Adapting, learning, and embracing change—these are the cornerstones of Mine Ekim's approach to her legal career.
Mine's career path took her from White & Case and SNR Denton to Harmonic (NASDAQ: HLIT) and then to Dow Jones, and now at Golden Gate Global. She navigated this path with a clear focus on business-first thinking and a keen eye for technology's role in law.
"If you're not business-first, you'll never see solid growth."
Starting as a Manager of Legal & Compliance, Mine quickly rose to Senior Director — and now, as Managing Director, she oversees all the legal and compliance aspects of the business.
Mine is also part of the TechGC community, where she advocates for embracing AI and technological advancements, viewing them as tools to enhance efficiency in legal work.
In this article, we'll look more into Mine's journey, getting a glimpse into her growth and forward-thinking approach in a constantly evolving legal landscape.
Setting foundation in Big Law
Mine’s experience at law firms was deeply rooted in working with high-profile institutional and multinational clients across technology, media, telecommunications, energy and infrastructure, and complex cross-border transactions. This involvement offered her a front-row seat to the complexities and evolving needs of these dynamic sectors, providing rich soil to her growing expertise.
The international aspect of her work at law firms significantly enriched Mine’s professional outlook and legal strategies.
"I was frequently traveling between Europe, the East Coast, and the West Coast for work. This experience gave me a well-rounded strategy for the work I do today. We work with numerous foreign investors who come from diverse backgrounds and different geographies. I have observed that high-net-worth individuals often have certain needs, wants, and expectations to fulfill, necessitating an international perspective.”
Mine also emphasizes that while working at Big Law firms can take a toll on your personal life, the experience is invaluable.
“It's a very demanding environment in terms of the time and intellectual energy invested. But as a young lawyer, it's good schooling to have. I always say that the law firms were the second law school I studied at.”
Mine also touches on the importance of Big Law experience in developing a business perspective, countering the typical notion that Big Law firms are too detached from the business realities of their clients.
"Most people think that Big Law does not give you a business-first perspective. But I tend to disagree. We always endeavored to align with our clients’ best interests, which provided me with a sharp business acumen when I went in-house. And I really value that.”
Tackling challenges as the first legal & compliance hire
Mine decided to move to Golden Gate Global, drawn by the opportunity to immerse herself in an investment landscape with constantly changing and dynamic regulatory compliance.
“It was a challenge I had never come up against before. I had never been in an in-house fund management environment, especially where I would be the first one to build up the entire function. It was demanding, but I thought it was a great opportunity for me. So, if you look at my career path, I've experienced the traditional financing structures to the most unconventional alternative financing ones.”
Mine's decision offered her an opportunity to engage directly with private investors.
“In my Big Law years, I was mostly dealing with institutional clients, be it private equity or venture capital. But this is the first place where I have truly engaged with private investors — a totally different world.”
Setting up an efficient legal & compliance function
The transition also involved a shift in how Mine viewed the investment business.
“If I'd like to support the core investment business, it's not just the companies or the funds that I need to think of anymore. It's mostly private investors whom we’ll be interacting with. This changed my perspective significantly.”
Mine's approach to making the legal & compliance department efficient was strategic and methodical. She emphasizes the importance of planning:
"You have to make a 30-60-90 day plan. This helps you figure out what your priorities are, what your first problems will be to solve, and the challenges that you will be able to tackle. Identifying the problems, prioritizing them, and then suggesting solutions to those problems in your 90-day window is very important in a complex regulatory environment.”
Navigating complex regulations
As the first legal & compliance hire, understanding and navigating the regulatory landscape was fundamental in Mine’s role.
“Compliance brings stress and excitement at the same time. We handle matters involving the SEC, FINRA, DHS/USCIS, as well as the California DFPI and regulators from other states. So, navigating through these regulatory authorities is distinctive to what I do.
It's like a triangle because you have the lender, borrower, and investors, and around that triangle you have the regulatory authorities. We strive to create a safe space for our investors and be the best one-stop-shop for their investment needs.”
To establish a robust legal framework with strong compliance, Mine recognizes the need for effective communication and collaboration between legal & compliance and other cross-functional teams.
"One of my initial priorities was to foster meaningful communication between the legal & compliance team and other teams. While it had always been crucial, it was predominantly outsourced to external counsel. Building strong relationships with both internal teams and external counsel was paramount. This process required time to build trust and mutual respect. In the broader context, I firmly believe that legal & compliance should serve as a business enabler rather than a business blocker.”
Transcending international boundaries
Dealing with different geographies meant understanding the needs of each region, along with appreciating their unique business dynamics. For Mine, continuous learning and adaptation were crucial to excel in this undertaking.
“For instance, the assets I develop for the APAC region may not necessarily be suitable for the LatAm region. Sensitivity to cultural differences in deal-making is invaluable for successful business endeavors. I spend a lot of time collaborating with non-legal teams, gaining insights into areas such as investor relations and communications, business development and sales, pre-marketing, post-marketing, and more. This often involves identifying sensitive issues that require our awareness, paying close attention to nuances, and adopting a pragmatic approach.”
Building trust and relationships in a corporate environment
Mine recognizes that building trust and relationships in a corporate setting is not straightforward. This complexity stems from the need to understand not just the legal and compliance aspects but also the societal and human factors that influence business relationships.
In-house cannot function with a “NO”
A significant part of building trust, according to Mine, involves understanding what people need and want. This understanding is crucial when it comes to decision-making, especially when the answer might be 'no'.
"If you say no, you have to explain why you’re saying no. When it's a yes, they don't even want to hear your reason. If someone asks me, ‘Can I do this? Can I disclose this? Can I share this?’ If I really need to say no, I will explain. You have to explain it in a way that ensures the person understands why it's a no, and you gain that person’s buy-in.”
A culture of adaptation and openness
Mine believes in creating a culture where adaptation is not only accepted but also encouraged.
“Creating a culture of adaptation and openness, sometimes simply through casual conversations, helps earn trust and increases the visibility of legal and compliance.”
She also highlights the importance of personal interactions in building trust.
“When it comes to solving issues, casual meetings can sometimes be more effective than formal ones. I don't have the golden formula, but letting people know why it matters for legal and compliance, listening to others, and allowing others to learn about your way of thinking significantly builds trust. It's a positive sign if people say, ‘Oh, if Mine says no, she must have a good reason to do so.’ Creating that impression takes time and effort, but it's definitely worth it.”
Insights for aspiring lawyers: adaptability, charisma, and resilience
In her journey from Big Law to in-house, Mine has gathered invaluable insights for lawyers aspiring to work in the more global and connected world we live in. She emphasizes the importance of flexibility, focusing on what clients need, and enhancing personal skills that go beyond legal expertise.
Adaptability in a regulated environment
She stresses the vitality of resilience, especially in heavily regulated industries like investment management.
“You have to have a thick skin because life can start throwing curveballs at you. Even if your team is incredibly supportive, your outside counsel is your BFF, you have the perfect tools, and everything is going well in your external/internal environments, the regulatory authorities can still issue clarification letters, examination letters, and more. So, for someone who would like to break into this industry or continue working in it, having a thick skin is essential. Even if you stumble or fall, you still have to grab the ball and continue playing.”
Adopting a client-centric approach
Understanding and prioritizing client needs is central to Mine's philosophy. She emphasizes the importance of being responsive and receptive to clients' needs.
“There will be times when you will not have the best answer for your clients. But you should have the ideal way of thinking how you can obtain that answer. Clearing the path and developing a solution, even though it may look unsolvable from the outset, is another way of thinking.”
Building charisma and reliability
Mine believes in the power of charisma in leadership. For her, charisma is not just about personal charm but also about building a reputation that commands respect and trust.
“People look up to charismatic leaders. That charisma can be defined according to the person. It doesn't have to be one that works for all. Your charisma is how people remember you, and growing that really helps a lawyer.”
Alongside charisma, she places a high value on reliability. Being a dependable professional who can be counted on in both good times and bad is critical to building lasting professional relationships.
“I've seen lawyers excel at what they do because they're reliable and consistent in their approaches. It's easier said than done. That's key not just in lawyering, but also in personal relationships.”
Empowering women in law
As a woman in the legal profession, Mine is particularly passionate about empowering other women around her. She underscores the importance of role models and mentorship, reflecting on how influential women law firm partners shaped her career.
“Seeing women shine at what they do and making them role models in diverse, inclusive environments is very important. Those are the people I looked up to back in my days. I had two amazing women law firm partners who held my hand when I needed it. It gave me confidence, and I want to pay it forward.”
Mine encourages aspiring women lawyers to find their strengths and use them to differentiate themselves and excel in their roles.
AI: the “golden platter” to modern-day lawyering
Mine acknowledges that the integration of AI in law can significantly reduce the mundane aspects of a lawyer’s work. She believes that AI and technology, while transformative, will still require human oversight.
“I'm a strong supporter of AI. Although AI still needs human oversight, one way or another, it brings the great efficiency and productivity that we didn’t have back in the day when, for example, we were doing a lot of mundane tasks or processes.”
Reflecting on the evolution of legal practices, Mine notes the significant changes over the years, especially with the rise of companies that have transformed traditional business models, and, in turn, lawyers.
“I just wish we had AI earlier. While there are concerns about ethical considerations, security, privacy regulation, compliance risks, etc., I believe there will be opportunities to implement action plans and processes as we embrace AI. Those who aim to be able to do it will be ahead of the rest.”