fivehundred magazine > > Interview with… Bilge Derinbay, Partner, NSN Law

Interview with… Bilge Derinbay, Partner, NSN Law

Tell us about your career choice and journey. What inspired you to become a lawyer?  

At first, I met a law professor through my aunt and was inspired by her while choosing this profession. Also, I was watching a TV series about the struggle of lawyers in their professional lives at that time. I was aware that the show had nothing to do with real life, but from what I observed, I thought that I was suitable for being a lawyer as I love challenging the difficulties and solving the problems. In the end, I decided to become the lawyer. It is possible to say that my career consists of three stages. After completing my undergraduate education, firstly, I started my career in one of the leading law firms in Turkey which is mainly famous with its practice in IP. Then I went to the United Kingdom to do a master’s degree in commercial law. Subsequently, I joined NSN to manage commercial/corporate legal affairs. 

What are your reflections on the diversity and inclusion culture in the legal profession in Turkey?  

Honestly, the legal sector is a male-dominated market in Turkey. Unfortunately, for this reason, the visibility of women in the profession is affected. However, this situation did not overshadow the success of women lawyers. Besides, if I have to convey my personal experience, the clients I have worked with so far consisted of global companies. Therefore, I did not base my professional life on the established culture in Turkey and did not work by being exposed to these male-dominated reflections. From the experiences I have gained throughout my working life, I have seen that being a lawyer is a delicate profession, it requires a lot of effort and meticulousness. I have seen that women lawyers can provide the necessary care and sensitivity in accordance with this profession and they are quite successful. Consequently, I think that women’s employment in the field of law is important and that women lawyers should be more visible. 

How is NSN Law progressing with its diversity agenda?  

It should be noted that NSN did not have a diversity agenda as our working traditions have already formed over time to prioritize diversity. To put it more accurately, we did not feel the need to create such an agenda. As a matter of fact, as NSN, we prioritize female colleagues in recruitment and attach importance to female employment. A very large part of our current working population consists of women. Besides, we are aware that in today’s world, employees with different identities are more successful when they do business by clearly reflecting their identities, and that employees feel safer in a workplace that respects these differences. For this reason, while working in NSN, we are aware of the values and principles adopted by universal law, and we always try to treat our employees equally and not discriminate among employees. 

How do you define the culture at NSN Law? 

As I mentioned before, NSN Law is an inclusive office that attaches great importance to gender equality and women’s visibility in the legal sector. We have a young and dynamic culture made up of mostly women lawyers. It is possible to say that we are proud of this culture that has formed over time. The established NSN culture has motivated our employees and has always led us to success. Our lawyers are very open to improvement in their fields and our office tries to create every opportunity to support this aspect of lawyers. We believe that great importance to diversity in NSN helps to create strong communication with the clients while understanding their needs as well as keeping the team member’s spirit focusing to the same aim. Also, the importance that NSN attaches to social responsibility also shows itself in its business practices. That’s why NSN regularly takes on pro-bono cases. Also, NSN is regularly organizing a fair to cover young students’ education expenses by donating the revenue of the fair to a well-respected NGO engaged in this area. In addition, the office regularly donates to animal shelters and ensures that the leftovers of the lunches taken in the office are separated and given to stray animals. 

In your opinion, are women lawyers treated differently by clients and colleagues compared to their male counterparts? 

Yes, unfortunately, there is such a problem in Turkey. In line with the male-dominated phenomena in society, there is a perception that women cannot prioritize their work due to their family, home, etc. responsibilities. Personally, I did not feel such a difference in the environments I worked in, and I was not exposed to discrimination based on gender. The reason for this was that I had a very modern and highly educated client portfolio until now. My colleagues and clients in the offices I work for have always treated me in accordance with world standards. However, it is a fact that the number of female lawyers exposed to this discrimination in the sector is quite high. Therefore, I think that this is basically related to the social norms, as well as the clients and the company policy. 

How do you see the new generation of women lawyers?  

As far as I have observed, I see that the new generation is very ambitious, determined, and eager to learn. The reason for this is that there are too many law school graduates in Turkey recently and this situation increases the competition among young people. I see that they are working hard to improve themselves and have a place in the legal world, as the workload and income for each of them have decreased. I also have noticed that the gender gap among the new generation of lawyers has become even more ambiguous compared to the past. As a matter of fact, the visibility of women lawyers has increased considerably. As I have experienced in my commercial/corporate team, which consists of mostly young and female lawyers, the new generation of female lawyers work hard to be successful in their jobs and they can put their private lives on the second level compared to their career. Basically, they are quite successful in various fields of law. For this reason, I believe that the new generation of female lawyers will continue to achieve significant success and make a difference in the legal world. 

If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be? 

I could answer that directly, I would be a doctor. But I am pleased with my current position and the job I have, it satisfies me enough.  

Which women in your life have had the most influence on your career?  

As I said before, it was my aunt who encouraged and inspired me to this profession. She influenced me not only in my career but also in my private life. She was like my role model, so I owe this where I stand now to her. She was ambitious, like me, and would get anything she wanted. If she was alive, I believe she would be proud of me. 

What motivates you?  

Actually, the only thing that motivates me is my team. I can say that it is my greatest luck to have a team of colleagues who are so ambitious and determined despite being very young, and who also understand my own ambitions. We are one of the fastest-growing department in NSN, so this is something very valuable and make me feel thrilled. That’s why my team is what makes me work so ambitiously at my age and makes me think about what we can do more, and which level we can go to every day. All of them have dreams for the future, they are all very young, my aim is to reduce their life anxiety and provide them to earn with professional satisfaction.  

Are there any pivotal moments that shaped your career as a lawyer? 

Having completed my master’s degree in UK, I returned to work as a lawyer in the law office where I did my legal internship before. But this time I did not want to work only in IP, instead, I wanted to work on other areas of law, too, especially commercial law related matters. The founding partner of the firm gave me this opportunity and after that a huge project came to the office and I was assigned to that project, including a large list of litigation files, various contract negotiation processes etc. The partner gave me this file and said that I had to go through this work by myself. Yet, I was a very young lawyer who previously worked only in IP. After I was able to successfully manage this project and got out of it, I realized that there is nothing that I cannot do. If I research enough in the legislation, doctrine and practice, everything can be worked out. Maybe I may have some difficulties in what I should do at first, I may have to work hard, but nothing is impossible. Briefly, I felt actually being a lawyer when I figured out how to learn something that I haven’t known and combine all my knowledge.  

How do you manage your current work / life balance? 

It is a tough question, to be honest, I am a bit of a failure at this. For example, like every child, my son has requests, he needs his mother no matter what, but unfortunately, I cannot say that I can organize this, most of the time I can see my son for an hour or two a day. In this respect, I think I missed my son’s first 7 years, but this is a bit due to the fact that I set up a new department from the beginning. However, it is also a fact that when children grow up, they start to question what their mother is doing, they even understand our feelings and sadness, and react to this. For example, one day, at a time when I could not see my son, Rada because of my loaded schedule, he saw that I was sad and asked me that isn’t my job the only thing that matters to me? That’s when I felt bad, but when he grows up a little, he questioned what is my job and started to understand what it does mean. He realized that his mother is caring a lot and working for his life as well. When you see this, it creates good feelings for you. So the child is proud of his mother and his pride makes you happy. Therefore, I cannot say that this situation is too bad, but in the next part of my life, I will try to overcome it thanks to my team.  

When you look back at your career and the knowledge you’ve gained, what advice would you give to female students who are about to enter the legal industry? 

At first, since there are negative factors such as the limited investment in our country and the fact that the works are not presented directly to them, they should learn a second foreign language or have the ability to express themselves at a very high level in the language they have. Secondly, they should not look at a case or a conflict that they encounter during their education or business life from a single legal field or a single framework. For example; they should approach a dispute both from a copyright and unfair competition standpoint, so that they have more than one mechanism at their disposal and with it, it gets easy for them to succeed. Apart from that, they should establish a very good balance between private life and work, they should not concentrate only on work and not miss their private life. Although they need to be prepared to the difficulties of doing business in Turkey, they also need to not to leave behind things that will support their own happiness. 

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