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
During the research period Airut Law Offices’ highlight deals were mostly M&A in sectors including food and drink and hospitality. A few highlights were advising BNK Holding when it acquired Taanayel Les Fermes and Bonjus, and a role representing Kingdom Hotels Investments Holding when it sold its stake in the Four Seasons Beirut.
Bank of Beirut, Credit Libanais, and Lebanese American University are some of the firm’s significant clients.
Broadly experienced in financial and corporate transactional work, Alem Associates has expertise in the areas of fund formation, transactional private equity, and structured finance.
The firm’s recent deal highlights are varied with the firm mostly active in M&A, fund formation, and debt capital markets. In banking it represented foreign lenders on syndicated loan to Lebanese Gulf Bank. In M&A the firm advised a Chinese buyer acquiring a stake in Lebanese lender in another large deal. Other notable work included a number of relatively large bond issues with a mix of issuer and bank side roles.
Notable clients include Nomura International, Standard Chartered, First Gulf Bank, Bank of America, and IBM.
"Proactive, strategic, lean and fast." - Project development
"We have had an excellent experience working with Alem Associates on each front we needed them to tackle." – Investment funds, project development, M&A
"Proactive, replies fast, strategic, excellent knowledge."
"Excellent work, excellent communication skills, and superb network."
Aziz Torbey Law Firm is recognised for corporate transactional advice. During the research period it advised on the restructuring of a manufacturing business.
"The firm and the firm's staff are ALL great. Ramy Torbey is a young and genius lawyer. He can manage the necessary legal business very well with his colleagues. We were very satisfied with their service given to our Turkish clients. They are fast and kind. They have huge experience in national and international transactions. The firm is very well organised. Our clients are also very happy about the legal service they give in Lebanon. Mr Aziz Torbey is a very well-known legal professional in Lebanon. Ramy Torbey is a great lawyer also a great person. I want to underline that there is no weakness I can state about their practice /service." – M&A
"Knowledgeable, up-to-date and highly professional. Flexible and solutions-oriented." – M&A
"Quality of services rendered and response time are very good." – M&A, securitisation
"Very proactive; quick to respond; good relationship builders." – M&A
"Excellent work, excellent personality. He does what he says he will."
"Provides quick responses, instant transfer of opinions, and clarity."
"Knowledgeable lawyer; quick and accurate to respond
Badri & Salim El Meouchi Law Firm has experience in banking, capital markets and M&A advice, and is one Lebanon’s most experienced firms for transactional advice.
Recent deal highlights for the firm include borrower side bank lending and fund raising, and sell side M&A roles. A highlight sees the firm representing a bank in selling its Lebanese business.
Notable clients include Banque Audi, Bank Mis, Gazprom Bank and OMV.
During the research period Baroudi & Associates’ highlight deals were mostly corporate and procedural law matters related to multinational companies.
Notable clients include Microsoft, ENI, Turkish Airlines, Louis Dreyfus and The International Air Transport Association.
El-Aref International Law Office is recognised for finance work. A highlight in the research period saw it advised EBRD on trade finance facility to Fransabank. The firm has also been acting as local counsel to Telegram on an initial coin offering.
Broadly experienced in financial and corporate transactional work, Levant Law Practice has recent experience in banking, M&A, and project finance.
Over the research period the firm acted as legal counsel in the negotiation of the acquisition of real estate companies. In one highlight project finance deal, the firm represented International Group Holding on the construction and operation of hotels and residential towers in Iraq.
"Levant Law Practice is the go-to firm for any corporate deal. Their professionalism is unparalleled in the market. They follow up their files in a very assiduous manner. They have an approach to transactions that marries legal and business and they have a very practical approach to deals and deals negotiations. They are very client-friendly and staff all their engagements accordingly." – M&A, restructuring
"Very logical and innovative."
Youssef S el Khazen
"The best lawyer in town. Pushes for the client's interests. Knows when to push and when to provide a concession. As importantly, he always cares about closing a deal on best terms."