‘For success and wellbeing as a lawyer, it is essential to make yourself indispensable’
Martin Stepanyan of TK & Partners talks to IFLR1000 about his experiences as a young lawyer in Armenia
Senior associate Martin Stepanyan joined TK & Partners in 2017, after beginning his career in legal positions with the Ministry of Justice and then in-house. Earlier, he completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law from Yerevan State University. His main areas of practice include corporate finance law, intellectual property, and natural resources law among other areas. He speaks exclusively to IFLR1000 as part of its Young Lawyer Interview Series.
Tell us about your career background
During my student years, I ensured that I gained vocational experience by engaging in activities outside the classroom. I was the chairman of the Student Council at Yerevan State University (YSU) and participated in events including the Nuremberg Moot Court on international criminal law, and the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. Moreover, I authored several scientific and academic articles and papers.
I began my professional career as an assistant to the Deputy to the Minister of Justice of Armenia. My main functions and duties included submitting official observations of the government to the European Court of Human Rights, as well drafting legal amendments in the fields of criminal and administrative law.
I later moved to work as an in-house counsel with the Legal Education and Rehabilitation Programmes Centre, a state-led non-commercial organisation. Here, I dealt with contractual assistance and frameworks, and drafted legal amendments in the fields of compulsory enforcement, penitentiary and administrative laws. I joined TK & Partners in September 2017.
Outside the office, I am currently pursuing a doctorate degree in the field of mining and extraction law from YSU.
What does a typical working day involve?
Television shows may portray a lawyer’s life as glamorous and trouble-free, but in reality my experience shows largely the opposite!
In general, in the early morning – when the brain is still fresh and alert – I prefer to start the day with the preparation of documentation such as agreements, memorandums and similar paperwork. A chunk of time is also allotted to dealing with spontaneous queries, as well as with research and legal due diligence. On a typical day, I can also expect to sometimes be a part of client meetings, court appearances and hearings.
Regardless of the workload, I feel a lawyer’s life can still be described as ‘adventurous’ – full of new and innovative ideas and experiences aimed at changing the client’s life for the better. This is exactly the reason why I consider law as the most attractive and prevailing career path.
What is the most exciting aspect of your role?
The hybrid role of being both a mentor and a lawyer is perhaps the most exciting aspect. I also enjoy embracing responsibility, formulating strong defences in complex scenarios, and interacting with creative business owners on their strategies.
Independency, daily intellectual challenges and problem-solving are further features of my role that I enjoy.
What is the most stressful part of your role?
Convincing potential clients that I am not a magician! Sometimes, miracles do not turn up for particular situations and favourable outcomes become difficult.
Tight deadlines and ambiguities are also stressful – as is the rapidly changing legal environment.
Any advice you would give your younger self?
I would have recommended myself to take on an entrepreneurial mind-set. Likewise, other key qualities to aim for include being courageous, extroverted, quick-witted and open-minded. I would also stress the importance of undertaking career-boosting and communication skills from a young age.
Having said that, I would also ask my younger self to bear in mind the following inspiring quotes: “With great power comes great responsibility”, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. Failure is a temporary detour, not a dead-end”, and “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”.
That is why for success and well-being as a lawyer, it is essential to make yourself indispensable, take on great responsibility, nurture relationships with clients, build up a strong network, and strengthen business skills.
What would you do if you weren't a lawyer?
Well – it is impossible to imagine my life without some piece of law, but in an alternate universe, I would perhaps be a historian – so I can iron out historical mysteries and dilemmas. On the other hand, perhaps an entrepreneur in the gaming industry.
How do you unwind after a hard day's work?
I enjoy reading books – especially historical and legal novels. I also watch movies, play video games, listen to jazz and blues, and head out for walks in the park. It is difficult to unplug my mind from job-related thoughts and workplace concerns, but you have to try to get ready for the next day’s challenges!