On “Zealousness” and “Reasonableness”

I continue to hear or read about attorneys who cite to an ethical duty of “zealousness” in their representation of clients.  An article in the July 2011 issue of Corporate Counsel magazine entitled “Crossing the Line” is about an in-house lawyer who supposedly got into trouble for just being a “zealous advocate.”  In fact, the article begins with the declaration that “Lawyers are supposed to be zealous advocates.”

That all lawyers have an ethical duty to be zealous advocates is just something that everyone knows to be factually correct.  Right?  Well, not really.

[ The full article is available to clients of LegalBillAudit.com. To request a copy, please contact clientservices@legalbillaudit.com]

2 thoughts on “On “Zealousness” and “Reasonableness”

  1. Your article bears out what my first employer as a young insurance defense lawyer told me. “Think of yourself as a painter hired to paint a wall. Your job is to paint the whole wall, leaving no streaks or drips and to do so in a timely fashion. You can paint a Rembrandt on the wall if you like, but don’t expect the client to pay you for more than a 2 coat latex job.There are indeed times when a client will pay for Rembrandt quality work, but be sure to define the scope of the work and the estimated cost in advance and memorialize it in writing.”

  2. Your comparison with painting is very apt. However, I think the 3rd Circuit says it even better in a fee dispute case, “A Michelangelo should not charge Sistine Chapel rates for painting a farmer’s barn”. Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines, 719 F.2d 670, 677 (3d Cir.1983). 

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