The Newfangled Lawyer's Guide to Letting Go

By Patrick Patino

Recently, I fired myself. For the past several years, I have been quietly expanding my practice to include all kinds of legal work. Part of that was out of necessity and part was a lack of intentionality and strategy. My penchant for being a helper plus suffering from “shiny-new-thing syndrome” had led me astray.

I kept saying “yes” to substantive and administrative work. I kept saying “yes” to committees. I kept saying “yes” to all of the opportunities I was presented. Basically, I was running around opening every door and trying on every opportunity with reckless abandon.

We say that someone who has multiple roles or talents “wears many hats.” But there I stood, wearing fifteen vests, forty-five hats, too many pairs of sweatpants to count, and no shoes to continue walking in. My outfit made no sense. I had become attached to my look because everything was so awesome (for the most part), and I didn’t want to discard any particular item, but I needed to start somewhere with letting go.

I’ve been working with my therapist on letting go of a few of these hats. The problem is that, on the surface, these seem like positive items in my life. Typically, we are trying to get rid of a bad habit like eating too many sweets. We know that that isn’t good for us in the long run. In the attorney context, we are trying to rid ourselves of a bad habit, such as overworking or overdrinking.

My penchant for being a helper plus suffering from “shiny-new-thing syndrome” had led me astray.

But what do we do if the behavior, activity, or habit is something positive or objectively good? How do we decide to let go of something that is—in and of itself—a healthy or positive behavior, activity, job, role, etc? It’s pretty darn difficult. When you list out these things in your head, they appear to all be on the same level plane. In order to decide what needs to go, you need to go a few levels deeper into what you really value.

First, you should give yourself the time and space to gain clarity on what you want out of your life, both personally and professionally. As attorneys, we rarely—if ever—take time for ourselves. We have clients, briefs, court, partners, and the like vying for our time, attention, and energy. Ask yourself some tough questions along the lines of, “If I don’t take anyone else into consideration, what do I want to be doing right now?”

Second, stop searching for more and sit with what is. More often than not, because attorneys are achievers, we have a penchant for seeking more, instead of being satisfied with what we have or who we are. Instead, I’d encourage you to do nothing for a moment and reflect on what you already have and who you already are. Stop trying to achieve and be still. I believe that there can be productivity in rest and reflection.

Third, practice impermanence. A seed’s end is a flower’s beginning. Let something transform instead of trying to keep something as it is. Let something end so that something else can begin. If you’ve been thinking about giving up a practice area, do it. If you’ve been thinking about starting your own law firm, do it. These things require letting go of what has been.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Now, Patrick, your 2nd and 3rd encouragements seem to inherently conflict. How can I both sit with what is and let something transform?” My response is that attorneys almost immediately go to “either or” thinking. This dualistic approach to viewing the world leads us to being change-avoidant, hesitant, unsure, and anxious. All of that leads to feeling as though we lack agency and control.

If you reframe the 2nd and 3rd encouragements instead, to allow for both ways of being to be true, then you can start seeing that the world doesn’t truly operate in a mutually exclusive way. We don’t have to decide one or the other. There doesn’t have to be a conflict at every turn.

Fourth, give yourself permission to let go and to be happy/fulfilled. I have been going around preaching this at every opportunity. In my podcast. In presentations. On LinkedIn. In conversations with my wife and my kids. With the checkout person at Whole Foods.

It’s easier said than done. I’ve known for quite some time that I needed to fire myself from several roles and practice areas at my firm. I knew this because doing this work left me drained, empty, frustrated, upset, distracted, depleted, and out of alignment with my values and natural/preferred workflows. I have complete autonomy over the kind of work that I do and still it has been extremely difficult to take the leap of faith.

I started by writing down what I wanted to stop doing immediately and sat with it for several days. I then took that list and wrote an email to the attorneys and support staff at my firm informing them what I was doing and why I was doing it (If you’d like a copy of that email, I’d be happy to share it with you if you shoot me an email or DM on LinkedIn). My team’s reception of this email with the subject line “Alignment” was super supportive and a testament to the culture we have created, where everyone is encouraged to be themselves and seek work that brings them fulfillment and joy.

Lastly, I wanted to encourage you to stop the self-judgment and the fear of being judged by others that keeps you from living a fulfilling life and having a fulfilling legal practice. Set a daily intention to practice self-compassion and to see that the world is there to support you. If the environment you are in is not conducive to your growth, consider changing it free from judgment. Seek out relationships with people who support you. After all, we are who we surround ourselves with.

I don’t really know what the ultimate outcome will be of firing myself, but I do know that I was once a seed and now I can bloom. Let these tidbits in this article be a guide, not a strict set of rules. 

We already have enough of those.

Patrick Patino is an attorney at and owner of Patino King LLC, a law firm providing debtor and creditor representation in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. He is also owner and operator of Newfangled Legal, a coaching and consulting business for law firms and attorneys. Contact him at


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