In-House Interview: Can Akçaoğlu, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, TÜPRAŞ

In-House Interview: Can Akçaoğlu, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, TÜPRAŞ

What are the biggest opportunities in your role?

Having spent the initial eight years of my career at law firms specializing in competition, regulations, and private law, I made the deliberate choice to transition to an in-house counsel role. From 2011 to 2016, I served as the General Secretary of the Board of Directors and Chief Legal Officer of an insurance group. In August 2016, I assumed the position of General Counsel at Tüpraş, where I am responsible for overseeing the Legal, Compliance, and Public Affairs departments.

One of the notable opportunities afforded by working as an in-house lawyer is the ability to acquire comprehensive knowledge about the industry in which my company operates. As a General Counsel, it is imperative to be well-versed in the commercial aspects of the business and understand the specific needs of the company. This entails gaining a profound understanding of the company itself, the sector it operates in, as well as its strategy, mission, vision, and corporate culture. By comprehending your role within the organization and actively contributing to a shared objective, you can derive significant job satisfaction.

Additionally, the role of a General Counsel extends beyond legal duties. In addition to planning the legal future of the corporation and mitigating potential litigation risks, you also have the opportunity to engage in non-legal responsibilities. These may include problem-solving across various business areas, resolving complex business inquiries, and actively participating in strategic planning initiatives. Embracing these non-legal duties can provide further avenues for professional growth and development.

In summary, the role of a General Counsel offers invaluable opportunities to delve into the intricacies of your company's industry, gain a comprehensive understanding of its operations, and contribute to its strategic direction. Balancing legal and non-legal responsibilities allows for a multifaceted role that is both intellectually stimulating and professionally rewarding.

How do you think the role of general counsel (and the in-house team) is going to evolve?

A decade ago, the role of the General Counsel primarily entailed overseeing legal risks, managing daily corporate legal affairs, handling litigation, establishing corporate ethics, and selecting external legal counsels to be engaged with, among other responsibilities. However, in today's business landscape, the General Counsel is expected to contribute much more than legal expertise alone. The role has expanded to include advising on strategy development, structuring investments, compliance, sanctions, data protection, brand protection, and other crucial areas.

To effectively fulfil these evolving expectations, the General Counsel must possess a comprehensive understanding of their company's sector, business objectives, strategy, mission, vision, and values. Consequently, the role of the General Counsel has undergone continuous evolution, and this trend is likely to persist.

Given the current global polarization and disputes, I anticipate a heightened emphasis on international sanctions and trade controls. Consequently, the application of international sanctions by countries and institutions is likely to increase, thereby elevating the importance of risk management, compliance oversight, and regulatory adherence. As a result, I believe that General Counsels will be increasingly involved in the development of company strategies and future plans, assuming a core role within top management teams.

General Counsels with the ability to interpret balance sheets, comprehend profit and loss statements, and possess knowledge of finance law will have a competitive advantage in this evolving landscape. Furthermore, it is plausible to anticipate the emergence of General Counsels occupying seats on the boards of directors in the near future.

What does innovation mean to you and how can companies be better at it?

To me, innovation in the realm of legal services entails the revitalization or enhancement of existing legal processes, products, or services through the application of novel methods, technologies, and ideas, resulting in the creation of added value.

In order to excel at innovation, companies must allocate sufficient resources and budget toward modernization efforts. They should embrace technology more extensively within their legal services, such as automating document processes and utilizing artificial intelligence. It is imperative to address any barriers that may impede the transition and adoption of legal technology, while also effectively managing the associated risks.

Moreover, it is crucial to recognize that innovation extends beyond technology alone. Lawyers who proactively offer pragmatic and commercially viable solutions, foster a business-friendly approach, and provide not only legal guidance but also commercial and strategic advice are highly sought-after in terms of driving innovation.

By nurturing a culture that values innovation, encouraging creativity, and cultivating a multidisciplinary approach, companies can foster an environment conducive to continuous improvement and advancement within the legal industry.

What have you done in your present position which has made you particularly proud?

As mentioned earlier, the role of the General Counsel has undergone significant transformation in recent years. General Counsels are no longer solely regarded as legal professionals but are also expected to function as strategic business partners. In addition to managing legal risks, they are actively involved in shaping the company's strategic decisions and future plans. Consequently, the scope of the General Counsel's role has expanded, and the ability to build a dedicated, successful, cohesive, and talented team has become paramount for success.

What I take immense pride in is the team I have assembled within my current company. Comprised of 16 individuals, our team operates harmoniously towards a shared objective. The level of companionship, effective communication, motivation, and professional competence within the team is of an exceptionally high standard.

The accomplishments we have achieved together are a testament to the collective efforts and skills of each team member. By fostering an environment that encourages collaboration, mutual support, and continuous growth, we have successfully tackled complex legal challenges, provided valuable insights for strategic decision-making, and contributed significantly to the overall success of the company.

I firmly believe that the strength and achievements of a General Counsel are inherently tied to the quality and capabilities of their team. Witnessing the growth, dedication, and exceptional performance of my team is a source of great pride and fulfilment in my current position.

How would you describe the culture at TÜPRAŞ?

The culture at Tüpraş can be best described as one that upholds global human rights standards and actively avoids any involvement in human rights violations. Tüpraş is committed to promoting and improving human rights within its sphere of influence, and it expects its suppliers and business partners to embrace the same principles. We are dedicated to meticulously following this perspective to establish and maintain ethical business relationships.

The health and safety of all individuals present at our work sites, particularly our employees, is of utmost importance to Tüpraş. We maintain a high level of safety conditions to ensure their well-being. Our continuous assessment of occupational health and safety processes, coupled with a commitment to learning, allows us to minimize safety risks and be well-prepared for potential hazards.

In terms of our HR practices, Tüpraş places a significant emphasis on investing in people, recognizing that a highly skilled and qualified workforce is the key to sustainable competitive advantage. Consequently, we implement performance assessments, career planning, and comprehensive training programs to foster the professional and personal development of our employees. We also establish participation processes that provide our employees with a voice in the company's management, allowing them to express their expectations and suggestions. By creating a work environment that aligns with employee expectations and suggestions, we aim to enhance social life standards, increase employee satisfaction, and foster loyalty to Tüpraş.

What are the skills and attributes needed to succeed as you have done in your career so far?

To succeed in my career thus far, as a General Counsel, I have found that certain skills and attributes are essential. First and foremost, General Counsels are expected to effectively manage legal actions, mitigate legal risks, and provide sound legal advice. They also play a vital role in supervising staff and keeping abreast of current legislation. Additionally, being involved in strategic decision-making processes and developing and leading the corporate legal structure are crucial responsibilities.

In order to excel in this role, I believe General Counsels must possess the following skills and attributes:

1. Leadership Skills: General Counsels should exhibit strong leadership abilities to guide their teams and drive results.

2. Broad Legal Knowledge and Expertise: A comprehensive understanding of the law and a deep expertise within their profession are necessary to navigate complex legal matters successfully.

3. Building a Strong and Talented Team: As a General Counsel, it is important to assemble and nurture a capable and motivated legal team.

4. Business Acumen: Having a business mindset and understanding the organization's objectives are essential for providing legal advice that aligns with the company's goals.

5. Flexibility and Practical Solutions: General Counsels should be adaptable and resourceful, offering practical and effective solutions to legal challenges.

6. Communication and Negotiation Skills: Strong communication and negotiation abilities enable General Counsels to effectively convey legal information, negotiate contracts, and build relationships with stakeholders.

7. Innovation and Proactivity: Embracing innovation and taking proactive measures to anticipate and address legal issues contribute to successful outcomes.

8. Business and Shareholder Value Orientation: General Counsels should possess the ability to think strategically about the business and its shareholder value, ensuring legal decisions align with the company's overall objectives.

By cultivating these skills and attributes, General Counsels can enhance their effectiveness, contribute to the organization's success, and excel in their careers.


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