In-House Interview: Zeynep Gazali Duran, Director of Legal Affairs, TANAP Natural Gas Transmission Company

In-House Interview: Zeynep Gazali Duran, Director of Legal Affairs, TANAP Natural Gas Transmission Company

What is the key challenge you’ve faced so far?

While continuing my current position as the Legal Affairs Director at TANAP Doğalgaz İletim A.Ş. (“TANAP”), between 2018-2020, I also completed an executive MBA program at Chicago Booth. Completing such a demanding program while also working has, although rewarding, been an immensely challenging experience. Throughout this education, I had to constantly travel between Turkey, the UK, and the USA; take courses in fields that require different expertise, such as finance and business management; and also lead the legal affairs team at my job, which at the time was going through its completion phase. Therefore, navigating through various responsibilities and also taking on new ones for an extended period of time was one of the major challenges of my career.

What would you single out as the key distinguishments of your firm?

The legal team values sincerity, cooperation, teamwork, and open communication above all else, and the key to its smooth functioning is trust in each other’s discipline. The multitude and the broad scope of works performed by the legal team require each and every member to take on the necessary responsibility and also to diligently pursue any and all tasks assigned to them. Every member adheres to a strict work ethic wherein they maintain open communication at all times and work in a manner of utmost discipline.

When you look back at your career and the knowledge you’ve gained, what advice would you give to young students about to embark on a law career in Turkey?

Striking a balance between one’s work and social life is of key significance. It is easy to lose sight of your personal life, especially at the beginning of your career, however, it is very important to also take care of your personal/social life, without which maintaining the motivation to improve yourself at work and finding a direction that best suits your assets becomes very difficult. Another very significant point is keeping yourself up-to-date with the new advancements not only in the legal arena but also in general business. Improving yourself in other fields (such as finance, information technologies, or other technical fields, depending on the sector) is very important as well. Since these different aspects are all pieces of the puzzle, improving yourself in these other fields helps to see the big picture.

Have you ever been in a situation where there has been a recurring problem at work? Tell us about it. What did you do in this situation?

I was one of the leading participants in a long-term negotiation with a certain disagreeable counterparty. The deal was an important one for my client, and the parties had failed to establish healthy communication, which prevented both sides from agreeing due to a lack of a productive discussion environment. In order to deal with this problem, I took on a mediator role whereby I tried to facilitate constructive communication among the parties. Due to the long-term nature of this negotiation which lasted more than a couple of years, members of both parties’ negotiation teams had come to know each other personally, and through establishing a personal relationship and thereby better grasping the real concerns of the counterpart, I was able to find common ground for both sides and finalize the negotiation in a manner that was agreeable for everyone. In other words, I solved this recurring problem through open communication.

What would you be if you were not an attorney?

As I also explained previously, one of my strong assets is my communication skills, and I am a sociable person that very much enjoys interacting with different people in various settings. Therefore, I believe I would enjoy doing something in communication. This could be a profession that involves public speaking, maybe even a stage performance.

Cooperation and trust are key words in difficult times. How important is, from your perspective, forging strategic alliances with other law firms and maintaining good relations with various organizations or communities?

Law is a vast field with very different areas of expertise, and although various clients may operate in specific sectors, it is very common for a client to conduct business in a cross-sector field or otherwise require legal advice regarding a topic about which you may not be knowledgeable. In such cases, sharing your accumulated know-how with fellow legal practitioners is of utmost benefit in my opinion. Although a lawyer might be able to obtain certain information by herself, getting guidance from another law firm with the relevant expertise is very useful from both time and cost-efficiency perspectives, and this is a relationship that should work both ways. Knowledge-sharing among colleagues not only improves the quality of the work that is conducted but also makes the process easier for everyone included.

What are the biggest challenges facing Turkey’s energy market in the next 12 months?

The majority of Turkey’s energy demand is met from outside sources. Therefore, it will be important to use Turkey’s internal sources and also utilize its geopolitical position in the upcoming years. TANAP is a significant actor in this regard, which plays a key role in terms of providing energy security to both Turkey and Europe. The increasing demand in Europe is also a concern that should be evaluated from many aspects, as it also poses certain opportunities for Turkey. Since global energy supply and consumption are very dependent on international relations, Turkey will also need to position itself very carefully, as international sanctions obviously also directly affect the internal markets. Furthermore, actions to be taken in order to increase the sustainability level of the existing system/infrastructure will also undoubtedly influence the current practices in Turkey’s energy markets. Changes on the current systems and infrastructure may be mandated by not only legislative changes but also sustainability concerns as the general awareness in this regard increases. I believe this will also pose a significant challenge, as it will require systematic reforms for many actors in the energy market.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you? And is D&I difficult in your jurisdiction?

Diversity and inclusion, in my opinion, are crucial aspects in a workplace. This is even more important in a law office where a team of legal practitioners with diverse backgrounds can bring different perspectives to the table and, therefore, may offer different solutions. In an environment that is not inclusive, members of a team will not be able to freely express their opinions, which hinders productive thinking and also disrupts workplace peace. In my jurisdiction, there are certain legal requirements that prohibit workplace discrimination. In spite of such regulations, however, creating a welcoming and inclusive workplace is still very much dependent on the employers’ perspective and ethics.    

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