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Lawyers prove their worth downhill

The true competitive nature of lawyers was revealed over the weekend when more than 100 lawyers took to the Thredbo slopes for the annual Lawyers Ski and Snowboard Race. Lawyers Weekly reports…

The true competitive nature of lawyers was revealed over the weekend when more than 100 lawyers took to the Thredbo slopes for the annual Lawyers Ski and Snowboard Race. Lawyers Weekly reports from the race.

It's a place where billable hours are exchanged for just mere seconds, and lawyers don their best ski and snowboarding outfits to face up to their colleagues on a downhill run.

And for anyone who doubts the competitive nature of lawyers outside the office, then it's also a place to witness firsthand just how important it is for lawyers to go one up on each other.

That place is Thredbo, NSW, where every winter lawyers from both private practice and in-house legal departments congregate to battle it out and prove their skiing and snowboarding capabilities.

Law firms like Mallesons, Clayton Utz, Blake Dawson and Freehills send a serious contingent of lawyers to form a number of graded 4-person teams, while smaller firms like Herbert Geer, Simpson and Watson Mangioni settle on one team a piece.

Clayton Utz takes the affair particularly seriously. The firm regularly hires out the racecourse a day in advance of the race to time trial its lawyers in order to determine the best possible team.

And with a squad of around 36 racers all up sent to Thredbo, the competition just to get onto the Clayton Utz card is particularly fierce with just 12 lawyers selected to make up the final three teams.

But the competitive spirit of the Clutz folk is far from isolated.

Some teams sport tailor made race gear to show off their law firm colours, others deploy a strict trial-out procedure to determine their best racers, while some individual lawyers think of little before the race other than how they are going to rip through their PB.

Talk of the 2010 race started the week before last weekend's main event at the annual Sydney registration party where lawyers scanned the room to size up the competition.

Once in Thredbo, lawyers quickly took to the slopes to get in some practice runs. They warmed up the legs and shook out the cobwebs lingering from last year's ski trip and spent the Friday afternoon before the race testing their equipment on the snow.

Then it was time to hit the Kellar Bar at the Thredbo Alpine Hotel. Race tactics were talked, the odd friendly bet laid down and predications made on the next day's results.

By Saturday morning, the course was set and the lawyers ready to race. Some, of course, carried a sore head onto the chairlift - still recovering from the night's festivities at high altitude the night before - while others arrived fresh and in form to put in their best individual efforts for the pride of their firms.

Unfortunately, the conditions were far from ideal. A significant snow hiatus left the skiers and boarders with little more than a thin mess of sticky white sludge on top of a rocky surface to ride on. But with the run groomed in the morning, the Thredbo team sought to maximise the potential of the course - which, to the benefit of some of the more average skiers and boarders - was not too icy and therefore didn't carry too high a potential for serious injury for those who found themselves face-first in the snow.

One by one the lawyers took off from the start box to complete their two runs. The total of both runs was calculated to determine the official results, while the totals from the best three skiers of each team calculated to determine how each team placed.

That evening at the presentation dinner, lawyers watched their racing efforts on a big screen as the full race results were revealed.

But with a former Olympic skier in the mix via barrister Zali Steggall as well as the particularly competitive Joshua Knuckey from Clayton Utz, the results in the individual category were somewhat predictable.

Meanwhile, having taken out the team event for the last four years, it was looking more than likely that the Clayton Utz A team, led by Knuckey, would take out the coveted top team spot.

"The results are always pretty standard," one of the race organisers, Jason Li of Jason Li Lawyers, told Lawyers Weekly. "We always have Josh and Zali at the top."

In 2010, both Steggall and Knuckey dominated the field once again.

Steggall got off to a slow start (slow at least for the Olympic bronze medalist) with a first run of 18.50 seconds, but she came back in her second run, pulling out a cracking pace for a time of 18.34. Her total of 36.84 came in well ahead of Knuckey with a total of 37.23, and the third place getter Chris Chow from Simpsons with a time of 37.58.

In the team category, the Clayton Utz A team came in first, followed by PricewaterhouseCoopers A in second and Freehills A in third

All up, Clayton Utz completed the course with four lawyers in the top 20, matched by Freehills. PWC also proved themselves as competitive on the day, with Andrew Wallis taking out the fifth individual spot, and a further two PWC lawyers making it into the top 20.

Over in the snowboarding race, where things are slightly less competitive given that lawyers generally appear less inclined to strap on a board over a pair of skis, the pace was a little slower.

Colin Wong from Mallesons took out the top individual spot, with a combined time of 55.63 seconds, followed closely behind by Chris Stevens of Bradley Allen in 55.73 and Chris Gill of Freehills in 56.60.

As for those not quick enough to match the pace of the guns at the top of the leader's pack, the Lawyers Ski Race organisers provided enough lucky door prizes to ensure the competition continued post race.

Indeed, many lawyers were open with Lawyers Weekly about the fact their number one priority for the weekend was not the race at all, but rather to make sure they were in the room to receive their lucky door prizes should their names be drawn out of the hat - a strict rule of the weekend.

And the lucky door prizes are certainly worth the effort. With prizes like accommodation packages at Six Senses Resorts up for grabs, the race was all but forgotten as the competition turned to just who would take home what.

Unfortunately for Wong from Mallesons, he wasn't in the room when his name was drawn to collect the top prize - that being a Six Sense accommodation prize in the Maldives - leading to a steady chorus of "REDRAW" from the lawyers.

Not wanting to get into any legal troubles, the race organisers quickly moved to redraw the prize.

See all the results at www.lawski.com.au

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