Three attorneys who decompress by revving up
Published in 2018 Southern California Super Lawyers magazine on January 30, 2018
By the time this magazine is published in late January, many of us will have slacked off on our New Year’s resolutions to exercise more. Not Adam Grant.
The shareholder at Alpert Barr & Grant in Encino will be busy in February swimming a 6.2-mile loop around Lake Conway in Orlando, biking 261 miles during the next day and a half, and finishing up on the third day with a mere double marathon run of 52.4 miles. It’s called “Ultraman Florida” and it’s for those who think Ironman competitions are for wimps.
“I know it sounds crazy, but it looks very doable to me,” says Grant, who’s completed 13 Ironman events in the past 15 years. As for the sensation leading up to his first Ultraman, the 53-year-old litigator says, “It’s probably 90 percent exhilaration and 10 percent ‘Holy crap!’”
Lawyers turn to any number of outlets to decompress after a stressful day: meditation, long walks, gin. For Grant and two other local attorneys, release comes from taking on new and greater physical challenges.
“Before becoming a yoga fanatic I lifted weights—which was super boring,” says Lisa Helfend Meyer, a senior partner at Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers in Los Angeles. Over the years, she tried many types of yoga, she says, before “being turned on to Acro in Hawaii by a yogi named Jen.”
A combination of acrobatics and yoga, the practice entails partners working themselves into different balancing positions. “It’s a lot of core work, headstands, handstands,” says Meyer, 60, who practices three days a week in her at-home yoga studio. “You know when you’re a kid and someone ‘flies’ you on their feet—they’re on the ground balancing you and you’re over them? It’s like that. There’s the base, the flyer, and a spotter.”
The family law attorney has not found other lawyers interested in joining her. “Not the way I practice,” she says. “But I have done it with clients and expert witnesses.” She recalls a five-day trial in Denver: “My custody expert is world-renowned. After a long day in court, we went into the war room in the hotel and did yoga amongst the trial transcripts.”
Bradley C. Gage, a founding partner of Goldberg & Gage in Woodland Hills, knows one other attorney, Tom Hurrell of Hurrell Cantrall, who participates in Gage’s preferred activity, the triathlon. The men have been competitors since they were teenagers, when Gage twice placed in the top 10 in the U.S. Cycling Federation National Championships.
“We have been opposing counsel many times,” says Gage. “Last year in Malibu, we raced against one another and I beat him near the finish line. Sadly, in our last case, he beat me on summary judgment.”
Gage, 58, says he would have preferred to lose the race and win the case, though at this juncture in his career, he feels success in one area is connected to success in the other.
“I have 18 to 19 verdicts in excess of $1 million dollars,” says Gage, who was invited to the 1980 Olympic trials for the U.S. team, and twice won silver at the Maccabi Games. “I believe the stamina I get from cycling helps me to win those large verdicts.”
It is a hopeful idea that driving our bodies to be fleet and nimble and strong will prepare us to better handle the other parts of our lives. Or is it that the discipline for the one leads to discipline in the other? If all lawyers committed to cycling 200 miles a week, as Gage does, could they win millions for their clients? If they trained twice a day, seven days a week, all year round, like Grant, would they also get to the office by 7:15 each morning? Or is there some intrinsic spark that makes certain people want to push past their limits?
“I am definitely a thrill seeker,” says Meyer.
“I have no fear of sharks,” says Gage, who has seven times competed in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, which includes a swim through notoriously shark-infested San Francisco Bay.
“To say I have been active all my life would truly be an understatement,” says Grant, who grew up swimming in the ocean almost every day, running track, playing football and wrestling in high school; rowing crew and cycling in college, and running more than 50 miles a week as a student at Southwestern University School of Law.
“One of my running buddies said, ‘Hey, Adam, you run like there’s no tomorrow, I know you are a fish in water, how is your cycling and have you considered doing a triathlon?’” recalls Grant. “I loved the mental aspect of planning and transitioning between activities.”
He also loved finishing his first triathlon 10 minutes ahead of his buddy.
“I was seriously hooked,” he says—hooked on seeing how fast he could go and by how much he could beat others.
“Several attorneys I know do Ironman races; in particular, litigators,” he says. “It seems to fit the type of competitive nature.”
“It’s not like hitting a punching bag and thinking it’s an opposing party’s face,” says Meyer, of Acro-Yoga. “I do try to take what I learn in practice—such as patience and relieving stress—and apply it to my law practice.”
Running their own small- to medium-sized firms gives the attorneys the flexibility to devote time to training and competing.
“Being my own boss does help,” says Gage.
“I like my boss—me, mostly,” says Grant, who trains daily from 4:30 to 6:30 a.m. and again from 6 to 7:30 p.m. “It doesn’t interfere with work.”
“It is the chicken-and-egg thing, in terms of having the money—not time—to hire amazing instructors and practice in your own home,” says Meyer. “Yet it comes with a price: battling it out daily in high-conflict cases.”
“Trial is an endurance event,” adds Gage, a point also in evidence during a recent five-day, 110-kilometer walk he took on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
“I spoke with a very nice attorney from Sacramento who told me how he was too tired to try cases,” he says of one of his fellow walkers. The next day, Gage learned the attorney had gone to the hospital with an apparent heart attack.
“It re-emphasizes how important exercise is for all of us,” he says.
But each of the attorneys understands the need time for downtime from both work and extreme exercise. “There is no way I would be able to do what I do,” says Meyer, “without being able to look forward to hanging out with my yoga girls [fellow practitioners and instructor] on the weekends.”
Asked if the weekend includes any sports besides yoga, Meyer asks, “Are martinis a sport?”