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Know Your Lawyer: Okan Demirkan of Kolcuoglu Demirkan Kocakli

Know Your Lawyer: Okan Demirkan of Kolcuoglu Demirkan Kocakli

Issue 10.9
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An in-depth look at Okan Demirkan of Kolcuoglu Demirkan Kocakli covering his career path, education, and top projects as a lawyer as well as a few insights about him as a manager at work and as a person outside the office.

Career:

  • Kolcuoglu Demirkan Kocakli; Partner; 2010-present
  • Herguner; Senior Associate; 2000-2010

Education:

  • University of Sussex School of Legal Studies, United Kingdom; LLB; 2000
  • Rijnlands Lyceum Oegstgeest, the Netherlands; IB; 1997

Favorites:

  • Out of Office Acivity: Spending time with my son, traveling, wine, reading non-legal books and journals, flying my drone, watching Galatasaray play and win in Europe
  • Quote: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Edward Whitacre, Jr.
  • Book: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
  • Movie: Rocky (with no preference for a particular one of the nine-film series)

Top 5 Projects:

  • Representing Coca-Cola in an ICC arbitration arising from a FIDIC contract (2017-2019).
  • Representing Frontera Oil in an enforcement lawsuit in Turkiye, for the enforcement and subsequent execution of a US arbitral award (2013-2016).
  • Advising the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP) Consortium in relation to a multibillion-dollar project involving the construction and operation of the longest transit pipeline in Turkiye’s history (2011-2013).
  • Advising the Shah Deniz Consortium (at the time comprised of BP, SOCAR, Total, and Statoil) on the legal structure of the Shah Deniz Stage II Natural Gas Sales Project (2011-present).
  • Advising and assisting BTC Co. on all regulatory, corporate, finance, real estate, litigation, and employment matters surrounding the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Crude Oil Pipeline (2000-2010).

CEELM: What would you say was the most challenging project you ever worked on and why?

Demirkan: The TANAP Project was probably the most challenging one, even though it did not feel that way at the time (thinking retrospectively, I now see that it was extremely so compared to other projects). We were a new law firm at the time and I was only 31 years old. We advised a group of very large energy companies on this multi-billion-dollar project. We had the task of drafting and negotiating international agreements amongst two governments and state-owned enterprises, whilst ensuring the protection of our four clients’ (sometimes not perfectly overlapping) commercial interests. Sitting at a table with almost 30 very senior people, all representing differing interests, was a challenging task at such a young age. We had to handle a very wide range of legal issues including public international law, energy regulations, land rights, construction, tax, customs, corporations, and employment. I was very lucky – I believe the experience helped me grow as a legal practitioner.

CEELM: And what was your main takeaway from it?

Demirkan: I was genuinely inspired by the negotiating skills and methods of companies’ representatives and government officials. I learned a great deal about having to at least appear as if I had nerves of steel.             

CEELM: What is one thing clients likely don’t know about you?

Demirkan: I like to think that they know all they need to know.

CEELM: Name one mentor who played a big role in your career and how they impacted you.

Demirkan: The greatest fortune of my career was the opportunity to work with the likes of my current partner Umut Kolcuoglu as well as very inspiring individuals such as Umit Herguner, Itir Sevim Ciftci, and Ender Ozeke. In the past 23 years, I also had the privilege of being mentored by non-lawyers such as Betul Mardin, Sedat Birol, and Asim Barlin, who have all greatly contributed to several decisions and developments in my career.

Since I must single out one mentor, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk has been my foremost influential mentor in all aspects of life. His unmatched courage, unbelievable drive, loyalty to principles, and visionary personality are beyond inspirational. We do not have to have met him personally to benefit from his vision – he is mentoring us every day we live and work in this wonderful nation.    

CEELM: Name one mentee you are particularly proud of.

Demirkan: Looking back at the past 23 years, the first names that come to mind are Ceylan Yavasca and Sarper Boz. These two former colleagues have incredibly inspiring stories – both professionally and personally. I feel very proud that our paths crossed.

As I have to name one, perhaps with a slight recency bias, I would name my current colleague, Cihan Mercan. It has been a pleasure to witness his development as a lawyer and a human being.

CEELM: What is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself fresh out of law school?

Demirkan: Relax, do not rush. You have plenty of time.

This article was originally published in Issue 10.9 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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