Law in Action Profile

Suren Avanesyan '99

"Meeting Professor Hendley in 1995
was a very important event in my
professional life. She become my
mentor and the fact that I am now
working in international law is in
large extent because of her."

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Hometown: Voronezh, Russia
Diploma in Jurisprudence, Voronezh State University; M.L.I., University of Wisconsin-Madison; J.D., University of Wisconsin Law School; LL.M.,  New York University School of Law
Employment: Senior Rule of Law Advisor, Bureau of Europe and Eurasia, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington, DC
Law School Activities:

  • Articles Editor, Wisconsin International Law Journal
  • Research Assistant for Professors Kathryn Hendley and Heinz Klug
  • Translator for Russian Human Rights Advocacy Program

Suren Avanesyan was already a trial lawyer and had passed a bar exam before he went to his first class at the UW Law School. But, like his classmates, he found that attending the UW Law School was an important and necessary step for his chosen career.

A native of Russia, Suren grew up in the Soviet Union and graduated from Voronezh State University with a law degree. While he was studying to become a trial lawyer, his country survived a military coup, its currency was devalued, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. This period of monumental change reinforced Suren’s interest in law and legal change and led him to a career in international legal development.

The break-up of the Soviet Union also dramatically changed the course of the Avanesyan family. In 1995, Suren left Russia and came to the U.S. to study English; he also enrolled in the University of Wisconsin's Master of Legal Institutions (M.L.I.) degree program – a program for students with law degrees from universities outside the United States.

After completing his M.L.I., Suren entered Wisconsin’s J.D. program. As a J.D. student, he took the regular J.D. curriculum, exploring international law issues as a research assistant to UW Law Professors Kathryn Hendley and Heinz Klug. He received his J.D. and then completed an LL.M. in International Legal Studies at New York University.

Suren’s career has been diverse and challenging. After seven years of working in non-profit and for profit consulting companies in Washington, D.C., he is now the Senior Rule of Law Advisor for the Bureau of Europe and Eurasia in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In that capacity, Suren is responsible for providing technical assistance and oversight and policy advice to the US Government justice sector programs in twenty-one countries.

Suren’s career in international development started in 2001 as a consultant with the Legal Department of the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. There he was a member of the team implementing the Legal Reform Project in his native Russia. After the World Bank, he worked at the American Bar Association (ABA), the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), and Management  Systems International (MSI). At NCSC Suren managed a legal development project funded by USAID in Kosovo, a breakaway province of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The experience of working on justice sector reforms in the politically volatile environment of post-conflict Kosovo taught Suren about legal change in action and international development. During that period he met several other Wisconsin law graduates who worked in Kosovo for various international organizations.

Suren also was able to build on his experience as a research assistant for several law professors at both the UW and NYU by becoming a Scholar-in-Residence at the Law Library of Congress, where he conducted research on issues surrounding enforcement of civil judgments in Eastern Europe and prepared a study on child trafficking legislation in the Republic of Macedonia.


Co-author, “Bosnia Justice Sector Development Project Evaluation,” USAID/Bosnia and Herzegovina (June 29, 2008).

Contributed Kosovo case study to “Rebuilding the Rule of Law in Post-Conflict Environments,” USAID manual for Democracy and Governance Officers (draft submitted for clearance on March 14, 2006).

“Republic of Macedonia” in Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, Report for Congress, p. 233, The Law Library of Congress, June 2004.

“Liability of the UN under the Norms of International Humanitarian Law,” paper published for the Yale Journal of International Law Young Scholars Conference, March 24, 2001.

“Constitutional Protections for Human Rights in the Russian Federation,” Columbia Journal of East European Law, vol. 6, no. 4, p. 437 (1999).

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