True adversity, outside the context of a deal or case, is a foe with which many lawyers are not intimately familiar. After all, most have been blessed intellectually, have excelled in school, and, through hard work, have done quite well in their legal careers. The recession has brought misfortune into greater focus, at least a bit more often, which was evidenced by recent discussions with two rather accomplished attorneys who were dealing with setbacks in disparate ways.

The first lawyer was a transactional partner who perennially was among his firm’s top rainmakers. As with many business lawyers, the economic meltdown had put a dent in his originations. But, an opportunity to handle a rare big M&A matter offered the chance to make up most of those lost fees. Despite pulling out all the stops, and making a presentation that he was quite proud of, the work went elsewhere. The partner was morose and openly acknowledged that he just couldn’t shake the disappointment that seemingly hung over him like a black cloud for the past month.