"Let's get back to work!"
"Um, did we ever actually stop working this year... ?"
Jason Huf International, pc
"Exploring the Boundaries of Your Business."
By R. Jason Huf
When recollecting the uses of my spare time as I sat down to pen my previously promised piece on fully utilizing the summer months to achieve Work-Life Balance goals, I realized that a simple "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" article would be insufficient. During the summer, indeed throught 2017 thus far, I seemed to gravitate to leisure activities that were relaxing and - sometimes - valuable beyond taking a mere breather for myself.
So, I have instead decided to include something in this writing about how time taken to relax, though not billable, can still be valuable - to ourselves and others. Indirectly, a more relaxed you is likely to be of greater help to your client. But, beyond that, there are activites that are relaxing, interesting AND enriching to your profession and society more broadly.
After all, a desire to influence and shepherd positive change is at least part of the motivation that drove us - and still drives us - along our respective career paths, isn't it?
I have always been public-service minded. This is reflected in my legal practice, wherein certain investments, projects and other client matters have over time and in the aggregate served as a small piece of a small piece of the large, complicated puzzle of establishing a foundation for economic and social reform in Saudi Arabia and the larger Middle East (parenthetically, I am pleased to see that today's reforms are more sweeping and are being enacted much more quickly than I had anticipated, or even hoped).
Accordingly, I often find "relaxation" and satisfaction when I can make time for pursuits that have some intrinsic (but, not necessarily obvious) value to the larger world around me. Take, for example, a presentation hosted by Oxford University's North American office on Manar al-Athar and its efforts to catalogue ancient sites in the war-torn Levant so that they can be preserved or (in the event they have already been or are going to be destroyed by insidious groups like Daesh) restored after the shooting finally stops. When "endangered" cultures become lost civilizations, it degrades the whole of humanity. I encourage you to give this group's efforts a fair look. And, hey, wine was served...
(Sometimes, to your surprise, you may get to meet fabulous people like the one pictued here. Also pictured, standing next to this fabulous person, is a member of the Hashemite Royal Family... )
(Attorney Disclaimer: NOT an endorsement of JHI by HRH!)
Whatever your line of work, your position as a professional provides you with access. In addition to being present at the above-referenced presentation, I'm rather excited to say that I have accepted an invitation to join the New York City Bar Associations's Committee on Middle Eastern & North African Affairs (MENA Committee). Then again, the MENA Committee has a pretty robust agenda, so I may end up regretting this...
Kidding aside, there aren't too many bar association committees in New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey (the jurisdictions where I am admitted to practice) that specifically focus on subject matter so closely aligned to my practice, so in addition to being recognized for my work after so many years in the field, I am actually looking forward to the (non-billable) work ahead.
Now, I'm not saying that all of your spare time needs to be "meaningful", only that the added element of being satisfyingly productive in some measure may add to the value of your relaxing uses of the downtime you manage to carve out of your busy schedule. Different people have different interests and run at different speeds. I may be someone who has yet to take a real "vacation" at any point in my life, but I do not dispute the notion that relaxation for relaxation's sake is absolutely fine.
For those of you who have the discipline to make the effort to force yourself to take a vacation, more power to you. For the rest of us its enough of an endeavor to find forms of refreshment that are somewhat more limited in scope. But, no worries - it ain't that tough. Really!
Again, Pennsylvania is one of the jurisdictions in which I am admitted to practice. On occassion, I travel to Philadelphia on business. When I know I'm to make the short drive into Philly, well, being a long-time Philadelphia Phillies fan (and, you cannot be a Phillies fan without being a an of baseball period - trust me on that one) I like to catch an evening game when they are playing at home. Why not? I'm a phan, its the thinking man's sport, Citizens Bank Park is a great ballpark and I love Dollar Dog Day.
Also, this past year, the NFL Draft was hosted there (great event, and Philly did a fantastic job of hosting); and, the Philadelphia Orchestra celebrated the works of Mozart not very long ago - as part of that celebration, there was an opportunity to see a showing of the film "Amadeus" (one of my favorites), with the orchestra providing a live sound track.
(NFL Draft - Philadelphia, Pa.)
Some things can be done spur of the moment, without planning, and can be done by almost anyone, especially in New York. Catching the recent solar eclipse without special glasses was easily done by using my phone - I perched it over my shoulder and recorded a brief video. Anyone who could walk to Battery Park (or any open space where the sun was at least partially blocked by the moon that afternoon) could have done the same thing. Many did.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpdAcRPtZ8Y (As you can see, the Firm's YouTube Channel is still in the "experimental" stage)
When I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia years ago, I took up snorkeling on the weekends and fell in love with the Red Sea and the coral reef beneath its surface. Some folks encouraged me to take up diving, but diving is a great deal of work. If what I do for recreation is more work that what I do for a living, I have something of a philosophical problem with that...
My dog can be a great deal of work (and, don't get a dog unless you are honestly ready, willing and able to do all of the work associated with sharing your home with a dog), but she is without question the exception to the above-referenced rule. When it comes to time well-spent, I am hard-pressed to think of anything more rewarding and relaxing than walking my dog.
Sometimes, I'll just call it an early day at the office and go out. Its New York, man - hit the town. Fridays tend to be ideal: the Middle East is closed on Fridays and the West is in the process of shutting down for the weekend, with businesses in London generally closing by 12:00 noon, US Eastern time (though, I must be mindful of places in other time zones, such as Houston, Texas, which is an hour behind New York). And, naturally, your employees won't mind being able to knock off a little early before the weekend, or will they...
("Seriously, you can leave... ")
In any event, I find that making time for yourself and your favorite people (or, pets) is not impossible - it really boils down to time management. I have also found that taking the occasional, but regular, breather won't kill the bottom line, can make you better at your job and (depending on the activity at hand) may even have the potential to make the world a better place. And, I feel like a million dirhams.
(This is what a million dirhams looks like... )
So, even with the cold winds of winter coming, ready to whistle through the concrete canyons of downtown Manhattan (and I hate winter) - I'm going to continue to make time for me. Since returning to the United States several years ago, I have ordinarily gone into hybernation every winter (absent JHI's Annual Informal Holiday Gathering), but not this year.
Why work so hard in the first place? I don't live to work, I work to live (and, my work is pretty darned good anyway, if I do say so myself). So, I'll work as hard as I play, and play as hard as I work. Maybe you should, too? Whether its rubbing elbows with royalty from an ancient noble line, or having a beer or two with your cheeseburger during an extra-long lunch. Hey, whatever floats your boat.
The bottom line is this: You have an epic and fabulous career, so Live an EPIC and Fabulous Life. There is no point to doing anything else.
I decided against supplying the entire list of extra-curricular activites because if I did you'd still be reading this instead of engaging in your own leisure pursuits (if reading this little blog is one of your leisure pursuits, well, I'm flattered).
Oh, and we all have to get some work in once and a while, too. OK, now back to the grind... : )
– Jason Huf
Thursday, October 12, 2017
New York, NY
By R. Jason Huf
Some of you may have obtained entry to the "Monastery" (as I've taken to calling my office) as and when business has required. However, for most of those reading this, I realize that I'm letting you in on a little secret: the advertised address of JHI's NYC HQ office is just a mail stop associated with a shared space & services operation on the 6th floor of good old 11 Broadway. To maintain my strict "No Pop-Ins" Policy, the exact location of the Firm Headquarters Office/ Monastery's actual physical presence is kept confidential, and that confidence is only breached when necessary.
Being able to advertise the mail stop as the office address, and the convenience of renting conference room space by the hour on the 6th floor, both enable me to concentrate on my work with minimal interruption. In addition to this "buffer", availing myself of the shared services when certain tasks need to be performed rather efficiently assists me with keeping costs down, which in turn contributes to my ability to maintaining hourly rates that are very competitive.
(As an old boss of mine used to say, "This is not the Fish Market"; but, with our competitive rates and innovative price structures, there may not be much need for you to bargain when seeking high-quality, world-class International Legal Services that your company can afford)
Perhaps most fundamentally to those of you (still) reading this piece, JHI can make available to your company the seamless provision of professional services spanning just about the entire legal prism, without having to figure massive overhead costs into our hourly rates (or more innovative billing arrangements). The outfit that runs the 6th floor operation only caters to attorneys, and many of these attorneys elect to house their firms and solo practices in physical office space on the site. Irrespective of the level of their arrangement, all who participate in some form or another are listed in a directory and, over time, some of us get to know each other reasonably well.
These attorneys practice in virtually every area of the law, and possess a variety of experience levels. In short, I have at my fingertips a storehouse of legal minds to draw upon, from commercial real estate specialists, to business litigators, to tax professionals - even a very smart fellow who focuses on energy trading. And, like myself, they tend to maintain a relatively unburdensome level of overhead costs, which in turn, permits them to be reasonable with their fees as well.
A few people still tend to think of my practice as rather narrow, until I dispell them of that illusion - JHI is a Commercial, Corporate, Energy & Banking law firm and we perform a wide range of services for clients hailing from a broad variety of industries. We just happen to have extensive experience in the Middle East, which may occassionally give rise to some folks instinctively thinking of JHI as a boutique servicing a particular "specialty" area. However, JHI's capabilities are even broader than I previously reasoned:
Between the NYC HQ, our Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Office, additional reources in the UAE (Abu Dhabi & Dubai) and access to Singapore and various major cities in India, JHI as a Brand is known as a capable provider of professional services in the Middle East and South Asia, ranging from company formation to arbitration, for those who have invested - or are looking to invest - in those regions in the world.
What JHI is not (yet) necessarily known for is our ability to assist businesses based in the Middle East and elsewhere with their expansion into the US "mega-market". Whether you are an individual foreign investor entering through the EB-5 Visa process, or a family-owned conglomerate of businesses looking to invest in US real estate, or a publicly traded company in Riyadh entering a joint venture, or a participant in the new US public-private partnerships designed to reform the nation's infrastructure, JHI is well-placed to help get you started as well as protect your US-side business interests down the road.
We have access to an entire network of intellectual assets encompassing a variety of practice areas ordinarily comanded only by big law firms, without having to factor "big firm" overhead into our fees. So, when investing from West to East, or East to West, consider the cost-effective but powerful option of contacting JHI for your legal needs.
Feel the difference and put our NYC HQ and affiliated Community of Attorneys to work for you in concert with our Jeddah office and/ or resources in the UAE, India & Singapore (wherever you're from!) as we help you and your company Explore the Boundaries of Your Business.
– Jason Huf
Wednesday, August 8, 2017
New York, NY
During the last week of September, immediately following the opening of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, a series of seminars, workshops and interactive displays collectively coined "A Day in Riyadh" was showcased at the UN. This week-long "Riyadh Day" was sponsored by the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh (Riyadh), and particularly featured the ongoing work of the Arriyadh (Riyadh) Development Authority (ADA). As a Representative (Observer) for a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to the UN, and an attorney with an office in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Huf, Principal of JHI, was pleased and excited to attend.
Focused on the capital city of Saudi Arabia (KSA, or the Kingdom) and the governate (province) of Riyadh, the series of presentations covered subjects relevant to the economy, culture, commerce and development of the entire Kingdom, and the Arab and Islamic worlds more generally.
Of particular interest to those who follow this space will be the planned reformation of Riyadh's transportation system which, if fully executed, may be the single-largest public works project on earth during the period of construction. However, we will list all of the subjects covered by the panel presentations at the UN between September 27 - 30, to provide a broad look at the planned continued development of Riyadh (one of the chief purposes of the conference) which, in turn, may give us a better view of the Kingdom-wide social and economic reforms known as Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030".
9/27 "Riyadh: Planning for People" - the overall City Plan (by 2030) moving forward, including details on Riyadh's new "Smart City" initiative.
9/28 "Riyadh: A Sustainable & People-Friendly City" - details concerning the Sustainable Development of Riyadh.
9/29 "Riyadh: On the Move" - The King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport.
9/30 "Riyadh: Development of Civilization and Social Partnership" - Plans for the continued social, economic and intellectual development of the city's population in line with Islamic principles and the traditions of Arabia, particularly youth and especially young women, empowering them to take a more active role in the growth of the city and the future of the Kingdom as a whole.
(Jason Huf and Dr. Sana Alorf. Dr. Sana is extraordinary, but not unique. She is a medical doctor working in Riyadh who also participates in many charitable and civic endeavors. She volunteered, along with many other young Saudis, to travel to New York and talk about their culture, heritage and way of life in side bars at the exhibition. Many ladies are taking up professions [including and increasingly fields such as law, medicine and science], starting businesses and participating in life outside their homes in the Kingdom. Dr. Sana has a wealth of information that dispells many of the illusions concerning Saudi society and highlights the progress Saudi women have made - and continue to make.)
The public transortation project, scheduled for completion in 2018, is a massive affair that could revolutionize life in Riyadh. In addition to a new bus service, the project includes the construction of a commuter railway (Riyadh Metro) with six lines, dozens of stations, a main terminal for each line, and services areas at each stop, including large-scale shopping complexes at each of the main terminals. Anticipating use by roughly 3.6 million residents daily, over 3,000 transport stands will be constructed to accomodate waiting commuters.
With billions of Saudi Riyals being invested into the project, and given the rather brief time frame, this will generate a labor boom in the capital for qualified Saudis and expatriates. Mr. Huf asked Eng. Hassan Al Musa, Deputy Director of the Transport Planning Department of the High Commission for the Development of Riyadh, if resources had been allocated to process what should be a substantial spike in Visa applications. Potential contractors and subcontractors will be interested to know that the Deputy Director responded that his office is in touch with the Ministry of Labor on a regular basis as they set up for this contingency. So long as employers comply with their filing requirements, he said, there should be no delays in the project caused by a labor shortage brought about by paperwork backlogs.
(Eng. Hassan Al Musa and Jason Huf. Mr. Huf found him to be capable, earnest and modest. Although entrusted with day-to-day management of a massive public works project that progresses under a tight schedule, he always gives credit to others, refering to his "Army" of dedicated public servants. "That makes you a General", responded Mr. Huf, who later added, "Eng. Hassan is a nice guy".)
In addition to the lifestyle transformation and relief of traffic congestion that will take place once this project is complete, young Saudis who are lacking in resources such as cars of their own will be able to much more easily venture beyond the confines of their own neighborhoods to look for satisfying work and important educational opportunities. And, everyone who lives in Riyadh should enjoy the benefit of cleaner air arising from fewer cars on the highways.
The entire program provided a window through which one could sample Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, the rapid modernization and other wide-ranging reforms ordered by King Salman and spearheaded by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the aim of guiding a modern but authentically Islamic Saudi Arabia that remains true to its people's history and traditions into a future "Post-Oil" economy.
These reforms include the KSA's Sustainable Development program, which closely follows the UN's Sustainable Development Goals while keeping in conformity with Kingdom's Islamic principles; increased opportunities for youth & women; and, Saudi Arabia's nuclear power program.
At JHI, we have offered our own modest suggestions for the shaping of such sweeping reforms, with an emphasis on attracting increased Foreign Direct Investment in the Saudi market.
With an incoming US Administration that seems keen on utilizing America's energy resources; and, (if feasible) working with Russia to defeat ISIS (which, in addition to commiting henious atrocities, has been fighting forces led directly or indirectly by the Iranians), some may see such investment from the West as slow in coming, and the KSA's reception of it to be less-than-enthusiastic.
Seen by some as signalling potential push-back against the further development of US energy resources and other recent or possible future policy changes, Prince Alaweed bin Talal of Kingdom Holding Company (Saudi Arabia's soverign investment apparatus) suggested selling holdings previously classified "not sellable" (such as shares in Citi Group and US Treasury bonds), which would be a divorce from Saudi Arabia's long-standing policy of having "buy-ins" in important American economic institutions and, thus, the American economy - effectively giving the US a stake in the KSA's existence and continued success.
Noises concerning such potential push-back seem unlikely to stem the increased exploitation of US energy resources (another dip in the price of oil, for example, would seem more likely to give pause to an increase in US production). And, the US-Saudi alliance of over seven decades, while fraying a bit over the last several years, should remain rather tightly tethered: after ISIS is destroyed, a check on Iranian ambition will have been eliminated, and the US and the KSA will more clearly and simply share strong interests in containing Iran and managing increasingly complicated relationships with Russia.
In fact, the strong relationships the KSA enjoys with the West, the interest Western countries have in seeing the continued modernization of Arab states, and Western companies' keen eye to continue - and, possibly increase - their investments in the Gulf region were reinforced recently by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in her mid-December visit to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Bahrain.
Pending changes to the Kingdom's commercial and corporate laws, which continue to be rolled out, and given at least one or two geopolitical uncertainties, JHI presently and on the whole views it likely that the environment for Foreign Investors will become even more attractive as the Vision 2030 reforms are implemented in the KSA. As to the Great Social & Economic Reformation of the Kingdom known as "Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030", Mr. Huf doesn't think its on par with the Maji Restoration (the radical transformation experienced in Japan during the late 19th century), but he does see it as the most significant series of reforms in the history of the KSA since the reign of King Faisal (perhaps in the Kingdom's entire history - we'll see) and the most positive collection of developments to take place in the Arab world thus far in this new, turbulent 21st century - and, he certainly viewed the exhibition at the UN positively.