Maykl Hovhannesyan_Alumni Highlights
, , ,

Maykl Hovhannesyan (BAEC ’18, LL.M. ’20): Combining Law and Communications

7 min read

Maykl Hovhannesyan received his bachelor’s degree in English and Communications (BAEC) and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at the American University of Armenia (AUA). An active and engaged member of the AUA community, Maykl built a strong foundation for his successful career. He is now a founding partner at Retrieve Legal & Tax and CEO at MigrAid. Passionate about his profession and in continual pursuit of excellence, he has deep gratitude for the education he received at AUA, which he expresses by finding different ways of giving back to his alma mater. 

As an active student at AUA, what are some of the fondest memories you have from those years?

There are many, but my fondest memories are from the dynamic classroom discussions, the lifelong friendships I have forged with my classmates, and my participation in various student organizations, such as the Student Council. As a matter of fact, I was selected as a member of the Student Council during my senior year at AUA and was involved in multiple initiatives: networking events; academic and other student activities; holiday celebrations; and student debates on various topics. I think it is absolutely necessary to be active as a student, not only inside, but also outside the classroom, to understand the significance of networking and various perspectives.

Having graduated from the University with two degrees, what made AUA your choice for higher education?

I always wanted to have a degree in the English language, and at that time, AUA was already well-known for its stellar academic reputation and strong sense of community. Those were the main factors that made me choose AUA and influenced me to pursue both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees there. As I became interested in applying to AUA, I decided to attend an Open House event, during which I was very impressed by the presentations about the programs, along with the student volunteers who demonstrated such commitment to their tasks. I heard that the institution offered many opportunities and naturally chose AUA for my personal and professional growth. And I did that twice. 

What are three values AUA has instilled in you?

Three of the values that AUA has instilled in me are commitment to academic excellence, strong work ethic, and passion for lifelong learning. I have seen and felt that throughout the years. AUA has taught me that it doesn’t matter whether or not you are a student, you need to keep working on yourself and improving your skills. This is one of the advantages of studying at AUA: it gives you a liberal arts education where you can find the program, course, or interests you have in life. This is how I actually made the decision to study law for my master’s degree. 

Tell us more about how you decided to continue your education in the LL.M. program after receiving your bachelor’s degree in English and communications.

I was a sophomore when I started to take General Education courses in law. Through these classes, I discovered my passion in the field. I already knew by my sophomore year that I wanted to become a lawyer, and by graduation time, I had taken most of the law-related courses in General Education. I needed to acquire a commensurate skill set to specialize in law, which would anyway pose a big challenge for me. I started to prepare for the LSAT and secured my acceptance to the program. Many of my fellow students in LL.M. had a law background, so I had to catch up with them not only by working on myself, but also by taking on several internships to gain some practical knowledge. I would say that the best feature of the LL.M. program at AUA is that it provides students with so much practical knowledge.

What are the skills you acquired in these programs that help you in your career?

I have to start with critical thinking. In AUA, we are encouraged to think outside the box. In that sense, the University opened new doors for me and introduced me to new ways of handling tasks and assignments, all of which I embraced in my personal growth. Effective communication is another skill that helps me in my everyday work. Now, I am even training other professionals in various companies, including law firms, on the art of effective communication. Studying in the English and Communications program played a major factor in that respect. 

During my first year in the LL.M. program, I had to work harder and do more research than my classmates who came with an educational background in law. One of the advantages I had was that I knew how to do research, specifically in English. I developed this skill during my undergraduate studies and improved it further in the LL.M. program.

I like integrating what I learned in both programs, even if they are noticeably different in a number of aspects. However, every rule has its exceptions. I integrated the critical thinking skills that I gained at AUA with the rules and laws that I learned in order to conceptualize my actions from different perspectives. Of course, you would be restricted by some boundaries, but it doesn’t hurt to think outside the box sometimes, especially in corporate law, where you have all the space you need. 

How did the LL.M. program prepare you for your journey as a lawyer?

The LL.M. program equipped me with specialized legal knowledge and practical experience. The latter was a major factor as, without a background in law, I needed to obtain as much practical knowledge as possible, especially that I practice corporate law. I was lucky to have professors who not only shared this view with us, but also were successful practitioners themselves. 

During our classes, we applied theoretical knowledge to real-life cases. We would have different scenarios: our professors would give us a case, and we would try to solve it by applying the theory, regulations, and laws that we learned. I did a lot of internships, too, and the LL.M. program created opportunities for us to practice in the public sector as well.

Which professor had the most significant impact on you?

First of all, I want to extend my gratitude to all my professors at AUA because their guidance and support have been truly invaluable. Their mentorship and guidance have influenced my academic journey and shaped me professionally. I would first mention the late Dr. Gregory Areshian: his kindness, dedication, and motivation to constantly transfer knowledge to his students and consistent desire to learn more were rare and inspiring. I appreciate everything he did for my growth, though he will never know just how much he inspired me.

And, of course, I would like to thank Adelaida Baghdasaryan, LL.M. program chair and assistant professor, for everything she did and continues to contribute to my development. 

How would you describe your career path after graduation?

I started my first job at a corporate law firm while I was still studying at AUA. Studying and working at the same time helped me tremendously in practicing the knowledge I was getting in real life. I worked there for over three years, then opened my private practice because I like to do things on my own: I like taking initiative and being in control. I came to the realization that I want to do bigger things and do them early rather than waiting ten more years. My constant pursuit of excellence and a passion for the legal field are what led me to the position where I am now. One of my professors told me that I should never limit myself by any means, and if I want to get something, I should go ahead and do it. I founded my law firm with an LL.M. classmate, Feliks Hovakimyan (LLM ’20). I am grateful to AUA for connecting me with a person who has a similar mindset and professional goals.

What is your key to success at a young age?

It is a combination of dedication, seizing opportunities, and maintaining a deep passion for whatever you love. That is what drives you to success at a young age.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in your career?

The greatest challenge so far has been achieving a work-life balance. I am still working on this, but I have learned to prioritize certain things in my life and manage my time effectively. 

What is currently your greatest passion or motivation?

My greatest passion at the moment comes from helping clients solve and navigate complex legal matters. It is by assisting these people that you realize you are doing something right. When they achieve their goals — be it opening their own business or winning a case in court — you are motivated to keep working on yourself and succeed in your career. I constantly remind myself where I came from and the person that I used to be in order to appreciate what I have now and to stay focused on reaching my destination. 

What are some future projects and plans to which you look forward?

I am eagerly anticipating expanding the firm’s practice areas. Going global is what we see as the next step for us, especially for MigrAid, which provides global immigration services. We understand the needs of the market, which will take us to Los Angeles next year, and later Europe. For the time being, our goal is to establish representative offices in at least three different countries. 

Another one is contributing to my community. At the end of the day, you must always return to giving back to your community. Right now, we are engaged in the legal support initiative the LL.M. program has launched volunteering to help the people forced out from their homes in Artsakh. We are going to legally assist them through whatever way possible. We are constantly involved in charity helping people with disabilities and children. We try to give back to our community as much as possible, and I hope in the future, we will engage in even more pro bono work.

Why do you think giving back is important?

Giving back to each other has brought me to where I am today. If someone had not made a sacrifice, I wouldn’t have been able to reach my current position. We are all connected in this world and in our community, especially. If someone reaches an achievement, everyone around should join in celebration. I love my community and am happy to take part in this cycle. 

This attitude comes from my family, the upbringing I received from my parents, and, of course, AUA. It is my dream to establish a scholarship program at the University to fund the education of several students. I strongly believe in creating equal opportunities, especially in education. 

Looking back now, what would you tell your student self?

As a student, I would tell myself to embrace every opportunity for learning, networking, and personal growth; Those are the experiences that were crucial in my own educational journey, and their impact would have been even more significant if I had done more of the same. I would engage in as many extracurricular activities as possible and even do things that could be irrelevant to my future, like taking acting classes. To me, one of the main advantages AUA offers is preparing its students to choose among a wide variety of options for their future. By taking General Education courses not related to your degree, you expand your horizons and pick out what you want to do in life.

If you could do it all over again, would you still choose AUA as your higher education institution?

I would unquestionably choose AUA if I could do it all over again, because it has been instrumental in both my professional and personal development.