Working on a US$1.2 billion claim against Libya
|Pending cases as counsel||7|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$4.1 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||17 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||4|
This Paris boutique was set up by Benoît Le Bars, formerly of Hammonds Hausmann, in 2009. It gained Serge Lazareff, one of France’s best-known arbitrators, as a named partner after he fell out with his former boutique (what is now Derains & Gharavi).
Lazareff, who started his career as an aide to General Eisenhower during the first drafting of the NATO treaty, died in 2012. Since then Le Bars has developed the firm as a leading name for West Africa-related cases under OHADA and ICC rules. The firm often works for state entities in emerging markets and has expertise in areas including telecoms, oil and gas, and construction.
Names to know at the firm also include partner Simon Christiaën, who specialises in intellectual property law and has a range of clients in the entertainment industry.
Henri-Paul Lemaitre heads the firm’s Brussels office, which opened in 2014. He recently joined the board of directors in CEPANI, Belgium’s main arbitration and mediation centre.
Besides the Paris and Brussels offices, Lazareff Le Bars has an arrangement with New York and San Francisco-based law firm Girard Gibbs, which is often brought in on cases with a US-law dimension.
Who uses it?
The clientele tends to be from Europe or Africa, with a particularly strong showing in the telecoms sector such as France’s Orange Group and UAE telecoms provider Etisalat. The firm also acts for parties in the mining industry and helped Canadian company B2Gold settle a dispute over a project in Mali.
The firm has represented Orange on a number of disputes with Equatorial Guinea over the past seven years, securing a total of US$730 million for the client as well as the release of several company employees who had been jailed in the country. One prominent case saw the firm win a €132 million ICC award against the state in 2014 that was upheld by France’s Supreme Court three years later.
In another case for Orange, the firm helped to settle an ICSID claim against Jordan concerning the renewal of a 2G licence in 2016. The French mobile operator agreed to pay US$220 million under a deal that allows it to continue operating in the country until 2029.
The firm also had success in a €280 million dispute between Italian and US parties in the automotive industry.
Lazareff Le Bars continued its work for Emirati company DS Construction FZCO in a US$1.2 billion claim against Libya relating to the expropriation of construction projects during the first Libyan civil war. The firm won out against four GAR 30 firms to take on the case, which is brought under a little-used investment treaty between member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The firm achieved a first in March 2017 in persuading the Permanent Court of Arbitration to designate an appointing authority for the case – following the OIC secretariat’s refusal to nominate an arbitrator on Libya’s behalf. Previous claims against Libya under the treaty had ground to a halt because of the state’s failure to name an arbitrator.
Catherine Vergès, international counsel at Orange Group, says she is “impressed by the team’s professionalism and their dynamic approach,” continuing that the firm shows “a strong appreciation of the political and commercial context of disputes.”
Panoro Energy’s chairman Julien Balkany recommends Benoît Le Bars “wholeheartedly” and compliments his “accurate and diligent analysis” and “mastery” of arbitration.