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Sedrak Asatryan, Managing Partner of "Concern Dialog" Law Firm, shares his experience in US


 

How did the American lawyers "exile" the disruptive black from the  garden. Sedrak Asatryan is talking about  the great American experience.

 

 

 

"Concern Dialog" law firm director Sedrak Asatryan gained considerable experience in the  specifications of law firms’ management especially after 2010, when he participated in CC project, implemented by the US government in the USA. A large part of his success in this area  he explains with the participation in this program.

 

The interview with Sedrak Astaryan was conducted within the framework of the project “US graduate lawyers of Armenia," which is implemented jointly with the US Alumni Association of Armenia.

 

“Mr. Asatryan, please tell us, within the frame of which program  you left for the US, what kind of specifications it had and what it gave you” .

 

“CC program was designed mainly for the young directors of companies. And as I received a license for attorney rather late, to participate in the program, I said that I am a young attorney.  To my great luck, I was elected. This program gave me a lot, I'm very grateful. Before the participation in this program I was already interested in management features. During the Soviet period we had no legal representation in its classic mining, there were no law firm. There were legal consultations attached to the Ministry of Justice. Yet the US has the most developed culture in legal representation, almost 200 years. Our lecturers were mainly judges, prosecutors, Law firm Directors. Very large law offices hosted us. We also participated in the charity event held by those companies: prepared dinner for homeless people. It was very nice. We applied this experience in Dilijan, Armenia: we renovated a house of one of the socially vulnerable families in Dilijan by the efforts of our employees. The municipality gave the material and our employees carried out the reparation work.

 

You can see the portrait of David Maister in my office. He mostly wrote about office administration/management and customer service. He is also a lecturer at Harvard University. Much before the participation in this program, I was inspired by his ideas. The more you know a thing the more questions you ask about it. This program helped me shortly to write an e—book with Aram Orbelyan («Concern Dialog" law firm senior partner) about office management peculiarities, taking into account the experience gained there. Based on this we are teaching about the experience of law firm management at School of Advocates. In addition, we learned a lot regarding the culture. One thing astonished me. One of the heads of the law firms suggested us to solve a problem they had solved already. He told us that in front of their office there was a park where the black used to gather, they used to smoke and pollute the park and so citizens could not enjoy it.  The problem we were given was how to prevent them from gathering in the park and in the same time avoid violating their rights? That firm simply turned on classical music for 24 hr. and 2 days later, the black stopped gathering there.

 

It was very interesting to discover the methods of customer service, price calculation, per hour payment of law firms. We use it today, on this basis we created our payment method, a conglomerate method. For already 3-4 years, this method has been successfully working with Armenian customers.”

 

 

 

“I remember a few years ago, two Armenians from Diaspora complained that they had signed a contract with local lawyers on basis of per-hour-payment, and the latter did everything they could to get the trial delayed and enlarged their revenue.

 

“I’m sure there will be cases like this. Everything depends on the fact whether the attorney is in good faith, professional or not. If he wants to cheat on the client, he would do it anyway, in any pricing and if the goal is conscientious and professional work, in any case of pricing he will work so. The business law says that one dissatisfied client drives away ten potential customers. If they think about it seriously, they will never accept that way of making money. But I am an optimist. Young attorneys are included in our sphere, who are faithful, professional, out of conventionality and the structure is getting more improved in this way.

 

-Rhetoric is the base of western advocacy. We can see in different films how the attorneys make touching speeches. In out practice the attorneys in the language of facts.

 

– Yes, the reason is that there is a jury institute in the American court system. The jury is not a specialist. He must make a decision on the basis of this rhetorical interpretation of this facts whether the person is guilty or not. The rest is the judge’s discretion due to the law. It’s very important to react on the decision of the jury with the help of your rhetorical and touching speech. We do not have juries and speak by the language of facts. However, I think one should work on the basis of facts and at the same time be rhetoric, as any convincing speech will have an impact on the internal belief of the judge.

 

When we came back from the USA, Mrs. Yovanovich, who was the ambassador of the USA in Armenia at that period, and who, I appreciated highly, hosted our group. During the meeting she asked about our opinion concerning the juries’ institute and our group members expressed their opinion saying it will not work in our country, that we are a small country and people know well each other. She said a very interesting thing, which I will never forget. That’s, she said if a relative or an acquaintance asks me for something, I get more vigilant, as I know that person already. That’s, there is a difference in mentality. When in the USA, we were hosted in American families. The hostess of my family won the status of being a jury. One should see her happiness: she phoned her friends, relatives, telling she was trusted this function, she was elected as a jury.  It was a glee for her that she would be able to contribute to make a fair decision about this or that case.

 

-Mr. Asatryan, as you mentioned you were aqnowledged to the US law offices’ work experience, please tell us about the differences between the Armenian and US law offices and their activities.

 

-It’s difficult to compare, but the biggest difference is the cultural one. In the US, the citizens never say “I know, I do not need an attorney, I can solve the problem myself”. If they know this action must be done by the doctor, they see a doctor. They never prescribe a medicine. If they know this action must be done by the lawyer, they see a lawyer. The second significant difference is that advocate market is held on narrow specializations; for example, an attorney who is engaged in family law issues, never starts a case related to the labor law issue. This is perfect, as this person fully knows the legislation, sub-legislative acts, precedents, practices, business practices, and generally everything of this sphere. Unfortunately, our market does not let us do it at present, but we try to put it in practice in our company. The third difference is that the attorney fees are very high there.

 

- Do you know how attorneys are paid in the USA?

 

- However, they are paid more than judges. I asked this question to a judge in the USA. A first instance court judge is paid 140.000 US dollars per year, whereas, a senior lawyer in a good law firm is paid at least 400.000 US dollars per year.

 

- I would like you to speak about the difference of characters of attorney as well.

 

- The attorney is not perceived ideal in the US, and people do not like they as well. Once we entered a classroom and the attorney asked is attorneys are hated in our country. We said that it’s not in that level yet, those who cheat, are surely hated. The attorney’s character is not formed yet. 7-8 years ago I feared that when young attorneys start negotiating with advocate community, they will get disappointed. But at present our community is very developed and we are glad every time we have new young attorneys in our team. I always say that the Code of ethics must be the attorney’s most favorite one. In those years no one paid any attention to it, but today – it is not. We understand the role of the attorney is very important and the requirements towards him are strict.

 

One of our clients once told me that our attorney made a mistake in his paper. I answered: “May be, but it will not cause any legal effect in the case”. He said: “But it is written by an attorney”. I am often accused that I complain on attorneys, but as in case of doctors, bad attorneys overshadow the good work of better attorneys. As in any country of the world, in the USA as well, there are many unusual things. But in the USA, the issue of maintaining the codes of conduct is stricter: the issue of deprivation of license is very strict and the attorney believes he will be and thus, he is very attentive to this issue. We don’t pay much attention to conflict interest issues. For example, you should know who is against you before you start a case, because may be you are fighting against a company to whom you provided legal services only a year ago. This culture is not formed in our country yet, whereas in the USA it is too important. The protection of client confidentiality is not imposed on serious grounds. In the USA, the client confidentiality is the most important thing in the advocacy activities. The attorney is like a confessor. One must be sure that in case he told the attorney the truth (because the attorney will not be able to support him in case he is not sincere) and the latter started telling this information to other people, in this case he can not be called an attorney. 

 

-Is there any case in our practice, when the client confidentiality has been disclosed?

 

- I am sure that such cases have been in our practice, but it is very difficult to prove it. We do not like to observe such cases.

 

- It’s already four years the US alumni association in Armenia has been implementing its project in Armenia. Are you a member of this association as an alumni and what are you planning to do to make the activity of the Association more useful and public?

 

- Yes, I am a member of the Association. Sometimes I do not manage to participate in all events. I would like greatly, but at this point, unfortunately, I do not think I could do any investment by my initiative, as I am very busy and almost no time is left for any public activity. I think if there are initiators and certain projects I will be able to support the fulfillment of these actions with my presence and my proposals.

 

 

 

The interview was conducted by Astghik Karapetyan,

 

Photos – Alexander Sargsyan

 

Author of the project – Karen Zadoyan

 

 

 


You can see the whole article in Armenian here.