GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Obeid Law Firm

Professional notice

A Lebanese family firm with a strong international presence, headed by the president elect 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:38 (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. She is president elect of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, due to begin her term in 2017 – when she will become 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. 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, and US and Canadian companies in arbitration and court matters with a Lebanese angle.

Track record

Comair-Obeid is well known for her arbitrator work and is a member of the ICSID panel. She also acts as an expert on Middle Eastern law 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

The firm acted as lead counsel in two unconnected high-value disputes for major regional engineering procurement and construction contractors, one of which was valued at US$160 million. Both were seated in Doha, Qatar, and conducted under ICC rules.

It is also lead counsel in a US$53 million dispute with a German-based conglomerate relating to a power utility project in the UAE.

In the Lebanese courts it appeared for an EPC contractor in arbitration-related proceedings, and for a Middle Eastern airline in annulment proceedings.

It is acting as regional counsel for a multinational group of companies, providing legal advice on a dispute related to a raw materials production plant in Syria, and advising on worldwide injunctions related to a multibillion-dollar LCIA dispute. Other regional counsel work includes a high-value ICC arbitration for a group in the consumer goods sector.

The firm’s legal expert practice was retained by an oil and gas consortium in a claim against a Middle Eastern state, and for a group of reinsurance companies in an LCIA dispute over an infrastructure project in Libya.

New hires include an Australian-qualified construction counsel, and a New York-qualified associate.

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.” She adds that Comair-Obeid was a“clear and concise” expert witness who excelled under cross-examination, presenting as “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.

Senior Partner Professor Comair-Obeid is frequently invited as a speaker to international arbitration conferences and events, and has held and continues to hold prominent positions in many of the major international arbitration and professional institutions. Professor Comair-Obeid is the President-Elect (for 2017) of the CIArb and was serving as Vice-President of the Chartered Institute for 2016. In 2014, Professor Comair-Obeid was unanimously elected by Trustees from nine regions across the globe including Africa, the Americas, Australasia, East Asia, Europe, Ireland, Great Britain and the Middle East and Indian Sub-Continent to the position of Chair of the Board of Trustees of the CIArb. Professor Comair-Obeid was the first arbitration professional from the Middle East and the first woman from the Middle East in the Chartered Institute of Arbitrator’s one hundred-year history to have achieved such recognition.

Professor Comair-Obeid is also one of the Course Directors who has been heavily involved in providing the syllabus for a new CIArb Diploma Course for Arbitrators in Islamic Banking and Finance disputes which took place at the beginning of September 2015 in Malaysia in association with the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance of the Global University of Islamic Finance.

Partner Ziad Obeid acts as chairperson, sole and co-arbitrator in a number of international arbitrations conducted under a variety of international arbitration rules.  He is also a member of the Djibouti International Arbitration Centre Task Force, the ICC Bulletin Editorial Board, and co-chair of SIAC’s Users Council Committee for the Middle East. Ziad is also a member of the Task Force in charge of proposing amendments for the revision of the ICC ADR Rules, Expertise Rules and Dispute Board Rules issued by the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.



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