The email said it all. The prospective client claimed to have been the victim of a scam that involved “some sensitive activities, which can be leveraged against the scammer.” In addition, the potential client stated that the scammer “will back down against an aggressive attorney, someone who does not play nice in the sandbox and keeps coming at you until you give in, and won’t hesitate to use any leverage he can find.” Without question, any lawyer representing this client knows what type of lawyer the client wants.

Some would say that this client wants his lawyer to employ the “scorched earth” style of litigation. Others would characterize the desired conduct as zealous. We all know of or have encountered lawyers who use this style. The question is should they? And the bigger question this column raises is whether the words “zeal” and “zealous” have become so synonymous with “scorched earth” tactics that they should no longer be used to describe or defend unprofessional or potentially unethical conduct.

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