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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Obeid Law Firm

10 March 2017

Home to the president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
Pending cases as counsel 4
Value of pending counsel work US$1.2 billion
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 39 (of which 24 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 2

Nayla Comair-Obeid founded the firm in Beirut in 1987. Both firm and founder have since played a significant role in the development of arbitration in Lebanon and the Middle East.

A professor at the Lebanese Judicial Institute and Lebanese University and visiting professor at the University of Paris (Panthéon-Assas), Comair-Obeid has trained lawyers and judges across the Middle East about arbitration. Indeed, she claims responsibility for “an arbitration awareness campaign” across the country and the rise in undergraduate conferences devoted to the field.

She has also played an active role in the international arbitration community, severing on the board of Cairo’s arbitration centre and as vice chair of the IBA arbitration committee. She became president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in 2017, becoming the first woman and first person from the Middle East to hold the position.

Given Comair-Obeid’s reputation, it is no surprise that when Lebanon began to amend its arbitration law in the early 2000s, the firm was retained to prepare the first draft; nor is it surprising that the IBA and ICC International Court of Arbitration have relied on it for the Arabic version of its guidelines and rules.

The arrival of partner Ziad Obeid (Nayla’s son) in 2011 boosted the firm’s capability in the field of construction disputes. Ziad trained initially as a civil engineer and has worked for a major construction company in France and an engineering company in Canada. He has also practised at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Paris and Dubai.

The firm doesn’t like to name clients but the list is thought to include a number of Middle Eastern states and government entities as well as large companies from the region, in addition to some well-known international oil companies. 

Recently it’s been representing a Qatari-Saudi engineering contractor in a U$53 million dispute with a German multinational over a power utility, which was heard under ICC rules in Geneva; and acted in another ICC case against a German-Italian conglomerate over a steel bar mill in Qatar.

Elsewhere it’s acted for a multinational on a dispute over a plant in Syria, and has advised on worldwide injunctions in support of a multibillion-dollar LCIA case. In the courts, it’s acted for a major Middle Eastern airline in annulment proceedings.

The firm has a track record of co-counselling with international firms – including Freshfields – and acting in Lebanese court proceedings relating to international arbitration. For example, it acted for Turkey in an action relating to the US$10 billion Libananco case at ICSID (in which Freshfields was counsel for the state).

Comair-Obeid also appears as an expert on Middle Eastern law in international arbitrations – for instance, on Qatari law in an ad hoc dispute between an international security consultancy firm and its local partner.

Comair-Obeid is also well known for her arbitrator work. She issued a US$23 million award in a construction dispute between a Bahraini contractor and a UAE family that was enforced in London in 2012. She is a member of the ICSID panel of arbitrators.

Recent events

The firm says it has been advising several major oil companies on investment structuring and treaty protections in Lebanon, as well as on the legislative framework for the country’s oil and gas sector.

Comair-Obeid also taught a new diploma in Islamic banking and finance at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in London.

Zeina Obeid joined the firm as a principal associate in 2016 after defending her doctoral thesis in Paris on the set-aside of awards in Arab countries.

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