Putting Relaxation Back Into Firm Retreats: Loosening Up the Lawyer Mind

By Janet Ellen Raasch

From the ABA Journal

Progressive law firms are making their annual retreats more engaging and productive through creative use of relaxation in a wide range of modalities. From talent shows and spas to paintball and horse whispering, play and leisure can foster collaboration, strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. Shouldn’t more law firms be following this path?
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Stephanie West Allen, who is a lawyer and principal of Allen&Nichols Productions in Denver, agrees. “Play, fun and leisure should not be perceived merely as rewards for work well done. They can be an important part of the process—adding value to a law firm’s problem-solving and consensus-building retreat agenda.”
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Ross Fishman, a lawyer and principal of [] Fishman Marketing. “I have spoken on site at hundreds of law firms and also at nearly 50 law firm retreats over the past few years, and there is a big difference between the two venues. Content and style that works well in a law firm setting can fall flat at a retreat—unless it is tweaked to make it interactive and fun.

“After all, you are asking lawyers to ‘retreat’ from the office and other obligations, and often from their families. In addition, lawyers are a highly critical audience, even when it comes to fun. I’ve seen successful presenters be heckled and booed by law firms. The presentation must engage and resonate with lawyers—but not turn them off.”
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So for a new activity, Hindman decided to try paragliding, without telling anyone that this was on the schedule until the night before. Aspen Paragliding offers tandem rides (the rider along with a USHGA-certified pilot) that take off from Apex Mountain at 10,000 feet and glide for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, swooping and turning, depending on conditions.

“We didn’t force anyone,” says Hindman. “The only negative ramification would be that the rest of us would make fun of you forever. But everyone decided to participate.

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