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Law Practice in the Midst of International Upheavals

By Jeffery Leon

October 17, 2016

With recent upheavals around the world, from Brexit to civil unrest in Turkey to the terror attacks in France, we asked attorneys abroad how their practice has changed, and what they foresee as possible impact of developments in the international scene. 

Judicial Turmoil in Turkey 

Burak Baydar, Photo by Moroğlu ArsevenOrcun Cetinkaya, photo bMoroğlu Arseven“In the aftermath of the coup attempt [against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] on July 15, 2016, a nationwide investigation started against those responsible. Five days later, the government declared a state emergency to thoroughly and effectively conduct the investigations. Those investigations expanded also to the judiciary. Currently, a staggering number of 2,854 search warrants were issued for judges and prosecutors whilst 1,481 of them are already in custody. 

Given that there are approximately 15,000 judges and prosecutors in Turkey, this means that one-third of Turkey’s judiciary has been removed from duty, and one in 10 of its members is in custody. To complicate matters, all this has happened just before the launch of a major reform to the litigation structure, the setting up of courts of cassation, which will create a three-tiered court system. Concerns about the capacity of the judiciary to handle this reform were widespread even before the removal of one-third of its members. 

Accordingly, so far the absence of the judges and prosecutors have not affected the litigation practice. We are of the view that the judiciary is still struggling to replace members quickly enough while delivering justice . . . Even though at this point it is not easy to foresee the possible outcomes of such massive reassignments, considering the period needed by the newly assigned judges and prosecutors to have a good grasp of the content of the files they will take over, this turmoil in the judiciary may delay the rendering of final awards by not less than six months in the majority of courts.”

 — Orçun Çetinkaya and Burak Baydar, partner and senior associate, respectively, at Moroğlu Arseven, Turkey 

Close Scrutiny Creates More Legal Work 

Patrick Bernard“We are a French firm of attorneys oriented toward international business law with both M&A and litigation practice. On my side, I am primarily engaged in domestic and transnational litigation, both court litigation and arbitration, and am also a white collar criminal defense lawyer, acting primarily in securities-related and market abuse matters.

While we need to be cognizant of any statutory change, including obviously in criminal law and procedure, and several such changes have been recently implemented in France to combat terrorism, these do not affect our business law practice.

Illustratively, there is a declared state of emergency in France geared at facilitating police investigations without need for prior judicial consent, but this only applies to suspicions of terrorist-related activities. Other than that, French economy in general has not been affected (even if certain fields such as tourism may have suffered), and therefore our own practice has not been impacted either. 

The Brexit issues deserve a more elaborate response, but while there are rumors of potential adjustments inside UK firms in Paris as well, the area is so uncertain that I do not feel that the legal market shall, at least in the near future, suffer adjustments to what is still merely speculative. Also, it is my experience that uncertainty in a legal environment creates the need for close scrutiny of changes, hence more rather than less legal work. For instance, as litigators we will be looking at any developments resulting from Brexit concerning the EU regulations on jurisdiction and the reciprocal enforcement of court judgments. As in the case of the UK withdrawal, these issues would ultimately be governed by existing or new bilateral treaties, but it is unclear that this might affect the volume and nature of cases (it could create a shift from court litigation to arbitration, as arbitration is not regulated by the EU).”

 — Patrick Bernard, partner at Bernard-Hertz-Bejot, France 

Greater Shift to Arbitration, Post-Brexit 

Steven Finizio“My practice focuses on international dispute resolution and, in particular, on international arbitration. It is obviously too soon to say much with any certainty about the consequences of the Brexit vote. There is definitely concern in the legal market, particularly at firms with very British-focused practices, but because our clients are from all over the world, I do not expect to see any impact on our practice. In fact, I expect that we may see a greater shift to the use of arbitration given the uncertainty about the UK’s continued status under EU regulations relating to the recognition and enforcement of court judgments. 

In contrast, the enforceability of international arbitration awards in Europe and the UK will not be affected by Brexit. More generally, most of the factors that have led London to be a preeminent jurisdiction for international arbitration have little or no connection to the UK’s membership in the EU. Even if some of the more dire economic predictions come true, and there is an impact on the number of cases here, I do not expect Brexit to seriously impact London’s role as one of the major seats for international arbitration.”

 — Steven Finizio, partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, UK