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
Aug 8, 2017 7:01 PM
By R. Jason Huf
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.
May 26, 2017 1:15 PMIn the United States, we set aside one day to remember those who have fallen in war, defending our freedoms. But, there isn't a single day wherein we forget. We hope that you and yours enjoy the holiday weekend, and that we all take a little time to say a prayer of rememberance and gratitude for our fallen heroes and their families this Memorial Day.
We all die, the only variables are where, when and how - and, sometimes, why. They may be gone, but our war dead are never lost. These soldiers, sailors, airmen & marines are forever in our hearts.
To 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 dedication to fasting, reflection and prayer during this period of tremendous changes throughout the Middle East. 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!
Sep 16, 2016 1:07 PMThe New Jersey (NJ) Senate, by unanimous vote, has passed Senate Bill 602, the "New Jersey International Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation Act", sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean, Jr.A step in the right direction, if this bill becomes law as presently written, it would empower public research universities in the state to establish centers for arbitration and mediation, with such centers providing their own procedural rules.
Parties having a qualifying dispute would chose their own substantive law (with NJ law serving as the “gap filler”) and would be able opt into such a center’s procedural rules or any other set of procedural rules the parties agree to choose.A qualifying dispute would be one in which one or more of the parties is a non-US resident (individual or corporate) as defined by the bill, or when the property or other asset(s) in controversy are located outside of the United States, or when the underlying business relationship significantly concerns some foreign jurisdiction. Domestic commercial disputes may also be arbitrated or mediated at such a center, provided the parties expressly agree to avail themselves of such a facility in the dispute resolution clause of the underlying contract.Parties who elect to have their dispute heard before a panel or tribunal housed by an arbitration center in NJ would have to fully fund a bond equal to the amount of their exposure in the controversy. Additionally, the parties would be deemed to have voluntarily submitted themselves to the (in personam) jurisdiction of the courts of New Jersey upon the execution of their agreement to arbitrate in the state, but only to the extent required by the arbitration and enforcement its resulting decision.Having been passed by the NJ Senate, the bill now moves to the relevant committee of the NJ General Assembly.JHI will continue to track this legislation.
Aug 30, 2016 3:16 PM
As Co-Chairman of the New York County Lawyers' Association's (NYCLA) Foreign & International Law Committee, Mr. Huf enjoys the occassional pleasure of hosting some rather interesting guests.
Just this past March, the Foreign & International Law Committee welcomed the Honorable Gerald Lebovits, Justice of the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan and Adjunct Professor of Law at Columbia, Fordham and NYU. Justice Lebovits provided a presentation covering the Qatar International Court and the time he spent in Doha teaching local attorneys there.
JHI has briefly covered Qatar's Bifurcated Legal System in an earlier piece and we refer you to it for some of the bare bones basics.
Justice Lebovits, in addition to describing his teaching experience in Doha, discussed the history of Qatar's International Court (the Court) for hearing commercial disputes, the caliber of its personnel, its procedures and costs. He also discussed some of the decisions already rendered by the Court, where he participated as one of its distinguished Judges.
(Left to right: Clara Flebus, Co-Chair, NYCLA Foreign & International Law Committee; Hon. Justice Gerald Lebovits; and, Jason Huf)
Justice Lebovits pointed out, at length, what he viewed to be the efficiency of the Court relative to Arbitration facilities elsewhere in the Gulf region. The speed, cost and fairness of the proceedings made the Court, from his perspective, an ideal solution for Dispute Resolution and wondered aloud why parties did not avail themselves of the use of the Court more often in the dispute resolution clauses of their agreements.
Mr. Huf agrees that, on paper and based on performance thus far, the Court is an attractive facility. However, the Court was founded relatively recently (2009), and as an active international practitioner who focuses on the region, Mr. Huf made the point that attorneys might be more receptive to the idea of recommending the use of the Court to their clients after more data is at hand (that is to say, after the Court has adjudicated more disputes). Of course, with attorneys perhaps hesitating to suggest that their client be something of a new legal system's "guinea pig", it may take some time before such additional data is generated.
That said, you would be hard-pressed to find a lawyer in New York City who is as knowledgeable of the inner workings of the Court and the procedures it employs than Justice Lebovits. His entire presentation – including his positive view of the Court's cost and time-effectiveness – was well-informed and compelling.
JHI invites you to research the Qatar International Commercial Court and Dispute Resolution Centre and draw your own conclusions:
After all, as very good lawyers, aren't we always in search of the next "better idea"?
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.
May 25, 2016 1:50 PM
By R. Jason Huf
Its been quite some time since JHI's last Note or Comment, but that doesn't mean that there hasn't been anything to write about. And, its certainly too much to write about all at once.
With Ramadan just around the corner, should the usual business cycle associated with the Holy Month and High Summer come about, I will make maximum use of the time and write more often:
April was a pretty busy month, inside the office and out. Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030" was unveiled by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 25. JHI will provide analysis of the KSA's plan for a "post-Oil" economy, and any changes to the laws of the Kingdom resulting therefrom. We will also continue to track legal developments elsewhere in the Gulf region.
Also, as UN Representative for an NGO, I enjoyed the opportunity of hearing United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speak about the UN's Sustainable Development Treaty, the Sustainable Development Goals, and what the private sector (including the Legal Community) can do to help achieve those goals. This was followed by attending several open forums at the UN, and hosting a talk on 'Conflict Minerals' with an expert on the subject.
I also moderated two very successful Continuing Legal Education panels, one on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the other an Ethics course on Attorney "Branding" for international practitioners.
Almost forgot! In March, I had the pleasure of hosting a New York State judge who discussed the Qatari Commercial Courts after returning from his experience teaching new, young Qatari lawyers in Doha.
More recently, after months of deliberations and conversations with colleagues and others I respect, I have come to a decision on JHI's future in the Middle East - and, beyond.
[ for some of the backstory, click here ---> ].
Further details concerning our expansion of capabilities and services, as well as the other topics outlined above, will be distributed in due course.
In the meantime, Happy Memorial Day -- enjoy the start of summer!
- Jason Huf
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
New York, NY
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 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!
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.