Can Natan is a founding partner of Özcan & Natan Attorney Partnership in Istanbul, Turkey, which is also a member of the International Lawyers Network. In this episode, Lindsay and Can discuss the challenges of the last year, what most people misunderstand about the practice of law, and what has been most valuable about the firm’s membership in the ILN.
You can listen to the podcast here, or we’ve provided a transcript of the highlights below.
Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the Law Firm ILN-telligence podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Griffiths, Executive Director of the International Lawyers Network. And our guest this week is Can Natan with Özcan & Natan in Istanbul, Turkey. We’re really happy to have you with us. Thank you for joining us.
Can: It’s a pleasure, Lindsay.
Lindsay: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your firm and your practice? We’d love to hear more about you.
Can: Well, I’m a named partner in Özcan & Natan law firm. It’s a boutique corporate commercial law firm with approximately two partners and 10 lawyers. And we are mainly working on corporate commercial matters and we are very much focused on the real estate and hospitality and leisure sectors.
Lindsay: Great. And how about your practice in particular?
Can: Well, I’m a typical corporate commercial, I have a typical corporate commercial background, but I started to advise Bilgili Holding, one of the most visionary real estate developers in Turkey, and after starting to assist them, my practice developed very much to real estate law actually. So, I developed an expertise in real estate development law, construction management agreements, and hospitality contracts, and therefore I could say that I’m a corporate lawyer with much expertise in real estate law.
Lindsay: Very cool. So, all right, let’s jump into our questions. What would you say has been one of your biggest challenges over the last, let’s say, a year?
Can: Well, Lindsay, my biggest challenge during the last few years, same as the rest of the world, I guess, was to adapt to the post-pandemic working environment. We had to swiftly learn to work remotely, and now semi-remotely, without losing our productivity, and thanks to technology with the help of online web meeting applications like zoom and teams, we could continue to assist our clients without decreasing our productivity levels.
In the beginning, it was a little bit difficult, because working from home, and children around, and homeschooling, was a cow at the beginning, but now with the semi-remote environment, I think we are all happy with the new system actually.
Lindsay: So do you think you’ll stay with a semi-remote working environment long term or do you think you’ll be fully back to the office ever? Or how do you think that’ll work?
Can: Well, I believe we realized that not every in-person meeting was vital during this pandemic period. So I am very happy to carry on with online meetings as much as possible. It’s a time saver, we don’t need to travel anymore. We just connect and it’s much easier. But apart from this, yes, we are back in the office. But we just realized that we could do some work without being at the office and without meeting in person. I think we just realized that, I think this will continue forever. I hope so.
Lindsay: I hope so too. I think it works exceptionally well. Yeah. So sort of along those lines, what has been your biggest surprise over the last six months?
Can: Well, again, it’s all, I think it’s also related to a post-COVID situation. I mean, we suddenly swiftly get back to normal after the vaccination and after being isolated at home for more than a year, we suddenly started to travel, socialized, have dinners, and everything. So, I think people really missed socializing and this, it’s a bit chaotic. But I think the biggest thing, last year I thought that we would never get back to normal. And now I’m very surprised that we are socializing again as if the pandemic never happened before.
Lindsay: That’s certainly right. I see that here too, for sure. So, you told us about your practice and it’s very interesting, I think, that you’ve developed this sort of niche area around your client. So what would be something that makes you curious about the area of your practice as you continue to grow in that, as you continue to work there?
Can: Well, actually, recently I’ve been elected to a sports club to Galatasaray Sports Club board as a board member. So, I think I am starting to learn sports law now. I mean, I think this is on top of all the experience that I have in corporate commercial and real estate law now. I’m very much into it. You know, it’s much more exciting than corporate commercial law because people really think that corporate commercial is very exciting and it’s not, it’s the most boring and most bureaucratic field of law, I guess. And now it’s being into sports and being into sports law it really excites me and I’m very happy that I’m a little bit starting to practice sports law, I guess.
Lindsay: That’s really cool. Yeah. And that’s fun. And it’s nice that you get to keep doing new things as you continue in your legal career.
So sort of, I guess, along those veins, what is something that people would then misunderstand about your field of law, either sports law or corporate commercial or real estate law?
Can: Well, I think in Turkey, people, in general, misunderstand the concept of practicing law, actually. People think that’s why over my career, I usually prefer to work with companies rather than individual clients. I mean, people think that I should know everything about law, right? So they don’t think about specialization and expertise in a specific field. They just think that they can ask you anything and get the answer to anything.
And so, I think this is like the medical profession, law is something that you should specialize in very specific areas. Otherwise, it’s impossible to develop a wide knowledge of a specific field, actually. So, I think most people do not understand about lawyers is this issue. I mean, maybe this is specific to Turkey. But because we see that in Germany or in some parts of Europe now, we don’t have many general law firms, but we are specialized law firms, such as corporate commercial or litigation, or those kinds of areas. So, I think that’s the most misunderstood part of my profession.
Lindsay: And I tend to think that you’re right. That outside of some more sophisticated legal buyers that your average citizen of any country thinks the same way because I’ve seen that in the United States too, where people will ask general questions or you’ll have someone if they’re in traffic, a ticket situation, ask an employment lawyer for advice. Or if they have some sort of criminal charge and it’s like, well, I don’t really handle that.
So, you’re right. It is a very specialized kind of law and it needs to be because if you’re really going to service your clients in the way that they should be serviced, you have to know everything there is to know about your area of the law and not have that sort of broad knowledge.
So who has been a client who has changed your practice then?
Can: I already mentioned that, I guess. I mean, when I started to advise Bilgili Holding, I think my practice started to change completely. I really evolved this niche specialization, not only for myself, the whole firm specialized in the real estate sector. Actually, I think Bilgili Holding is the most important client in that sense actually.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Absolutely. That makes sense.
So then who would be somebody who has been a mentor to you over the course of your career? Who has really had an impact on you?
Can: I mean, I would say my wife and the other main partner of my firm, Emre Ozcan, you know him perfectly. I think they are the ones who encourage me to take all the difficult decisions in my career actually. So, without them, I wouldn’t find the courage to take some of the steps. So I’m very thankful to them actually.
Lindsay: Absolutely. I know, it’s wonderful to have such important people so close to you.
Along those lines, what has been an important lesson that you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Can: Well, again, I really observed that, especially, I mean, this applies to every profession probably, but maybe more in our profession, reputation can be built very difficult and can be destroyed very easily. So, maybe that’s why we stayed as a boutique law firm over the years because we always privilege quality over quantity in our firm and we always want to give partner-based advice to clients. So, we are very picky about taking clients and everything and we don’t want lots of clients and lots of work. We just want a few clients and do quality work because we always know that reputation is the most important thing I guess, for our profession.
Lindsay: And then I know this is sort of related to that, but I know lawyers found during the pandemic that, especially clients, wanted to speak more to the partners than ever because they needed that level of confidence that talking to the most senior partner at the firm was going to give them. Did you find that too?
Can: Yeah, I guess. I mean, yeah. And maybe that’s the reason we have the advantage. We are competing with big law firms because we are doing corporate/commercial. When you do corporate/commercial, you basically try to advise the same players in the area. So, I believe our advantage is to be reachable at the partner level to our clients.
And, and also because in some big firms, it’s very difficult sometimes for the clients to reach the partners or sometimes even reach a lawyer, get an answer promptly. And, I think we are small, we are boutique and we are reachable. So I believe that’s the competitive advantage that we have in the area.
Lindsay: Right, right. Yeah. So you were already in that position. Yeah. That makes sense.
So what is something interesting that people don’t know about you? I know it’s a tough question.
Can: Probably that I’m a runner. And I’m very proud that I finished, I’m a finisher of a marathon actually, so. I know that you are too. I don’t know if I will ever do it again, but at least I have this. But maybe I can try to do another one. Yeah, maybe.
I’m not sure if, if it’s interesting or not, but it seems interesting to me, even if I think that the fact that I finished a marathon, even thinking of it is tiring, sometimes.
Lindsay: I know, I know. Well, I think it’s less than 1% of the world’s population will ever finish a marathon.
Can: Oh yeah?
Lindsay: So it is a big deal. Yes, absolutely. It should be interesting. That’s how I think of it anyway.
Can: Okay, great.
Lindsay: That’s great. That’s wonderful.
What does being part of the ILN mean to you?
Can: Well it means a lot actually, at two levels. I mean, professionally being a part of a law network such as ILN enables us to access legal advice for our clients in many jurisdictions, and this is very valuable. As you know, we are a boutique law firm. We don’t have branches all over the world. So what we have at ILN, what we mainly use is the ILN network that we have in a jurisdiction.
And the importance of, on a second level, the friendship level, I will say. Thanks to regular, regional, and global meetings that we hold. I believe we’ve been a member since 2005 or 6, something like that. So it’s been a long time, 15 years, 16 years, something like that. So there are people that I’ve met maybe 30 times, 25 times, throughout my life. And then it becomes very, I’ve met many great lawyers, many friends in ILN meetings. And it makes my life very easy when it comes to referring a matter to a friend that I know, that I know his skills, and that it’s someone that I trust. This is very valuable to us, actually. So we are very happy.
Lindsay: That’s great. I’m so glad to hear it.
And one final question, which is what is something that you’re really enjoying at the moment outside of work and everything else going on?
That’s always the toughest question.
Can: Sports, I guess. I really enjoy watching, doing, and talking about sports. This is what I enjoy apart from working and the work that I do.
Lindsay: And even better that you’re then getting into sports law since it is something you really enjoy.
I love that. It’s great when you can combine your passion with your work.
Can: Yeah, exactly. Definitely.
Lindsay: That’s one of my favorite things. Well, thank you so much for this. I really appreciate it. This has been wonderful. And for all of our listeners, we’ll be back next week with another guest. And please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe over on Apple Podcasts or wherever you list to podcasts. Thank you so much.