In-House Interview: Meltem Lüleburgazlı, Director of Legal & Compliance, Nobel İlaç

    Since you graduated in 2000 from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Law, your career has varied from being a private practice lawyer to moving in-house. Tell us about your career path and goals. What inspired you to become an in-house lawyer?

    As a matter of fact, only a small portion of my twenty years career consists of private practice where I had a chance to observe the structure and way of working of a law firm and also see the needs of different clients from different industries which exactly helped me to find out that I was more into the business side of being a lawyer. At my private practice experience, I mostly dealt with commercial agreements and practicing law in commercial transactions allowed me to connect it to the business context. So, briefly I would say my career began on private practice and way much progressed when I moved in-house and experienced different companies in different sectors as an in-house lawyer. What has inspired me is still inspiring my daily work life which is mainly being part of the business, being engaged to an organization on every aspect, contributing to crucial decisions and assessing issues not only on legal basis but also through the lens of the goals of the organization.

    After nearly 14 years working in the telecommunications industry at Turkcell, you were promoted to Chief Legal Counsel at Aras Kargo in February 2018, then moved to Mondelēz International as Senior Legal Counsel in October 2020. Finally, you joined Nobel İlaç as Director of Legal & Compliance in Jun 2021. Tell us about your motivation to change your industry and how experiencing different industries has helped your career.

    At the time I joint the company Turkcell was mainly in the telecom industry and over the years the organization gradually expanded its focus, founded new affiliates in various areas, and evolved into a comprehensive technology group. Well, fourteen years is quite a long time to stay still but in those years, there was a constant change at the organization and it felt like working for a new company every other day which allowed me to learn new kinds of legislation, procedures, business methods and so. I would say Turkcell is where I grew up in many ways and I am so thankful for being a part of it and contributing to its growth. Then I moved to transportation, FMCG and finally to pharmaceuticals. All the organizations I worked for differ in many ways, the industries, the structure and above all the cultures were way too different from each other. What they had in common was these were all regulated sectors which helped me to orient. Pharmaceuticals is a huge and fantastic industry and it is enormously deep indeed. It is not that easy to learn all the aspects of the business, but I am trying my best. I have always been a curious type of person that is my motivation of change I suppose. After all, learning is a never-ending process and comfort does not help anyone to move forward.

    What is the organizational structure of your Nobel Legal and Compliance team? What do you look for when recruiting a new member for your team?

    Nobel operates with a total of five plants: three in Turkey and one in each of Kazakhistan and Uzbekistan while carrying out promotion and sales activities with its own organization in twenty countries. In every country it operates, Nobel establishes its own cadres and conducts its activities in accordance with the same ethical & long-established standards rooted in Turkey. In Nobel Turkey structuring, we have a legal team and a compliance team which are not separated by sharp boundaries but are more transitive to each other.  And we have an Intellectual Property Rights team consisting of IP experts that are of non-law origin. Furthermore, we have our outside counsels. With this structure, we are also supporting the organization abroad on significant matters.

    When recruiting a new member for the team and also while working together, beyond technical knowledge and skills which are mandatory in our job, I care even more about some non-technical skills. One of them is a business mindset. I think for all the in-house lawyers, “a business mindset” is crucial. While doing the legal assessment you have to take the strategies and the goals of your company into consideration. A good in-house should not be a lawyer who indicates the possible risk and steps back but should be the one who also figures out the options to mitigate the risk and these options should be serving both today and future conditions. Furthermore, curiosity and enthusiasm are other assets that drive the learning process and development. The business and legal world can be extremely dynamic and without enthusiasm and curiosity, it would not be easy to stay up to date.

    Do you believe your experience in private practice assisted your career as an in-house lawyer?

    Yes, I do believe my experience in private practice assisted my career as an in-house. First of all, It gives me the ability to compare the two. I wish every lawyer could experience the two options. For instance, as an in-house, I am aware of law firms’ structures and processes. While working with outside counsels I know what to expect and what not to. Apart from that as I mentioned before I can state that law firm experience drove me to in-house.


    When you look back on your career as a lawyer, can you highlight any important milestones?

    Well, there are plenty. However, the very first milestone might be my decision of going abroad to the United States after Law School to study International IP Law at NYU which helped me to gain a global perspective and intercultural mindset. The second one is definitely the tough decision of resigning from my job in Turkcell after 14 years, it felt like kind of a graduation or being ready to move out from home. That move initiated the second season of my career. And another one was the very first Turkish Competition Authority dawn raid I faced when I had hardly any knowledge or experience in that specific area nevertheless, we succeeded in that investigation with great effort. That experience thought me that learning never ends and it is the challenges that feed individuals not the comfort.


    When you look back at your career, what lessons would you share with your younger self?

    To my younger self, I would advise having more fun and less anxiety while the responsibilities are fewer and taking more risks when there is still plenty of time to recover anyway.


    How do you switch off from work and manage your life balance?

    As a matter of fact, I personally do not believe in work-life balance, what I mean is, I perceive life as a whole. Since I am the same person at work or at home or anywhere else I do not absorve life in pieces. I do not “switch off” from work when I go home or my personal life when I go to work, either. Focusing on work in daytime does not make me neglect my family and the same for the vice versa. Nevertheless, in order to relax I try to increase my physical activity such as going for a jog or doing yoga. Every day I have a meditation period which I recommend to everyone, especially those with busy and sometimes stressful agendas like myself.


    And, your New Year wishes?

    I wish all of us a happy and peaceful new year full of joy and love. Love is the only way to live together in this gorgeous planet. In conclusion for my beloved country “Out with the old, in with the new!”

    Thank you so much for the interview!

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