Zealous Advocacy: Where is the line? The “Brief Series”
July 15, 2022 by Lincoln Derr
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Like so many things in life, the term “zealous advocacy” was born with the best intentions. By definition, it is an attorney’s ethical obligation to do everything reasonable, within his or her means, to help a client achieve the goals set forth at the outset of the representation. But, as Lincoln Derr attorney Jeremy Sugg explains in this quick bonus episode, it has evolved over time to be used as a “crutch” — a defense for behavior that walks the line between true zealous advocacy and conduct that flirts with the edges of professionalism. “A lot of attorneys will toe the line of what is allowed under the rules of professionalism, and the defense is often, ‘Your honor, I’m being a zealous advocate. That’s what I have to do.’”
What the North Carolina Bar Association has to say
On its website the North Carolina Bar Association clarifies the rules attorneys must follow in the execution of their duties to their clients: “As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications. As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system. As negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealing with others. As evaluator, a lawyer acts by examining a client’s legal affairs and reporting about them to the client or to others.”
For more, visit ncbar.org.
About Jeremy Sugg
My law license declares I am an attorney and counselor at law, and I take my role as a counselor very seriously. I work tirelessly to ensure my clients have all the facts and law to make the best decision for themselves or their business. If a client’s path leads us to a courtroom, I ensure the judge and jury have the relevant facts and law necessary to make the correct decision.
These have been my guiding principles since I first began practicing law. In my first year of practice, I was appointed by a judge to represent a client who was charged with a Class “C” felony. The client was an older gentleman who faced the prospect of spending the remainder of his life in prison. The evidence against him was significant, but he refused to go down without a fight. I was appointed to the case with the understanding it was a lost cause, but would be good experience for me. At trial, I highlighted the shaky credibility of the State’s witnesses, and the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty.”
I have continued to put these principles into practice throughout my career. I handle matters ranging from contract and real-estate disputes to defamation and products liability claims. Whether for individuals, small businesses or large corporations, I guide my clients through the litigation process with full knowledge of the risks involved and an eye towards the most comprehensive resolution.
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Our Cover Art Background: “Brave Enough”
Artist: Sally Higgins
After many years of artistic pursuits of various kinds, Charlotte artist Sally Higgins turned to painting about 10 years ago. She works in oil, acrylic, encaustic and mixed media. Art provides Sally a welcome respite from her word-filled career as a trial lawyer. See more of Sally’s art at sallyhigginsfineart.com andstudioworksgallery.com.