GAR 100 - 8th Edition

Obeid Law Firm

Professional notice

The head of this Lebanese family firm will become president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in 2017

People in Who’s Who Legal:2
Pending cases as counsel:6
Value of pending counsel work:US$826 million
Treaty cases:0
Current arbitrator appointments:40 (of which 26 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.

It is no surprise, then, that when Lebanon began to amend its arbitration law in the early 2000s, the firm was retained to prepare the first draft. Or 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.

Who uses it?

Clients include Middle Eastern companies and states, including Lebanon itself.

It has also advised US and Canadian companies, albeit in court and arbitration matters with a Lebanese angle to them.

Track record

Comair-Obeid is well known for her arbitrator work and is a member of the ICSID panel. She also acts as a Middle East expert in international arbitrations – for example on Qatari law in an ad hoc dispute between an international security consultancy firm and its local partner.

In 2012, the High Court in London dismissed a challenge to a US$23 million ICC award that Comair-Obeid granted in favour of Bahraini construction company Terna against UAE family Bin Kamil.

The firm also 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).

Recent events

It was recently announced that Comair-Obeid will serve as CIArb’s president in 2017, after a year as deputy. She had already become the first arbitration professional from the Middle East and the first woman to chair its board of trustees.

She has been helping to design a diploma for arbitrators specialising in Islamic banking and finance that the organisation will offer, and is expected to play a prominent role in its centenary celebrations in 2015.

In 2014, the firm added a Quebec-qualified Canadian lawyer and two New York-qualified lawyers to its pool of associates. The year before, it had added a United States-qualified lawyer from legacy firm Salans in Paris.

The firm is acting as legal expert in a dispute worth over US$550 million between a consortium of oil and gas companies and a Middle Eastern government entity.

It is also regional counsel for a group of companies facing worldwide injunctions in relation to a multimillion-dollar LCIA arbitration seated in London.

Independently, the firm is acting as lead counsel to Qatari and Saudi contractors in an ICC claim against a Germany-based conglomerate over a steel bar mill and utility project in Doha, and for a regional contractor in a US$53 million dispute over a power project in the Gulf.

Client comment

Rebecca Soquier, an associate with Clyde & Co, told GAR the Obeid team is “very prompt and responsive. They have a clear handle on the legal issues submitted to them and consistently operate at high standards.” Soquier was particularly impressed with Comair-Obeid, who proved to be a “clear and concise” expert witness. She excelled under cross-examination, where she was “articulate, agreeable and well prepared”.

Established in 1987, Obeid Law Firm is a full service law firm servicing the MENA region from its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. The firm is widely recognised as one of the leading law firms in Lebanon and the Middle East; enjoying widespread recognition among local and international legal practitioners.

Recognised for its commitment to excellence and its expertise in Middle Eastern legislations, the firm has established a first-class international arbitration practice acting as parties’ counsel, arbitrator or expert. The firm also advises clients at the pre and post arbitration stages - from drafting arbitration agreements to enforcing arbitral awards, foreign courts decisions and asset preservation orders.

Over the past few decades, Obeid Law Firm has been involved in some of the largest arbitration cases in the Middle East and has actively participated in various legal reforms in Lebanon and the Gulf region.

Led by Professor Nayla Comair-Obeid, the firm’s arbitration team combines international best practice with local know-how. With acknowledged arbitration specialists engaged in some of the most significant English, French and Arabic-language arbitrations in the MENA region, the firm’s arbitration practice offers unparalleled regional expertise and wide-ranging capabilities.

Known for its diverse arbitration portfolio, the firm has been engaged in matters conducted under various arbitration rules and subject to a wide range of applicable laws, including: Syrian Law, UAE Law, Egyptian Law, Qatari Law, Jordanian Law, Kuwaiti Law, Lebanese Law, Tunisian Law, French Law, Swiss Law, Italian Law, English Law and US Law.

Members of the firm have also been called to give expert evidence on aspects of Middle Eastern legislations before arbitral tribunals and foreign courts including the Grand Courts of the Cayman Islands and the English High Court. Numerous books and publications have been authored by the firm members in Arabic, French and English on international contracts and international arbitration, including the reference book on “The Law of Business contracts in the Arab Middle East”.

Obeid Law Firm is a drafting contributor to the “GAR Reference” project and the “Guide to National Rules of Procedures for Recognition and Enforcement of New York Convention Awards” published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris. The firm is also the author of the “IBA Arbitration Guide” for Lebanon and has participated in the review and translation of the Arabic versions of the IBA Guidelines for Drafting International Arbitration Clauses and the revised 2012 ICC Rules.


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