Lawyers in Turkey

The main source of professional legal help available in Turkey is the lawyer (avukat). There are about 95,000 practising lawyers in Turkey. About 90% are generalists, covering most or all aspects of the law. All of them are professionally qualified and regulated by the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (Türkiye Barolar Birliği or TBB).

Their main duties are:

  • To secure justice in public life
  • To act in the best interests of their clients
  • To avoid conflicts of interests

Unless the case is very small, the lawyer is required to give you an estimate of their likely fees and expenses. However, you should bear in mind that, perfectly genuinely, it is often impossible to give any sensible estimate of the total fees for dealing with a transaction until you know quite a lot about it. In these cases, you would expect a general indication of likely overall fees, plus a firm fee for dealing with the first stage of the transaction.

In many cases, the minimum fees are fixed by the lawyer’s local bar association. They are, for court cases, typically fixed as a percentage of the value of the court case (10%, for example).

In other types of work the lawyers’ fees depend upon the experience of the lawyer. They, typically, vary from TRY500-1,000 per hour (US$150-250, €125-225, £110-200).

Fees are subject to VAT (currently 18%) and you will also have to pay for any expenses incurred by the lawyer on your behalf. These will include things such as Land Registry fees, court fees and travelling expenses.

It is possible to agree a fixed fee for certain types of work. This is a fee that does not depend upon the amount of time it takes the lawyer to complete the task.

‘No win, no fee’ deals are illegal under Turkish law.

Legal Aid/Subsidized Legal Assistance in Turkey

There is a system of Legal Aid (public assistance towards legal fees) in Turkey.

For criminal cases, a lawyer will be appointed for you if you cannot afford to appoint your own. These are, typically, junior lawyers who have gone onto a rota to provide this service. They are paid (at a very modest rate) by the state.

For civil cases, you must ask for legal aid. It is rarely available. It is means tested and also only granted where needed. It is administered by the local Bar Association.

In addition, some lawyers do undertake work ‘pro bono’ (in the public interest and without a fee). However, inevitably, these occasions are rare. They usually arise where there is a perceived great injustice, especially in a high-profile case.

Choosing a lawyer in Turkey

If you need to see a lawyer, you need to see a good lawyer: not just someone who’s going through the motions and racking up fees.

To do this, you will need to do some research. The research will take you a little time, but if the case is important it is worth spending some time to make sure that you have the best person dealing with it.

A full list of practising lawyers can, for most places, be found via the TBB website. This gives you access to the website of the bar association in your area. However, far better than simply seeking the name of a lawyer from the TBB list is to have a lawyer recommended to you by someone who has already used their services and was happy with them.

If you need something done in another part of Turkey but have already used a lawyer elsewhere in Turkey, that lawyer will usually be able to recommend someone in the area – even if the work is not of a type that your lawyer normally undertakes.

If you do not know anybody in Turkey or, at least, if you don’t know anyone who has used a lawyer, you may find some lawyers listed on the website of the embassy or consulate of your own country in Turkey. They will be lawyers who speak your language and have some experience of dealing with people from your country.

Alternatively, your lawyer back home may have connections and be able to make a recommendation. Or, of course, you could contact the author of this guide!

For international clients, international experience is really important. This allows your lawyer to draw to your attention the ways in which things are different here.

If you’re buying a property, be very careful about accepting the recommendation of the estate agent who is selling it. You will never know whether that lawyer is really working for you or whether he’s looking after the interests of the agent (possibly his cousin or brother) who introduces a large part of his work to him.

Law firms in Turkey tend to be small – typically only two or three people. Many lawyers even work on their own rather than as part of a firm, however small.

Most do not have a sophisticated web presence but an increasing number do have a website containing useful materials. If you can’t understand the documents on their website, you’re not likely to be able to understand documents they prepare for you. Communication is a key requirement in your relationship with your lawyer, so those lawyers are probably best avoided.

Once a lawyer has been recommended to you, or you’ve identified a likely candidate, don’t be afraid to contact their office and speak to them. They will not think this is in any way surprising.

If you feel comfortable with the lawyer, sense he or she knows what they are talking about and find that they can communicate with you in a way that you understand, you may appoint them to act for you. This is normally done by way of an exchange of emails. Some sort of payment on account of fees will also usually be expected.

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