaching risks affecting both the public and private sectors.
Dr. Belhoul pointed out that the UAE, and the Emirate of Dubai in particular, have been at the forefront of countries that have enacted legislation in order to face the Corona crisis and contain the consequences of these times all the while maintaining the successful investment climate which is a universal model to follow.
Flexibility of Legislation
His Excellency indicated that the legal system in the United Arab Emirates is built upon confidence in the rule of Law, flexible legislation and the ability to keep up with change through regulations and clear procedures which shape the relationship between the Government and the individual, all the while taking into consideration the interests and legal and contractual obligations of all parties who may be affected by these circumstances. This reinforces the commitment of the State and its responsibility to protect everyone's rights, which the UAE has embedded in line with the directives and the visions of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE, and His highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, the Ruler of Dubai who in anticipated the future by saying: "The reality of work will change, the way of work must change, and the post-Corona world needs different preparations, because it will be different".
Dr. Belhoul concluded by reaffirming the Department's unreserved commitment to meet all its obligations as dictated by its duties and functions in response to the evolving world developments, as the Department is well aware of the magnitude of these challenges and responsibilities and we are committed to the principles of the rule of law and justice which Emirati legislators have relied on.
The Conference, which was moderated by Dr. Juma Obeid AlFalasi, Director of Knowledge Directorate of the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department, started with a presentation by Sheila Shadmand (Legal Counsel at Jones Day) on Conducting Arbitration and Court Hearings Virtually. The second topic was presented by Gerry Rogers (Senior Associate at Galadary Advocates and Legal Consultants) in which he talked about the practical implications of Covid-19 on aspects of day-to-day legal work. After that, Ibrahim Elsadig (Bryan Cave Leighton Paiser) gave another presentation on "Direct Foreign Investment in the Time of Covid-19", in which he discussed the economic repercussions of these uncertain circumstances and their relation to the Foreign Direct Investment Law.
From Reed Smith, Michelle Nelson and Rachel Larkin talked about the practical implications of Covid-19 on future international construction projects. Nicky Reader (Clifford Chance) touched upon the director's duties when companies may be in financial difficulty and the duties of board of directors in times of distress. Nicky Reader's presentation also included a discussion of UAE Insolvency Law for commercial firms.
Counsel Zayed Saeed Saif Al Shamsi, representing the Emirates Association for Lawyers and Legal Consultants, discussed the future of the legal profession in the Time of the Covid -19 Crisis. Al Shamsi shared his thoughts on on the use of modern technologies, electronic means, and remote work techniques in the area of justice, and the subsequent need for advocates to acquire extensive knowledge in the technical field besides their legal information. He also shed light on the clients' ability to pay attorney fees and on the evolution of the concept of workplace in the field of advocacy.
Hussain Hadi (LexisNexis) discussed in his presentation the deployment of Legal Technology in a Post-COVID 19 world, adoption of forward-looking technologies in the legal work and using artificial intelligence and the role of data analysis in using technical tools that can deal with the post-Covid world. In turn, Dino Wilkinson, from Clyde & Co, gave a presentation on managing data protection and privacy in the time of Covid-19, while James Fox & Umera Ali, from DWF, talked about Restructuring during the Covid Pandemic.
The conference concluded with a presentation given by legal counsels Rafik Raouf Bahnam and Tarek Saeed Saleh, from the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department, titled "COVID-19: Force Majeure or Exceptional Circumstances and its Effect on Procedures and Contractual Obligations".
Stemming from its belief in the importance of consolidating joint institutional work as a key pillar for the success of government work and achievement of overall development goals and the "Dubai Vision", the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department, in conjunction with the conference, honored a number of Government Entities, which are strategic and key partners that support the Department's aspirations in achieving its vision, strategy and projects aimed at developing the legal work in the Emirate. The recognition encompassed 95 government entities from the Department's strategic and key partners.