Legal Market Overview
Lebanon’s general election in May 2018 culminated in a political standstill. The persistent struggle to form a new government has exacerbated an already difficult economic situation marked by years of high unemployment, political instability among the nation’s nearest neighbours and a national debt equal to 150% of the country’s GDP. Consequently, foreign investment and international M&A have generally decreased, and even corporates active in what have historically been Lebanon’s most attractive industry sectors, such as real estate, have seen the need for internal reorganisation and large-scale corporate restructurings.
Despite these setbacks, however, the Lebanese market is still thought to have high potential. Foreign companies tend to shy away from entering the market directly, but have increased their efforts to become involved via joint ventures and other commercial arrangements. Opportunities can be found and funded in the telecoms and energy sectors in particular, where the government has commissioned PPP projects to develop Lebanon’s electricity, waste management and communications infrastructure. France, in addition to some other European nations, has actively encouraged European companies to invest in Lebanese infrastructure, and it is in this context that law firms have seen the greatest amount of international activity.
Lebanese law firms gain many of their international instructions through regional referral networks, though some have formed alliances with international law firms. Although these corporate law firms have experienced some difficulties in the face of political uncertainty, the situation is expected to settle once intra-governmental conflicts are resolved and the need for fiscal reform becomes the primary focus.