He Works While You Sleep

Salt Lake City's Jason Hardin left the Navy to slow down. That was the idea, anyway        

Published in 2008 Mountain States Super Lawyers — July 2008

Jason Hardin remembers the day he called his mother with the news. "I said, ‘Mom, guess what? I finally decided what I'm going to do in life. I'm going to go to law school.'" 

She started crying. "You're going to be a lawyer?" she said.

"She was seriously upset," he remembers. "She didn't have a good concept of them."

More than a decade later, mother and son are both quite pleased with the choice. "It's been great," says Hardin, 38, a partner at Salt Lake City's Fabian & Clendenin. "It's really been exactly what I thought it would be."

A native of the Fort Worth area, he was a physics major at Rice University in Houston, and had no plans to study the law. "I wanted someone to impose discipline on me," he says. He joined the Navy and got his wish.

As an officer on nuclear submarines, he worked 80- to 90-hour weeks for almost three years. But after overhearing a naval commander apologize to his wife and son for missing so many family events, Hardin, the child of a single mother, knew the military was not in his future. "I just sat there and heard this and thought, ‘You know what? I never had a family growing up, and I'm going to have a family, and this is not going to be my career,'" he says.

Hardin chose the law because, he says, "I'm addicted to learning. Every case is different." Hardin and his wife, a St. George native, moved to her home state, where he graduated from the University of Utah College of Law. He quickly found his scientific background an asset in utility cases.

His education in geophysics informs his work on a current case, representing the owners of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Huntington, Utah, which collapsed in August 2007, killing nine miners. He's determined to see that mine co-owner Robert Murray, of Murray Energy Corp., has his fair day in court. "Coal mining is in his blood," says Hardin. "He cares for every one of those guys working for him. He certainly deserves a fair shake, and his companies do, too."

Chris Van Bever, the assistant general counsel for Murray Energy Corp., helped hire Hardin for the case after opposing him in a previous lawsuit. "Jason is one of the most intelligent, hardworking and dedicated lawyers that I have practiced against or with," says Van Bever. "I don't want to be adverse to Jason in a case, because I know he is working while I am sleeping."

Indeed, the Crandall case is one that's strained Hardin's goal of spending more time with his family. "I've worked more hours in the past five months than I have my entire career," he says.

Hardin also keeps busy with three children and volunteer work. He recently completed a two-year term as the chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah. As a former "Little," he says it's a cause close to his heart. "I really do credit a lot of my success in life to my Big Brother," he says.

"It was difficult at first for me because I was this little, quiet, introverted kid and they'd pick me up and I'd have nothing in common with them," says Hardin of his Big Brother, who served in World War II and later worked as an engineer, and his wife, a retired schoolteacher. "But we had a relationship for years. And that positive reinforcement helped me. We as a society do a pretty bad job of giving equal opportunities to people to succeed in life, and this is certainly an organization that helps people do that."

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