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Inside Insight: Interview with Luiza Oprisan, Head of Legal at Kanal D

Inside Insight
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Luiza Oprisan is the Head of Legal of the Kanal D television station in Romania, which is owned by Dogan Media International S.A. – a subsidiary of Dogan Yayin Holding, the biggest media group in Turkey. 

Oprisan’s experience includes working as the Deputy Legal Director of Vimetco Management, as a Deputy Manager, Tax and Legal with PwC, the Head of International Law Office with BANCOREX, and as a Judge with the Bucharest Sectors 1 and 2 and Tulcea Courts. She also spent a couple of years in Montreal, Canada, working as an Assistant Manager/Human Resources with B.E.S.T. Security.

CEELM:

You have quite a colorful career leading up to your current role with Kanal D. What were the biggest challenges when you took on your current position?

LL.O.: It is quite varied indeed – at least in as far as a lawyer’s career is concerned. 

There were plenty of challenges, both when I started [at Kanal D] as well as some that sprung up along the way. I had to learn a lot about television from a legal stand-point. The variety of work that comes my way – ranging from general freedom of the press and freedom of speech to applying legal knowledge related to corporate and contractual law, labor law, licensing, and managing the relationship with the CNA [the National Audiovisual Council of Romania - ed.] – is something I have to be able to cope with on an ongoing basis.

CEELM:

You mentioned the right to free speech. How does that come into play?

L.O.: There have been several litigations I had to handle related to celebrities claiming intrusions into their private lives. I always found these cases fascinating since court proceedings represented, in their basic form, a fundamental debate between the freedom of expression of our journalists and that of the right to privacy of individuals with the status of public figures. We won every single case in this area – which I am naturally happy about – but further than that, the balancing act between the two rights is something I always enjoyed exploring. There have also been a few cases in the area of image right (personal/professional), one mediated and the other partially admitted by the Court, where we made some journalistic mistakes, but finally the outcome was a balanced one between the parties involved.

CEELM:

Your experience includes working as a judge. In what way has this experience helped you as an in-house counsel?

L.O.: Professionally speaking it helped a great deal. First, it furthered my legal knowledge to the standards of a good judge. At the same time, it taught me invaluable tools in treating parties, which I later made a point of applying to all my colleagues: respect, attention to detail,  and professionalism. Furthermore, when I am now in court as a defendant, I try to apply the same thinking I used to apply as a judge, incorporating in our arguments everything that I remember a judge needs to make a solid decision – simply put, I can still put myself in a judge’s state of mind. 

CEELM:

Banking, Tax, and Mining are all areas you worked in prior to joining KanalD. What was it about your current industry that made you stick with it for such a long time?

L.O.: The creativity and the drive for freedom of expression have always kept me plugged in. At the same time, the people I am surrounded by on a daily basis are great to work with due to their creativity, the extent to which they enjoy their work, and the ongoing pursuit of finding the right balance between creativity and audience ratings.

In terms of specific legal matters, authorship rights and all its implications are fascinating to work with as well. At the same time, working with the CNA is also an interesting part of the role. In many ways, defending yourself in front of the body is like a mini-litigation. Of course, you can take it further if you are unhappy with the result and contest the decision in court as well, but it is not my approach to do so – I’m more focused on keeping a good relationship with the supervisory body, mostly due to the fact that its decisions are usually legally grounded. Last but not least, the litigations that I mentioned as defendants on right to privacy claims from public figures just keep things constantly interesting. 

CEELM:

You’ve said before that your key approach to working with people “is leading by personal example.” How do you apply that in practice in your current role?

L.O.: For a 300-400-strong organization, our legal team is quite small – 4 people, myself included. The best examples I can think of in terms of personal interactions relate to applying a few principles: respect, common sense, good faith, casualness of the relationship, listening, and patience. In terms of professional principles, I try to implement the following in everything I do: quality, attention to detail, quick response time, willingness to assume extra work if required. I display the above and expect and hope they will be mirrored by those I work with. 

CEELM:

Kanal D is held by the Dogan Group – a Turkish company. What cultural differences have you identified working with the Group’s management and how do they influence your work?

L.O.: I think cultural differences always play a role. In the past I’ve worked under Romanian management (as a judge and with Bankcorex), at PwC I had an Australian Partner for our Tax and Legal, and in Canada the management was, again, obviously not Romanian. I try to always pay attention to cultural differences, and trying to adapt and adhere to their rules and approaches seemed like the right thing to do. 

In our current organization, the same types of difference can be felt and I have always tried through both professional and interpersonal interactions to be as accommodating as possible to help international management feel welcomed in a foreign environment. 

CEELM:

As a former tax professional, you’ve surely been following the ongoing tax amendments in Romania (see page 34). What’s your take on these developments?

L.O.: I have been following these updates from afar because they are rather interesting but I can’t say I’ve been reading in detail all the ramifications. They sound good overall and I hope they will lead to a balance between growth and fiscal sustainability but, I will say, I believe it all starts from collection and ends with the way its spent. 

As for our work directly, we need to keep apprised of a lot of taxes: VAT, social taxes, and withholding tax on licenses is a constant with almost all licenses coming as a net fee (especially on Turkish licenses). 

CEELM:

As a recent participant to the CEE Legal Matters GC Summit, what was your main takeaway and why should your peers not miss next year’s conference?

L.O.: I enjoyed most the opportunity to exchange information on applied models presented by the speakers on specific case studies. It’s a really good initiative to offer a platform for GCs to discuss their challenges and exchange best practices. I believe next year’s will be equally useful, if not more so, both to those who attended this year and to new participants. 

CEELM:

On the lighter side, what is your favorite thing to do to relax after a long day at the office?

L.O.: I definitely get to relax a lot when I walk my dog – Bella, who’s a bit of an alien with some saying he’s a Bichon, others saying he’s an Chinese Imperial Dog … regardless, I adore her!

I also tend to carve out some time to call up loved ones (my daughter, for example, who is now in London) and give myself a bit of time to catch up on the latest political national and international news, and yes, my facebook, before some light reading. 

Editorial Note: Since this article was published, Oprisan has left Kanal D to pursue a calling for the NGO world. 

This Article was originally published in Issue 2.5. of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.

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