The cavnessHR podcast – a talk with Adam Haberer, Esq. Adam is an In-House Counsel with NSS Labs. https://www.nsslabs.com/
The link to the PDF version of the show notes is below.
The cavnessHR Podcast can be found at the following places:
Social Media links for Adam Haberer!!
Adam’s book recommendations: The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1-3, by Mark Twain
Links to purchase are below.
Jason: Hello, and welcome to the cavnessHR Podcast. I'm your host, Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Adam Haberer. Adam, are you ready to be great today?
Adam: I am!
Jason: Adam was born in the state of Ohio; he went on to graduate from the University of Denver. He then studied Law at Pepperdine School of Law. After graduation, Adam worked in a small firm practicing Civil Litigation and Workers’ Compensation Law. He started his own law firm, Haberer Law, PLLC in Los Angeles focusing on counseling startups and small business. He later moved his firm to Washington DC and changed the focus to technology companies starting up or looking to expand. In 2014, he moved his family to Austin, Texas, and decided to go in-house, first at current LLC and then at his current company, NSS Labs. He's married to his wife, Jessica; they have two children and they are active foster parents of 12 kids in the Austin area. Adam, thank you very much for being our guest. First, before we get started, let's talk about your foster care program. How did that get started? That's a real interesting story.
Adam: Thanks, Jason. So, I think my wife and I kind of organically – both on our own and then together – it was something that we wanted to do based on our childhoods growing up. Wasn't really a possibility in L.A. and then D.C. It was just too time-consuming and the environment just wasn't right for it. But once we moved down to Austin, we actually had a chance meeting with somebody who was a foster parent, got some more information on it, and just decided to pull the trigger – it was very organic. We went through the classes, the certification process and then, very shortly thereafter, we were taking our first foster child out of the hospital after being born and it's been a heck of a ride. That first foster child we actually ended up adopting. So, we've had 12 children overall; we have a 14-year-old right now who's probably going to be a permanent member of the family as well. So, it's definitely been a remarkable journey.
Jason: So, on average, how long do the kids stay with you?
Adam: So, it's interesting. I think the average that the Department will tell you – whether it’s the state of Texas, here, or probably a state agency in another state – generally, about a year from removal of the child to the final disposition of the case. We've seen that, in our experience, it can be longer than that. The case can be continued, there can be circumstances that are allowed to go on past that one-year date. Or other family can come, kind of out of the woodwork, before that year and will decide to step in and take the children. So, it really runs the gamut. I think our average is probably around eight months to a year, but our current foster child has been here for about a year and a half so you just never know what you're going to get.
Jason: I guess it has to be hard for you and your wife because I'm sure you grow a bond with these kids and then they’ll leave you or something else happens. How do you deal with that?
Adam: Yeah, it can be tough. I think we went into it kind of with open eyes knowing that that was going to be the case in a lot of these foster situations. I think what we've done, is really hang on to the fact that, even in the short amount of time that we have child, we've still managed to make quite an impact. For instance, we had another newborn that we had only for about, I think, six to eight months, and eventually, he went back to his biological mom. But in that time, we found out that he had some cognitive impairment (it later turned out to be a very severe form of autism) but we were able to get him into physical therapy, occupational therapy, we were really kind of in a position to get him on the right track so that his mom could kind of continue that as he grew. That's just one of those things where we can kind of look at and say, “yeah, we kind of set this kid up, hopefully right, for wherever life takes him.” We still maintain contact in a lot of those cases so it's not as though we're totally out of that child or family's life.
Jason: That’s what I was about to ask you, do the parents ever come back to thank you and keep in contact with you?
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, that child I was just speaking of, we are in contact with his mother who’s expressed gratitude and we've been there for her whenever appropriate and we can we can kind of give her support. With our current child, same thing. This is going to be a long one; it's going to be something kind of akin to open adoption. Open adoption is the possibility, here, in Texas. But that's kind of what we're moving to so we're certainly going to have that type of relationship. But on the flip-side of that coin, you’re also going to have parents who fully resent the fact that you were taking care of your child and there's always going to be that sort of relationship possibility as well. We're aware of that, we're pragmatic, we understand it, so just kind of try and meet in the middle, I guess.
Jason: I want to thank you for doing what you're doing, you're making a great impact a lot of people's lives. That's a great thing and I want to thank you for that.
Adam: Well, thank you. It's very rewarding.
Jason: So, Adam, next, talk about what's going on in your life right now. What are you working on?
Adam: So, it's actually very exciting, Jason. I am in-house counsel for a cyber-security company called NSS Labs based, here, in Austin. What we do as a company, we don't provide cybersecurity solutions like you’ll find with Symantec or CrowdStrike or one of those companies. But we help those companies make their products better and we do so by independently testing cybersecurity products to make sure that they're kind of catching everything that they need to. So, a really exciting area of business and certainly a very exciting area of law. So, we're hard at work every day kind of trying to make sure that the infrastructure of our company, the relationships that we have with other companies, are set down. Every day it’s something new, something new and exciting all the time.
Jason: Next, I know you do a lot of work with nonprofits, you’re really passionate about that. Do you think that perhaps they don't do a good enough job of getting out in the world and telling people what they need, or why is that you think?
Adam: Yeah, that's a good question. In fact, my wife is the controller for a non-profit, so I can speak to this firsthand. She was working in DC in pretty much exclusively nonprofit towards the end of her career in that city. You raise a good a good question. I think the problem that you get with nonprofits is you're either on one or the other end of the spectrum. Either you're brand new and you've got this amazing idea which is absolutely commendable and you've acted on it and you've started a non-profit. But the fact is that it's tough to start anything (a business, a nonprofit, a lemonade stand, for that matter).
Adam: So, you don't really have a lot of people (I shouldn't cast such a wide net but a lot of people) don't have the resources to know how to grow and scale. That's something you see not only nonprofits but in for-profit business as well. It really becomes difficult to kind of get out of a rut you've created for yourself from formation. On the other end of that, you have the more established nonprofit organizations. Who've been around for a long time, and they're kind of falling into a complacency (I want to say, for lack of a better word) where the things that have worked continually for a year or decades are the things that they think are still going to work. The fact of the matter is, times have changed, especially when you're in a business environment or when you're in in a city, the economy, like here in Austin. It’s very liberal. You kind of have to cater to that if you want to bring in the best and the brightest talent because, frankly, there's going to be a lot of competition.
Adam: So, yeah, I think you raise a good point. It's reaching out is certainly one of those issues. But I think having the consideration to actually bring that talent in is another matter entirely. There are plenty of passionate people out in the world. There are plenty of passionate people who would, at the drop of a hat, love to work as an accountant, as a project manager, as a fund raiser. But you've got to look at it, just like your business competing with all the other businesses out there for that talent. It's really supply and demand. So, I think upping the level of awareness that you're here, this is what we're doing, this is what we're looking for, as well as this is what we can offer you. They have that benefit of saying, “we're doing something that you're very passionate about. That’s very close to your heart and, on top of that, look at this amazing work environment that we can offer you that's going to marry those two things.” So, if you can get those two, the passion and the environment. I think you're a long way and in terms of attracting talent.
Jason: Do you think the other challenge might be that most people just presume that nonprofits pay less – a whole lot less – than the regular companies?
Adam: Yeah, I think that's certainly going to be kind of a stigma, whether true or not. Again, I think going back to it, if you're creating a buzz in your city. We all know those nonprofits that are kind of hip and trendy. People are going to judge you, not only by the fact that you’re nonprofit, but they're also going to see oh, wow, you have these kind of cool headquarters or I see doing this out in the in the community. I think at a certain point there's going to have to be that trade-off. But if it's kind of an anonymous nonprofit that nobody really knows about, you're going to have less to go on. So, then I'm sure that for a lot of people, that that stigma, whether true or not true, is going to play a bigger role.
Jason: Very good points, Adam. Next, tell us about a time you were successful in the past, what you learned from the success, and what we can learn from the success that you had.
Adam: I think I'll start with the lesson in this and the lesson for me throughout my career and certainly counseling clients, now being in house just having one client but numerous stakeholders, communication is key. Going into any communication that you have with somebody, an entity, a person with no prejudice, with no preconceived notions, is paramount. One of the times when I was a newer attorney, I was negotiating on behalf of my client. My counterpart who I was going to be negotiating this particular contract with, huge company very formidable, very scary, to go in there and start demanding things. So, I decided to do what I thought was best for my client. Which was go and kind of puff up my chest a little bit and be the be the tough guy. Negotiations kind of broke down pretty quick. At the time, I thought yeah, they're slow-walking us, that's the way they're going to do it, they're the big guys on the block.
Adam: Come to find out, I have a couple of conversations, just one-on-one. Because these were in-person negotiations with a huge team. Which was another reason I had went in there and was trying to assert my authority, had a couple of conversations with just an individual on the team. We talked about what had gone wrong during the negotiations and he made some comments that made me rethink my position, my tact and through his persuasion. We were able to get back in and have a seat at the table to renegotiate or to have another round of negotiations. This time, taking his advice, I went in there as Mr. Nice Guy. By the end of these negotiations, not only do we have kind of a memorandum of understanding and we're on our way towards a fully-executed, wonderful contract for my client. But we're all buddies and we're going out to have tacos afterwards. I think it highlights the fact that if you focus on how you communicate, how you treat people, and how you message. You can really get far in whatever you're trying to do. It's so key in what I do and certainly it's of paramount importance for an attorney. But I think in any walk of life, even outside of business. Just being able to kind of with compassion and being nice, but at the same time being persuasive, get your message across is a huge skill to have.
Jason: That's great that you were able to be open-minded and take the advice. Most people are like, “I'm doing it my way” wouldn't even listen to anything. So, that's very good on your part. So, next, talk about a time that you failed in the past, what you learned, and what we can learn from this failure.
Adam: Oh my gosh, Jason. Well, at that time it was almost a failure, I think. That was that was about as close to a colossal failure as, thankfully, I've got in my career. But there have been many times, when going into a professional environment, when we think things are going to go one way and they go the other way. I think it's, for us as professionals, to understand that it's going to happen. I think better than kind of giving you an example, a very specific example of that. I think just a general lesson that I've learned in my career and in my life outside of that, being a foster dad, being a parent, being a husband, as well as being an attorney.
Adam: Is being able to take failure for what it is. Not impute any wholly negative characteristics to oneself and say mark this up and in the “lost” column, learn from it. Which is the most important thing, and then go out there and try better next time. I think that's the best that we can do as humans, as people, let alone professionals. That's what I strive for every day. I don't know if I always achieve it, but that's certainly my goal every time I come up a little short.
Jason: I think the point to remember is that, even if you fail, you have to remember that you do not fail yourself. You might have failed at an event, but you yourself are not a failure. You’ve got to keep that in mind, some people have a hard time doing that I think.
Adam: Yeah, I think that's a great way to put it.
Jason: Next, you already talked about this a little bit but, expand some more on how you add value and help people to solve problems.
Adam: Yeah, so I think if you're coming to an attorney in the first place, and certainly when you're in-house counsel, you're going to have a very discrete set of issues that people are going to bring you. Even in an in-house setting, however, there are typically so many moving parts. When you're thinking about, for example, launching a new product, messaging a certain new offering that you bring to the marketplace, these things seem very simple – harder to do – but they seem kind of simple in terms of what needs to be done. A lot of times, though, you really need to look closer and see, are we exposed here, is there any risk in doing what we plan on doing? Where I come in, the value that I hope I bring, is to give the decision-makers all the information they need to make an informed decision. A lot of times, the information that they need isn't readily apparent.
Adam: Take, for example, a new product offering. It could be a phenomenal product or service, it could serve an absolute need in the marketplace, but there could be some issues such as, let's say, licensing. Are there things that we're putting into this product or service that're licensed for one thing and maybe not for resale? They're how you market it. There's certainly issues with marketing. These things kind of get pushed by the wayside in the exuberance of bringing a new product to market. The same thing with starting a business. These things are all very exciting and we tend to kind of ignore the little hiccups as we encounter them, and say we'll get to them later when the right time to get to them is before you take action – really hard to fix after the fact. So, again, where I come in, is just trying to gather as much information as I can, kind of package my assessment of either the risk, the reward, any other considerations we should be thinking about. Then delivering that to all the stakeholders so that they can make an informed decision about how to proceed.
Jason: Adam, I know back in your days advising startups, I know you’ve probably been asked this question a thousand times, and I know each situation is different. But what's your advice on companies that ask should I remain an LLC, should I incorporate my home state, incorporate in Delaware. What's your advice on that?
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to give everybody a blanket answer and say no, just do an LLC in Lexington, Kentucky, and you're all good. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. It's always going to be a case-by-case scenario. What are you selling, what are your risks, how many employees do want to have, are you going to be issuing stock? Things like that. These are all the things that a competent attorney is going to need to know to be able to advise you on where and as what entity to incorporate. That goes with pretty much any legal issue as well and, trust me, I get all of them all the time whenever I go out. But a lot of times, it is so highly fact-dependent that this is why we say you should really speak to a lawyer. We're not trying to help our fellow attorneys out, because these things are just so fact-dependent, so detailed. That it really gets difficult to do kind of a broad, sweeping answer for.
Jason: Yes, next, talk about someone who's helped you out in the past and how they helped you.
Adam: Oh, my goodness. I’ll speak of two people off the top of my head. So, when I was still in law school in Los Angeles, I was working for a firm that was later kind of swallowed up by a larger firm. But I was just a like a 2L, 3L, the dime-a-dozen, doing clerking, kind of the errand boy of the office. A lawyer partner kind of took me under his wing and really let me get hands-on with the corporate side of the law and it was the first exposure I had to it, was something I had in my mind that I thought could be interesting. But it wasn't until that time that I actually got to see how do negotiations work, what are the parts of a contract.
Adam: You can learn about offer acceptance and consideration all day long in law school. But until you get in there and actually see how a contract is put together and kind of the human interaction. The human element, you really don't have much to go on. So, this attorney, Jeffrey Glassman, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffrey-glassman-b0357b2/ really took me under his wing, really allowed me to get my hands dirty. He kind of threw me in over my head a couple of times. Which I think helped out a lot as well, and really put me on the path to becoming a corporate attorney.
Adam: Who knows where I’d end up if that didn't happen, if I had been taken under the wing of a bankruptcy attorney, maybe things would have turned out different. But, as it stands, here I am today as an in-house counsel. The other person (I'm not going to say this to get brownie points) but my wife is such an amazing woman, I respect her more than anybody. I'm very animated and I'm very loud. Even though I'm much more of a honey guy than vinegar. I can sometimes be very direct in my dealings at work, and sometimes outside of work.
Adam: She, on the other hand, is the yin to my yang and really balances that out and serves as kind of a neutral adviser. I would say, or a neutral listener, when I'm recounting the happenings of my day and can give me really honest feedback, “well, maybe you kind of overstepped there a little bit, Adam; maybe that wasn't the best thing to say.” I'll say a good 25% of the time I take her advice, and then the other 75% she's right, I'm just too proud to take her advice. But she's been such amazing partner in more ways than one and I look to her all the time for her guidance. She's the smartest woman I know.
Jason: That's good to hear. Next, tell us something about yourself that most people don't know. Of course, your family, your wife, your close friends know this, but most people don't know this about Adam.
Adam: Oh, my goodness. A lot of people don't know this. I am not the typical, suit-and-tie attorney, I live and work in Austin, I’ve spent 10 years in L.A. So, you can see me with my tattoos and my beard and everything. I think that alone kind of strikes people as odd, seeing an attorney kind of gallivanting around with those things going on. But I think one thing that they wouldn't guess is that my career aspirations coming out of high school in Ohio. Was not to go to a great university and then go to law school and join this prestigious lineage of learned attorneys. It was to become a professional snowboarder. I actually went to school in Colorado my first two years. I chose my college based solely on the fact that it was 30 minutes away from Crested Butte, which at that time was hosting the Winter X-games. So, yeah, that didn't work out so well but I did have a constitutional law professor who put me on the track to becoming a Juris Doctor.
Jason: So, do you still snowboard today?
Adam: I don't and I wish I had time. I did certainly all throughout college, I was in Colorado. Then even in law school I had season passes to Bear Mountain, which is about two hours away from L.A. But, yeah, not since law school, unfortunately. Just life has kind of gotten in the way. Although, I will say that if, given the opportunity. (and my wife is very nervous about this possibility) But if given the opportunity, I'm sure if I set foot on a mountain with a snowboard attached to my feet, I would be able to do at least 98% of the things I used to be able to do when I was 23.
Jason: Well, I can see why you why you’re wife’s worried. So, I know you work in NSS Labs now, but how involved are you with the Austin startup community?
Adam: Frankly, not as involved as I would like to be. When I was in D.C., that was a huge part of my life talking to startups, not just networking from my own firm. But really trying to help people who were trying to start a business and it's something I'm absolutely passionate about. Unfortunately, the other thing that we became passionate about, which is fostering children, really kind of cut into that time. So, having one client as well sounds great and doesn't seem like as much of a time-commitment. But, let me tell you, when you're not doing billable hours, you are available all the time. So, certainly something I would love to get back into and plan to. The Austin community, I will say, is a very close-knit one, it's a small town in a big city, you feel like you kind of know everybody. So, yeah, certainly something I look forward to getting back into and something I love doing.
Jason: Adam, we’ve come to the close of our talk. Can you provide any social media platforms for yourself or NSS Labs to pass on to our listeners?
Adam: If you'd like to, if you happen to be a cyber-security company, nsslabs.com. Otherwise, no. I just hope everybody out there just continues to be great and thank you, Jason, for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.
Jason: Thank you, Adam. And before we go, any last words of advice of wisdom to pass on to the listeners, whether they're trying to start a business or working at a non-profit or thinking about getting into foster care?
Adam: Yeah, I would say we have two years in one mouth. Listen, listen, listen. You learn a lot that way and it just aids in what I think is the most important talent you can have which is effective communication.
Jason: Thank you, Adam. Thank you very much for being our guest on our podcast, we really appreciate it. To our a listeners, thank you for your time, and remember to be great every day.
The cavnessHR Podcast can be found at the following places:
Social Media links for Adam Haberer!!
Adam’s book recommendations: The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1-3, by Mark Twain
Links to purchase are below.