Solicitors governing body: Beirut Bar Association
Competition authority: Local courts review transactions
Financial regulator: Banque du Liban
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Financial and corporate (published October) - Financial and corporate
Lebanon’s legal system is based on French civil law, Ottoman legal practices and Islamic law, and is founded on the constitution. The document was promulgated in 1926 but has been amended on seven occasions since, most notably after the Taif Agreement in 1990, which was born out of negotiations to end the country’s civil war.
Now 25 years old, the Taif Agreement - named after the city in Saudi Arabia where it was signed - was intended to the “abolish” political sectarianism that sparked the 15 year war and bring stability, in government at least, to the country. This has not been the case.
In a pact struck on Lebanon gaining independence in 1943, it was agreed the president will always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite, and this remains the case today. Getting the elected parliament of Christians and Sunni and Shite Muslims to elect a president and approve the other two positions has often proven difficult.
At the time of writing (early 2016), Lebanon is in a state of almost political paralysis. The country has not had a head of government since May 2014 when the six-year term of its last president, Michel Sleiman, ended. Since then, the parliament, whose responsibility it is to elect the president, have met and failed on more than 30 occasions to elect a successor. The same group cancelled parliamentary elections and voted in favour of extending its own term by 31 months.
As ever in Lebanon, the crux of the issue is sectarian but it is also tied to wider regional conflicts, particularly the war in Syria. Political parties in Lebanon are divided into often-changing blocs, and the two largest coalitions are the March 8 and March 14 alliances. The former, which includes Hezbollah, has the support of Iran and is backing - militarily in Hezbollah’s case - the regime in Syria. The latter is aligned with the West and Saudi Arabia. Consequently, finding an accord over who should be the country’s figure head has proven impossible as both factions have conflicting agendas.
Lebanon’s legal market is far more straightforward than its politics. Local firms dominate. Most firms are domestic but there are a handful with international offices. Badri & Salim El Meouchi has a presence in Qatar and Airut Law Offices is in Iraq. Local lawyers must be registered with one of the country’s two bar associations. Only nationals can qualify to practice the jurisdiction’s law.
Despite the fact there are no restrictions on foreign law firms opening in Lebanon and there no regulations governing their practice, no large international firms have a presence in the country. There are several reasons for this. Chiefly, the simmering sectarian tensions and the scarcity of large financial or corporate deals. Corruption is also a problem.
For many local commercial lawyers in Lebanon, real estate work is the cornerstone of their practice. The country has a banking system which is much-lauded for its stability, which is vital to the country’s economy and generates mandates for larger local firms. Capital markets work is, for the most part, limited to issues by the state where only a few, more sophisticated local firms play a role. Big corporate deals are rare.
Lawyers in Lebanon generally handle all manner of financial and corporate advice as there is not a sufficient amount of work in one area to sustain a specialist.
Ben Naylor - EMEA Editor
Abou Jaoude & Associates Law Firm is experienced and strong in lending, M&A and project related work.
In the banking and finance area the firm’s recent notable work included the first-ever PPA by a Lebanese government and the first international syndicated financing for a renewable energy project in Lebanon, where it acted for the lead arranger.
In M&A the firm was involved in deals in the banking and financial services sector (for acquirers).
Recent Deal Data highlights
•Deir Ammar II 504MW power plant
•Government of Lebanon $300 million syndicated loan
“Excellent - very thorough and detailed output.” - Capital markets: Equity
“The AJA team is accessible, knowledgeable and dedicated to their clients.” - Financial services regulatory
“The best law firm I have ever worked with globally; Attention to details, turnaround of inquiries within 24-48 hours and handholding across all work.” - Investment funds
“Excellent and satisfactory. Thoroughly detailed and professional.” - Private equity
“Excellent services.” - Private equity
“They delivered the best, great experience.” - Project development
“Overall the experience has been great, I would highlight the quick response times to our inquiries, the availability of their team and quality of work done. As a point of improvement I would only recommend a bit more pro-activity in providing updates in ongoing projects.” - Project development
“AJA law firm is a big firm in Lebanon (relative to the size of the local market). They cover all legal specialties. Whenever needed, the primary lawyer can always refer to another lawyer covering a certain specialty. They are very serious and professional. They understand the law and how it operates. They own their files and they are always prepared. They defend the interests of the company wholeheartedly and it is a relief and a comfort for us to know that we are in good hands. They can improve their reaction time and the timeliness of their feedback.” - Project development
“Throughout this process, AJA covered all legal and financial aspects of the project, as well as assisted us in the discussions and negotiations with the government representatives.” - Project development
“The firm and the associates that work in it are very professional and have in-depth knowledge of the local laws and have a smooth, convincing, and effective way to negotiate with counterparts.” - Project development
“The firm is very solid when it comes to corporate issues related to real estate and thinking out of the box for solutions.” – Real estate
Carlos Abou Jaoude
“A first class lawyer coupled with a first class business mind.”
“Very approachable and knowledgeable. Strengthens the supporting team.”
“Elias listens, is accessible and tactical, always meets deadlines and is a huge problem solver with attention to details.”
“Rana Kateb is, by any standard, an outstanding Lawyer. She has been accompanying us for the past 3-4 years. Personally, I do consider her more a partner than a lawyer. She owns the file and the whole industry. She is always prepared and she has solutions ready for any problem that might arise. She is very capable of creating solutions on the spot. She is an excellent negotiator, always having the interest of the company as an ultimate target. It is a real pleasure working with her.”
“Salwa is dedicated to her clients, she is knowledgeable and assertive. She is fairly accessible which makes working with her enjoyable.”
“She has good skills in communication and negotiation.”
“She is excellent, always available and able to provide great solutions to complex matters. You get the impression you are working with a lawyer in London or NYC, as it’s all quick and easy.”
“Souraya is a top professional, she has been very responsive to all our requirements and always provides timely solutions. She has understood well the nature of our activities and supported us also with a fantastic cost.”
“Very knowledgeable of the subject matter. Very professional, supportive and well respected in the business arena. She can work under pressure and is very responsive.”
“Excellent. High level of knowledge.”
Alem & Associates is broadly strong in financial and corporate work and known for advising fund managers on formations and investments. During the research period the firm has been particularly active in M&A and capital markets.
In the capital markets area recently it advised a client seeking to raise $30 million in equity and $120 million in debt for a real estate investment.
In M&A it advised clients in the acquisitions of stakes in prominent Lebanese banks, and food and beverage and aviation companies.
The firm hired three new partners. Georges Harb, Terek El Hassan and Jihad Rizkallah joined the firm from Cabinet Abillama Advocats a La Cour, Abbound & Associates and Badri & Salim El Meouchi respectively.
Partner Toufic Soudayha left to form Soudayha & Partners.
Recent Deal Data highlights
•BLOM Wamda Saudi VC Fund
•Lucid Investment Bank €100 million private equity fund
“Professional service and extreme attention to detail” – M&A
Aziz Torbey Law Firm is a member of Eptalex, an international firm structured as a Swiss Verein.
During the research period the firm advised clients on asset purchases and performed the related legal due diligence. It also worked on a corporate restructuring and negotiated shareholders agreements.
Badri and Salim El Meouchi is one of Lebanon’s most experienced firms for transactional advice, particularly in banking and M&A.
During the research period the firm has advised clients on the issuance bonds; worked with financial institutions on PPP contracts, legal due diligence and loan agreements; and worked within the energy sector advising clients on the acquisition of stakes in a renewable energy companies.
“Exceptional client servicing, deep knowledge of the local financial legal framework.” - Banking
“Very professional. Deliverables met all expectations.” - Project development
Chadia El Meouchi
“Terrific lawyer, widely recognized as one of the best in the country.”
“Extremely knowledgeable and transparent.”
Raphaël & Associés is one of the oldest firms in Lebanon and experienced in banking and M&A.
During the research period the firm negotiated debt restructurings for both an insurance company and an industrial steel plant through the share swap mechanism, loan transfers and credit facility agreements.
It has recently represented shareholders in the sale of shares in BCN Bank, and advised on the structure of share plan initiatives for AXA and L’Oréal Paris in Lebanon.
In the project area the firm has represented clients on work related to power plant developments in Africa.
Recent Data Deals highlights
•BCN Bank share sale
•Sierra Leone 400MW LNG power plant
•SMRT Projects & Energy Solutions 6MW solar power plant
“Very professional, work is timely and advisory work is highly professional. Excellent reputation of the firm, particularly in the banking sector.” – Banking
“Same as the law firm, Adel Nassar is highly qualified with brilliant reasoning.”
During the research period Airut handled M&A deals (mainly working for the buyer) across the consumer goods, renewable energy and power sectors. The firm also notably worked on the first PPP project in the energy sector in Lebanon.
In M&A the firm advised the buyer on the local acquisition of Subway. It also represented Kingdom Hotels Investments Holding in the sale of its stake in the company that owns Movenpick Hotel & Resorts in Beirut.
Recent Deal Data highlights
•Electricite de Zahle electricity network services PPP
•BNK Holding $500,000 acquisition of Subway franchise in Lebanon
“They are very professional, pragmatic and rational. In addition to their outstanding knowledge in commercial law, the office members have good expertise in finance, accounting and business. This fact eases communication and negotiation. In addition, they have good follow up and act promptly.” - Banking
“Very professional and knowledgeable.” – Banking
“The attorneys at Airut law offices provide high quality legal work. They are reliable and experienced in handling cross-border transactions and cross-border disputes.” – Financial and corporate
“The most reliable law firm I have ever dealt with. Extremely efficient, very hands-on and proactive.” – M&A
“ALF’s strengths are so many that it makes the things that could be improved very minor. They are organised, transparent, leaders, goal and people oriented, ethical and honest with integrity, strong negotiation and problem solving skills, initiative, accuracy, strong analytical and listening skills, intelligence and a very positive attitude.” – M&A
“So far we have encountered only professional and timely services. No weaknesses to complain about.” – Project development
“Trustworthy. Strong. Response time is timely for important matters that require action. Could improve response time for consultancy.” - Project development
“The firm was very diligent in its legal assessment, they were able to identify a lot of gaps and a lot of interesting insights. Their analysis was comprehensive and detailed and was highly commended by the client. We did not encounter any weakness to highlight.” - Project development
“Very professional and dedicated.” - Project development
“Timely and accurate assistance with high professionalism.” - Project development
“Very thorough follow up.”- Real estate
Baroudi & Associates is capable across a range of practice areas, including finance and restructuring in a variety of commercial sectors.
During the research period the firm has been active in offering corporate secretarial assistance. It has also advised financial service companies on corporate guarantees and securitisation according to Lebanese law, performed legal due diligence on a Lebanese subsidiary, and assisted NVM Private Equity in an investment. It also advised clients in liquidation.
Recent Data Deals highlights
•Caterpillar Financial Services $1.8 million financing
•Motorola Solutions Lebanon liquidation
“Good, quick communication and efficient.” – Real estate
Bridge Legal Group is a young firm with a focus on commercial work. It is a member of ADVOC, a network of independent firms in 72 countries.
During the research period the firm was particularly active in M&A for clients selling equity stakes, including the stake of a privately owned investment manager. Other work included a corporate restructuring for an energy company and the financial restructuring of a trade finance loan.
Recent Data Deals highlights
•Banque Libano-Francaise $20 million trade financing
•Government of Lebanon $360 million PPA
“All has been excellent.” – M&A
Created in 2018, Soudayha & Partners is a young but active firm established by Toufic Soudayha, previously a partner at Alem & Associates.
The firm has recently been active cross banking, M&A and capital markets.
In banking the firm advised a borrower on refinancing loans used to fund a real estate project.
In the capital markets the firm worked for placement agents on bond a subordinated bond issue.
In the funds space it advised Optimum Invest in the creation of an open-ended collective investment fund.
Recent Deal Data highlights
•Optimum Invest $10 million CIS
•LGB Bank €95 million loan
•Medawar 67 $9.6 million financing
“Knowledgeable, efficient, available and well organized.” – Banking
“One of the best law firms advising on corporate and financial matters. Very responsive and extremely efficient. Deep knowledge of the laws and regulations and solid understanding of the business environment.” - Financial services regulatory
“The approach of the firm was efficient, and they were on top of things. They replaced another firm in this process who caused our bank a lot of undue delays and complications.” - Financial services regulatory
“The firm's work is simply excellent. Very efficient and at the same time very thorough. Deep knowledge of the laws and regulations and market practice with a full understanding of the commercial dynamics.” - Financial services regulatory
“Deep knowledge in banking and real estate, very quick turn-around time and pragmatic resolution of issues.” - Real estate
“The firm understands the scope of work well and delivers services within agreed upon timelines. Weakness: the firm should slowly increase the number of partners.” - Real estate