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  • Meh, So What's an Entire Summer Wasted... No Biggie

    By 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!

    Lawyer Attorney Lifestyle


    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.

    Liberty Cold Wet Windy Winter Sucks   (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.

    My Office Doesn't Look Like This, Either   (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.


    Bread and Butter Work   ("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."


    Jason Huf Saudi ARabiaJason Huf Abu Dhabi Stock ExchangeJason Huf PortraitJason Huf & Women's Rights in Saudi ArabiaJason Huf & Women's Rights in Saudi ArabiaJason Huf & Saudi Vision 2030

    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"...

    Dan Fielding Burnout Lawyers Attorneys Lifestyle Work-Life Balance   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.


    Rest Recreation Time Management  (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.

    Lawyer Attorney Lifestyle Work Life Balance   (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...


    Lawyer Attorney Lifestyle Work Life Balance ("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:

    Lawyer Attorney Lifestyle Work Life Balance SMILE!        SMILE !!


    - Jason Huf
    Tuesday, October 11, 2016
    New York, NY
  • WARNING: Quitting Smoking Can Be Hazardous To the Health of Your Career

    By R. Jason Huf
     
    You’re in control.  You’re paid to be in control.  Its not just professional reputation and “image”, its part of who you are (otherwise, that “image” would never fly and your professional reputation would be quite different).
     
    Now, you’re no longer at an age when you’re indestructible.  You’re in, say, your early 30s, you’ve started a family, and you have other concerns ranging from personal health to time management that supersede the importance of getting in that occasional puff, right?
     
    Time to quit smoking.
     
    Congratulations!  You are now on the road to better health.  Air will smell sweeter, food will taste better.  You’ll not have to blow 20+ minutes every two hours riding elevators just to go out into the cold wind and suck one down.  You’ll be here on earth longer for your loved ones.  And, you’ve just said “Good-Bye” to being in control…
     
    "I guess I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue... "

    Those of you who are not smokers are going to write this off as fiction.  After all, enjoying tobacco is no where near the same league as being a heroin addict, a coke head, or some kind of angry alcoholic who drinks whiskey for breakfast.  On several levels, that’s true.  In any event, the following doesn’t so much apply to you, so feel free to skip it.  Now, for my fellow smokers…
     
    As someone who recently suspended his second serious attempt at quitting smoking, I’m confident that I speak with at least some minor amount of authority on this.  My first attempt, years ago, ended with friends handing me cigarettes, calling me a pain in the derriere and more or less telling me to have a smoke and shut up.  I like being “Mr. Nice Guy”.  Knowing I was being something of a monster, I took their advice.
     
    Years later, I am in my 40s, I have my own firm, I am unmarried, clients tend to trust me – I just about answer to no one.  I am in as much command of all I survey, and my remaining future, as I am ever likely to be.  This time it won’t be quite so bad, right?   WRONG.
     
    It was even worse.  Let’s face it, you are dealing with a highly addictive substance (both bio-chemically and psychologically), the use of which is deeply ingrained into your routine.  While individual smokers are each going to react to nicotine withdrawal somewhat differently, talking with other smokers it seems not uncommon that (as happened in my case) every bit of good judgment you’ve ever had will go out the window, and you will say and do things that exemplify the exact opposite of your instincts.  Its like being George Costanza – on crack.
     
    Twiiiiiix!!
     
    “Water off a duck’s back” is part of my very nature.  I lived and worked in, according to many people, the first or second most stressful place on planet earth (no, not New Jersey – the Middle East) for years, and I had a great time.
     
    I find what I call “unnecessary drama” to be entirely repellant.  I never understood it, it serves no useful purpose and it’s a complete turn-off.  For me, it is instantly revolting.  And yet, just a few days after quitting smoking, I was the King of Unnecessary Dramas.  Putting something into a microwave oven, setting it for two minutes, and then becoming visibly and verbally agitated because two minutes is actually taking two minutes makes no sense.  Having the irrepressible, manic need to make sure someone – anyone – knows about your overwhelming sense of frustration, however, is worse than irrational.  It is thoroughly obnoxious.
     
    If you’ve already lived this nightmare and don’t wish to relive it, avert your eyes, (if you haven’t already).  If not, then picture if you will...
     
    Imagine if you will...     a bizarre realm...
     
    You will lash out over the silliest things.  Every matter great or small, real or perceived, will take on an urgency that one normally associates with a burning building.  You will know that this lashing-out is a mistake, do it anyway and then feel embarrassed to the point of being disturbed by your own behavior almost immediately afterward.  And then, just five minutes later, you’ll be doing it all over again.  Everyone in your orbit will suffer, including you.

    Lock me up, baby!
     
    What this kind of bizarre behavior can do to your image, professional reputation and your career is obvious.  And, to make matters worse, as lawyers, these brains of ours are what we work with – it’s the most important tool in the shed.  So, naturally, trying to bury yourself in your work as the storm passes seems a rather dangerous solution.

    And, what about the ethical implications of insisting on continuing your work??
     
    That said, you still have to get stuff done.  You can’t isolate yourself.  Moving into a cabin without access to electricity in northern Canada for two weeks and wrestling polar bears (or, whatever folks up there do for exercise) isn’t an option.  And, for those of you who remember the old TV show “Get Smart”, I’m sorry to break this to you, but the “Cone of Silence” doesn’t actually work…

    Can't Isolate Yourself

    You can’t just quit quitting – that would be quitting!  Another loss of control.  The cherry on top of a monumental, multi-layered failure.  If we were OK with failure, we wouldn’t be lawyers.
     
    You had such high hopes and great confidence when you first decided to quit smoking.  Now, you are in this terrible Catch-22.  If you continue to ride this out, how much (more) damage are you likely to cause?  But, you cannot allow the misery of the previous eternal week or two to have been in vain, and you simply cannot cave in and fail.
     
    Yes you can.  Hanging your head in shame, you rush off to the store one evening, buy a pack of cigarettes, and before the night is out you have incinerated and inhaled half the contents of that pack.  The next morning, you are back to smoking just as much as you used to smoke, and you are a Human Being again…  A deeply ashamed one, and certainly a total failure.  But, at least you’re a member of the species once more.

    And, you can always say that you had to smoke again in order to be compliant with the Rules of Professional Responsibility.  No one will have anything to say once you hang your hat on that!
     
    Yes, I failed at this.  Again…
     
    Well, its not failure if its a learning experience.  I am not writing this to dissuade you, my friends and colleagues, from quitting smoking.  I am providing a heads-up.  We don’t discuss this very often specifically because it is embarrassing, and it makes us sound weak.
     
    Based on what I’ve learned thus far, here are some (I hope) helpful tips on how to beat smoking without beating your career into a pulp and seeing many years of hard work and cool, reliable performance go down the drain:
     
    1.  See a doctor before quitting.  This little blog article is not comprehensive medical advice and I do not know the state of your health – withdrawal symptoms may vary from person-to-person, and you should seek qualified medical advice before making any serious health decisions.  This isn’t just the ordinary disclaimer from one attorney writing to other attorneys (although, that’s in there, too).  Visiting a doctor after you’ve started the process of quitting tobacco in the hopes of obtaining something that will help to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms is OK, but its better to see one before you start.  Know as much about the current state of your health as you can prior to throwing yourself into the thresher.
     
    I will write more broadly about Work/ Life Balance in a subsequent piece.  But, for now, if you are under the kind of exhaustion and tension commonly plaguing attorneys – if you are suffering from, say, extreme sleep deprivation, nervous exhaustion, dehydration, a wildly irregular heartbeat or are just plain constantly tired, then address that first.  If you are taking in as much as three pots of strong coffee per day to make up for a consistent lack of sleep, then this may not be the best time for you to try quitting smoking.
     
    The bottom line is this:  while it may sound counterintuitive, be in your best possible shape before you begin the process of quitting smoking.
     
    2.  On the subject of finding something that actually helps with mitigating withdrawal symptoms, well, “Cold Turkey” ain’t for everybody.  It wasn’t for me.  That said, be mindful of the side effects of such aids (from appetite suppression to much worse).  The most harmless thing seemed the gum, but I found it to be disgusting.  More than one person suggested “Vaping”.  While I have seen may use it as a substitute, and with some success, I have yet to meet anyone who has since managed to give up the Vaping.  I wouldn’t look to swap one harmful vice for another, myself – even if the substitute is somewhat less harmful.
     
    Again, see a doctor and sort out exactly which aid(s) works best for you.
     
    3.  If you do decide to go Cold Turkey, but reduce your daily intake of cigarettes before the appointed time of quitting in the hopes that the symptoms of quitting nicotine will not be so severe, then you may wish to give yourself more than a few days to deescalate.  Trust me on this one.
     
    4.  Finally, and as discussed, you cannot isolate yourself from civilization.  But, you can do two things:  a. let others know you are quitting; and, b. establish “buffers”.
     
    Telling people you are quitting smoking is not setting yourself up for additional embarrassment in the event you fail (and, never be one of those who “Plan to Fail”).  In fact, it may help them to understand your embarrassing behavior while you undergo withdrawal.  At the very least, it will let them know to keep their distance, even if you personally lose sight of the importance of distance during this period.
     
    Buffers can help to maintain that distance, even as you manically attempt to lash out and inflict your new, alien frustrations on the entire human race.  Work from home, if you can (and, technology makes it easier than ever).  Limit your face-to-face appointments to the extent you can.  Get someone else at the firm to do you a solid and appear at the court to file those motions for you during a particularly rough morning.  Lock your phone in a desk drawer, check it at specific times.  For emails and voice messages, put a minimum buffer time on your response, if one is required (and, during that time, consider what is actually required – do not say anything that is not required).  While some of your work is bound to be time-sensitive and good response times are a must in our business, nothing is so super urgent that it can’t wait for a few minutes.  A measured response is always better than a weird one and, let’s face it, your client isn’t on Death Row waiting for that last-minute call from the Governor that’s never going to come anyway.
     
    I hope that helps.
     
    In any event, now that I am smoking again and back to being my rock-solid, famously "Steady" self, I would like to apologize to all those I may have offended these past couple of weeks; and, apologize in advance to all those I may offend in the near future.  Because, after I address a few health concerns stemming from that lack of Work/ Life Balance I referenced earlier, I am returning to quitting smoking.
     
    As I said, this latest attempt is merely suspended.
     
    For now, I’m going to go home, put up my feet, and light one up.  I hope you enjoy your weekend as well.
     
     – Jason Huf
    Thursday, August 25, 2016
    New York, NY
  • What the Frack, Dude?

    Unless you are a fan of Battlestar Galactica, the word “Fracking” tends to have negative connotations.  People don’t necessarily like it, even without quite knowing that to which the word refers. 

    Fracking is the colloquial term for Hydraulic Fracturing (which may sound ever scarier), a mining process by which a fluid solution is applied at high pressure against fissures in subterranean rock formations to facilitate the yield of valuable materials (usually oil, gas or coal steam) that would ordinarily be uneconomical, or otherwise impracticable, to extract.  This process has been in use for over sixty-five years, and over 1 million wells employing such a system have operated in the continental United States alone during that period.

    While Fracking is not new, the technologies involved in both the Fracking process and in oil and gas exploration have improved to the extent wherein there are new uses that generate higher yields.  Perhaps the most discussed new developments as of late concern the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits.

    Focusing specifically on Fracking as it applies to the Marcellus Shale, in very basic terms: a well is drilled into an extraction site, and the hydraulic fluid is applied at great pressure against cracks in subterranean sandstone formations, allowing for the injection of a proppant that facilitates the release of natural gas particles (mostly methane), which then fill the well thereby making such gas available for extraction.  The fluid solution employed in the Hydraulic Fracturing process generally consists of water (90%), sands (9.5%) and certain chemicals (0.5%).

    The chemicals conventionally used in such a solution tend to include methanol, hydrochloric or acetic acid (to clean the initial fissure), citric acid (to prevent corrosion), salts, glutaraldehyde (a disinfectant against bacteria), water-soluble guar gum and other viscosity control agents, ethylene glycol (to prevent the occurrence of scaling inside the pipes) and friction reducers.  These chemicals sometimes vary and are employed to prevent bacterial growth in the water within a wellbore, facilitate and maintain operation of the well, and to prevent or otherwise mitigate the corrosion of the well casing (such well casings typically consisting of a polymer gel or foam).

    Recycled “flowback” water, liquid propane, carbon dioxide and other gases may be used to reduce reliance on water for this process, as the technology continues to change.

    Most of the discussion about the recent proliferation of Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale region revolves around the potential environmental impact.  In addition to voicing worries over the possibility of increased seismic activity (earthquakes), many are concerned with the potential for pollution:  the use of certain known carcinogens in the Hydraulic Fracturing process and, particularly, contamination of groundwater by methane gas via leaks in the wells after such wells are in operation.

    There is some scientific debate still ongoing as to which is more susceptible to leakage:  Fracked wells or conventional natural gas wells.  Currently, radioactive tracers and, increasingly, geophones are used to monitor Hydraulically Fractured natural gas wells once established.  Unfortunately, much of the research and discussion on issues involving Hydraulic Fracturing and the potential consequences to the environment and our health has been ideologically motivated and politically charged.  Thus, when seeking accurate information to become better educated about these legitimate concerns, well, the waters are somewhat muddied.

    That’s disappointing, but should not discourage one from seeking more information (especially if you live in an area where Fracking is employed, or scheduled to be employed).

    The intention here is not to craft a scientific treatise or to present an academic paper.  This little blog posting is not all-inclusive, but is merely intended to provide some basic facts on an often-mentioned, but little understood, word that has made its way into our vocabulary.  JHI hopes it may well be a springboard for conducting your own research on the subject.

    Finally, this article certainly does not take any political opinion on the subject of Fracking – that can continue to be the domain of those who engage in politics for a living.
  • Marcellus Shale - Be Your Own Regulator

    As energy production on federally-owned land has been slowed to a trickle through government action (and, sometimes, inaction), the production of oil and gas on privately-owned land has increased exponentially.  This development has not only provided the first real hope of a sustainable economic boom the United States has seen in years, it also has the country on pace to be energy-independent in just five years.  An America that exports energy isn’t a “game changer”, it’s a world changer.

    Those who live above, and own the rights to, Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits should be aware that the advances in technology that make Marcellus Shale natural gas exploitable also make such exploitation safe from an environmental standpoint.  Everyone likes clean water, and no one wants their use and enjoyment of clean water to be disturbed.  Almost as undesirable, however, might be the disturbance of natural gas production by bureaucrats (or, perhaps in some rare instances, ideologues acting in the guise of bureaucrats) tasked with ensuring water safety.  Also of concern may be third-party litigants seeking to maintain the artificial scarcity of our energy supply under the banner of “environmental protection”.

    How do you maintain peace of mind that your water will remain clean while preventing governmental and other third-party interference that could hamper the value of your natural resource?  Through contract.  Again, we’re talking about privately-owned land and mineral rights, so federal regulations are not the most pressing concern.  As to state regulations, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has thus far proved itself to be one of the most energy-friendly states in the country, where the emphasis on new law has largely been on securing economic growth.  But, no government lasts forever – governors have term limits, and seats in the legislature do, occasionally, turn over.

    Protect yourself by preempting the rationale for governmental and other third-party action:  when you agree to lease the rights to your gas to a gas producer, make sure the contract includes health, safety and environmental standards that are an enforceable part of your agreement.  If you own rights to Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits, negotiating for such self-regulation is perfectly reasonable and in your best interests.  Reputable gas producers will not fight you on this, and the best of them will actually help you with understanding how the technology works and how to establish enforcement mechanisms that guarantee the quality of their work on your land.

    The first step is getting together with your friends, neighbors and others who share your interests and discussing the importance of using your power as citizens and concerned property owners.  Being on the same page is fundamentally vital to keeping your environment clean without the assistance of government regulations and regulators.  The next step is contacting qualified, experienced legal counsel with the knowledge, expertise and commitment to help your community to help itself.