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Resilience To Inevitable “Failure”

In recent weeks I have been working with some successful older lawyers on their rainmaking skills. We have been making plans together – who do you know, how do you call them, what can you offer them (often not just legal services), etc. Then the lawyers execute these plans, and roll with the punches.

Working with lawyers at all stages of their careers gives me an opportunity to see that experience alone can create better coping mechanisms for dealing with the inevitable disappointment of not getting a particular client or piece of work. However, I have also seen younger lawyers who innately have, or have acquired, the calm acceptance of some disappointment needed to maintain the consistent good attitude for steady rainmaking.

There are lots of articles about how to move on from rejection. (I cite two below, including one of my own.) What is seldom mentioned, and I find crucial, is that lawyers and other professionals allow themselves to feel the sting of rejection before moving on, not in a devastating way but as something to integrate into one’s experience. Although some failure is inevitable and business rejection is seldom personal, take a minute to reboot, feel the rejection and perhaps understand what happened, but just a minute.

After a rejection, rainmakers acknowledge their disappointment, at least to themselves. They do not lick their wounds because they are not wounded. They are bruised and they move on.

Without sitting, at least for a minute, with your feelings of disappointment, those feelings have a tendency to subtly discourage you from taking the next risk of potential rejection. Ignored or belittled (whether by others or yourself) professional disappointment can turn into a pattern of reluctance to pursue new business. Rolling with the punches requires taking a deep breath, a bit of thought, and regrouping in preparation for renewed readiness to keep trying. Taking time to assess, feel and regroup forestalls extended injury to one’s professional self-esteem.

Perhaps most importantly, unacknowledged disappointment creates cynicism regarding clients and the practice of law. Cynicism atrophies rainmaking success. The clients of consistent, not just lucky, rainmakers know they are important to their lawyers. Lawyers who treat their clients like commodities, whose attitude is “next”, attract little client loyalty.

When you fail to get a client or a piece of business, let yourself feel the disappointment. Then move on. Fear is debilitating. Cynicism can be lethal. Rejection is just part of the ongoing process of being a participant in the marketplace for services.

For further practical thoughts on this subject see, Merrilyn Astin Tarlton’s recent piece in Attorney at work, and my older article at

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