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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Akinci Law Office

17 February 2016

Home to the leader of Istanbul’s new arbitration centre

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
Pending cases as counsel 25
Value of pending counsel work US$2.25 billion
Treaty cases 5
Current arbitrator appointments 9 (of which 0 is
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

Orhan Akinci established Akinci Law Office in Izmir in western Turkey in 1984. His son, Ziya Akinci, took over the management of the firm in the 1990s and opened its doors to international work, moving the firm to Istanbul in 2003. Ziya Akinci is now one of Turkey’s best known arbitrators and, as of 2015, the president of the newly created Istanbul Arbitration Centre (ISTAC).

Other names to know at the firm are Cemile Gökyayla, who has published widely on private international law, and Karen Akinci, who is also an accredited mediator.

Who uses it?

A number of Turkish construction companies have turned to the firm over the years for commercial work and treaty claims against Central Asian and Middle Eastern states. Other clients span the energy, telecoms, hospitality and pharmaceuticals sectors.

Turkish holdings group Cukurova used it in a battle with Scandinavian phone operator TeliaSonera over control of a mobile operator, Turkcell. The Turkish government and the European Union have also been clients.

Track record

In 2011, the firm helped Turkish construction group Tubin win an ICC award worth US$60 million against German behemoth Bilfinger Berger relating to a highway project in Qatar. The award was later declared enforceable by the Qatari courts.

While many of Akinci’s treaty cases still have some way to run, the firm secured an important jurisdictional win in 2015, persuading an ICSID tribunal that the Turkey-Turkmenistan bilateral investment treaty does not require investors to pursue local litigation before turning to arbitration. The ruling departed from an earlier tribunal’s reading of the same treaty provision.

Recent events

Akinci’s investment arbitration practice continued to grow in 2015 as it picked up an instruction by Turkish oil companies Aktau and Som Petrol for a US$150 million ICSID claim against Kazakhstan. There, the firm is co-counsel with Derains & Gharavi.

In June 2015, an UNCITRAL tribunal rejected an innovative attempt by Akinci to bring a “group” claim by 22 Turkish investors against Turkmenistan concerning unrelated investments ranging from a bottling facility to a military shoe factory and a zoo. The panel said Turkmenistan hadn’t consented in the treaty to the adjudication of entirely unrelated disputes.

Client comment

Alev, a Turkish distributor of rubber products, turned to Akinci to advise on an ICC claim against a Brazilian manufacturer after becoming disillusioned with two previous law firms. Company owner Coskun Alev tells GAR he would “warmly recommend” the firm. He was particularly impressed by the dedication of Ziya Akinci and Cemile Gökyayla, who obtained a favourable award that allowed the company to revive its operations.

Member companies of Turkey’s Çukurova Group also recommend the firm. Tursen Demir, general manager of the group’s chemicals division, Çukurova Kimya, praises Akinci’s witness preparation and cross-examination skills, and says that the company got “value for money”. Meanwhile, Oktay Yavuz, chief executive officer of construction company Baytur, was “very impressed” by the team’s preparation and cooperation ahead of the hearing.

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