‘Transferring the practical aspects of law to future lawyers’
Varoujan Avedikian, ranked as one of Armenia’s ‘Highly Regarded’ lawyers by IFLR1000 in 2021, talks about how a strong foundation can pave way for a long career as a lawyer
Having joined TK & Partners as managing partner in 2018, Varoujan Avedikian accentuates the need to set high standards of quality for the firm from the recruitment stage to partnership.
In over 23 years of practice, Avedikian has had a distinguished professional career across the private, public and non-profit sectors, and has worked closely with international financial and development institutions. From his own experiences, he stresses the importance of being ambitious and having a wide array of interests.
“My advice to junior lawyers would be to diversify their practice as much as possible in the first three to five years, until they find the niche in which they excel,” Avedikian told IFLR. “Also, to dedicate 10%-20% of their time to research and publication, and approximately 10% to pro bono work.”
In his stint as managing partner at TK & Partners, he has strategically implemented a recruitment model that aims to attract leading Armenian legal talent from the time they graduate. Several of the firm’s staff at associate level are success stories of this particular approach.
“All our partners teach at university level. This has helped us create an internal ‘nursery’ of talent, where we invite final year law students to intern, learn and gain practical insight,” said Avedikian.
“Each year we invite 20-25 law students to join the four-month programme. Those who graduate successfully, stay with us or get a positive referral to work with other firms, companies or public institutions.”
Before joining TK & Partners, he served as the general counsel of the Central Bank of Armenia for 12 years. In the role, he spearheaded a number of reforms within Armenia’s financial sector, including matters related to authorisation and enforcement, corporate governance, consumer protection and investment banking services.
For TK & Partners, Avedikian has led project teams across the corporate, finance and mergers and acquisition (M&A) areas. He is also active on work involving corporate restructurings, financial regulations and private equity financings.
In recent times, Avedikian notably worked on advising asset managers responsAbility Investments and Triodos Investment Management on loan provisions to Armenian commercial banks. He also advised an international financial institution on a loan provision to an agro-finance credit organisation.
Avedikian acknowledges that 2020 was a difficult year for Armenia and warns of a slow recovery ahead. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to linger into 2021, while the resurgence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also caused severe repercussions for the country’s financial markets.
“Investors will be cautious with new investments,” said Avedikian. “I believe that the legal profession will primarily concern itself with work regarding reorganisations, debt restructuring, insolvencies and the like.”
He has led TK & Partners’ strong response to the pandemic. The firm have distributed weekly and bi-weekly free client alerts on the legal implications of the pandemic, provided advice on legislative and policy changes, and helped guide clients on government support programmes. The firm also drafted a free-to-use template employment agreement covering remote work.
Avedikian’s efforts have also been recognised at a national level.
“In April, we worked closely with the Armenian parliament, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Economy and drafted a special law allowing companies to call remote and online annual general meetings and have shareholders vote by electronic means,” he said. “The parliament has adopted our draft.”
It would be fair to say that this feat has become quite common for him. During his career, Avedikian has assisted on drafting several Armenian laws that have significantly raised the quality of both regulations and private transactions across the financial markets. He continues to keep an eye on the new regulatory initiatives that investors should track – including a new law on the civil forfeiture of property obtained through unlawful activity.
“The law was controversial in many regards as it has a number of uncertain clauses and triggers. Many commentators also believe that this law was more of a political tool in the hands of the government.”
Avedikian also notes the legal and financial consequences of political changes in Armenia, following news that the government has announced that a new, anti-corruption court and a new government agency, tasked with investigating corruption cases.
“These legal and institutional developments create uncertainties for financial institutions who may have extended loans to entities under scrutiny or have political ties with the previous government.”
Avedikian serves as an adjunct professor at both the American University of Armenia (AUA) and the French University in Armenia, where he teaches transactional, business and financial law. He also emphasises the importance of vocational training and mentorship programmes for young lawyers. In addition to teaching law, he also teaches adaptive leadership as a part of AUA’s MBA programme.
Labelling it as one of the “greatest achievements of his career”, Avedikian takes great pride about his cohort of former students, many of whom have gone on to become prominent members of Armenia’s legal community.
“I enjoy transferring the practical aspects of law to future lawyers,” he said. “Many of my students are either accomplished attorneys or rising stars in the legal profession.”
Avedikian completed his bachelor’s degree in law and business administration at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, before pursuing a master’s degree in EU commercial law at the University of Leicester in the UK. He later studied for a further master of laws degree in financial and banking law at Boston University in 2005, and for a master’s in public administration at Harvard Kennedy School in 2009. He has also worked as a teaching assistant at Harvard University and served as the European director of the Harvard Alumni Association for four years until 2020.
In addition to his work at TK & Partners, Avedikian has been associated with a number of Armenia-based legal and non-profit committees, organisations and charities, where he has held leadership roles and worked on boards.
This includes positions as the director of the Insurance Foundation for Servicemen, which provides monetary compensation to the families of Armenian soldiers injured or fallen in combat, and as the chairman of the board of the National Center for Professional Education Quality Assurance. He has also been a board member of the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation and the Jinishian Memorial Foundation.
Outside the office, Avedikian is an avid swimmer and often practices yoga. He loves to read and study geopolitical matters. He is also a great believer in embracing technology.
His one change to the legal profession? “To introduce artificial intelligence both in the profession and the judicial system.”