Chief legal officer, director and company secretary, Lightsource
There are lawyers in my family so I have always had an interest in the profession. My interest went beyond the rhetoric – I did not want just to practise law but to shape it through practice.
I first studied in Istanbul, where I also began my career. However, when I moved to England as a mid-level associate I had to begin from scratch. I realised I was truly committed to the profession because I didn’t hesitate in starting from the beginning again, as well as obtaining my PhD in law while requalifying.
I see three different key elements to my training. First, in Istanbul I had the opportunity to work with senior partners and experienced foreign lawyers, so I had the privilege of advising from different perspectives on various areas of law. Then in England I started working for Dentons. I was able to expand my skillset from a UK law perspective specialising on energy, infrastructure and project finance transactions. Finally, my time at Lightsource has allowed me to experience working in an in-house team operating in an extremely fast-paced industry.
The key attributes of a good general counsel are good communication (internally and externally), strong legal knowledge, analytical skills and a common-sense approach. It can be challenging, especially when under pressure to deliver to strict deadlines and the shifting demands of the business. In this respect, every crisis is a learning opportunity. This is not to everyone’s taste, but to be successful in our sector you have to embrace it.
Another challenge is to keep the independent nature of the profession. You need to resolve the business partner/gatekeeper tension, which can be the biggest problem GCs face. It is vital to strike the right balance between commercial interests and legal requirements, to ensure the success of the business and to protect it.
Receiving the Legal 500 UK In-House Individual Of The Year: Environment award was a great honour. I have had many memorable moments throughout my career and have been fortunate to work on extremely interesting projects.
The in-house sector has gained a great deal in recent years. There are more, and more talented and experienced, lawyers looking at in-house with renewed interest. They recognise that the environment is one where they can engage the skills they have already learned and build on them further.
The role of the modern in-house lawyer is set to change the profession. In any dynamic industry where speed is key, it is essential that your lawyers are involved from day one. With in-house lawyers you have a team that is immersed in your business and can deliver the most effective results in the quickest time.
Legal costs can have a huge impact on the overall budget and financial models for projects across any sector, which is why more businesses are swaying towards in-house expertise. That’s not to say external lawyers are not needed, it’s more about managing external support and advice more efficiently.