fivehundred magazine > > Interview with Yasemin Kenaroğlu, Founding Partner, Kenaroğlu Avukatlık Bürosu

Interview with Yasemin Kenaroğlu, Founding Partner, Kenaroğlu Avukatlık Bürosu

Tell us about your career choice and journey. What inspired you to become an attorney? 

If you ask people about me, even the ones who don’t know me closely would tell you how much I like expressing my ideas publicly, how passionately and strongly I defend them and how insisting I am to protect the ones and the ideas that I support and believe in. The ones who know me better would also tell you that I feel and act even more passionate when it comes to defend the others’ rights and benefits. So, I guess it is not surprising for a person with such qualifications to become an attorney or maybe a politician. I am more than thankful that the life gave me the opportunity to become the first one!  

If you weren’t an attorney, what would you be? 

To be completely honest I never gave a second thought to my decision to be an attorney at law. I was brought up in a household where the main lesson taught was to “always work hard” and have a “decent job” which would give you a decent life and make your family proud. I worked hard to fulfill the expectations and I chose to be a lawyer to fulfill my own ambitions in life. Ever since I started my career, I never once looked back or wished I was something else.   

You’ve worked in the field of IP since 2003. What made you decide on this practice area? 

During my time at university, most of us didn’t really knew of or had the luxury to research and pick an area of law to specialize in since there weren’t many resources and possibilities for law school students. Yet, during my last grade in law school, I was lucky to hear about Legal 500 which gave me the chance to learn more about the areas where I could practice and also the leading law firms specialized in such areas. After applying to a number of firms in Legal 500’s rankings and sitting through interviews, I was admitted to a top tier firm specialized in IP law and that’s how my career in IP has started.   

To be more concrete, I really enjoy the fact that working in IP law provides me with chances to see solid outcomes of my work in daily life. As IP practitioners, we have the privilege of being involved in the creation, invention and decision making processes of the right holders who are shaping the future of the world and this makes me realize that we are not just arguing or fighting, as thought by majority of people, but we are an essential part of the real game.   

What challenges with diversity have you faced in your career as an attorney? 

I have worked in environments where we, female attorneys, would occasionally find ourselves in situations where we may hesitate to voice our opinions or present ideas, or we would be forced to feel as if we should hold back our perspective on certain matters. This is the main reason which motivated me to take the step to start my own firm: to have the possibility of working in an ambiance where nobody feels under even a tiny pressure to follow the same old path which was chosen by dominant male figures long time ago. There are different and even better ways to do our profession and we are way too smart, talented and passionate to shut down our minds and follow the directions determined without questioning.   

After so many years in the profession, I am proud to lead our team at Kenaroglu where nobody feels privileged or excluded based on their gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or any other reason that define who they are.    

 In Turkey there seems to be a core approach towards diversity and female attorneys starting as early as their entry into law school. In your opinion, how much progression has been made in the country on the issue of diversity and inclusion? And do you feel women attorneys are still treated differently by clients and colleagues compared to their male counterparts? 

Sadly, there is not enough progression made in terms of diversity and inclusion within the legal industry. It is obvious that there are many more female lawyers at firms and companies, however how much of a say they get in their immediate work environment or in our association/society in practice is still a question that needs to be addressed. 

We, the female attorneys working in the field of IP, can consider ourselves luckier, since IP is one of the rare areas in law where women have good chances to reach high level managing positions. Yet, we are way too far from feeling equal with our male colleagues in any terms. Until the point where differences mean nothing, we should keep talking, discussing and work for diversity and inclusion at every possibility.   

What motivates you to advocate diversity and how would you advocate for diversity and inclusion with colleagues and peers who do not understand its importance? 

Being a female attorney and beginning my career at a patriarchal society has definitely played a role, and one of the ways to advocate inclusion is to accept it as the standard. At our firm, we do not have to advocate for diversity and inclusion because we have inclusion by nature. We do not focus on our differences when building our team but more so on how we can all work together in harmony with the personality qualities we have towards a mutual goal. In principle, we prefer not to know about ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or any other personal information of our team members unless they feel prefer to share such information with others. On the other hand, I have to say that we support female attorneys more and take every chance to encourage them to reach their best potential, as we believe that we need to support the ones who are not offered equal conditions by society.  

How is Kenaroğlu Avukatlık Bürosu progressing with its diversity agenda? 

Our principle at Kenaroglu is that everyone is equal and there are no barriers or privileges arising from religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or personal beliefs. We in principle are against the idea of asking our applicants or team members about these topics, unless they personally choose to share their preferences publicly. We are one team and every one of us knows and feels there are no barriers or privileges discriminating us from one another at Kenaroglu.  

 Are there any pivotal moments that shaped your career as an attorney? 

Taking the step to start my own practice could mark one of the major pivotal moments of my career as an attorney, because it also represented a step taken against breaking the rules. Practicing in an environment where female attorneys are not taken as seriously as male attorneys, it was a constant struggle to be heard, make decisions and take charge. Therefore making the decision to strip away from a patriarchal work environment may be considered as a bold move, and it has definitely given me the initiative to manage my own team, cases and clients in a manner that suits my principles and morals. 

How do you manage your current work / life balance?  

If I am going to be brutally honest, I struggle to understand this question because I believe that balancing work and life is something that we all, as working people, try to establish in the natural flow of daily life. I have always aspired to work hard, which I still maintain in my work life after 18 years and prioritized spending time with my family and friends. For me, being the big fish or earning big numbers have never been the main target, they should be what is yielded on the way to our actual target: which is to do what makes you happy and fulfills your soul.  

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?  

I would give this advice to all students who are just about to begin their career in the legal practice; be careful in choosing what you are going to do because it is going to take most of your time in the rest of your life. Make the best of your time in law school, make internships at different law firms and companies, explore the areas which you might be interested in and get to know yourself as much as possible. Try to witness and even be a part of real practice to have an idea where you can shine brighter in the profession. The more you understand who you are and what skills you have, the more chance you have in shaping your future and making the right decisions for you in your career. Something which fits perfectly on another might not be the best possibility for you. Everyone is unique and precious and there is a field and platform where everyone can shine in the brightest way. The most important thing is not to follow the main road just because it is followed by the majority. I am very lucky that after 18 years in this field, I am still able to wake up and feel excited to start a new working day. I love what I do and more importantly I love doing it with my team and I love working for my clients. Yet, we should never forget that our profession is an important part of our life, but our life is not about our profession only.

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