This is as close as I came to hiking up that mountain.

If somebody suggested I go on a hike for fun, I’d probably punch him in the face. Since when is walking fun? To me, calling a hike a summer associate “event” is like calling the Bataan Death March a hike.

Obviously, I don’t work at Quinn Emanuel. Quinn has been running a hiking event for summer associates for years, and it’s one of the most popular events in all of Biglaw.

It’s unique. People have a good time — well, maybe not everyone, but most people.

And if somebody needs to be helicoptered out, well, that just strengthens the bonding experience for the survivors….

Here’s some advice: if you are an out of shape, ambulatory objector like me, don’t go on the Quinn hike. You’ll be so embarrassed if you can’t keep up. Or if you get lost in the wilderness.

Quinn associates shared all kind of reports about this year’s hike. Some sources we contacted enjoyed themselves:

Oh, I had a great time on the hike, why do you ask?

Others were non-committal:

I think you’ll want to know what happened on the hike this year….

Others were downright concerned:

Quinn’s summer retreat 3 day hike in Canada ended with 4 people being heli lifted out. 2 summers and 2 associates. Only one with a knee injury.

Honestly, some of the emails we received made it sounds like John Quinn was brought to the point of standing in the Canadian Rockies thinking, “I really hope Bill Urquhart checks his email and sends that helicopter — or else we’re all gonna DIE.”

Alas, the hike didn’t turn out to be as dramatic as we hoped. Yes, there was a person who injured his knee. And sure, some people got winded and needed assistance. But, you know, you go up into the Rockies and things get real.

We emailed John Quinn, founding partner of Quinn Emanuel, about the event. Here’s what he said:

We have had harder hikes. This was the 20th consecutive year we have had a firm hike.

We send out scary memo–always—saying qe hikes are not for those not in shape, not for tenderfeet, etc. There is more than full disclosure abiout the degree of difficulty. Still some people signed up who apparently shldnt have and didn’t have a good time–which regret

But we had 90+ lawyers do it and almost everyone thought it was glorious. One person reinjured a knee they had prev had surgery on. Don’t know what the other injury was–but haven’t heard of anything serious.

It was a great, great hike in the canadian rockies and an authentic–not an artificial–encounter with the natural world in all its beauty and rigor.

The hike was in Banff, Canada, which I recently visited for the International Legal Ethics Conference. I remember sitting on a bar stool and thinking, “Man, this is really beautiful country, I should take a picture or something.” At no point did I think, “Man, this is really beautiful country, I should get out and walk around and see if I can’t find a bear or otherwise put myself in great physical danger.”

I did get a picture (while drunk on a bus):

See, I’m the kind of brother who reads the fine print (except on my student loans). And unlike some of the summer associates on the hike, I have top-notch reading comprehension skills. A tipster forwarded some of the warnings that John Quinn alluded to:

Those of you who have participated in previous firm hikes know that the classic QE hike involves a test of physical determination and mental toughness. This hike will significantly exceed the rigors of our norm. If you chose to go, you will hike nearly 35 miles in 3 days (and more than 15 miles on day 2) up nearly 7,500 feet of elevation gain wearing a 40 pound pack carrying your own tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, water, rain gear, clothing, and everything else you need to survive. If the weather is good the hike will be strenuous, if it snows or monsoons on us, let’s just say it will be unforgettable. By nature, QE hikers revel in this suffering. After all, how else to find out what you are really made of?! Whatever it is, it will be epic!

Needless to say, you will need to be in excellent physical shape to finish. Turning around will not, probably, be an option. As we normally do, we’ll move fast. We will use every second of the nearly 17 hours of daylight to log more miles than on any previous Firm Hike. If you are not willing to get yourself in excellent shape, don’t perform well at altitude (we’ll be hiking between 5,000’ and 10,000’), have a health condition, or have a fear of heights, grizzly bears or things that go bump in the night, this is not the hike for you. You will also have to sign a waiver releasing the firm, its partners, associates, staff, and everyone connected to the hike from any and all liability, to participate.

John Quinn is one of the most celebrated litigators of our time, if you think he’s leading you into the wilderness without getting a very clear waiver, you’ve got another thing coming.

But wait, there’s more:

In the interest of full disclosure, you also need to understand that we are heading to a remote area that is critical grizzly bear habitat and contains a large concentration of female grizzlies often accompanied with cubs. Seeing a grizzly in nature is a privilege. But, getting between a mother and cub will ruin your day faster than forgetting to keep your Blackberry on during waking hours. Hikers have surprised bears on this trail and have been seriously injured. The trail is also closed occasionally because of bear activity. However, bears, by nature, will avoid humans when possible. We will, therefore, be adhering to proper “bear aware” guidelines to reduce the possibilities of crossing paths with a bear. To give you an idea of what this means: you have to take direction from the group leaders; hike together with your group and not run ahead or fall behind; at camp, you must cook far from where you sleep and also hang food and everything with odor far from where you sleep; you must not take anything with a scent into your tent, including prescription or other medication, sunscreen, lotions, toothpaste, gum, lip balm, food, juice, trash, hygienic items, smelly clothes, your backpack, etc. — all of this and more will be set out in the gearing-up and group leader memos that will be sent out later. We will also carry bear-spray.

I don’t hike, especially up mountains. It seems to me that if God wanted us to scramble up those things, he would have installed elevators, or at least moving walkways.

You know, I’m impressed that Quinn lawyers sent for a helicopter to ferry the injured. If it had been an Above the Law hike, people who signed up for this test of determination and toughness would have been left up there to rot. Why do people go into bear territory? It’s theirs. It’s not like bears come on the New York subway for an experience unlike any other.

In any event, you can read the full Quinn disclosure on the next page. You’ll see that even after they get back to their cars, the danger continues. I can’t believe 90+ people signed up.

But the takeaway is that even if you sign a waiver and agree to go into the freaking wilderness, your Quinn colleagues won’t leave you to die. I’m not sure you’ll get the same kind of offer from other Biglaw firms.


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