Three Crucial Pieces of Advice from Counselor Polat

Image “The biggest challenge is to understand the business culture in the United States,” says Mehmet Fırat Polat, New York based business lawyer. “Spreading the trade across different sectors should be a target. I hope that in the future we will achieve a balance in the bilateral trade,” he adds. Polat Law Firm has served its clients in their legal matters since 2007.
Could you tell us a little bit about your personal background?
I graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Law in 1990. After working as a lawyer for the Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Turkey and France for years, in 2000 I moved to the U.S. and got my master’s degree in law from Temple University, Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia. In 2003 I was admitted to the New York State Bar. Several years later, I started my own law practice, Polat Law Firm in Manhattan. My law practice concentrates on corporate and business law matters, including business immigration law. Since I moved to New York, I’ve had the chance to represent a lot of Turkish companies and entrepreneurs in their legal matters. I helped them set up and structure their U.S. branches/businesses; protect their trademarks; negotiate contracts. I also represented them in courts. From time to time, I participate as a speaker in conferences and seminars in Turkey and in the U.S. to advise Turkish exporters about legal issues encountered when conducting trade with the United States.

How do you see the future of Turkish-American business relations?
I think that the goal should be improving trade and investment ties between the countries. No one can deny that the foundation of the relations is strong. On this strong foundation, we should be building up sound trade relationships. The existing trade channels seem to be favoring U.S. imports to Turkey. Turkish export numbers are very low. They are also limited to certain sectors. Spreading the trade across different sectors should be a target. I hope that in the future we will achieve a balance in the bilateral trade.

What are the most common problems for Turkish companies that want to do business in the US?
The biggest challenge is to understand the business culture in the U.S. Americans tend to take a business-first approach. They ask questions and read documents before signing them. In Turkey things are a little bit different. Turkish business culture is often based on trust and oral agreements, which often creates legal disputes. Using a lawyer in business dealings can actually let Turkish companies save a lot of money before a business dispute arises. I call this "preventive lawyering". It takes a big role in managing business risks when doing business in the U.S. Another common problem is failed business partnerships. This happens when Turkish companies partner with a U.S. person or company. I always recommend signing an agreement detailing the parties' expectations from the deal. Without that, things usually fall apart in a year or so. Another common problem is Turkish companies’ failure to protect their trademarks in the U.S. Most of the time they abandon their U.S. trademark registrations without even realizing it. This generally happens when they make their trademark applications without using a U.S. licensed lawyer.

What would be your 3 recommendations for companies seeking investment opportunities?

First of all, know your U.S. business partner. When looking to expand your business in the U.S. market, it is important that Turkish companies use some prudence with their potential business partners. A little bit of due diligence on the front end can help avoid a host of problems down the road. Also negotiate a document before you sign it. Remember, you cannot negotiate a single thing after you put your signature on it. Protect your trademark. I always advise Turkish entrepreneurs to conduct a search to determine whether their mark is available for use in the States. This should be done before any expenses are incurred. Otherwise, a costly lawsuit may result if your mark infringes someone else's trademark rights.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07