The Newfangled Lawyer's Guide to Wandering

“Wander here a whole summer, if you can. Thousands of God's wild blessings will search you and soak you as if you were a sponge, and the big days will go by uncounted. If you are business-tangled, and so burdened by duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy-laden year…give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven.” 

— John Muir, Our National Parks (Wilderness) 

By Patrick Patino

A keen skill I developed as a child was wandering. I’d wake in the morning, head outside, and follow cracks in the concrete in the cul-de-sac adjacent to my house. I could spend countless hours doing nothing but meandering in my imagination. Some days I’d accomplish not much at all. I’d procrastinate on school projects, too busy in my directionless musings. Quite honestly, I was pretty good at being bored and having nothing planned. 

But, this does not make for being a very “successful” adult (or so I thought). So at some point (during law school), a switch went off. I started time-blocking my day. I didn’t want to be seen as that procrastinating, wandering child anymore. I was going to be productive and deactivate the part of myself that enjoyed and was good at doing nothing so I could do many somethings. 

For the first nine years of my legal career, this hyper-focused productivity bent had worked for me to achieve traditional metrics of success. But recently, I’ve been tinkering more with the idea of getting back to my roots of being a grand wanderer. What if I had more space, capacity, and time for doing nothing? What if I had no set goals? What if I gave myself permission to have no agenda, plan, or strategy?

The irony is that I’m now setting a goal to have none, adding time blocks to my day entitled “Ease into the Day” and “Daydream”, and having a strategy of maximizing efficient down time (i.e. squeezing in 5 minutes of meditation in between client calls). The adult, legal professional version of wandering requires setting time aside to do it. I’m using the organizational skills I’ve developed to reactivate a dormant side of myself that I’ve missed.  

When someone tells me that being busy is a good problem to have as an attorney, I revolt. I typically respond with a retort similar to, “I don’t want to be busy; I want to be productive.”

In the legal profession, there is a fear that if you are not doing then you are not producing. If you are not producing, then you are not valuable. If you are not valuable, then you are fungible. To combat this slippery slope, there is an immense pressure to constantly be doing something. If you stop and pause, then you will have fallen behind, forever chasing the phantom of productivity. But this is false. 

Being a successful attorney sometimes requires deliberation, allowing a situation to percolate. Every human benefits from stepping off the proverbial hamster wheel every once in a while to let your mind and body rest. We’ve become almost too obsessed with metrics, ROI, KPIs, etc. Although I am sure if I went looking for it there is a metric for productivity following rest, an ROI for sabbaticals, and a KPI for going on vacation.  

When someone tells me that being busy is a good problem to have as an attorney, I revolt. I typically respond with a retort similar to, “I don’t want to be busy; I want to be productive.” By productive, I mean producing stuff that is both beneficial and fulfilling. The stuff could be work product, a clear communication to a client, a clearing phone call with another attorney, brainstorming a new idea, or sitting at my desk doing nothing for ten minutes each morning before launching into the day to clear my head. 

I invite everyone to reconsider what it means to be productive and whether sometimes it is best to choose to do something else, even if that is doing nothing at all. 

Here are five things that you can do today or in the near future: 

  • Sit and do nothing for five minutes. Be aware of how doing that practice makes you feel.

  • Take a morning off for the heck of it (and do not check work email, phone, Slack messages, etc).  Notice how removing yourself from work is okay. Nothing bad is going to happen.

  • Choose an activity you enjoyed as a kid and do it. It may be going to an arcade for an afternoon, ditching work to go sledding, or (gasp) taking a midafternoon power nap.  
  • Deactivate a goal that no longer serves you. You can always pick it back up later or abandon it completely. For me, it was the goal of having a 4-day workweek indefinitely. For me, flexibility and openness trump the rigidity of sticking to a goal that no longer serves a purpose.  
  • Set aside a day to accomplish nothing. This may prove to be your most productive day (surprisingly), but in a new and refreshing way.  

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 hosts The Newfangled Lawyer Podcast where he chats with other attorneys in order to humanize the attorney experience. He is also owner and operator of Newfangled Legal (, a coaching business for attorneys daring to do things differently, and LexHaven (, a coaching and consulting business for legal changemakers. Contact him at,, or
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