Lilit Karapetyan: The business card of Concern Dialog is the consultancy which is not detached from reality

05.07.2023 | 22:31 Home / News / Interviews /
“Support foreign investors to establish business in Armenia”. This is one of the working directions led by attorney Lilit Karapetyan, Partner of Concern Dialog law firm.

According to her, the Armenian Legislation is favorable for business, but it is important that the investor acquires the right legal support in our country.

Lilit Karapetyan told about the importance of not portraying the work of a business-supporting lawyer with movie characters and approaching the profession realistically.

After completing her studies in international commercial law in England, she returned to Armenia and became a partner in Concern Dialog from a junior lawyer in about 6 years.

Work with the best

I have been working at the Concern Dialog Law Office since 2017. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Armenia at the Faculty of Law of Yerevan State University, then I moved to England and received my Master’s degree at the University of Exeter in the field of international commercial law. Of course, after studying abroad, there was a temptation to stay there, to work in world famous companies, but it was important for me to return to Armenia and carry out work activities in the homeland. Here I wanted to work with the best and I had several names in mind. Some of them were from Concern Dialog, so after noticing the job opportunity announcement in the office, I immediately applied and got the opportunity to work as a junior lawyer.

Diligence, realism, balance

Law was a different world for me from a young age. People often ask why I chose this particular profession, I try to explain that the awareness of being a lawyer seems to have been with me since the day I was born. Of course, childish, romanticized ideas about the work of a lawyer are very different from the reality, but it is still the basis of all this. It is the great love for my work and profession. I think it is also thanks to that love and hard work that I became a partner of the company from a junior lawyer in the office.

Lilit Karapetyan

I remember, during the job interview, when I was asked: “Where do I see myself in five years, is it possible to leave Armenia again?”. My answer was No. In five years I hope to be a partner of Concern Dialog, so it happened (smiling).

Today, I advise the younger lawyers coming to the company to love their work, read a lot and take a deep approach to law. It is important to realize that besides being pleasant and interesting, law is also hard work. You can sit for hours and read legal acts or court decisions. You have to be realistic and not imagine only Harvey Specter when you say “lawyer”.

It is very important to be balanced, to avoid excessive emotionality and to control one’s emotions. For me, this is one of the primary indicators of a good and bad lawyer. The lawyer should not have too much emotional attachment to the case, in no case should he/she identify himself/her with the client. Besides, this is a big issue in our society, people often do not distinguish between a lawyer and a client.

Not to over-regulate the relationship of the transaction participants, causing additional problems in practice

The main direction of my work at Concern Dialog is business counseling. At the moment, the most active circle in which I am involved is helping investors (basically foreign) to start their entrepreneurial activities in Armenia. We are talking about the primary stages, when investors come to Armenia, try to orient themselves in the market, understand what legislation we have, what obligations they have or what state policy exists in this or that field. One of the main goals of me and my colleagues is to make the RA legal framework comprehensible for investors and the processes expected by them predictable. The mentioned processes include the selection of the right organizational form, company registration, as well as advice and support on real estate, tax and labor issues, development of samples of basic contracts, support on obtaining licenses and permits and regulation of other legal issues for the normal operation of the business.

Lilit Karapetyan

Undoubtedly, legal advice in the field of business is not the only service provided by Concern Dialog. We support clients in concluding large deals for business, in terms of legal audit (known in professional circles as “due diligence”), and we also provide advice on the current activities of the client in compliance with RA Legislation.

We always try not to complicate the work of the business. Our goal is to make the legal regulation of the relationship only helpful to the participants of the transaction, and, for example, contract negotiations do not become an unnecessary burden for them.

To expect the protection of the law, one must not break it.

Business is becoming more legal-conscious in Armenia. In communication with clients, we often repeat the idea that if today they violate the law, tomorrow they cannot say: “Why are there no methods of protection under the law or are they not effective?” Any business has the choice to work in accordance with the law and then expect the protection of that law or not. If you do not want to pay tax, then you cannot complain that you were fined.

One of our main missions in working with businesses is to show the existing legal risks and convey it to clients in their own language. I mean, we constantly set before ourselves the task of not only showing the client the legal risks, but also explaining their possible impact on the client’s activities. Even if at the end of the day a business decides to take certain risks, that decision should be informed and conscious.

Relocation and company registration in 30 minutes

Since February 2022, we have been receiving many emails a day to the e-mail address of the Concern Dialog company. A very “interesting” phenomenon began that accompanies us to this day: relocation due to the Russian-Ukrainian war. Many people “woke up” in their country, decided that they wanted to move to Armenia and tried to get advice on what, how and where to do it. Among them were individuals who wanted to register a private company in Armenia and work from here, as well as large companies that moved to our country with hundreds of employees, as well as international companies that had branches in Russia and now, for obvious reasons, wanted a structured to make changes.

Concern Dialog company has an important approach: the first consultation with us is usually free. If we understand that we can help the applicant with only one letter, we never say “pay, we will answer”. Moreover, the first free consultation does not create an obligation for the client to use our services.

We did not change this policy even during the active wave of relocation, and our team answered letters and calls for days, realizing that some of the applicants will not move to Armenia anyway, and those who will, perhaps, will use the services of other offices in the future. It was and is important for us that the applicants have an accurate correct understanding of the legal system and business environment of Armenia.

Lilit Karapetyan

During that time, we noticed an interesting trend: most of those who applied to us often had wrong information about starting a business in Armenia. I even personally searched in different groups of social networks to understand what is the source of the spread of this universal wrong information. Our task was first to show the true path to those who applied to us and then to suggest to the state that these people should be supported in some way, for example, by creating unified and reliable information platforms.

I always repeat that it is very easy to register a business in Armenia. If a person is physically located in Armenia and has a passport translated into Armenian, regardless of nationality, he/she can go to the State Registry Agency, produce the passport and register a company in 30 minutes.

Many times we have heard a question from those who come to Armenia: “What’s the catch?”, when we offered to register their company in 30 minutes, completely free of charge, just by doing the steps we mentioned on their own. We tried to explain, there is no context, it is just important for us, as a law firm, that the foreign investor comes to Armenia and receives support. We said: “We are ready to teach you what to do and how to do it. In most cases, you don’t need our office, because the problem is very simple.” If it is possible to find a solution on our own, we will support and guide you.” Of course, there are cases when it was important for people to receive advice and support even in simple cases, and they did not want to carry out the identity process in order to exclude even small risks, in that case we provided legal advice or support in administrative processes.

There are favorable conditions for business in Armenia

RA Legislation is favorable to foreign investors. It has no particularly complex or negative aspects, it is more or less predictable in terms of restrictions, rights and obligations. We can say that it is easy to start a business in Armenia with the adoption of legislation, there are favorable conditions for this.

Surely, parallel to this there are legislative developments that cause concern. For example, recently the legislation on the declaration of beneficial owners was changed in several stages. From the point of view of foreign business, it can be problematic when the state requires very detailed information and publishes it online. For example, if the beneficial owner is a non-resident natural person, the company must provide a copy of a certified passport. The appropriateness of such a requirement is difficult to assess, especially given the complications it creates for companies in terms of personal data protection. Problems also arise at the technical level. There are countries where notaries public do not certify passport copies and every time we have to find alternative solutions. This obviously complicates the process of foreign investments.

The Legislation of the Republic of Armenia on the disclosure of the real beneficiaries assumes that regardless of the organizational legal type, the legal entity must disclose who its real beneficiaries are. As a result, today it is possible to find this information about any company in the system of the State Register Agency of Legal Entities in a few minutes. Whether such a requirement will significantly worsen the business climate is a question for discussion. To be clear, this is not about “concealing” the real beneficiaries. Companies at several other levels, such as banks, have always gone through verification processes and have been obliged to publish information about their real beneficiaries. It’s just that today this information has become fully available to the public, while in the past it was possible to keep it confidential for some organizational types.

Lilit Karapetyan

When the process of transparency in the mining industry began, the mentioned initiative was unambiguous and proportional, taking into account the need to know the users of the subsoil, which is the property of the state, and the corruption risks of the sector. However, this requirement becomes problematic in the case of “ordinary” businesses, from IT companies to trading companies, regardless of turnover or investment size.

Foreign investors are interested in different sectors

Investors have always come to Armenia from various countries and sectors. From time to time this or that sector becomes more attractive from the point of view of investments. The basis of attraction can be legislative changes in the sector or privileges granted by the state. For example, years ago there was a change (a fixed tariff was established) in the field of solar energy and an opportunity was created for foreign investors to get licenses at a favorable price. At that stage, the sector became very active and investors came from Germany, USA, Russia and other countries. There is also interest in the IT sector, but it is a wrong opinion that foreign investors in Armenia are only interested in this sector. From the point of view of investments, the industry, trade, hotel and restaurant (HoReCa), construction sectors are also quite active.

In conclusion, one of the guarantees of the high quality of Concern Dialog services is that we “speak” the language of our clients. Of course, I am not talking only about foreign languages, of which there are quite a few: English, Russian, French, German. I mean that advice is not given separately from clients’ business processes, interests and their specifics, academically rewriting the law. We try to create an environment of legal predictability for clients, taking into account the specifics of their field of activity.

Yana Shakhramanyan

Photos by Emin Aristakesyan
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