We are excited to announce the appointment of David Slade to Eurasia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Mr. Slade is a senior partner at Allen & Overy’s Washington, D.C. office. He is an active member of the Council on Foreign Relations, serves on the board of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and joined Eurasia Foundation’s Advisory Council in 2015.

Q: How did you get into your line of work and working in the Eurasia region?

A: I’ve always had a keen interest in international affairs, maybe stemming from the fact that I was born in Germany. I loved languages and became a Soviet Studies major at Dartmouth, adding Russian [language skills] to my German, and studied in Germany and Leningrad while in college.

Following my interest in international affairs and law, I earned a joint degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard Law School. I quickly focused on international project finance as a practice area because I had a real passion for economic development and emerging markets. When the Soviet Union started to unravel in the 80s, I found myself in the very fortunate career position of seeing my love of Russian culture, language, and history merge with my practice area, which was emerging market project finance. I traveled frequently to Russia and Eastern Europe, helping rehabilitate the oil and gas industry in the former Soviet Union and the ‘Stans, and was working closely with EF Trustee Gene Lawson to develop those programs. Eurasia Foundation’s late board chair, Sarah Carey, was a friendly competitor. And that was pretty much the happiest decade or two of my career, when I was working on energy and mining and infrastructure projects throughout the former Soviet Union. As my career has evolved at Allen & Overy over the last decade, I’ve continued to work on the same type of projects, but expanding geographically to include the Middle East and China.

Joining the Eurasia Foundation’s Board of Trustees is a real opportunity for me to get back to the region I love the most and have studied my whole life. I was surprised by the number of those on the board I knew from those early years, like Terry English, Drew Guff, and Fiona Hill.

Q: What’s an accomplishment that you’re proud of?

One of the high points of my career was when I represented the Export-Imports Bank of the U.S. on oil and gas transactions in Russia under the Oil and Gas Framework Agreement. I attended the Clinton-Yeltsin Summit and brought up all four of those contracts to be signed. A more recent fulfilling career moment was when I finally persuaded Allen & Overy to open an office in Washington, D.C. It only took ten years, and they were sort of late to the party here! Now we have 35 lawyers in the D.C. office, up from the initial group of six back in 2011.

Q: Tell me about an interesting experience you had traveling recently.

I’m on the board of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. We raise money for approximately 16 schools and hospitals operated by the Diocese in the Middle East: in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. In January I spent two weeks visiting all those institutions and places. It was fantastic and enlightening to see the inspiring interaction between the Christian, Muslim, and even Jewish communities on a real-time basis. I found it hopeful at this time of conflict to see this cooperation and that good works are being done. It’s also something that inspires me to get involved with Eurasia Foundation. I want to reach out beyond the strict legal work and be involved in the more humanitarian, charitable side.

Q: As a lawyer, how has the importance of the rule of law impacted your work?

The rule of law—or the absence of the rule of law—has been front and center during my entire career working in the emerging markets. It’s a big part of my job to go to the local jurisdiction and work out the local legal regime of whatever project I’m working on. There’s almost always a set of laws, and the question is always the extent to which they are objectively enforced. What I always do—the most important issue on every project—is figure out how to put together enforceable contracts, including those that would be enforceable against the state. It frequently comes down to persuading the host state to agree to an international mechanism for the resolution of disputes, like arbitration. Political risk and arbitrary governmental behavior have been themes I’ve had to grapple with throughout my entire career.

What we can do to improve this situation? It is painstaking work that organizations like Eurasia Foundation does. It’s only through cultural exchange and programs to develop civil society that will, hopefully, increase respect for the rule of law over time. It’s one thing to try to drag the state to court, and another to work at the ground level to improve the respect for the rule of law.

Q: Can you share something personal about yourself?

A: To stay sane, I am an amateur landscape artist. My favorite artist of all time is Ivan Shishkin, and in the ’90s when I was traveling to Russia on a monthly basis, I would frequently stay over for a weekend and go out like him into the countryside to paint the fields, forests, and cupolas. I lost track of my Russian easel but I like to fantasize that it is still there lost in the countryside.