Based in Ankara, Bora Kaya is the Managing Legal Counsel at Gama Power Systems Engineering and Contracting, a company that he first joined in March 2015. Prior to that he was the Head of Legal at Ronesans Holding from October 2012 to December 2014. Earlier still, he worked for Eregli Iron and Steel Works Co. as the Assistant to the Head of Legal Department.
Please tell us a bit about your career up to this point.
B.K.: Putting aside my personal history in academic life, which will hopefully shift to a slower pace when I complete my PhD at the end of this year, before being appointed as the General Counsel to Gama Power Systems Engineering and Contracting Co. I was the Head of Legal at a multi-national, Russia-originated company called Renaissance Holding for two and a half years, which was after my almost six year- long service for publicly owned Eregli Iron and Steel Works JSC as the Assistant Lawyer to the General Counsel.
How large is your team at Gama Power, and how is it structured?
B.K.: The GC office consists of 10 colleagues in two separate departments: the legal department and the contracts and claims management department. The latter has both engineers from various disciplines and people with legal qualifications from other countries such as Belarus. We assign one or two contracts and claim managers to individual projects, and of course we also liaise with external local law firms and/or counsels wherever our projects are, as a standard practice.
What does a “normal” day in the office look like for you? What types of work end up taking most of you time?
B.K.: Various kinds of meetings consume most of my time, and even though we discussed at the GC Summit in 2015 that GCs should allocate their time to more strategic and high-level issues I sometimes unfortunately end up drafting letters, notices, contracts, etc., all day. Of course they are somewhat more important than the ones being prepared daily within the company, but nevertheless, spending time on these deprives me of the chance to pursue some other management duties.
What would you describe as the most challenging project you worked on with Gama, and what were the main lessons you learned from it?
B.K.: Getting ready for a negotiation or an arbitration requires a huge amount of paperwork to be done for substantiation purposes, and it cannot be done easily three or four years after the completion of the project. We learned this the hard way, and afterwards we designed a check list for the documents to be collected monthly while the project is ongoing and described how we require them to be recorded and reported so that even long after the completion of the project we can have access to any information that might be necessary.
When you need to externalize legal work, what are the main criteria you use to select what law firms you’ll be working with?
B.K.: We acknowledge the fact that the Partners of the external law firms we work with do not always have the time to deal with our daily questions and requests, so evaluating the experience and qualifications of the Associates that are proposed to work for us is of vital importance. The second important thing is the budget, of course. Since we are working with most of the well-known international law firms we know the market very well in terms of hourly rates and payment schemes, so the firm’s approach in offering blended or discounted rates and fixed or capped fees tells us a lot about what we may face in the future. We very much value different and flexible approaches to fee structures in long-term relationships. Local reputation, recognition, and personal traits are also important. That’s why we prefer to meet in person with the people we plan to work with before signing any engagement letters.
If you need to hire a new person for your in-house legal team, what are the main traits you look out for?
B.K.: It changes depending on the position. For junior positions all I look for is a bright mind with a bit of curiosity about the profession in the eyes. For senior positions I look for relevant experience, management skills, and profound reasoning abilities on complex legal issues. I prefer outgoing personalities rather than introverts because an in-house counsel has to team up with others most of the time to be able to fulfill his/her tasks.
Looking at the market overall, how has the current climate in Turkey impacted your company and the work of your legal team?
B.K.: Gama Power, with its almost 60 years of history, is like a huge cargo ship out in the ocean. I believe very few things can really have a negative material impact on the business (knock on wood). Gama Power as an international EPC contractor has most of its projects outside of Turkey. Therefore, aside from the massive workload arising from tracking recent enactments or amendments in local legislation, the work of the legal team has not changed considerably.
On the lighter side, what was the favorite corporate team building exercise you attended?
B.K.: We are currently discussing the possibility of organizing a sailing event for team building purposes; that’s what I am looking forward to impatiently. The company is also promoting some cultural events and sports organizations as well.
This Article was originally published in Issue 3.5 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.