What are the unique attributes of Abou Jaoude & Associates?
Our uniqueness stems from our structure and our human capital. We were established in 1996, and in 1998 we were pioneers in introducing the Anglo-Saxon structural model of law firms in Lebanon, instead of the family-based firms, which were the standard in the country. We are organized as a civil company that practices law. Our model and the ascendance within the firm relies on meritocracy, where any member has the chance to become a partner, and business ethics are paramount. Because of our structure and image, we are able to attract the best talent. Our lawyers have an in-depth specialization, a sharp understanding of the commercial as well as the legal aspects of clients' businesses, and the ability to tackle any challenge using fast and innovative solutions. The firm is renowned for its added-value in structured finance and unparalleled experience advising on cross-border deals of the first impression in the region.
What are the most high-profile mergers and acquisitions you have worked on over the last year?
We worked on a merger between Société Générale and the Lebanese-Canadian Bank, which was implemented through the sale of the latter's assets and equity components. This was definitely the largest consolidation of banking operations in the market. We also recently acted on several high-profile acquisitions, including the acquisition of Orange Uganda by Africell, and the acquisition by M1 Group of a stake in GLB Invest, and several other telecoms transactions in Africa. We also work heavily on equity transactions, for instance we did so in relation to Africell Holding. In terms of real estate, we represent not less than 10% to 15% of the real estate development market. One of the biggest ones is BeitMisk.
How are you assisting financial institutions to adapt to the new capital market laws?
Not only to capital market laws, but they have to comply with several rules and regulations related to disclosure, anti-money laundering, and most importantly corporate governance. Financial institutions have to train themselves to adapt to these new regulations. You have to bear in mind that there is a world pre-2008 and post-2008. Our advice to clients has been corporate governance-driven since 1994, because I believe in the rationale of a transparent world. The substantial increase in our revenues was due to the fact that many unwilling companies had to undergo the switch, upgrade, and apply the latest rules, and the firm already had a track record in advising on governance rules.
How are you growing your base of multinational clients?
We advise many multinationals and banks, such as Nissan, Deutsche Bank, Emaar, and ZTE Corporation, locally or worldwide. The firm offers businesses in need of legal assistance in any country easy access to global advice by maintaining privileged partnerships with a number of correspondents in various jurisdictions. Based on our attorneys' experience, we are able to advise on various legal systems in different countries.
What is your strategy for expanding the company domestically and internationally?
In three to five years' time, we will be 100 members with 12 to 15 partners; we will have our own network. I do not have any plans to increase offices or agencies anywhere else in the world, especially not in the MENA region. From our headquarters in Beirut, we advise clients in Lebanon on their ongoing day-to-day business, but we also service international clients on a transaction basis. My vision was to become the best in my market, Lebanon. We have a great way of structuring transactions and that is one of our core added values. Not many law firms specialize in this area. This gives us an edge and the possibility of working on cross-border transactions. The firm's growth and expansion policy revolves around segregation and distribution of risks: maintaining a 15% cap of the firm's total exposure per main practice area or sector, and a 5% cap per client.