By: Keith Davidson
Lawyers are duty-bound to provide “zealous” advocacy for their clients. The term “zealous” means to show zeal, and zeal means “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.” I really like that definition because it captures the heart of what it takes to be a good lawyer—energy and enthusiasm. And why not invest energy and enthusiasm into every client’s case, it makes the practice of law more interesting, meaningful and fulfilling. Not to mention it coincides with what most clients want from their lawyer: to kick ass (putting it bluntly).
So why do so many lawyers lack zeal? Well the cost of being zealous is putting yourself on the line. To be a zealous advocate means having to test yourself time and again, on every case for every client, and then holding yourself accountable for every case and for every client. In other words, it takes hard work and a good deal of courage to step into the middle of someone else’s problem and take it on as your own (especially with energy and enthusiasm).
The biggest fear lawyers face: losing. That is not unique to lawyers, by the way. We all fear losing. Our American individual bravado praises the winner. And when you win, you have done everything right—no one can question your abilities. When you lose, however, you did something very wrong and then everyone questions your abilities.
Of course, winning or losing is of outside our control in the court system. I have seen good cases lose and bad cases win and everything in between. In a nutshell, our court system is a bit of a crap shoot. There is so much out of your control heading into a lawsuit. You cannot control what the opposing side does, the testimony of witnesses or documents (or the lack thereof), the ruling of judges, the decisions of juries, etc. There is only one thing in your control: being zealous. The energy and enthusiasm you put into a case can reap rewards down the road.
Don’t get me wrong, even zealous advocates can lose. But zealous advocacy increases substantially the chances of either a generous settlement or a victorious trial. Of course, zealous advocacy comes at a cost. It takes time to invest energy and enthusiasm into any case, and time is money. So you can’t, on the one hand, demand a thorough and zealous advocate, and then on the other hand complain about the cost. The price of fighting for justice and fairness is risking injustice and unfairness. Nothings guaranteed in this world.
But even without guarantees, it never ceases to amaze me where a good amount of energy and enthusiasm will take you. So put everything you have into your legal matter, if you really care to prevail. It is your best chance at achieving a just result.