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Next month, Istanbul Arbitration Week will kick off its second year. The conference, hosted by the Energy Disputes Arbitration Center (EDAC), features speakers, events and networking opportunities for international arbitration and dispute professionals, with a particular focus on the energy industry.

The event runs from October 2 to 6 in Istanbul, and coincides this year with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Türkiye.

We chatted with one of the main organizers of the conference, Ayse Yazir, about the topics, panelists and special events taking place at ISTAW this year.

Lawdragon: This will be ISTAW’s second year. How has it changed since year one?

Ayse Yazir: This is the second Istanbul Arbitration Week, and each year, we expect to double the number of attendees coming to Istanbul. We prepared exciting topics, inspiring speakers, and bringing the young talent from Türkiye. This year is significant for us since it is the Türkiye Republic’s 100th anniversary, and we would like to invite everyone to Istanbul to celebrate it.

LD: What sorts of panelists do you have lined up for this year? 

AY: We have a variety of panelists this year. Türkiye’s leading company CFOs like Burcu Geris (CFO and deputy CEO of TAV), Burcu Bati (CFO of sahibinden.com), leading GCs like Osman Safak from Turkish Airlines and Selin Barlin Aral from Getir. We have leading arbitration centre representatives such as Meg Kinnear (Secretary General of ICISD), leading barristers such as Can Yeginsu from 3VB and top law firm lawyers such as Viren Masceranhas from Milbank. We have fantastic Women Leaders panelists again this year. Camille Vasquez from Brown Rudnick, who represented Johnny Depp during the defamation trial, multi-award winner Pakistani/British lawyer Mahnaz Malik, two Forbes listed CFOs Burcu Geris and Burcu Bati and dual qualified prosecutor Kate McMahon.

LD: What topics are you covering?

AY: We like to have valuable topics during Istanbul instead of just having a few widespread issues. We have programs such as Building the Foundations for Turkey’s Future in International Arbitration and International Dispute Settlement, The Changing Landscape in International Arbitration: Developments and Regional Perspectives, Inhouse Counsel Perspective, a panel on the Middle East, another one in Africa, Enforcement of Awards, Construction, Energy and many more. It’s all on our website, istaw.com.

Istanbul is where the East meets the West. It has a growing economy and very reputable and educated lawyers.

LD: Are you going to be hosting a panel this year?

AY: Yes, I will be hosting the Women Leaders Panel. I tend to hold different women’s panels than some other events. I want successful women with diverse backgrounds to share their experiences and stories with the crowd. I wouldn’t say I want a women’s panel where all women get together and tell how terrible life is and how horrible men are. I find them like group therapy sessions and feel depressed after those panels. I like showing attendees that they can succeed if they work hard, and I want to empower them. This year the panel will include Camille Vasquez, Mahnaz Malik, Burcu Geris, Burcu Bati and Kate McMahon.

LD: There has been a flurry of arbitration weeks in the last year or so. What makes ISTAW stand out in this space?

AY: When creating Istanbul Arbitration Week, we wanted to centralize the event and introduce lawyers to their potential clients. Many of the arbitration weeks tend to get money from the companies, and they put them on the agenda. Also, five to six events happen simultaneously in different parts of the city. It can be tiring and confusing. We booked Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus (one of the best hotels in Istanbul), where we will hold our opening party and all conferences, and booked Feriye for the closing dinner.

In most of these events, lawyers talk to other lawyers, but in our event, we bring the most prominent companies so that lawyers and experts can pitch to their potential clients. We have companies like Turkish Airlines, Getir, Anadolu Holding, Yapi Merkezi (one of the biggest construction firms in the world), Polatyol, Calik Enerji, Shell, TAV Holdings and many more coming as speakers. We also made the event free of charge for all in-house counsels, which will provide more networking opportunities.

LD: What special events do you have lined up for ISTAW? 

AY: The event will start with the Türkiye Republic Centennial Drinks Party at Mandarin Oriental. We will get a DJ and celebrate Türkiye Republic’s 100th year. The next day, we have a GC Boat Tour. The boat picks up the leading in-house counsels and sponsors, and we organise a two-hour boat tour for networking. We also have Law Rocks on Thursday and various side events. We have our closing dinner at Feriye, one of Türkiye’s best restaurants. So, our ticket price includes all conferences, closing and opening parties.

LD: With the war in Ukraine and the massive number of Russia-related global disputes over energy, there is a real competition to see where those disputes will land. What makes Istanbul an intelligent venue for arbitration proceedings?

AY: Istanbul is where the East meets the West. It has a growing economy and very reputable and educated lawyers. Arbitration Centres in Türkiye are also very respectable, and I started to see more and more international companies show Istanbul arbitration centres as a seat for arbitration.

Learn more at istaw.com



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