By DIDEM ERYAR UNLU
Hande Yayla Oguzulgen, Buket Altufan Ulu, and Ozge Konukcu worked in Turkey’s leading law firms for more than 15 years, after graduating from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Law. Specializing in different fields during these years, they decided to join forces and established YAK (Yayla Altufan Konukcu) Attorney Partnership five years ago. YAK Attorney Partnership, which is actively involved in many great projects and dispute resolution processes that can be a precedent in Turkey also offers consultancy services to meet the needs of the changing business life. Property regime in company divorces, company and family constitution for family businesses, and media law such as intellectual property, production, distribution, and content protection are among the areas of expertise of YAK Attorneys at Law as well as projects, banking, and finance, company mergers, and marriages.
Commenting on one of the main business lines, the YAK partners stated that the economic conjuncture has a very serious effect on foreign direct investments. Although some projects may progress very well, the uncertainty of the economic situation has been affecting investors recently, they said. “The investors used to invest in much larger projects before, but we see a certain slowdown in this period. Investments in e-commerce, which increased during the pandemic period, continue as well as in gaming companies,” they said. “Foreigners may give up their investments at different stages due to reasons such as war, legal uncertainty, and economic volatility, if they are new to Turkey while those who know the country are late movers, meaning that they wait for a clearer climate.”
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW IS ON THE AGENDA
The climate crisis, a mutual concern of the globe, has also entered the life of lawyers, according to YAK founders. The climate crisis is closely related to the decisions taken in every field, from new investments to corporate mergers, they noted. “10 years ago, a company was asking for a license when making a company purchase. But today, environmental experts are looking to see if the company complies with environmental rules other than the license,” they said.
The Green Deal and international regulations and practices require extensive preparations and transformations as they will seriously affect production and imports in Turkey. “We also need to work arm in arm with environmental engineers; because environmental law is now on our agenda,” they said. “Environmental issues are among the topics that banks attach great importance to in terms of financing. Therefore, banks deploy consultants who oversee environmental issues and set out the requirements when appropriate, while financing a project.”
LAW IS A LIVING PROFESSION
The three-woman founders of YAK Attorney Partnership are not a team that came together with the decision and purpose of establishing a partnership. They were in touch with each other during their university years and throughout their careers for 15 years while working in other large law firms. However, at a certain point, they established a law firm, on the principle that the attorneyship profession is not a commercial activity, according to founders Yayla, Altufan, and Konukcu. “We wanted to establish a law firm that will provide an effective and value-added legal service without leaving our professional ethics just as the attorney’s oath we make while getting our licenses,” they said.
All three had experience in very different fields, which helped them to find a good synergy. Thus, they have created a structure where they can serve and represent their clients in all areas of law, with the teammates who supported the three founders. “Our aim has always been to keep ethics at the forefront. Transferring our professional experience and knowledge to our young colleagues is also one of the main goals of our office because being a lawyer is really a job of experience. It is important not only to have theoretical knowledge but also to know experiences,” the YAK partners noted.
They define their job as a living profession. To them, it is out of the question to say that “I became a perfect lawyer” and it is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made. They think that developing and differentiating world and business life and even individual differences brought by generations show their effects on the legal order. The legal sector is one sector that should closely follow the rapid transformation process we are experiencing, they noted. “When talking about the change in business models and digitalization, not thinking about the legal side of the business can bring great chaos. Issues that could never have been imagined 50 years ago can form our agenda today. As a direct and unavoidable consequence of this, the questions we ask, and seek answers to are also changing. In addition to keeping up to date in practice, legislation is a process that does not and should not stop. Otherwise, the law becomes unable to meet the needs, which can have very negative consequences for society.”
‘There should be more women bar presidents’
“The first woman president of the Istanbul Bar Association in its 144-year history was Filiz Sarac. It is a very important development that the Istanbul Bar Association is appointing a woman to head its institution at a time when violence against women is so intense and femicide has increased. The number of female bar association presidents rose to 13 at the point reached with the last elections. Artvin, Bilecik, Bitlis, Bolu, Canakkale, Istanbul, Ordu, Sakarya, Samsun, Sinop, Trabzon, Tunceli, and Yalova are among the bar associations where women’s representation is in question at the presidency level. We can attribute the increase in the number of women bar association presidents to the combative nature of women. But this number is still insufficient. We think that female bar association presidents should be at least half in accordance with the principle of equality in representation. There should not be a distinction between men and women among lawyers. However, when we look at the place of women in employment and in bar associations, we can clearly see that this is a social problem. The difficulties of being a woman in Turkey are like the difficulties of being a woman lawyer. There is a perception that men are more successful in the field because they do a career job. There is a common belief that women lawyers cannot be successful in certain fields. Criminal law is one of them. You have to prove yourself every time to a society that sees your gender more than your knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, there is a system in which the victim, not the perpetrator, is prosecuted in cases of violence against women such as femicide, sexual assault, and sexual harassment all over the world. We have to fight for equality for both our clients and us in a justice system dominated by men. We have to struggle to change the language and behavior of the system.”
Digitalization is creating new needs
“Digitalization has a profound impact on the law as well as every field. Some of these are the dissemination of e-government, the expansion of the digital field in education, the transfer of some of the health services and court hearings to digital media and taking steps towards e-democracy in many new areas, not through social media. It is important to create an effective and secure digital environment in the face of these developments. Therefore, new needs arise, and new processes begin in almost every field of law. Digitization brings in an extremely active and dynamic process. However, when it comes to legal regulation, most of us think of complicated legislation, bureaucratic formalities, and a waste of time. It is very important that legal regulations do not hinder creativity, innovation, and change. Legal arrangements should be in the direction of providing economic growth, technological development, and increasing welfare. In this period, we need a legal system that paves the way for change, facilitates change, but also draws the boundaries correctly and protects fundamental rights and freedoms.”