Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Risk Management and The Martian

the martianYou might think the Ridley Scott-Matt Damon film The Martian is about outer space and astronauts. 

Actually, it’s a seminar in risk management.

From the moment he is left for dead on Mars as his crewmates begin the long, slow journey back to earth, astronaut Mark Watney (played by Damon) embarks on an odyssey of damage control and outcome optimization.

He is the Greatest Risk Manager Ever. And the techniques he uses on the Red Planet can be just as effective in the law office.

Step 1: Assess the Situation

Hopefully, you won’t ever have to remove a shard of space shrapnel from your abdomen and staple yourself up without anesthesia and while shaking with delirium. Nor will you have to cope with temperatures of 80 below freezing.

But if you do, it will help to remember how Matt Damon survived these and other threats.

One key to his success: when presented with a crisis, he invariably stopped and took a moment to assess the reality of his situation.

This is important. When things go wrong, there is a strong tendency to want to do something. Anything. And while sometimes quick action is called for, just as often it only makes matters worse.

Risk Manager Damon didn’t lurch into a frenzied, reactive spasm every time a new threat arose. Instead, he drew on his training. He took a deep breath and examined his predicament with clarity before trying to fix it.

Step 2: Use All Available Resources

The next thing he did was take inventory of the tools available to help him get out of the latest life-threatening jam. That’s why he spent so much time counting and packaging raw potatoes. (See the film.) And it’s why duct tape, plastic sheeting and ketchup packets were so important to his daily existence.

Lawyers have plenty of ready resources to assist with ethical or malpractice problems. These include colleagues, staff and the friendly ethics counsel at the State Bar.

Perhaps the most important resource is the phone number to Lawyers Mutual’s claims department. The attorneys are there to help. Most likely, they’ve seen your problem before. They share your interest in fixing problems, cutting losses and moving forward.

Step 3: Keep the Lines of Communication Open

The big breakthrough for Risk Manager Damon came when he managed to jump-start a communications satellite and initiate contact with earth. He was no longer alone. He had help on the line, and that made all the difference.

You might not walk around in a spacesuit, and you probably have never had to wonder which would come first: starvation or freezing to death.

But there have probably been times when you felt very much alone, when you were in an awful situation and could not see a clear path out.

In moments like these, remember The Martian. Assess your situation, marshal your resources and, if necessary, pick up the phone and call your malpractice carrier.

Source: The Martian movie

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He is a former Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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