Fayez Khouri, PwC

Managing a team of 12 lawyers across the Middle East, Khouri shares the challenges and opportunities present for in-house counsel operating in Lebanon.

I am originally from Lebanon – I lived there until I was about nine years old. After that, I moved to the UK and have spent the majority of my life in the UK. I am an English-trained solicitor. I qualified with my solicitors practising certificate in 2000. I did my two years of training in London, where I worked up until 2007. Then I moved to Dubai and lived there for five years, before moving to Beirut. Now in Beirut, I have been living here for the last seven years.

Now I am general counsel of PwC in the Middle East. I run a team of 12 people. We have eight team members based in Beirut, we have four in Dubai and we have one in Saudi Arabia.

I deal with a lot of important matters that concern leadership: regulatory matters, litigation matters and company restructuring matters. I spend a lot of time in between Beirut, Dubai and Saudi Arabia in order to carry out my role, which includes managing my team.

The majority of PwC’s work – like many multinational companies – means that although we are based in Lebanon, we deal with legal matters all across the Middle East. In fact, Lebanon is a very small chunk of the work that is being done by PwC. The majority is in Saudi Arabia, but we oversee these matters from both Beirut and Dubai.

PwC operates within a specific business environment. I would say that we deal with a lot of regulatory issues given PwC is primarily known for its auditing work. The auditing profession is highly regulated, so we have to always be very mindful of what the regulators are saying, and what they are doing, and how they monitor the work we do. That opens us up to a significant amount of inspection and supervision.

If something should go wrong with one of our clients – especially when we have done an audit – we are at the forefront of trying to supply information to the regulators. Sometimes we get brought into litigation when a company is in financial difficulties. So we have to be very careful and mindful of how we deal with inspections, questions and queries.

Another thing which is part of the business environment is the way things are done in the Middle East from a contractual point of view. You end up dealing with a lot of government clients and public sector clients. Therefore, there is usually very little flexibility when it comes to negotiating contracts.

One example is when we provide services to governments – we try to use our standard form. But governments in the region do not accept that, they have their own forms they prefer to use. They are also not very open to negotiating terms on their standard form. So you end up having to accept terms that are not ideal for the company. As a result, you have to manage the risk within the organisation. So instead of being able to be protected from a contractual point of view, you have to be extra careful. You always have to manage risk, but you have to manage it even more carefully when the contractual protections are not sufficient. n