Law is not just a profession for the Deriş family, it is a tradition. For generations, members of this family have been part of the Turkish legal community, starting with Celal Derviş Bey. His father İsmail Nazmi Bey, born in 1855 to Ali Agha of Salonika, had risen to be Head Clerk at the Customs for Foreign Commodities in Salonika thanks to his command of languages. His interactions with foreign companies influenced his family’s outlook and future for the years to come. Born in 1882, his son Celal Derviş graduated from the Imperial School of Law in İstanbul in 1905 and chose a rare field of specialization, international trade law, in which he became a much sought-after expert at a young age.
Not having yet performed his military service, Celal Derviş Bey could not leave Salonika to exercise his profession in İstanbul, so in 1906 he became the honorary principal of the Yalılar branch of the Yadigâr-ı Terakki school in Salonika. Over the past few years he had educated himself well, learning French, Italian, German, and Greek.
In 1908, he obtained his license to practice law, He also started teaching Administrative Law at the law school in Salonika, and published his class notes as a book entitled Hukuk-i İdare. Surviving documents from this period suggest that Celal Derviş Bey may have gone into education out of necessity. His father İsmail Nazmi Bey had applied for his retirement in 1903, and his request had been granted three years later. After some time, however, his father had requested a raise in his retirement pay, only to have the request denied. It is possible that Celal Derviş Bey found it necessary to get a job quickly in order to help with family expenses.
The proclamation of the Constitution in 1908 was met with much celebration, and this was especially so in Salonika where Celal Derviş Bey was one of the young speakers who addressed the crowds at the Hürriyet Meydanı (Liberty Place). He had for some time been active in the city’s intellectual circles. Thus, for instace, he had penned an article entitled “Our Social Life and Women,” which was published in the newspaper Zaman. Other articles in the same paper included an analysis of the first few months following the proclamation of the constitution,12 and another piece entitled “On Women.” His most majestic article concerned the inauguration of the Ottoman Parliament on 17 December 1908: covering the entire front page of the newspaper, it was dedicated to Midhat Pasha, the late architect of the Constitution.
An advertisement published several days running in the same newspaper —most likely his first— announced that “Attorney Celal Derviş has moved his office to a dedicated space adjacent to the newspaper Zaman.”;
As time passed, Celal Derviş Bey became an increasingly important figure in the city. With a group of friends, he founded the Salonika-based alumni association of the Terakki High School of Salonika. The Balkan Wars drove his family to emigrate, however, and he opened his law office in İstanbul’s neighborhood of Galata in 1912. Concerned mostly with commercial law at the beginning, this office gradually turned to cases involving intellectual and industrial property, thus contributing to the development of these areas of the law. The well-known journalist Sabiha Sertel was Celal Derviş Bey’s sister. Her daughter Yıldız Sertel mentioned, in a book about her mother, that Celal Derviş had returned to Salonika in 1908, flush with excitement about the proclamation of the Constitution, and said that he had worked at a law firm in İstanbul after graduation and opened his own law office. Indeed, when the family moved to İstanbul in 1913, Celal Derviş had been in business for a while and was financially secure.
After establishing his practice in Galata, Celal Derviş Bey spent the next decade or so working to find legal solutions to international commercial disputes thanks to his command of western languages. He represented insurance companies such as Reunion Adriatica and Lloyd’s International in cases involving such international firms as Deutsche Bank. He also represented various other institutions, such as Ticaret-i Osmani Anonim Şirketi for which he was general counsel.
Celal Derviş Bey also continued his social and political activities, such as assuming the presidency of the Farmers’ Association, an organization founded in 1914 and affiliated with the Committee of Union and Progress. In 1917, he and his wife caught sight of a group of children trying to keep warm in front of the subway’s vapor vents in Beyoğlu. Thereupon he mobilized his freemason friends in the Nejat Lodge and worked on establishing the Society for the Protection of Children, of which he was a founding member. This laid the groundwork for what became the Institution for Child Welfare after the proclamation of the Republic..
A well-respected attorney, Celal Derviş Bey also continued his activities in the field of education. In 1919, he was among the founders of the Şişli School for Languages (later the Şişli Terakki High School) and of the Association for Charitable Enterprises. Although an archival document dated 1924 states that the Şişli School had been founded without obtaining a certificate of authorization, the necessary papers were soon secured and Şişli Terakki Mektebi became one of the well-established educational institution of the young Republic..
Before long, Celal Derviş Bey was registered as Member No. 421 of the İstanbul Bar Association, with a license bearing the header “Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Justice.” His office occasionally changed addresses, and was listed at No. 13, Türkiye Han in 1921, at Basiret Han in 1924-1925, at No. 22, Hürriyet Han, Galata in 1930, and at No. 13-15 Hürriyet Han in 1938.
With the Surnames Act of 1934, the family adopted the surname Deriş. In 1938, the family welcomed a new lawyer, Etem Derviş Deriş who had just graduated from the İstanbul University Faculty of Law. Etem Bey was born in Salonika in 1909 and had come to İstanbul with his family. He finished the Saint Benoit High School speaking good French and German, and gained a broad perspective on international law thanks to the German professors who lectured at the time at İstanbul University. After completing his internship at the İstanbul courthouse, Etem Derviş Bey received his license and started practicing law in his father’s office. However, the beginning of his career happened to coincide with the start of World War II, so he suffered a rather long intermission performing his military service. When he returned to the legal profession, he also got involved in brokering the sale of valuable properties. In addition, he translated the works of such classical authors as Conrad Ferdinand Meyer and Denis Diderot, while the publisher Ölmez Eserler Yayınevi (Immortal Works) of which he was the director published translations of the works of contemporary authors. The literary circles of his day considered his publishing activities among the most noteworthy; it was he, for example, who introduced the young poet Orhan Veli Kanık to the public, both his book Vazgeçemediğim and through the book signings he organized.
The family suffered two major losses during the 1950s: Celal Derviş Deriş died in 1951, and Osman Neş’et Deriş in 1956. As for Etem Deriş, he put the experience he had gained with his father to work in a new direction: besides his law firm that now specialized in intellectual and industrial rights, he founded the Deriş Patents and Trademarks Agency in 1959. To be sure, there were establishments dealing with intellectual and industrial rights at the time, but Etem Deriş went one pioneering step further, combining rights with the law. It took some doing for this initiative to gain traction, but Etem Bey remained at the helm of his firm until the day he died, leaving his son M.N. Aydın Deriş and future generations to come a leading and innovative practice. By the time his son took over, the Deriş firm counted, among its clients, such powerful companies as Novartis, Phillips, Pfizer, and Henkel. also the founding chairman of the Turkish branch of the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI National Group).
M.N. Aydın Deriş’s neice N. Serra Coral and nephew Kerim Yardımcı are now the forth generation of the family involved in intelletual property rigth. N. Serra Coral graduated from the University of Geneva Faculty of Law and joined the firm in 1994, playing ab active part in cases and objections involving trademarks, patents, and design. Kerim Yardımcı graduated from the University of Geneva, majoring in both Business Administration and Law. He joined the firm in 2002, working on trademark cases and objections.
With tens of experts the Deriş family continues to carry a tradition of law spanning more than a century into the future.
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