Why Being an Adventure Racer Makes Me a Better Lawyer

Adventure racing is an extreme sport, and like in criminal cases, you have to overcome many obstacles along the way. Sometimes the obstacles are expected, but often they come out of the blue. Either way, they always present unique challenges that ultimately change who you are.

I am often asked, “Why should I hire you to represent me? What makes you different from other attorneys?” The typical answer is that I have 30 years of experience, have been selected by my peers as one of the best attorneys in America, and have a 10 point AVVO rating; plus I genuinely care what happens to my clients. While these are all excellent credentials to have as a lawyer, they don’t fully answer the questions. So what does set me apart from other attorneys?

I belong to a special class of athletes… I am an adventure racer. “Great, but why does that matter and what is adventure racing?”

Adventure Racing is a multi-discipline sport that involves a co-ed team (usually four people) navigating through the wilderness from checkpoint to checkpoint with only a map, compass and wits. Teams compete against each other in races that range from six hours to ten days, and cover anywhere from 100 to 600 miles, depending on the length of the race. An adventure racer has to be an accomplished mountain biker, trekker, kayaker, rope climber and more. They go virtually nonstop with only short rests and sleeping breaks. All supplies must be pre-packed because there is no outside support. If it isn’t in their pack then tough luck, they have to manage without! You might be thinking, “That’s a bit crazy and what does that have to do with representing me in a criminal case?”

To be successful in adventure racing you need a very specific set of skills. Endurance and perseverance are paramount. A realistic assessment of the situation is necessary, and the only way to move forward and succeed. Goals can change quite dramatically throughout the race because the situation is always changing and most of the times with things out of your control. Through all the variances and challenges, maintaining an optimistic attitude is the only way you and your team will make it. And finally, you have to have the courage to do the right thing, no matter what.

Without a doubt, racing for ten days through the Australian jungles required every bit of endurance and perseverance I was capable of and even more that I didn’t know I had! Many times I thought I had reached my limits and desperately wanted to quit and go home. But I shouldered on, knowing that getting to the finish was more important than any temporary thought or feeling. In the legal arena, the same is true. Cases drag out, the prosecution wants to wear you down so that you give in and quit. You have to persevere, work hard and be relentless to obtain the best possible outcome. The refusal to quit is just as important in the court room as it is during a race.

Having a realistic assessment of your situation is also very important. Things are not always the way we would like them to be. During the race foresight and pre-planning is required to determine how much water, food and equipment to pack. Getting it right will directly impact how fast you can travel and how much suffering you will endure. Because the terrain is ever changing, there are always unforeseen situations that will affect what supplies are needed. Being able to re-assess and make adjustments in the moment is vital. A big lesson I have learned is that we all like to think that we will move forward without any mistakes, and can move faster than we actually will. Being realistic can mean the difference between success and failure. While in a criminal case we can’t change the facts, we can make sure we have gathered all the facts, and then decide which are pertinent to getting us to where we want to go. The legal terrain also changes often, so we adjust the presentation of the facts throughout the process. With a strong understanding of what the evidence will show, we then gain a realistic idea of what type of outcome can be expected – both the best and worst case scenarios. It’s only by being realistic about the situation that you can succeed in attaining the most favorable outcome.

Having the right attitude really goes without saying, but all too often in the legal arena, as in races, I have seen people take the wrong emotional turn when the pressure is on and the going gets tough. Entertaining negative thoughts and feelings is the fastest route to disaster! When you are a part of a team, it’s not just your success at stake, but that of the whole team. One of the biggest and most important lessons I have learned in adventure racing is that my individual thoughts and feelings do matter and they have a huge impact on others. When I am team captain or team navigator, it is vital that I set the standard and help others through their difficult times, especially when things look hopeless or impossible. This is a skill I have honed through adventure racing and now my clients reap the benefit. They can always rely on me to work with them to make the best decisions and always, no matter what, stay positive.

Finally, success requires courage to do the right thing. The criminal system is set up to encourage you to settle. Sometimes that may be the right choice, but sometimes it’s not. You may have to fight the system, which may mean going to a jury trial. This can be scary, and expensive; but depending on what is at stake, fighting the case to the end may be the best option. Adventure Racing has put me into some high risk situations over the years that have required me to muster all the courage I possibly could. Flying down a class 4 river in Montana holding on to a very small float board was quite unnerving to say the least! Climbing slippery ice-covered peaks in Canada and fighting through dangerous dense jungles in Australia were also rife with terrifying moments. These situations required me to face the fear of potential imminent death. What I learned first-hand is that courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to move forward in the face of fear. Over the years, in my legal practice, I have seen people wanting to give up at the worst possible moments because they were afraid. That is where I can be of the most help. Being encouraged to do the right thing and move forward no matter what, makes all the difference.


For over a decade, adventure racing has taken me all around the world to some of the most beautiful and extreme places imaginable. It’s through these experiences that I have learned some of the most valuable lessons in my life. This knowledge and experience has permeated my 30 years of legal practice and made me the lawyer I am today. I truly have a unique skill set that gives my clients an extra edge and advantage in their criminal case.

My message to you – “Don’t go at it alone, and choose your team wisely. You need to choose a leader for the long haul, so that you are well prepared for whatever obstacles and challenges the legal system may present.”