Jun 15, 2018 12:01 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy celebrating the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan.We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday that, this year, the Eid holiday largely falls on a weekend in many jurisdictions (with certain exceptions such as, for example, public sector employees in Saudi Arabia, who will resume work on Sunday, June 24). Therefore, the ordinarily-expected office closures that customarily occur throughout the Middle East region during the holiday (particularly in the private sector), including JHI's Jeddah, Saudi Arabia office & other resources in the United Arab Emirates, should not cause a significant interruption of business activities this year.
May 17, 2018 11:05 AMTo all of our friends around the world who observe the Holy Month of Ramadan, we at JHI hope that you and your families enjoy a meaningful period of fasting, reflection and prayer. Those living and working in the Middle East, in particular, are experiencing historic - sometimes exciting, sometimes challenging - events that may well rapidly change the face of their entire region of the world. Looking ahead into the unknown can feel somewhat daunting. May your loved ones take the opportunity of this holiday to grow closer to each other, your neighbors, the less fortunate and the whole of humanity.We wish you good health & great prosperity in the year ahead. Ramadan Mubarak!
Feb 16, 2018 2:50 PMWith possible changes to US immigration law on the horizon, aspiring immigrants to the Land of Liberty may have a feeling of uncertainty at present. A tightening of legal immigration may be part of a deal in Washington, DC designed to address illegal immigration.It is impossible at the time of this writing to know exactly how immigration law will change, or if it will actually change at all. But, we do know of one immigration law that already meets the requirements of the US President, as publicly expressed during negotiations thus far, with a program that uses merit-based criteria and which provides economic growth: the law authorizing the issuance of EB-5 Visas to Foreign Investors.Under the law, Foreign Investors who invest a minimum amount of capital in such a way as to create and/ or maintain ten or more US jobs have the opportunity to apply for a Green Card through the facility of the EB-5 Visa program. The minimum level of capital the Foreign Investor has to commit is determined by the classification of the targeted region of the investment itself.
Participating in the resurgence of the greatest economy on earth while pursuing a credible opportunity to secure permanent residency status for you and your immediate family seems a double-win. The economic growth it generates while providing entry to entrepreneurial immigrants with substantial resources of their own would certainly seem to be good for America as well.If you are interested in investing in the US economy (either directly or through a reputable Approved Regional Processing Center) and seeking a Green Card, contact JHI today for more information on the EB-5 (Investor) Visa program -- firstname.lastname@example.orgWith offices in New York, NY & Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and, additional on-the-ground resources available in the UAE, India and Singapore, JHI is in an ideal position to be of assistance and we will be happy to help.
Dec 19, 2017 6:30 PMThe Law Firm of JASON HUF INTERNATIONAL, pc (JHI) will close the doors of its New York HQ Office for the "High Holidays" of Christmas and New Year's Day starting Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 5:00pm.JHI will resume regular business hours on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. As usual, office visits in 2018 will be by Appointment Only.During the Holiday Season, the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia office and the Khalil Khazinar Law Firm will remain open. In the event of an urgent matter arising during the High Holidays, Mr. Huf can be reached directly by e-mail.From everyone at JHI, Merry Christmas!! And best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Oct 12, 2017 2:05 PM
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
Aug 31, 2017 5:51 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid Al Adha holiday. To those able to perform Hajj rites, congratulations. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect delays in certain services due to office closures - particularly banks and government offices - throughout the Middle East region during the holiday, which is scheduled to begin at sundown on Friday, September 1, 2017.In the United States, to all those who labor, have a happy Labor Day weekend. JHI will keep its doors closed until Tuesday, September 5. In the case of urgent matters, Mr. Huf will be available remotely during the weekend, including Monday, September 4.
JHI ordinarily issues bills for professional services rendered during the previous month on the first business day of the following month. However, for only the second time in the Firm's history thus far, we will issue August's invoices on the second business day of the month (in this instance, September 5).
[ Never Forget: Liberty ALWAYS Rises ]
Per Firm custom, at 5:00pm on Thursday, September 7, JHI's NYC HQ will close again, this time in observance of the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on our country. We will reopen our doors on Tuesday, September 12.On September 11, we honor and remember those loved ones and fellow countrymen lost to sudden and senseless evil. But, there is never a day wherein we forget.
The best way to honor them, especially in New York - the greatest city in the world, is to LIVE (in every sense of the word). To that end, coming soon, we will publish Mr. Huf's report on a productive and enjoyable summer (well, really, a very good year thus far it seems) as part of our Work-Life Balance series. This will be followed by a note on the famously "tax-free" United Arab Emirates' imposition of a tax scheme, including a Value Added Tax and certain Excise Taxes. We also plan, in the very near future, to introduce JHI's new Youtube channel; and, provide on update on EB-5 (Investor) Visas & legal services related to applications for such.
(Another day at the office... Exploring the Boundaries of Your Business)
Watch this space. In the meantime, whatever you are celebrating and/ or observing over the next two weeks as summer comes to a close, we hope that it is meaningful and that you and your families enjoy it.
Aug 8, 2017 7:01 PM
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
Jun 23, 2017 11:40 AMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan.We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region, including JHI resources in Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates, during the holiday.
Dec 19, 2016 2:36 PM
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.
Nov 4, 2016 2:36 PMDuring 2016, Mr. Huf had the opportunity to meet with both the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and the President of the UN General Assembly for the 2015-16 term. As a Representative (Observer) to the UN on behalf of the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA), a recognized Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Mr. Huf took a keen interest in what they had to say.
(Left to Right: H.E. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations; and, Jason Huf)
Nearing the end of his second term, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been very earnest in showcasing and attempting to make effective his crowning accomplishment: the UN Sustainable Development Treaty (the Treaty), which garnered a record number of member states joining as signatories.In April, the Secretary-General reached out to the private sector, in particular the US Legal Community in New York City, to see what they could do to help promote and ensure the success of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are embodied in the Treaty (for more on the SDGs specifically, we invite you to peruse www.un.org).While the underlying purpose of the SDGs is noble (after all, who doesn't like clean air & water, equal rights, rule of law and the like), as lawyers we are limited to providing our corporate clients with legal advice, not business or public relations advice. We can only advise our clients on how to be compliant with the laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdiction(s). If a client were to invest in, say, Saudi Arabia (KSA) in such a manner that it promotes gender equality in that market, it may be a terrific selling point - but, that's a PR decision, not a legal requirement.We will discuss gender equality and other relevant issues in the KSA when providing JHI's write-up on Mr. Huf's attendance at and observations of the week-long "Riyadh Day" presentations at the UN. As to the promotion and enforcement of the SDG's, it really is up to the signatories to pass executing legislation before attorneys can advise on how to comply with such provisions. And let's face it, only government can concentrate the resources and power necessary to execute such sweeping and extensive changes.The odds of that happening really have to be measured on a state-by-state basis. As to the Western states, Mr. Huf points out that in politics there is an ebb and flow, with a pendulum that swings right and left, and the present trend appears to be one wherein Western countries are electing more conservative, business-friendly governments. If Mr. Huf is correct, then issues such as combating "climate change", for example, will (for the time being at least) take a back seat to pro-energy policies that are likely to be adopted by such governments.Irrespective of what one thinks of the feasibility of accomplishing the SDGs by the target date of 2030, no one should doubt the Secretary-General's sincerity in wanting these goals to be accomplished, or what he views as the UN's power to shepherd such change. Mr. Huf found His Excellency's sincerity, passion and enthusiasm to be obvious in that he wears it on his sleeve. He also thinks it obvious that the Secretary-General is highly intelligent, exceedingly accomplished, and a very nice man.Its a remarkable life story, really. From UN Refugee to UN Secretary-General: finding himself to be a UN refugee at age 6 with the outbreak of the Korean War, to becoming an advocate for lasting peace as the Republic of Korea's (South Korea's) Foreign Minister, to being Secretary-General of the international body that once shielded him and his family as young refugee, he proudly says "I am a UN Boy".
(Left to Right: Morgens Lykketoft (Denmark), then-President of the United Nations General Assembly; and, Jason Huf)
On the subject of choosing his successor as Secretary-General, Mr. Huf had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Morgens Lykketoft, formerly the Finance Minister of Denmark who, until this September, served as President of the UN General Assembly.Mr. Lykketoft provided an overview of changes to the selection process. Perhaps the most fundamental innovation is the vetting of candidates by member states that occurs prior to the vote taken by the Security Council members.Whereas in past years the entire process of selecting a Secretary-General was dominated by the "Big Five" (the permanent Security Council members: the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom & France), candidates for their consideration are now first reviewed, narrowed down and subsequently voted upon by the General Assembly.The Security Council is not bound by any recommendation made or preference expressed by the General Assembly; however, to elect a candidate that was not considered favorably by the General Assembly would be to risk a divide between the Secretariat (the executive wing and permanent bureaucracy of the UN, which the Secretary-General heads) and the member states themselves (upon which the very legitimacy of the UN relies).On the other hand, this increased, more hands-on role by the member states and the General Assembly as a whole could provide for greater transparency in the selection process and, when heeded by the Security Council, may lead to greater consensus between the General Assemby and Secretariat.This year, the revised process produced the election of Antonio Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal who once served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He will take over the office of Secretary-General in January of 2017.In addition to achieving the SDG's, Mr. Guterres's efforts are promised to be focused on continued reform of the UN bureaucracy; continued streamlining, expansion and enhancement of refugee assistance; and, very prominently, an aggressive new "surge" in diplomacy for peace - an intensification in seeking resolution to the wide proliferation of conflicts around the world, especially those conflicts that have led to several severe refugee crises currently plaguing humankind globally.JHI congratulates Mr. Guterres on his election after a months-long campaign that included a rigorous review process resulting in consensus in both the General Assembly and (somewhat remarkably) the Security Council as well; and, cautions: careful what you wish for, sir - because now you've got it.The retiring Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, even after all of his success in his position at an institution he has loved and revered since childhood, nonetheless seems very happy to return home to Seoul after 10 rewarding - but long - years. JHI congratulates him as well, and thanks him for his service. We hope His Excellency enjoys a well-earned retirement after a long, but safe, journey home.
Oct 12, 2016 2:38 PMBy R. Jason Huf
You know why you went to law school in the first place: You wanted to help people, change the world, "make a difference", be part of the solution... to whatever. Yeah, and you wanted to live a glorious, fabulous lifestyle at the top of the heap, respected by society and basking in financial comfort. What, no? Liar.When you finally graduated and passed the bar exam, your new professional qualification represented to you - at long last - the Keys to the Kingdom!
OK, so how's that workin' out for ya?
Now that I'm exactly one week into my latest attempt to quit smoking, and as the cold wind howls off the waters of the South Seaport and into the concrete canyons of Downtown Manhattan's Financial District, signaling the evaporation of yet another summer, I reasoned that penning my previously-promised piece on Work/ Life Balance would be timely.
(The cold wind cometh... )
You've devoted the first "better" half of your life to developing, well, a better life for you and yours.
Late nights at the office during the beginning of your career - part of the drill. No biggie.
More late nights managing junior fee earners once you become more seasoned - part of the drill, and "almost there". No biggie.
You're now a partner or solo practitioner and the near-constant focus is on client development; or a GC who is a company's responsible officer with a hand in everything from strategic decisions to managing the costs of outside counsel while demonstrating value for those costs; "sigh" - part of the drill, once the rain comes in steady, or I make it to the board of directors, its smooth sailing. No biggie.
Then... You've made it! Finally!! You're also 60 years old. Its over... Where did the time go and what was it for? It doesn't matter. Bye-bye. Oh yeah, and: No Biggie.
(No, my office doesn't look like this, either... )
Time is the one resource we can never obtain more of - only less. Every day. Whether we actually make good (or, any) use of it or not.
And, particularly with lawyers, once we become good at something in our field - whatever your practice areas - those things tend to become routine. Eventually, routine becomes routine. We go through the motions, the excitement of "changing the world" goes away, and its the same old same old that one cannot get away from for even the smallest amount of time, because we've got to do that billable work so we can pay those bills. Joy.
("Seriously, I went to law school for this?")
I worked for years to build my reputation as "Mr. Middle East". However, there are no more revolutionary Shari'ah-compliant financing products to help invent, no more reforms to educational systems in different parts of Arabia. Doing client work that, in some small way, may someday help to generate a broad-based, self-sustaining middle class in the Middle East is more or less over with. Moving forward, whatever happens there is pretty much already in the cards. All too often, I arrive home at 1:00am or so, pet my dog, and think of something along the lines of "Another fast food franchise on Hamdan Street... " or "Another oil refinery in the middle of some dusty nowhere... " followed by the usual "Yay. Who cares."
That's not good. A steady supply of "Bread and Butter" is nice to have, but when its all you have, things can get pretty damned dull. When we get to the point when our work day is up to 16 or even 20 hours a day some days, 5 or 6 days per week, and we no longer care about what we're doing, much less have a passion for it, then this invariably leads to the most dreaded word in the legal lexicon. The "B Word"...BURNOUT!!!
Like many in our profession, I've always been something of a minor league insomniac, so why not work late into the night, anyway? I've done some of my best thinking at 10:00pm. Of course, this means I won't be able to decompress to the point where I can sleep until 3:00am, and that's not good when you have to wake up at 6:00am.
Professional and personal dissatisfaction, as well as chronic exhaustion and "no life syndrome", are common among lawyers. And, there's no way out: you've already invested too much into your career, and your life (or, mere existence, such as it may be) is already half over anyway.
Not necessarily! The good news is, if you're good at your job, your success partially stems from your possession of excellent time management skills and your adept ability to prioritize tasks. Put those skills to work and carve out some free time - make "having a life" one of those tasks which you prioritize on a regular (well OK - semi-regular) basis.
(R&R - fit in in!)
We are in the business of being effective counselors who help our clients, be they individual or corporate clients. If you're not being good to yourself, its only a matter of time before you're not being as good as you could and should be for your clients.
I began this summer thinking it was time for "Mr. Middle East" to make full use of his time and status (OK, "Mr. Middle East" may not be lofty to the point of august, but it is kind of snazzy... ). And, then, I proceeded to more or less waste my entire summer. So, what's one summer? No biggie.... Wrong. Its a "biggie". Given my visceral dislike of winter, its effectively the waste of an entire year. Enjoying anything in the cold, wet, sharp, biting wind of the winter months takes considerable effort - and, anything that requires so much effort to "enjoy" is, definitionally, unenjoyable.
At my age, a year's worth of waste is waste I can ill-afford. I will never permit that to happen again - and, neither should you.
Necessary late nights will happen. That cannot be helped. But, working late for the mere sake of making "valuable" use of your waking hours misses the real value of time.
You - and your clients - can withstand you taking an evening, or even an entire day, off. Working from home once in a while isn't the end of the world, either. Trimming that commute time off of your schedule can make a heck of a difference, and technology makes working from home easier than ever.
In managing your time and prioritizing your tasks to make room for an actual "life", don't just take advantage of good weather as and when the seasons of the year allow, but make the most of the location where you are based: whether you've planted your flag in New York, Philadelphia, London, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi, Tampa, Florida or Ashville, North Carolina, you live in one of the great cities of the world - make the most of it. Its practically a sin if you don't!
In New York, where I chose to locate JHI's HQ, I am a subway ride from some of the most exciting entertainment on earth, and walking distance from several quick, pleasant distractions.
(The World-Famous ROCKETTES!!)
Whether its taking a few hours one evening to enjoy the spectacle of the world's greatest precision dance troupe at work, or a stroll through battery park after your afternoon nap, a brief refresher could actually increase the quality or your work while not severly limiting the amount of time available for work.
In addition to a bit of exercise, a proper diet doesn't hurt, either...
Taking an obscenely long lunch at a comfortable, but not too over-priced, local eatery may be just the ticket when looking for R&R opportunities that will make your thoughts sharper, more clear and faster but more thorough. You won't be able to send your client the bill, but perhaps you should given the subsequent improvement in your performance that results from taking a nice, relaxing breather...
("I wonder if they still serve those off-menu parmesean fries... ")
You can also combine business with pleasure. For example, in line with my loathing for winter, during the bitter months of January and/ or February, I am considering taking a tour of the Middle East and South Asia where the weather will be perfect at that time of year, to visit the Jeddah, KSA office as well as possible expansion points for JHI in the jurisdictions/ markets of the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi & Dubai), Singapore and India.
Well, I gotta go - I've always wanted to date a Rockette and that's not going to happen by itself, nor will I be able to make it happen while sitting within the four walls of my office.
For now, remember: being good to others first requires that you be good to yourself. Although its easier said than done, "Don't Live to Work, Work to Live" - get back to living the life you intended to live when you started this journey. It comes down to good time management and shrewd prioritization. If you have run out of professional challenges, perhaps find one or two new challenges in your travels. And, there is one more thing that anyone can do, everyone should do more often, it doesn't cost you anything or require additional time, and if you do it more often, it can make a world of difference:
- Jason Huf
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
New York, NY
Sep 9, 2016 11:44 AMThis is one day of the year all of us set aside for remembering, but there is never a day when we forget.
As with dates officially deemed "National Holidays", JHI's New York HQ Office - per annual Firm tradition - will be closed for business this Monday, September 12, in observance of the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001.Just as JHI is proud to perform work that may make some small contribution to what, some day, may be the development of a broad, self-sustaining middle class in the Middle East, JHI is honored to be a witness to the resurgence of downtown Manhattan. The Financial District's magnificent comeback is best symbolized by our neighboring Liberty Tower:
September 11 will be a day of remembrance and reflection for us all. JHI will resume offering high-quality professional services on Tuesday, September 13.JHI also wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid Al Adha holiday. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect delays in certain services due to office closures - particularly banks and government offices - throughout the Middle East region during the holiday, which is scheduled to begin at sundown on Sunday, September 11.
Aug 23, 2016 5:50 PMYou are about to see a rapid-fire (for this space, anyway) succession of as yet unpublished updates covering a period from Spring 2016 to present. We will start with an initial discussion of Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030”, touted as the most sweeping series of reforms in the Kingdom’s history.In a nutshell, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is a collection of planned economic and social reforms designed to construct a “Post-Oil” Saudi Arabia, in line with globally-held concepts of Sustainable Development. King Salman has invested his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with broad, sweeping powers to enable him, his advisors and other subordinates to design and execute these reforms between now and the target date of 2030.Within the stated goals of weaning the Kingdom (KSA) off of being an Oil-based economy and becoming an industrialized state, with greater Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), full employment for working-aged males, improved access to high-quality education, greater rights for women and a more liberal social structure generally, two items are immediately obvious: we are seeing Riyadh’s intent to finalize the end the era wherein OPEC, the powerful cartel of oil-producing states, has been the world’s definitive maker of oil policy; and, a rapid and intense military build-up intended to strengthen a block of states that includes the KSA, Egypt and the smaller Gulf States determined to withstand growing Iranian and Russian influence in the Gulf region following continued declining US influence and interest there and in the greater Middle East.While JHI is not a policy think tank, we feel it is important to know the backdrop and overall purpose of any upcoming reforms.Our principle concern is FDI, and the impact any reforms may have on the attractiveness of FDI in the KSA. This program is still young, so specific laws and regulations impacting FDI are not yet in effect. For the time being, there is nothing set in concrete that a law firm can dissect for the benefit of its clients.Therefore, in our typical less-than-modest fashion, JHI offers some suggestions on how to make FDI in the KSA more attractive to potential investors:1. The Corporate Income Tax should continue to be (gradually) lowered, and personal income tax should remain zero. Although declining oil revenues and their impact on the national government’s budget needs to be addressed, increasing the number of companies investing in the KSA, rather than increasing the tax existing companies pay, seems the best way to address the current budget shortfalls giving rise to the KSA’s national debt.2. Saudization is seen, by and large, as a form of tax by potential foreign investors. The best way to address the employment crisis in the KSA is not by compelling investors to hire Saudi nationals, but by making the hiring of them more attractive. Foreign investors ordinarily love to avail themselves of a local workforce – after all, importing staff and finding housing for them is pretty darned expensive! Many such imported workers do not know the language or withstand the culture shock very well. Unfortunately, fairly or unfairly, the idea of hiring Saudis is generally considered unattractive, thus the current Saudization requirements. Rather than increase these requirements, education should be improved and made more accessible, and a sense of work ethic (rather than entitlement) needs to be instilled in the Kingdom’s youth. And, the world needs to actually KNOW of the existence of such an educated, hard-working labor pool – numbering in the millions, and proud of real accomplishment at the workplace. Do this, and Saudization will no longer be necessary at all.3. Make the process of obtaining a business license less burdensome and more efficient. Telling clients that it could take a minimum of six (6) months to obtain the necessary documentation before proceeding with business activity tends to be something of a turn-off for them. Additional agencies designed to steer and otherwise regulate foreign investment eases nothing and are simply additional "layers” of bureaucracy. Streamlining, rather than adding to, the process of licensing incoming businesses would be a productive step.4. Women’s rights, and human rights generally, should be broadened – and, can be without offending the Kingdom’s religious sensibilities or its historical traditions. It is much easier, on multiple levels, for a company to invest in a country whose culture is not the focus of controversial discussions centered around notions of equality and individual human dignity. Additionally, it is essential that people throughout the Kingdom feel some sense of “ownership” in their country and their respective futures (see, 2. above). They need to feel that their rights are being protected by their government, not denied. This isn’t a call for the overnight imposition of Jeffersonian democracy. Quite the contrary: JHI asserts that the keys to unlocking a more liberal social structure (without rocking the stability of the KSA) lay within the old tribal and other cultural traditions of the modern Kingdom.5. The labor market, and the regulation of such, should be loosened, and greater rights should be provided to foreign “unskilled” laborers and household staff. As above (see, 4.), this is a matter of conscious for many potential investors, as well as foreign professional staff who visit the KSA.6. Banking reform is a must. The KSA is one of the most – if not the most – “underbanked” markets on the face of the earth. While new banks and fresh capital and competition need to be allowed in, stronger regulation and monitoring needs to be in place, giving rise to stronger internal compliance programs. While banking needs to be more readily available in the KSA, companies and governments around the world also need to have more confidence in the country’s banks.7. For local and foreign companies alike, receivables can be something of a headache in the KSA. Its no secret that debt, and the collection of debt, can be problematic there. As the Kingdom undertakes judicial reform, it should continue to consider the importance of the confidence a company can have in the investment it makes in Saudi Arabia.8. One of the most crucial assets in play when investing in any country is a company’s intellectual property. Intellectual property protections and anti-piracy measures need to be greatly strengthened, and quickly. It is important for any company (say, you sell shampoo and find yourself competing with a counterfeit knock-off of your product – that’s not good), but when looking to attract high-tech industries, especially, it is absolutely fundamental that such companies have confidence that intellectual property worth hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of US dollars will not be stolen from them and effectively rendered next to worthless overnight.These are eight basic principle points upon which JHI would like to see the building of any reform package affecting FDI in the KSA.JHI will track any concrete steps within this subject, and Mr. Huf hopes to learn more when “Riyadh Day” (its actually a week of symposiums, workshops and other such meetings), sponsored by the KSA’s High Commission for the Development of Riyadh, is held at the United Nations in New York at the end of September.
Jul 5, 2016 2:41 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan, despite the challenges to peace and security during the Holy Month this year. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.JHI will continue its expansion in the region and hopes that, even as they mourn those lost this past week, the good people of Medina, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Kingdom celebrate God-given life and its highest pursuits.
In the United States, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of our Independence on July 4. These past several weeks have seen barbarity at its worst. With specific reference to the terrorist attack at Medina, we in the Land of Liberty, irrespective of faith, stand with and pray for the innocent victims of that atrocity. Everyone has a right to freedom from terror.
While the savage primitives of ISIS/IL are strongly suspected of coordinating the attack in Medina and other places throughout Saudi Arabia, no group as of the date of this writing has claimed responsibility and the motives of the suicide bomber in Medina are as yet unknown. It was nonetheless a murderous act of barbarity that the whole of the civilized world must reject. ANY "cause" served by the use of Terror as a tactic must, summarily, be deemed illegitimate.
Further, when terrorism is employed, the actors betray their so-called "cause" to be nothing more than a pretext for a war of conquest. This is the reality civilized people across the globe must face with the determination that any such enemy will be defeated and placed in history's rubbish pile, along with so many other would-be tyrants of the past.
Jun 6, 2016 11:28 AMTo all of our friends around the world who observe the Holy Month, we at JHI hope that you and your families enjoy a meaningful period of dedication to fasting, reflection and prayer during these historically challenging times. May your loved ones take this holiday as an opportunity grow closer to each other, your neighbors, the less fortunate and the whole of humanity.
We wish you good health in the year ahead. Ramadan Mubarak!
Oct 23, 2015 3:25 PMIn a somewhat pioneering step, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is close to finalizing an Insolvency Law modeled after Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Law.
The devil will be in the details, but here is what we've heard thus far:
Under the supervision of a UAE court, a distressed company that successfully files for such protection will be able to restructure its debt with outstanding creditors;
The law may include some degree of decriminalization of issuing dishonored, or "bounced", checks (cheques, for our British friends); and,
The overarching goal of this legislation is to improve the business environment by removing (or, at least, mitigating) some of the uncertainty of risk that may arise when investing in a country which may be rich with disposable income, but which is still "developing" - where the economy, laws and political system are still rapidly evolving.
The extent to which such protections would be available to companies with some element of foreign ownership remains unclear. However, if it is well done, this new Insolvency Law could prove to be a significant long-term development for the economy of the UAE, and (perhaps) the Gulf Cooperation Council region more generally.
With the election of a new Federal National Council, one might anticipate final passage of the new Insolvency Law soon. Perhaps. Inshallah. More to come...
Sep 18, 2015 11:13 AMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid Al Adha holiday. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect delays in certain services due to office closures - particularly banks and government offices - throughout the Middle East region during the holiday, which is scheduled to begin on the evening of Wednesday, September 23.
Jul 17, 2015 1:11 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan.
We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.
Jul 10, 2015 2:09 PMBy R. Jason Huf
When the Saudi government decided to ramp up the production of light, sweet crude oil and crash the price of it world-wide, the first thing most people in the United States (quite rightly) noticed was the sharp decline in the price of gasoline. It’s the best break working people in America have enjoyed in a long time, and has generated economic growth that no artificial government “stimulus” program can ever hope to match.
Middle East practitioners like myself, on the other hand, immediately understood two things: 1. the increase in production was designed to dampen the profitability of energy projects, particularly by oil & gas producers in the United States – which, in turn, helps to continue to make the maintenance of stability in Saudi Arabia a priority for Western countries and their oil-dependent economies; and, 2. it was a direct attack against the cohesiveness of the Kingdom’s arch-enemy, Iran, and some of its anti-Western allies such as Venezuela and, particularly, Russia (all three countries having economic models with price floors for oil that are unsustainable in the current environment).
Iran's desperate economic situation notwithstanding, they have lashed out and struck back on a variety of levels and are emboldened by recent victories in Yemen, Iraq and Vienna. Iran is increasingly aggressive in the region, and Saudi Arabia is feeling ever distant from the United States. As to the fear of a regional arms race stemming from the unabated existence of the Iranian nuclear arms program, such an arms race is already underway.
Keenly aware that the balance of power in the Middle East continues to swing in favor of Iran and that the United States is decreasingly interested in serving as the region's chief guarantor of security in the region, the Arab states may feel that they are in a desperate situation themselves. Let us not forget, that the despicable and barbaric terrorist organization ISIS/ ISIL was originally cobbled together with the support of Turkey and Qatar to serve as a hyper-radicalized Sunni buffer against encroaching Shia (Iranian) power. The Saudi move to create an oil supply glut and the joint Saudi/ Egyptian military operations against Iranian clients in Yemen seem, thus far, insufficient to halt Iranian momentum.
If the present trend continues, a direct region-wide conflict between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, et al vs. Iran and Syria seems more likely, not less.
We live in an era when asymmetrical warefare that utilizes non-uniformed combatants targeting civilians to engender fear and instability so as to achieve a political or otherwise socially relevant end (e.g., "terrorism") has become a regular feature, turning cities well behind the lines of a given conflict into battlefields themselves. What do you do when you are a business that has invested in a region wherein the situation has become so uncertain?
Well, that depends on the industry you are in, how much risk you (and your insurance providers) are willing to absorb, and what kind of talent you think you can attract to work in such an environment.
As for myself, I remain committed to my relationship with Jeddah. The Jeddah office consists of local personnel, I have spent years developing my practice, and I have never been one to simply throw away the fruits of my own hard work. At present, my inclination is to stay the course.
In fact, having considered this contingency for some time, I am currently leaning toward expansion, rather than withdrawal. I feel it may soon become time to further live up to my firm's catch phrase - and, follow my natural instincts - and explore.
Whereas some firms may be examining their options on executing an exit strategy, I am exploring the possibility of expanding into new jurisdictions and expanding the range of assistance I can provide to Western companies that remain in the region.
As an attorney, your practice is client-driven. Some companies will stay, some will leave and new businesses will enter one or more Gulf Cooperation Council markets. There will continue to be a need for Western legal expertise working hand-in-hand with local practitioners throughout the region.
Perhaps more fundamentally, I am proud of the work I have done over the years. From assisting with Shari-ah-compliant finance to education reform, I have been a small piece of a small piece in the jigsaw puzzle of helping to foster an environment wherein one may someday see a broad-based, self-sustaining middle class in the Middle East.
This sense of accomplishment will be foremost on my mind as I look toward Exploring the Boundaries of My Own Business...
– Jason Huf
Friday, July 10, 2015
New York, NY
Jun 18, 2015 11:55 AMTo all of our friends around the world who observe the Holy Month, we at JHI hope that you and your families enjoy, and gain real value from, the meaningful aspects of an entire month dedicated to fasting, reflection and prayer - especially during these somewhat unsettled times. May your loved ones take this holiday as an opportunity grow closer to each other, and humanity generally. We wish you good health in the year ahead.
Nov 25, 2014 5:53 PMArbitration clauses are often heavily negotiated and complex enough to be referred to as “a contract within the contract”. The reasons for this are obvious (even to us transactional practitioners). The exact terms of a dispute resolution clause can have far-reaching consequences.One of the goals in crafting such a clause is to mitigate the irreconcilability of disputes as they arise by putting your client in the best possible position in the event of a scenario that triggers termination and subsequent arbitration. Naturally, both sides have this in mind during negotiations. But, what happens in jurisdictions where the enforceability of arbitration clauses may be considered by some, fairly or unfairly, to be a somewhat unsettled question?Until recently, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (or, KSA) has been a member to the New York Convention (on the enforcement of arbitral awards), this did not always lead one to predict with certainty that a Saudi court would recognize the validity of the arbitration clause in your agreement with a local party and direct that party to resort to arbitration, as per your agreement. In the past, senior judicial officials and other legal professionals in Saudi Arabia have on occasion issued public pronouncements that arbitration clauses are contrary to Shari’ah and are therefore invalid, and should not be enforced by Saudi courts.That is to say, in Saudi Arabia you may have had the right to enforce an arbitral award granted by a tribunal (keeping in mind the difficulty some may experience in attempting actual collection in the Kingdom), but such public pronouncements may have lead some to wonder if you could successfully assert that the underlying dispute be entered into arbitration in the first place (in the KSA), depending on whether or not the judge in the Saudi court deciding the question deemed your particular arbitration clause (or, arbitration clauses generally) to be appropriate under, or contrary to, Shari'ah.
Today, some are hopeful that the passage of the KSA's new Arbitration Law of 2012 (based on the UNCITRAL Model Arbitration Law) to supplant the KSA Arbitration Law of 1983, and the creation of judicial training centers and the subsequent appointment of judges to serve in a new commercial court system in the KSA, will lead to greater clarity on the subject of the enforcement of arbitration clauses. As with any legal reform, time will tell.In the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE), the considerations differ. The validity of the arbitration clause, the formation of the contact, and the nature of the relationship between the parties themselves are just a few of the considerations that a court could measure in weighing the enforceability of a given arbitration clause.
Any Emirati national (individual or corporate) has the right to avail itself of the protection and justice of the courts of the UAE. In the past, this may have prompted some local parties in the UAE to move that a local court should assert jurisdiction, despite the existence of an arbitration clause. It should be said, however, that in the UAE (a commercial hub in the Gulf region that has become famous for the "City of Dreams", Dubai, and increasingly the "Green Emirate" of Abu Dhabi), such motions should rely on more than this basic right if a party wishes to succeed in its attempt to escape arbitration under a valid clause.
Following certain provisions of the UAE (federal) Civil Code, judges in local courts should hold that validly written arbitration clauses are enforceable, except when there exist particular circumstances. For example, in disputes arising from registered commercial agency agreements a judge may deem an otherwise valid arbitration clause unenforceable and declare it void on the grounds that clauses calling for alternative dispute resolution (or, ADR) in such contracts are contrary to, or inconsistent with, "Public Policy". (Please note: the commonly used, colloquial term "sponsorship agreement" is much broader and could refer to several different types of business relationships in the UAE; whereas, "registered commercial agency agreements" refers to a specific type of business relationship, which must also be properly registered with the relevant government office in accordance with both the law and the terms stipulated in the agreement itself.)So, what do you do when doing business internationally, and some of your relationships are with parties in the Middle East?Negotiate an arbitration clause.
And, retain an experienced attorney with local knowledge (preferably one with a presence in the specific jurisdiction in question: the laws of Middle Eastern jurisdictions, like the laws of countries in other regions of the world, are subject to change).
If the local party with which your company is doing business has attachable assets outside of the Middle East in a country where collections may be deemed less frustrating, that can be a plus. But, as with just about everything else, there is no substitute for experience -- and solid, relevant legal experience may be one of your best assets at the negotiating table.
Oct 7, 2014 6:12 PMIn the Middle East, the old joke among Western lawyers goes something like this: “First you negotiate the contract, then you close the contract. And then, you renegotiate the contract… ”All good jokes are rooted in the truth. While there certainly are some local parties in the Middle East who are committed to keeping their word and sticking to the deal they negotiated, there does exist this unfortunately common dynamic wherein the local party will test, stretch and even flat-out ignore the terms of an agreement they just executed. One might even lose money betting against a breach occurring before the ink dries.And yet, throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, billions of (US) dollars worth of business is successfully transacted each and every year by and between foreign and local parties. How does that work?It starts with understanding what local businessmen already know: going to court, dumping your local agent (or, colloquially speaking, your “sponsor”), etc, are usually your last best options. You can see your company effectively frozen out of the market if you make such a move without an almost perfect sense of deftness. And, even if eventually successful, should your company go this route, you have embarked on a long, aggravating and expensive disruption of business that will give rise to discussions that start with, “Why don’t we just pull out of there?”We will talk about arbitration clauses (and, the enforceability of them in GCC jurisdictions) in a subsequent posting. For now, you also need to understand that the local sponsor, or other local parties with whom your company does business, who busies himself with stretching the terms of your agreement is primarily (if not entirely) in the business of sponsoring foreign enterprises (or otherwise makes his money conducting business with foreign parties). Maintaining sponsorships or other replationships with foreign investors (and, protecting their reputations and pride) tend to be the top priorities of local companies. So, when such companies appear to breach their agreements, what do they hope to gain by playing around?Usually, more money. And, usually, not much more. More often than not, you can settle the matter by amending a couple of terms and (slightly) goosing up their sponsorship “fee” (or, whatever other payment, profit or compensation they may be receiving).What about the law of contracts? Why can’t I look for a new sponsor and/ or seek judicial recourse?Remember that the laws requiring you to obtain a sponsor in the first place are protectionist in nature. On an unofficial level, shopping around for more pliant for cooperative sponsors isn’t designed to be easy.Also, while consideration, reliance and other concepts are necessary to show a promise made in contract is enforceable under the laws of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), such is not the case to show the existence of an enforceable contract in Saudi Arabia (KSA). In the KSA, if you make a promise, you’re stuck with it.Isn’t the other side stuck with it, too???Well, in the Middle East, there is the law the way it is written, and the law the way its enforced. And, to further complicate things, that which is enforced is not always written, and that which is written is not always enforced. If you wind up in a KSA court, you may have a judge whose primary concern is sending a signal to his government, more than adjudicating a dispute between the parties before him. In the UAE, much may depend on whether the judge enjoyed his breakfast, or if he is miserable from a belly ache, as he reads your company’s brief… (And, keep in mind, the UAE imports its judges from other countries – those judges tend to be mindful of who gave them their jobs.)As to getting another sponsor, while the UAE and the individual Emirates therein may not employ “black lists” per se (as does the KSA), you should nonetheless do your best to avoid running afoul of bureaucrats at relevant ministries and other governmental offices who may have a cousin, friend, or other acquaintance who may just happen to be your soon-to-be former sponsor or other business partner/ associate. Business licenses have to be renewed every year, and your specific business may well depend on successfully bidding on government tenders; and, while Abu Dhabi and Dubai, for example, may look like big cities, they still very much operate as “small towns” on many different levels.That’s not to say successfully changing your sponsor and/ or winning a contractual dispute with a local party in the Middle East is impossible. Such has been known to happen in Abu Dhabi, and even in Jeddah (where arbitration clauses are less likely to be deemed enforceable by local courts, even though the KSA is a party to the New York Convention). Accordingly, you should protect yourself in the governing documentation the way you would in any other international agreement.Have the standard choice of law, venue, and language clauses, as well an arbitration clause (which can be something of a contract unto itself) and, especially, a (carefully written) termination clause. If an American-based company (or, even if you are based in another Western country but have operations in the US), make sure the documentation includes language concerning your refusal to violate the provisions of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (over the last several years, the trend has been increasingly robust enforcement of the FCPA). American companies might also think to include a so-called “anti-boycott” clause in the agreement, given the on again/ off again enforcement of boycotts against Israel by some Arab states.Although the general mood in the GCC seems to favor a direction wherein the laws are being changed to relax the hold local parties (especially those deemed “sponsors”) have over foreign direct investment in their respective markets/ jurisdictions, it is usually best to try to renegotiate when a breach occurs. Such renegotiation should, generally speaking, settle upon a slight increase in the amount of earnings the local party derives from the deal.
Jul 28, 2014 2:48 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect delays in certain services, and possible disruptions of projected time frames, due to office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.
Jul 9, 2014 3:37 PMBetween the July 4 weekend and other summer holidays, high summer in the Middle East, the holy month of Ramadan, and some sort of soccer tournament, we find ourselves in the unusual position of having a little free time here at JHI.As such, watch THIS SPACE: In the coming weeks, JHI will post a brief article right here in our Notes & Comments section on Hydraulic Fracturing (colloquially referred to as “Fracking”).
Following Labor Day, JHI will publish a brief note on contracting with parties in Middle Eastern jurisdictions (in particular, Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates(UAE)); and, in a subsequent writing, JHI will share some thoughts on Arbitration Clauses when doing business internationally.
And, while there tends not to be many developments in the law anywhere in world during these summer months, JHI will continue to keep our eyes peeling concerning such developments as and when they affect Marcellus Shale Natural Gas, Charter Schools, Municipalities, Middle Eastern jurisdictions (particularly Gulf Cooperation Council jurisdictions), the law of Contracts, the laws of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and the KSA, and business law generally.In the meantime, we would just like to wish all concerned a safe and happy summertime!
Jun 27, 2014 11:50 AMTo all of our friends around the world who observe the Holy Month, we at JHI hope that you and your families enjoy and gain value from the meaningful aspects of an entire month dedicated to prayer and fasting. May your loved ones grow closer to each other, and humanity generally, during this time. We wish you good health in the year ahead.Ramadan Mubarak!
- Jason Huf
Jun 5, 2014 12:33 PMJHI is pleased to announce that the Firm's Founder and Principal has been awarded the honor of serving as Co-Chairman of the New York County Lawyers' Association's (NYCLA) Foreign & International Law Committee, effective June 1, 2014."This is an exciting time for the Foreign & International Law Committee, and NYCLA generally. Jay (Safer) and Jacqueline (Wolff) have done a terrific job as Co-Chairs of the Committee over the last several years, and we have some pretty big shoes to fill. It is an honor to follow them, and I will do my level best."Continuing the tradition of hosting excellent guest speakers, and working with NYCLA to explore the offering of CLE programs designed for international practitioners, will be at the top of Mr. Huf's agenda.Mr. Huf assumes the Co-Chairmanship of NYCLA's Foreign & International Law Committee with his distinguished colleague, Ms. Clara Flebus. They will serve together for the 2014-17 term.
May 15, 2014 12:16 PMby R. Jason Huf
Jokes about snakes in the road aside, I have always considered being an attorney to be a great honor and privilege. I practice law, and the law is the ultimate guardian of equality and fair play. I cannot imagine wanting to do anything else for a living.Some of the really great aspects of being a lawyer, especially one with my particular practice areas, are the things I learn and the people I meet.Meet Renad!
Just last year, young Miss Renad T. Amjad became only the third lady in the entire history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to officially register as a Female Trainee Lawyer with the Saudi Ministry of Justice.You can imagine how deeply honored I was when Renad asked to meet with me in New York. She is a fascinating, intelligent, courageous and cheerful young lady who, after being one of those to break a Concrete Ceiling, has a bright future ahead of her. In my line of work, this was akin to meeting Jackie Robinson, and was one of the great thrills of my career.
(I should note here that, being modest and outwardly humble, Renad is not entirely comfortable with the comparison to Jackie Robinson, citing her lack of experience as a lawyer thus far. I will also note here that as she becomes more experienced as a lawyer, she will get used to it - because she's stuck with it.)That's on a personal note. Professionally, Renad is a living, breathing demonstration of the fact that change is coming to Saudi Arabia.Such change may be incremental, but incremental does not mean insignificant. Just look this young lady in the eye and tell her that her accomplishments are "insignificant". I dare you.There are those who advocate for a faster pace of reforms in Saudi Arabia on the subject of women's rights, and more generally. However, I strongly believe that King Abdullah has been shrewd in his implementation of incremental, but meaningful, reform. A broader, faster-paced program of reform would risk destabilizing the Kingdom, which would, in turn, risk destabilizing the region and threaten to send economic shock waves throughout the world.Saudi Arabia may be insular, but it's not isolated. Just as events there impact the global economy, international economic activity - including and especially trade - has had an impact on the Kingdom. And, it shall continue to do so.I have never been one to liberally laud Middle Eastern rulers, but King Abdullah knows his people and is familiar with the different elements in his country with whom he exercises power. To maintain stability, his people need to enjoy greater freedom and feel a larger sense of "ownership" of their lives and their country. But, to move too quickly in that direction would innately threaten such stability. It is a difficult balance beam to walk successfully.The subject matters and pace of reforms in Saudi Arabia have been thoughtful, and ably executed, thus far. We will see how things progress from here.For now, I think I will just enjoy drinking tea with Jackie Robinson.- Jason Huf
New York, NY, USA
May 15, 2014
May 12, 2014 11:06 AMFrom time to time, a trial balloon is floated in one GCC jurisdiction or another concerning the imposition of a new tax, whether it be an individual income tax, corporate tax or a value added tax. The most recent of these is now floating over Dubai, which is still grappling with the residual effects of the 2008 crash while maintaining high levels of infrastructure spending.A prominent Emirati businessman based in Dubai publicly raised the idea of a corporate income tax in Dubai and voiced his general support for such an idea. This is easily to understand, given the depletion of Dubai's oil reserves, the reversal of 2008 and resulting cash crunch, and the Emirate's continued high level of spending. However, it would be somewhat akin to Killing the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.Dubai rose up from the desert, transforming itself from a small trading post adjacent to Sharjah into the "City of Dreams", on the basis of its business-friendly laws, easy access to the oil-rich Gulf region, an unburdensome regulatory environment, quick access to financing and investment capital, and clever marketing revolving around the fact that the Emirate is Tax-Free.
While there are numerous government fees, paid annually, along with payments to sponsors, exceedingly high rental costs and other expenses one could say amount to a sort of taxation, companies and individual entrepreneurs from all over the world continue to flock to Dubai, drawn to the City of Dreams by the prospect of Tax-Free wealth. Imposition of a corporate income tax could threaten this influx and inspire existing businesses to relocate elsewhere in the Gulf. Even if such a tax were quickly repealled, reestablishing Dubai's image, carefully crafted and astutely marketed for many years, might be next to impossible. And, isn't the real "Dream" not quick wealth, but having a broad-based economy not entirely dependent upon oil in the very heart of the Gulf region?
If Dubai is the City of Dreams, the "Green Capital" of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, has been the Emirate of Reality. With much of the UAE's energy resources, over half the country's population and land mass (much of it still undeveloped), and a very similar body of business law and regulations, and a robust banking industry, Abu Dhabi is also Tax-Free. Abu Dhabi may not be known for a miraculous boom of the sort that made Dubai famous, but it has enjoyed steady, broad growth that has withstood the 2008 crash.Today, and not accidentally, Abu Dhabi is a leading target for foreign direct investment. A corporate income tax in Dubai would not only enhance the relative attractiveness of Abu Dhabi to newcomers to the region, it might also encourage some of Dubai's existing businesses to take a two-hour drive and check out why the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is "green" in more ways than one.
Mar 6, 2014 1:38 PMThe government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) recently announced its intention to establish training centers for judges. Such training centers will be administered by the KSA Ministry of Justice. This comes on the heels of King Abdullah's creation of 5,000 new judgeships in the KSA, and is accompanied by vocal opposition from the Kingdom's more traditional, conservative quarters.
For years, the commercial community in the KSA (both local and foreign) has expressed a need for greater transparency in Saudi courts. Procedurally and substantively, a perceived lack of predictability has resulted in a chilling effect on commerce in the KSA.
Arbitration clauses in contracts are of uncertain enforceability in the KSA, as senior judicial officials have, in the past, deemed such clauses to be "contrary to Shari'ah". Accordingly, irrespective of any arbitration clause in any business arrangement entered into, in the event of an irresolvable conflict between the parties one could reasonably expect such a dispute to be adjudicated before a Saudi court.
The uncertain enforceability of arbitration clauses and perceived unpredictability of the courts have combined to generate something of a chilling effect on investment in the KSA. Meanwhile, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) provisions that call for entities native to any GCC Member State to be treated as a local company by the governments of each of the other Member States have added to the investment boom in smaller Gulf countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates: some companies enter those jurisdictions in the hope that, at some point, they might be able to access the much larger Saudi market without completely exposing their investment (or, their employees) to the Saudi legal system.
It is hoped by many in the commercial community that the addition of 5,000 new judges, uniformly trained in the enforcement of commercial and corporate law, will improve the overall business environment in the KSA by generating a greater sense of transparency and predictability in the courts.
The details are as yet unknown; and, conservative elements who view laws and their interpretation as coming from God, not precedent, statute or human beings generally, still have opportunities to oppose the establishment and effective administration of such training centers. JHI will continue to track such developments as they arise.
Feb 26, 2014 1:14 PMStories concerning the 2022 World Cup tournament seem to have taken all the oxygen out of news and information about Qatar. True, Doha is scheduled to be the first Arab state to host the world's largest soccer tournament, and this promises to generate something of an increase to the country's construction boom. But, there's more to this small, wealthy Gulf state than sports.Businesses, whether they be engineering firms, banks, energy companies, franchisors, purveyors of luxury items or manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods, might be interested to know that Qatar is the world's third largest producer of natural gas and has a legal and regulatory enviroment wherein compliance is relatively inexpensive. With the highest GDP per capita in the world, Qatar's consumer base is awash in disposable wealth and opportunities abound.As a law firm, JHI takes particular notice of Qatar's bifurcated legal system. The civil courts there are completely separate from and independent of the Shari'ah courts, and the rest of the government generally. These separate courts that deal with matters relating to foreign commercial interests provide a level of transparancy and predictability for which Gulf-Arab jurisdictions, fairly or unfairly, do not always have a reputation. This, in turn, provides an additional layer of security to companies that expand into, or otherwise invest in, Qatar.Conduct your own economic survey and have accounting crunch the numbers and provide you with the tax implications of such a venture. Then, if satisfied (or, excited), contact an experienced law firm and ask them to provide you with a legal and regulatory survey.Take a look at Doha beyond the glamour of sports and see if you would like to Explore the Boundaries of Your Business.
Jan 8, 2014 2:21 PMJHI's New York HQ office is up and running for 2014 following the Holiday Season (and a burst of inclement weather). As we return from our Holiday, the United Arab Emirates has announced the observance of a Holiday of their own:
Government offices, banks and private enterprises will be closed for business on Sunday, January 12, 2014 in celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. This should not impact international business to any great degree, as Sunday is not a workday in most other parts of the world as it is in the UAE and other GCC states.
We look forward to working on an exciting array of projects this year, and Mr. Huf plans to travel frequently throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on business related to the booming Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.
Speaking of travel, it is that time of the year when Mr. Huf begins booking public speaking appearances. Your next conference or guest lecture series will be discussed for the remainder of the year - Mr. Huf really is that dynamic and compelling. Contact JHI today to discuss subject matters he addresses and to schedule a date. Your next event will be a winner!
JHI hopes your 2014 is as interesting and prosperous as ours. Happy New Year!
Jason Huf International, pc
"Exploring the Boundaries of Your Business."