Stress is part of the job for most solicitors. But intellectual property lawyer Matt Ward regularly faces life-or-death decisions that he says keep it in perspective.
“You get the time to process those thoughts, and you quickly decide, ‘Am I comfortable with my life choices? Am I happy with what I’ve been doing? If this is the end, how do I feel about it?’,” he says.
“At that point, I was definitely having a good day, I was happy, I was doing what I love. I think I was surprisingly relaxed and content and willing to accept whatever the mountain was going to give me.”
Fortunately, he washed up near the top and was able to dig an airway that saved his life.
Ward is a patents and intellectual property lawyer who has spent the past 18 months building his own practice, Forward Intellectual Property, at the Sydney Start-Up Hub. It follows 15 years in a corporate firm where he had been “knocking on the door of becoming partner” when it became publicly listed.
When I meet Ward near Wynyard Station, it’s clear he is not your average lawyer. He comes straight from his office wearing jeans, sneakers and a long-sleeve t-shirt with a backpack and a big smile.
Getting caught in an avalanche would likely be enough to put many people off snowboarding forever, but Ward laughs as he says it’s “par for the course, to an extent”. He grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches but has been bagging peaks since his family visited North America when he was a young boy.
It took just one trip to Whistler – a popular ski resort near Vancouver – and he was hooked.
Ward splits his time between his office in Sydney and various ski towns around the world where he indulges his passion for riding big mountains. He is a certified heli-ski guide with the Heli Ski US Association and has dropped out of helicopters on top of some of the world’s most remote mountain ranges – including on three of Alaska’s “Big Five” descents. Sheer, rugged and with pitches of up to 60 degrees, these are the type of lines usually reserved for sponsored athletes and Warren Miller ski films.
This year, Ward has spent three weeks skiing in Alaska and eight weeks in Japan. Next month, he’s planning to visit Chile to explore the Andes backcountry. Even when he worked in a corporate practice, he disappeared for weeks at a time with the blessing of his managing partner.