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Q&A: HERGÜNER BILGEN ÖZEKE ATTORNEY PARTNERSHIP
FOUNDED in 1989, Hergüner is a full-service law firm in Turkey with major international clientele, and has working premises in Istanbul, Ankara and izmir. The firm draws upon the individual domestic and international experience of its professional staff, practicing in three main practice groups: finance & projects, corporate, and dispute resolution. Hergüners large corporate group brings together attorneys who are skilled and experienced in both transactional and non-transactional work, covering the full spectrum of industrial sectors. The dispute resolution group includes experienced civil and criminal litigators with backgrounds in a wide range of areas, including white collar crime, intellectual property and administrative law, as well as international arbitration.
Hergüners team is currently comprised of approximately 90 fee earners, most of whom have completed their education abroad, and approximately 45 support staff, making it one of the largest law firms in Turkey. Hergüners members have diverse professional backgrounds, including lawyers with international practice experience, and former experts of various regulatory authorities, such as the Competition Board.
HOW DOES HERGÜNER BILGEN ÖZEKE ATTORNEY PARTNERSHIP DIFFERENTIATE ITSELF FROM OTHER PREMIER LAW FIRMS IN TURKEY?
Hergüner Bilgen Özeke will celebrate its 25th anniversary in little over a year. Since its establishment, the firm has always structured itself as a partnership in the truest sense, and it has produced numerous equity partners from amongst its ranks. The firm aspires to be like any premier law firm operating in a competitive legal arena such as London or New York in terms of the quality of its service, its rigorous hiring policies, the methods it uses to evaluate associates and partners, and its promotion and equitizing models.
TURKEY HAS BECOME A MAJOR JURISDICTION FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT, WHAT ARE THE HEADLINE BUSINESS DRIVERS BEHIND THAT TREND?
Turkeys enviable geopolitical location inevitably provides the country with the opportunity to occupy the role of a regional hub, as it stands at the crossroads of international capital flows, energy lines and trade traffic. This position necessitates all sorts of investments into the countrys infrastructure development to ensure that it secures its status as a major financial centre. Its economic potential has been shown through the recent positive growth estimates published by many respected international organizations. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are projecting a steady increase in Turkish GDP; they have forecast that the country will achieve somewhere in the neighborhood of an annual growth of 6% over the next five years or so. This average is way above the projected growth of any other European economy.
Investments in the energy, oil and gas and infrastructure sectors, as well as various other industrial and non-industrial fields of investment such as healthcare, are the main drivers of this economic growth. All of these investments and the capital flows following or causing these investments are increasingly attracting international legal advisors to the Turkish jurisdiction to act on these deals. This business trend also ensures that international law firms are getting more and more interested in establishing a law practice in this jurisdiction.
HAS GROWING INTERNATIONAL INTEREST IN THE REGION INCREASED PRESSURE ON DOMESTIC FIRMS TO ADAPT THEIR PRACTICES?
Growing international interest in the region has encouraged global firms to establish a presence on the ground in Turkey as quickly as possible. Foreign entry into the Turkish legal arena has come mostly through exclusive affiliations with local firms, and sometimes through the outright buying-out of local practices. However, the fast pace of foreign entry has meant that entering global firms have not had the time to fully appreciate the intricacies of local restrictions on legal practice and this may prove problematic going forward.
Given that the local code of professional ethics and the rules governing competition among law firm practices are not rigorously enforced in Turkey, an uneven playing field has come about, where established local firms feel obliged to take a very conservative stance vis-à-vis the existing rules and regulations, while the new entrants are adopting a more permissive interpretation.
To level the playing field for local and international law firms, the local bar and its professional bodies will have to join forces to create new rules and to strengthen the existing professional code of conduct principles. There is already a strong move among the major local firms toward achieving such an outcome. The move does not necessarily favor restrictions but it does ask for equal treatment against international competition.
DO YOU HAVE STRONG INTERNATIONAL FIRM RELATIONSHIPS TO FACILITATE CROSS-BORDER TRANSACTIONS?
Hergüner Bilgen Özeke is a modern firm with a strong capability in cross-border work. The firm has non-exclusive relationships with more than fifty different law firms from all over the world and it is internationally acclaimed for its ability to work with any international firm on any type of transaction globally in a very seamless manner.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOREIGN CLIENTS SHOULD BE MADE AWARE OF BEFORE CONDUCTING THEIR FIRST DEAL IN TURKEY?
As in any other jurisdiction, there is no doubt that conducting a thorough legal and financial due diligence investigation of the target is a must for any foreign client before they make an investment in Turkey.
International investors should also familiarize themselves with the new legal environment created by a series of laws renewing the Turkish legal approach to contractual and commercial relationships. Most significantly, the recent introduction of a new commercial code, a new code of obligations, and a new civil procedure code has brought with it serious ambiguities due to lack of guiding scholarly opinion and sufficient precedents. It is, therefore, more crucial than ever to obtain valueadding legal advice which accurately predicts the reading of the laws that would shape the prevailing case law.
DOES YOUR FIRM OFFER STRENGTH IN ANY NICHE SPECIALISMS TO SUPPORT TRANSACTIONAL WORK?
Hergüner Bilgen Özeke is a general practice law firm with close to ninety lawyers. It is a full-service firm that packs a punch in many specialty areas from mergers and acquisitions to project finance, from oil & gas law to all sorts of energy matters, from international arbitration to finance, from real estate to litigation, from education to healthcare.
IF BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS TURN SOUR, HOW ATTRACTIVE IS TURKEY AS A REGION FOR SOLVING DISPUTES?
With its proximity to all major business centers in Europe and the Middle East, a city like Istanbul is a natural candidate to become a regional center for international dispute resolution and there are agencies that are making concerted efforts toward achieving that goal. For example, the establishment of an international dispute resolution forum in Turkey has been included as part of the Ninth Development Plan through the 2009 Action Plan for Istanbul International Financial Center, which was prepared under the coordination of the State Planning Organization. Accordingly, a draft law regarding the establishment of the Istanbul International Arbitration Center has been prepared and submitted by the legislative committee to the Office of the Prime Minister and it is currently under review.
The increasing awareness of the legal practitioners in the country about different legal systems and legal practices is making Turkey a more and more attractive jurisdiction for dispute resolution purposes.