Legal life in ... Ankara
Berkem Ertem, partner at 4 Ertem, tells us about legal life in Turkey's capital Ankara and discusses the future for Turkish law firms as the legal services market becomes more globalised.
How did you come to be a lawyer?
Since high school I have had a great motivation to become a lawyer or at least working in the legal profession due to having been in the middle of legal discussions and spending so much time at a law office owned by my parents. Even though the disputes, terms and idioms were so complicated for me in those days, I realised that they were the reflections of real life, with the only difference of having only one truth to be stressed in law, instead of the relativity principle in real life.
Tell us about your firm?
4ERTEM Attorneys At Law, and 4ERTEM Patent and Trademark Consultancy is the new face of ERTEM Law Office serving the areas of intellectual property law (including national and international patent, trademark and industrial registration), commercial law including company law, labour law, family law and administrative law.
Now I am working as chief of the Intellectual Property Department after serving many years as the person in charge of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Department of Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK). I am also still acting as an expert witness before the Turkish IPR courts in all fields of IPR, especially in pharmaceutical patent disputes.
Have you worked as a lawyer in other cities? How do they compare?
I have also worked in Istanbul as an in-house lawyer in a pharmaceutical firm. Since Istanbul is one of the most crowded and commercially outstanding cities of both Turkey and Europe, the number of the disputes, their value and complexity are quite high. However being an important commercial and industrial city of central Anatolia, Ankara comes just after Istanbul in terms of the number of the disputes and courts.
An important difference is that due to the workload of the judges in Istanbul, jurisdiction periods are quite long in Istanbul compared to Ankara. Furthermore, the appeal courts and administrative bodies are also located in Ankara which require the firms based in Istanbul to have a branch office or at least a representative in Ankara. Any law firm should also bear in mind the capacity, traffic and the high salaries in Istanbul.
What are the main challenges and opportunities for Turkish firms as the legal services market becomes increasingly globalised?
Having a population over 70 million and being a bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey has always served strategically as a very important role in both commercial and political aspects. Globalisation and information technologies triggered many new global disputes and new ways of dispute resolutions such as arbitration.
Since arbitration is becoming one of the most applied dispute resolution systems, Turkish legal firms should give much more importance to this field of law.
What advice would you give to UK law firms new to Ankara?
Ankara is Turkey's second largest city after Istanbul. Centrally located in Anatolia, Ankara is an important commercial and industrial city. It is the center of the Turkish Government. Since all the governmental bodies are located in Ankara, all the cases against those, such as patent institute, shall be filed in Ankara. Therefore I do greatly advise UK law firms who are planning to act in Turkey to establish their main office or branch office in Ankara or co-operate with a firm located in Ankara.
What opportunities for co-operation are there between Ankara and UK law firms?
Since there exists a growing import/export business between Turkey and the UK, I strongly recommend UK law firms to advise their clients about registering their trademarks, patents and industrial designs in Turkey in order to prevent and counteract against the counterfeiting.
Lately we have seen a high number of trademark, industrial design and patent applications filed by foreign firms including Chinese and US national. According to Turkish IPR law, the first to file principle is accepted as a rule. Therefore, foreign firms are strongly recommended to register their rights if they are involved any commercial relations in Turkey.
I want to point out that Turkish IPR law is well regulated and compatible with the EU law. Enforcements are effective enough to discourage and relatively fast compared to the other fields of law by courtesy of the establishment of specialised IPR courts.
Besides, attorney fees in Turkey are quite low compared to the other European countries.
Finally, what are your recommendations for visitors to Ankara?
Ankara is a very old city with various Hittite, Phrygian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman archaeological sites. There are many finely preserved remains of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine architecture.
Anıtkabir, where the mausoleum of the great leader Ataturk founder of the Republic of Turkey stands is an impressive fusion of ancient and modern architectural styles and an impressive spot to be visited. Visitors in Ankara can:
- visit the old Ankara Castle around which there are a few historic structures survived to the present day
- visit Museum of Anatolian Civilisations which houses a unique collection of Paleolithic, Neolithic, Hatti, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian and Roman works
- dine in one of the fancy restaurants on Filistin Street
- have a drink in a pub on Arjantin Street, Bestekar Street
- have a walk through Tunalı Street, Botanik Park, Segmenler Park or Park with the Swans.
The Law Society is organising a UK-Turkish legal programme in October.