Last night, I spent a cozy fall evening watching a fascinating movie on DVD – Free Solo. Free Solo is a remarkable documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold’s efforts to be the first person to climb El Capitan without use of a rope or human support. El Capitan is an immense, iconic 3,000-foot rock formation in Yosemite National Park, containing several incredibly complex sections that only the most experienced and skilled rock climbers in the world could navigate. Since Honnold did not use a rope, if he made a tiny mistake in any section of the climb, in all probability that error would cause him to plummet to his death.
Interestingly, the film presented Honnold as being the complete opposite a young, foolish adventurer blindly forging ahead, assuming nothing bad would ever happen. Instead, Honnold seemed well aware that he was risking his life and appeared to approach the challenge using an almost a mathematical style of logic. He consulted with other experienced climbers, and worked through various sections of El Capitan (with a rope) over and over again – taking copious notes, making decisions regarding hand and foot placement so as to lower the risk for each minute piece of the puzzle, and committing those choices to memory. In addition to logic, Honnold also used his instincts to his advantage. At one point, he started the solo climb but his instincts told him the timing wasn’t right. He abandoned the effort for the day, but not for the long haul. Eventually, on June 3, 2017, Honnold accomplished what seemed impossible, a solo climb of El Capitan – truly one of the most remarkable athletic endeavors in history.
The work of Honnold’s advisors reminded me of some aspects of our work as business attorneys. Specifically, Honnold’s colleagues assisted him in reducing risk by providing good advice concerning aspects of the incredibly detailed and difficult challenge he was undertaking. No one could entirely eliminate Honnold’s risk, or take away the reality that one misstep would likely result in the loss of his life. Honnold climbed El Capitan one tiny segment at a time, in a careful and thoughtful way, methodically choosing each position so as to minimize risk and maximize his likelihood of success.
Similarly, for a business owner facing a challenging negotiation in relation to a commercial contract or lease, an attorney serves as an advisor in terms of language – to help reduce risk. For example, if a certain clause is inserted in an agreement, that may lower the business owner’s risk. But, the other party may not agree with the proposed language – in whole or in part. Ultimately, just like Honnold’s advisors, an attorney cannot entirely eliminate a client’s risk. If the business owner decides to compromise on various clauses, as many clients reasonably do in order to finalize a business transaction, at least that business owner who is working with an attorney is fully aware of the risks of each choice, and is proceeding cautiously, one tiny segment at a time, in such a way so as to minimize risk and maximize the likelihood of success.
My firm may not be able to advise you regarding hand placement or a heel hook. But if you need advice on how to methodically minimize your risk relating to a particular business transaction, we’d be happy to help.