The world, Turkey, and the legal profession are all in a constant state of change.
Globally, each day, there is a transformation – economically, politically, and financially. There are credit crunches, rises of radical movements, trade wars, collapses of nations, and changes in government systems. Globalization now means every jurisdiction is affected by developments in others and by relations between nations. Turkey, too, has seen its share of good times and bad times. Over recent years, it has seen floods of investment, then slowdowns; banking crises and then stability; changes in investment trends and hot sectors; political turbulence; and even a failed coup attempt and change in its governmental system. 2018 was not an easy year for Turkey, with a sharp depreciation in the Turkish lira and fears of more severe economic regression.
However, despite this turmoil, Turkey still strives to be the world’s 12th biggest economy in 2019. It still has many big-scale infrastructure projects on its agenda, many reforms it has yet to accomplish, and still another election to go through.
The way we lawyers do business is also changing. If you go not too long back in time, you land in the days of the telex … then the fax, then emails; now you see correspondence taking the shape of WhatsApp messages. Gone are the days of lengthy memos, citations from scholars or codes, and theoretical discussions. Gone are the days of reactive lawyering and risk spotting; these days clients want short responses, a proactive approach, and creative solutions. Gone are the days of in-house counsel whose work was really only to outsource work and coordinate outside counsel; now you see in-house teams acting like law firms, tackling issues on their own. Gone are the days of billable hours presented with no questions from clients; now the fees are expected to match the value added to the matter. Gone are the days of a few good law firms dominating the market; now there are many of them, both big and small, global and local. Gone are the days of only a few lawyers capable of cross-border work; now there is an army of law students graduating each year with ever-increasing skills.
The legal profession is also being disrupted by the introduction of artificial intelligence and other technologies being used not only in the legal sector but all fields affecting our lives. It is said that more than half of the professions of the near future have not yet even been invented. While this disruption has not been felt so severely yet in Turkey, its arrival and effect on us are not far off.
The one thing that does not change is change itself. Some say the legal profession will become extinct. Would change go so far? I doubt it. I believe that the legal profession is here to stay, but there is certainly a need to adapt. First, obtaining information is now easier than ever before. We need to be tech-savvy and understand, use, and make available the benefits of technology. We obviously have to accept that the luxury of spending hours on contracts and due diligence exercises will soon be a thing of the past. We need to polish our communication skills so that we understand the needs of our clients and manage their expectations. Lawyers with a deep knowledge of law, a broad perspective on transactions and issues, and the ability to think about business and not legal theory will survive. Clients are more and more looking for lawyers not only with knowledge, but with the ability to manage such knowledge and exercise good judgment. We will need to take a business perspective, think and be creative with our solutions, and come up with legally sound structures to address the ever-growing challenges of our clients.
We also need to be flexible in terms of being able to follow trends, adapt to different practice areas and sectors, and serve changing needs. Especially in Turkey, where things move fast, change occurs rapidly and there is always a need for law and lawyers to either cherish the good times or find cures for the bad times.
So irrespective of who tries to steal the show, I believe the lead role will always be the lawyer; but we have to adapt.
By Begum Durukan Ozaydin, Founding Partner, Durukan + Partners.
This Article was originally published in Issue 6.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.