Let It Go

When it comes to Disney movies, there are three possible answers to the question “Did you like it?”: 1. I loved it; 2. It was okay; or 3. I hated it (almost never). Let’s face it – whether we want to admit it publicly or not, Disney is a team of brilliant movie makers and story tellers, especially in their ability to develop and film movies that appeal to all ages and include important lessons for everyone (yes, including lawyers).

One such terrific and meaningful Disney movie is Frozen (2013), the growing up story of a courageous princess named Elsa) who becomes the snow queen. Whether or not you saw the movie or know the story, I want to focus on one particular song (and lesson) from the movie – Let It Go. Read the key lyrics below with a powerful message:

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.

Be the good girl you always have to be.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.

Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go!
 Can’t hold it back any more.

Let it go, let it go!

Turn away and slam the door.

I don’t care what they’re going to say. …

Let it go, let it go.

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn.

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone!

Emphasis added. I know what you’re thinking – what on earth does this song have to do with me or the practice of law? Well, it has nothing to do with the law, but it has very much to do with how you experience and thrive in the business of law.

The blessing and the curse of law school is that it taught us to find the flaws, to assume the worst and to be perfect. Yes, law school very much emphasized the goal of perfection. The law we learned in law school and much of the practice of law is focused on precision, and in many cases that focus is well-placed. However, the road to good health (emotional and physical) in the business of law is smoothed by the ability to let it go.

 The legal profession (and its professionals) are hurting in many ways. Lawyers are consumed by their practice to the exclusion of the other things that they say are important (e.g. kids, family, community, fun, etc.). Here are some of the sobering statistics offered by the Dave Nee Foundation (www.daveneefoundation.org):

  • Depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years.
  • Entering law school, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have a psychological dysfunction.
  • Only half of lawyers are satisfied or very satisfied with their work.
  • Lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the US, and lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.
  • Lawyers rank 5th in incidence of suicide by occupation.

It’s time for a change, and one change is to let it go starting today.

Let go of what, you ask? Let go of the need and desire to do it all. Let go of the false belief that working hard alone is the goal and that working long hours makes you a better lawyer. Let go of the misguided pursuit of literal perfection and focus instead on adding value with your ideas and solutions (not just your precision). Let go of the idea of holding onto work and embrace the magic of delegation and trust. Let go of the need to do it all yourself and collaborate. Let go of faulty beliefs about control. Let go of the idea of always having it together (“I’ve got it”) and ask for help when you need it.

Letting go may not be easy (the best things are not always easy), but it can be simple. Embrace the simplicity of letting go with inspiration from Elsa, the snow queen. Letting go will change your experience in and of the business of law. It will change your relationships. Letting go will change you for the better. Are you ready to let it go? Trust me, people are waiting for you.

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