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ALPS In Brief - Episode 69: Let it Go

10 min read

ALPS In Brief - Episode 69: Let it Go

We all carry baggage in our personal and professional lives as lawyers. If the baggage isn't addressed, we get depressed. In this episode, Mark offers some wisdom, tactics, and examples of how to let it go.


Hello, I'm Mark Bassingthwaighte, the Risk Manager here at ALPS, and welcome to another episode of ALPS In Brief, the podcast that comes to you from the historic Florence building in beautiful downtown Missoula, Montana. I had some things happen this week that got me thinking, and so I want to tell some stories and share some insights or just responses, I guess, to things that have been going on. I want to start out with a story that goes back a few years. Sometime ago my wife and I attended a weekend family get-together out in California, beautiful home that could put up a whole bunch of us, and then some others stayed in nearby hotels, but it was a lot of fun. It really was a lot of fun.

One evening, the extended family was all gathered around a huge table and the other people outside in hot tub and people on the beach, walking, things, but there was a nice group around this big table, and one of the young grandchildren there was quite a fan of Frozen, and she just was so proud of herself. We all got to talking and she had memorized the song, and I'm sure many of you are aware of the song or have heard of it, called Let It Go. She wanted to sing for all of us, and everybody's all excited. She climbs up and is standing on the sort of the center of this table, and she just starts belting out, Let It Go. She gets through the first verse and we're all just hooting and hollering kind of, "This is great," and she just says, "Well, stop, stop, stop. I'm not done yet," and she just launches into the next verse, and we're all kind of looking around and she just keeps going.

She's going to sing the whole darn song. I see near the end, it becomes abundantly clear there are more than a few people that are very impatient, ready for this to be over, "Oh my gosh, it's almost painful," and I'm thinking to myself and sort of smiling. I see people really aren't listening to what she's saying. I think there's some wisdom here. Let it go. It's a little girl, enjoying, trying to entertain and just so proud of herself.

We all can certainly get through a few more minutes of listening to her sing and just have a nice, wonderful evening in spite of that. So that was just a fun memory, but it's relevant to some other things that have happened and get just things I've been thinking about. I also recently listened to a presentation on forgiveness, and I must say it was one of the more, powerful is the word that comes to mind, but it just, a presentation that really struck home for me in a variety of ways. One of the things that I very much appreciated and thought was just, "Well done." The presenter was talking about that people are at times wronged by others. People are sometimes betrayed by others, hurt by others, and he wanted to sort of give a visual to this in terms of how this impacts us individually when we hold on to these types of feelings, feelings of betrayal, hurt, all of that, and so he had two people come up.

He put them together, handcuffed them together, and he says, "You know, so you have a bad relationship. One person will be the person that was perhaps betrayed in the relationship and the other person, handcuffed is, together here, is the person who betrayed the first person." So you say, "Okay, I'm going to exit the relationship and move on, get a divorce," whatever it might be, but as the person walks away from the relationship, they're still handcuffed together. Now, obviously, the person that truly betrayed doesn't come along everything, but the baggage, if you will, is still there. There's still this attachment because there's been no forgiveness.

You might be in a situation, perhaps an associate has a problem with a partner and has been wronged or is constantly hurt and belittled. There's just a very unhealthy relationship, and an associate just, "I've had enough. I'm quitting. I'm out of here," and you go and you start another job at another firm, and you're all excited, but there's some behaviors with a new partner that remind you of things your partner has done, and you start to immediately have all of this, sort of baggage can back up, because the handcuffs are still there. We're still bound. You want to release those handcuffs.

You want to take them off, and that can be done through forgiveness. Now, I can appreciate that some might say, "Well, that forgiveness doesn't always work for me as a term." Let it go. Just let it go. We need to move past these kinds of things.

Why do I want to raise this and talk about this? Well, for one, it's a wellness issue for me. We do need to learn how to deal with problems that come up in life with situations where we've been wronged. These can be obviously personal relationships, and let's talk about that for a second. Well, what does it matter if ...

What's this got to do with risk management in the practice of law? Come on, guys, think about it. If something is way out of whack and not right in your personal life, unless you are extraordinarily good at walling all of that off, it's going to impact all the other aspects of your life, and I don't think anybody is truly really good at walling things off. That's why some people drink. That's why some people abuse prescription medications.

We can get depressed. If we don't deal with the baggage in our personal lives, and obviously in our professional lives as well as lawyers, we're going to have wellness issues because we are unwell. The baggage has not been addressed, right? So I see this. Let's start to wrap our heads around this a little bit.

It's, what types of relationships ... So again, it can be a spouse, a betrayal, somebody has an affair. It could be things aren't working well with a child. All kinds of things are being said. It's just very, very nasty.

It can be a partner. It can be a client, opposing counsel, a judge. We can't help but be in relationship with others because we are human, and then when we're working and providing professional services and working as a lawyer, there's going to be all kinds of relationships that we're involved in. So I really want to share, if you find yourself focusing, holding on to the consequences of problematic relationships, I strongly encourage you to look at the possibility of forgiving as a way to move on. At times, you will find some people say, "Well, I don't want to let this go. I've been wronged," and if there's all sorts of things that can go on here, we can kind of hang on to it.

Honestly, I think at times it's almost, we want to be a victim, and we sit and say, "You carry this," and you sit and say, "Well, put it this way. Do you honestly think day in and day out, year after year, the person who wronged you, for lack of a better description, is spending all their time thinking about you? Come on. They're not." It's you that is hanging onto all of this, and why in the world would you give someone else that kind of power to impact your life? Oh, my gosh, that's crazy.

So I encourage you to think about taking off those handcuffs, okay? Again, the failure to do so can lead to depression, addiction, or any alcoholism. I mean, the list just goes on and on and on here. So there's this wellness piece. Let me also share, for those of you that have listened to some of my other podcasts, it's been, oh boy, year and a quarter now, maybe a little more, coming up in a year and a half, that we have moved to Florida, and love it down here.

Really, really do. Well, last night I was out playing tennis and driving home, and it was a very busy six-lane road, three in each direction, that is sort of a center thoroughfare to get back to the house from the tennis facility, and it was at a dead standstill. Long story short, the entire road in both directions was closed, ended up being closed for hours due to a very, very serious crash. Two helicopters actually had to come in and land and for a life flight. I mean, this really was not good, and I'm sitting here thinking to, and I would just say, this has been my experience and a lot of others that moved down here, could talk about, "Boy, there's some crazy drivers here in Florida," and there really are.

You see a lot of road rage. It's another example of ... Why do people experience road rage? I think of a lot of it, it comes on very fast, "I've been wronged, and I got to get even, and that son of a gun cut me off," and we just get ... Life is too short.

I saw the helicopters go up, and by the time ... You just kind of have to work your way through. It took me two and a half hours to go less than a mile to get to where the accident was still being investigated and whatnot, and they, just so much traffic and they're trying to get around. It's a long story. I won't bug you with all that, but at one entire car, the entire roof was cut off with tools.

I mean, they had to remove the entire roof of the car to get three victims out of the car. It was that bad. One, I've since learned, has died overnight. Life is too short. It's hard at times.

I will readily admit that, boy, I can at times, when somebody cuts me off and I'm in a hurry or whatever it is, you just want to tailgate or do, just play games, but I also don't want to be the guy that's dead because of it, so I'm learning, and I've been doing this for a while down here, learning to let it go, learning to make a different decision, and I think that's a very, very positive thing. Now, we could also take this a little bit further and talk about civility in the practice of law. I've talked about this, written about it off and on over the years, and for me, it's a tough topic to talk about. You could sit here and say, "Was there this ethical duty? Do we all have to be civil?," and honestly, I think the answer to that is no.

It's certainly something that we should all strive to be and to do, or to practice. It can be very, very difficult, but again, I start to think, "I had an interesting call actually just today," where a lawyer who has done a lot of guardian ad litem work and was involved in a divorce situation and representing a child here, and had to make a very difficult decision. "Where does this child go in terms of mom or dad?," and a good decision was made. I accept that at face value, but what happened here is the parent that ended up not getting the child is an extraordinarily aggressive and apparently has a lot of time on his hands person, and is really just doing everything in his power to destroy the professional reputation of this particular lawyer, a lot of online negative reviews, making all kinds of things up, but unfortunately, too very well-spoken, and there's just a lot of stuff, and this is hurting. This is hurting, okay?

I understand that. Talking to the lawyer, the lawyer just absolutely wants to defend herself. This is not right, and she's right. It is not right, but as we talk, one of the things ... They're all the confidentiality rules, and I get, "Are we in an attorney-client relationship here?," and that's a conversation for another day, but I sit and I look at this and I say, "You know, there are some things that you can do here," but one of my cautions to you is to not engage, to not be pulled into this, to not allow someone else to have this kind of power over you.

You are not going to win in a public battle. All you're going to do is elevate and create a much larger viewing audience, if you will, of this public debate. You need to take a higher road. Now, there's certainly things you can do, reputation management services, just as an example, but I would not get into the battle. Let it go, forgive.

I honestly believe that that mindset, that change in mindset in and of itself will enable a perspective, a different perspective that will allow different types of responses, more effective types of responses to come into play, or, if nothing else, to at least come into your vision. You can think about that. Be civil, because other people are going to judge, are going to make their own conclusions, prospective clients, based on how you respond to this. They're looking to say, "This lawyer can't take a little heat. Oh my gosh, I don't want to hire her."

As you can see, we have to look at the bigger picture. Think about situations where depositions, opposing counsel, for lack of a better description, is using all kinds of vulgarities and insulting you, and going on and on. It can be tempting to go into this road rage kind of thing, if you will, as an analogy, but if it happens over and over again, or a particular judge just doesn't work, after a while, it can really start to eat at you and really get kind of rough. It's tempting to either just feel sorry about yourself and go into this sort of victimization kind of mindset and just, "What do I do about it? I don't know. This is just too much," et cetera, and we run, but again, you're going to take the baggage with you.

You're going to take the baggage. Another option is, and you'll see this at times, and how do I put this nicely, the decision is made to get into a pointless dispute. It's just, "Well, if you're going to swear at me, I'm going to swear at you," and we get into that contest. You know where I'm going with that one, but what are clients thinking? How is anyone in terms of their matter? How does that help?

It doesn't. It just elevates. It deteriorates. It does all kinds of things to relationships, and most importantly, to you. Learn to forgive. Learn to let it go.

Be a professional. I truly believe deep in my heart that these kinds of choices are extraordinarily powerful choices, and I believe that because it's something I have tried to practice and learn, and have been working on, oh my gosh, for years and years. I mean, decades. Am I perfect at it? Absolutely not.

I don't know that anybody ever will be, but I do believe in the value of it. The older I get, I don't want to keep pressure, if you will, stress on my heart. I have a healthy heart, I go play tennis, I ride bike, I'd eat, ride, and do things, but stress isn't good, and we live in a 55 plus community down here, honestly. Absolutely love it. Best decision we have ever made.

Lots of friends. Just, it's been a good decision, but I also see there is a, what I would call a minority group here, and I suspect this is not unique to communities of sort of more retirement communities, as you're going to see it a bit more, of people that are constantly under high stress, refuse, or perhaps are incapable. I think that's by choice, but over time, maybe it gets to be a habit of letting things go. These folks are some of the most miserable, unhealthy people I've seen, and it's crazy. So I'm going to sort of close and just say, I don't want that for me and I don't want that for you.

Life is too short. Learn to forgive. Learn as this wonderful, sweet, young, little girl, standing on a table, sang and belted out so beautifully. Learn to let it go. You'll be better for it, and so will the relationships you have, both professionally and personally. So that's it for me.

I hope you found something of value in today's episode. Stay safe out there, folks, and if you have any questions, concerns on this topic or any other topic, please don't hesitate to reach out anytime. I'm not a risk manager for ALPS. I am your Risk Manager. I'm hired by ALPS to manage the risk of our profession at large.

It doesn't cost a dime to talk with me, so feel free. My email address is

That is all. Bye bye.

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ALPS In Brief Podcast Intro/Outro Music: Walk In The Park by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, an attorney’s professional liability insurance carrier. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented over 600 continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management, ethics, and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.

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