A Lebanese firm with an outpost in Paris
|People in Who’s Who Legal||2|
|Pending cases as counsel||7|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$485 million|
|Third-party funded cases||3|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||3|
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 – preparing the first draft of the current Lebanese arbitration law and the Arabic versions of the IBA guidelines and ICC rules, for example.
A professor at the Lebanese University and visiting professor at the Panthéon-Assas University in Paris, Comair-Obeid has given arbitration training to lawyers and judges across the Middle East. 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, serving on the board of Cairo’s arbitration centre and as vice chair of the IBA arbitration committee, and becoming president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in 2017 – the first woman from the Middle East to take on the role.
Nowadays, Nayla is not the only Obeid on the scene. Her son Ziad joined the firm in 2011 after training as a civil engineer and practising at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Paris and Dubai. A managing partner and chair of the CIArb Lebanon Branch, he specialises in construction disputes.
Daughter Zeina Obeid was promoted to partner in 2020 and, having relocated from Beirut, now manages the firm’s growing practice in Paris.
Who uses it?
In addition to being very active in the MENA region, the firm’s mandates extend to West Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and North America.
The firm doesn’t like to name clients, but the list includes a number of states and government entities as well as large companies from the region, in addition to some well-known international companies, particularly in the oil industry. The group’s members regularly accept appointments as legal experts of various experts of Middle Eastern legislation and shariah law.
In recent times, it has represented 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 handled an ICC case against a German-Italian conglomerate over a steel bar mill in Qatar.
It has also acted for a multinational on a dispute over a plant in Syria and advised on worldwide injunctions in support of a multibillion-dollar LCIA case.
In the courts, it has acted for Kuwaiti Airlines in annulment proceedings.
The firm has a track record of co-counselling with international firms 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).
The firm has been involved in a number of oil and gas disputes in the MENA region, including acting as legal expert in a case between a consortium of oil and gas companies and a government entity where the amount in dispute exceeded US$820 million. Freshfields and Three Crowns were acting as lead counsel.
The firm also acted for a Saudi investor against one of the largest Saudi construction companies in a complex high-value construction dispute involving a series of landmark projects in Lebanon.
Comair-Obeid is also well known for her arbitrator work. She chaired a panel that heard a treaty claim brought by Cypriot company Olin Holdings against Libya.
The firm is representing an Australian contractor in three international arbitrations in the UAE (under the DIFC-LCIA and the LCIA Rules). The disputes relate to the construction and expansion of the largest shopping malls in the Middle East, as well as major hotels and resorts. The amounts in dispute exceed US$300 million.
It is also acting as lead counsel for a major regional EPC contractor in an ICC arbitration seated in Doha with a multibillion-dollar conglomerate – where the amount in dispute totals over US$160 million.
In 2019, Comair-Obeid was appointed to the ICC executive board for a three-year term.
Louis-Philippe Lapicerella, a Canadian-qualified senior arbitration lawyer who has worked at Pinsent Masons in Paris and Clyde & Co in Montreal, joined the firm as counsel.
A representative of a leading EPC contractor, part of the BUTEC group, says: “Ziad Obeid was a brilliant advocate and a fine strategist. There is no doubt his engineering background was a great added value.”
One client, the chief operating officer of an international construction company, says that she had the privilege of working with all three Obeids, and that, collectively, they are “a force to be reckoned with”. She went on to say that “The team is tenacious when required and very strategic in their planning. I couldn’t recommend Obeid Law Firm enough.”
Established in 1987, Obeid Law Firm is a full-service international law firm operating across the MENA region from its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. OLF is widely recognised as a leading firm in Lebanon and the Middle East. Its services come highly commended by international legal publications and institutions including Chambers Global, Who’s Who Legal and the Global Arbitration Review (GAR).
Consistently identified as having one of the world’s leading arbitration practices (GAR 100), the firm’s portfolio of cases includes local and international mandates conducted in English, French and Arabic. Its lawyers advise on legal reforms reforms across the MENA region and specialise in complex cross-border matters where expert knowledge of multiple legal systems is required.