In-House Counsel, Attorney-at-Law
What is your specific role, and what does this entail?
I am an in-house legal counsel for TV8 and about 20 companies within Acun media group. Our group of companies, including four TV stations, operate nationally and internationally in a wide variety of areas such as media production, mobile applications and gamification, apparel, architectural design, e-commerce and ticketing.
My focus is on international legal work and corporate housekeeping for all our companies. I am responsible for international contracts, our recent operations in Greece, and collaborations mainly in the UK, the USA, the Netherlands, Israel and Germany. I handle contracts regarding acquisition of broadcast rights for major international sporting events, IP licensing and format acquisition for the local production of global reality shows, sponsorships, advertisements and product integrations, privacy policies and data protection. I also manage trademark portfolios and occasionally appear before courts in major litigations.
How is the legal team structured locally and globally?
We have a very small team for the size and range of our business: four lawyers, based in Istanbul. The legal team provides full support to all departments in all of our group companies in Turkey and abroad. We maintain an efficient and constant level of communication, division of tasks and teamwork within the legal department at all times. We also work extensively with external counsel.
What are the key challenges and opportunities facing your legal team at the moment?
As for all companies in content industries, IP is a huge issue. Since our companies produce and broadcast reality competition programmes, we receive hundreds of thousands applications from prospective contestants. We also engage in e-commerce and online shopping. Data protection, therefore, is something we devote significant attention to. Compliance with the TV broadcast, internet and advertisement regulations, and in particular with the rules on product placement and product integration, is also a complex area for our practice. Our programmes are among the most-watched in the country, therefore every little detail in our production and broadcast is important – that is both a challenge and an opportunity. As the legal team, we legally review each piece of advertisement, product integration and script before going on stream, focusing on broadcast regulations as well as IP, consumer and antitrust law. The legal team closely follows the decisions of Turkey’s Advertisement Board and TV Board to keep updated and prepared for the possible challenges.
Are there unique challenges for your legal team in dealing with multiple jurisdictions or cross-border business? Do you have an international panel?
We have operations in Europe and we produce one of our shows, Survivor (also known as Expedition Robinson), in the Dominican Republic, so we have people on the ground, although they are not necessarily lawyers. We do not have an international panel. However, we have external counsel helping us in multiple jurisdictions. As the legal team in Istanbul, we supervise and provide support to our cross-border business activities. It is of course challenging for us as a small legal team to function in all the countries where we run our business. Nevertheless, we have familiarity with the legal issues in all the jurisdictions we operate. Of course, the fact that we produce and broadcast the local versions of internationally renowned programme formats helps a lot. Most issues we locally deal with involve, or may translate to, multiple jurisdictions – and vice versa. We work with our template agreements and engage external counsel to ensure compliance with the local law.
How significant are legal issues in your company’s international strategy?
We try to facilitate the business as much as possible, proactively, reactively and preventively, and to provide the best possible legal advice so that our operations go smoothly. Generally speaking, we manage to identify the risks and pick up a lot of the issues before any problem arises. So far, we have not faced any significant legal issues on the international level.
When would you typically enlist external counsel rather than doing the work in-house?
For matters that require expertise in a particular area of law and for which we do not have the necessary competence, such as tax law, we turn to external counsel. We do not have an in-house litigation function, so litigious issues are also typically held by the external counsel – except for a small number of trademark cases that I also follow up on. Being substantially hands-on regarding our trademark portfolios and domain names, I also manage the trademark agents.
How do you instruct external counsel domestically and internationally?
We tend to stick with the firms and people whom we have had experience working with and trusted over the years. Internationally, we mostly instruct ad hoc due to the scope and nature of the work. Our expectation is to feel confident that any outsourced matter is safe with our external counsel and that they will handle any matter with utmost care and professionalism, as an outpost of our in-house legal team.
What are the key elements in making a decision about which external counsel to hire?
Proven competence and reputation, relationship and accessibility are our priorities. We expect our external counsel to make some effort to understand our business, keep us updated throughout the process and be accessible when we need them.
What are your best and worst experiences in hiring external counsel?
My best experience is when the external counsel follows up the process and gives me regular updates in an ongoing case. It is best when the external counsel have a high level of ownership and see themselves as a part of the legal team in a particular matter.
External counsel who forget that I am a lawyer myself, focus on billing rather than assisting our legal team, and are unavailable or lack effective communication make the absolute worst experience.
What makes a great in-house counsel?
The key, I think, is to understand the business, to know what you do not know and how to find it, and to have excellent communication skills. Knowing the needs of the business and identifying the issues correctly; but being aware of what you do not know and of where to find the information you need, and from whom to get the relevant assistance, along with the ability to clearly explain the matters to the decision makers in the company all go to make a great in-house counsel. Being creative and flexible, using common sense and maintaining a good sense of humour help too. I believe if you see yourself as a family member of the company, you naturally try to add value in any way you can and strive for greatness.
- HQ Location: Istanbul, Turkey
- Industry/sector: media
- Year of foundation: 1999
- Visit website
All statements and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual and not the organisation.
Published November 2016