Czech lawyer Ivan Nechvatal has spent the past five years at CEZ, becoming a Corporate Governance Advisor - Turkey in July of this year. Based in Istanbul, Nechvatal participated in the 2016 General Counsel Summit in the city and was kind enough to share his thoughts on working in the Queen of Cities.
Run us through your background, and how you got to your current position.
I.N.: Shortly after graduating from law school, I joined CEZ, International Division and its program for talented graduates, CEZ Potentials. During my studies, I also worked for E.ON Czech Republic and Energy Regulatory Authority, which shows my close relations with the energy business. Having worked in the International Division of one of the biggest European utilities and dealing with cross-border legal matters and projects for last five years, it was a natural step for me to go abroad and utilize the experience gained at HQ at the local level in one of the CEZ Group subsidiaries. Graduating from the Faculty of Economics [at the Masaryk University Brno] and hence gaining an understanding of the business needs of companies also helps me to function in the foreign environment.
Was it always your goal to work abroad?
I.N.: Actually no, but having the above-mentioned background it was an interesting option.
Do you find Turks enthusiastic about working with foreign lawyers, or do they prefer working with local lawyers?
I.N.: It is everywhere the same, local lawyers perceive both pros and cons while working with foreign lawyers. On one hand, foreign lawyers do not know the local law, which obviously can cause more work for the local in-house legal counsels. On the other hand, local counsel in my opinion also perceives the high added value of having the different perspective foreign lawyers can bring.
There are obviously many differences between the Turkish and Czech legal systems. What idiosyncrasies or differences stand out the most?
I.N.: Actually, Czech and Turkish legal systems are surprisingly close to each other as they are both based on German legal tradition. Taking this into consideration, it is much more simple to function in this legal environment than it would be if I had a common law background.
How about the cultures? What cultural differences strike you as most resonant and significant?
I.N.: Turks are flexible and excellent businessmen. Like those from other nations of the Mediterranean, Turks live more in the present than in the future. This generally results in a highly business results-oriented environment with lesser accent for risks, detail, and structured corporate governance then cultures influenced by the German tradition.
What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in your role adds?
I.N.: I bring an impartial, different, and international perspective to various legal matters and issues. The transferable experience relies especially in contracting and corporate governance, while impartiality is especially important from the perspective of the shareholders.
What’s your favorite place to take guests in Istanbul?
I.N.: The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. It’s an excellent museum with a restaurant serving delicious meals with astonishing views in the background. Good food, a great view over the Bosphorus, and world class art – apart from history, everything Istanbul can offer in one place.
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.