Lavelle received a B.A. in International Economic Relations, an M.A. in European history, and completed Ph.D. courses in Studies in European Economic History from the University of California, Davis. He was a Fulbright Research Fellow at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. He has been living in Eastern Europe and Russia for over 25 years while working as a lecturer at the University of Warsaw, a market researcher for Colgate-Palmolive, and an investment analyst for brokerage firms, including Russia's Alfa-Bank.