AVOID THE ZEALOUS ADVOCATE

A few decades ago, there were many lawyers who espoused being a zealous advocate. When I heard the term, I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. I didn’t really know what that
phrase meant.

Nevertheless, I embraced the concept and declared myself a zealous advocate. I even put the phrase on the Decato Law Office website. Eventually, I looked up the word z

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ealot. A zealot is a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their objectives. I didn’t really care for that definition. I didn’t really want to be a zealot, so I began to shy away from the phrase.

Over time, I determined I had looked up the wrong word. I should have looked up the word zealous. When I did, I found that being zealous meant devoted, committed, enthusiastic, and energetic. However, I then found out that it also meant fanatical, hard-core, intense and fierce. Ugh!

I may sound like a politician but I was for being a zealous advocate before I was against it. I came to reject the term zealous advocate not so much because of the negative connotation of
being a zealot, but rather because I don’t think a zealous advocate is always the most effective advocate. In the end, I would much prefer being effective than zealous.

If I was going to pick a lawyer, I would want a lawyer who brings a certain structure to the job. I would want a person who is both law-driven and fact-driven. I would want a person who understands the art of persuasion. I would want a person who has a certain style and personal appeal. I wouldn’t want a zealot, although I would want someone who is committed and energetic.I think there are times when a lawyer must be fierce and intense.  But percentage-wise, I’m convinced this should be on the low end.

This discussion brings to mind the passage in
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I like the lawyer who reads. I like the lawyer who thinks about the objective and develops
a plan to meet the objective. I guess – in the end – you can say that I prefer the tortoise over the
hare.

Written by Attorney Peter Decato
Posted by Keely Marie, Senior Law Clerk

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