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woman-boxingAs a I prepared to present at the “Prepare to Thrive Seminar” given at the Suffolk County Bar (my topic was the “American Lethal System: When Conflict Turns Deadly”), I was surprised and relieved to learn that the term “zealousness” had been removed from the New York State Rules of Professional Responsibility. I was not alone in my ignorance, as I surveyed the members in the audience and learned that they too were not aware of its removal. This is ironic because we were discussing lawyer competency and the importance of staying current with the changes in the law. However, this particular change wasn’t new. In fact, as I began to search for the “zeal,” I learned that it went missing in 2009, when the rules of Professional Conduct superseded the former Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It was then that the proposed rules were adopted by the state bar in piecemeal fashion in 2006 and 2007; and it was then that the proposed rules were forwarded to the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the presiding justices of the four Appellate Division Departments for their final review and approval. But when that approval came in mid-December 2008, the word “zeal” had disappeared. There is no apparent explanation for its intentional banishment.

I believe that the disappearance of zeal was made in consideration of the deleterious effects this concept has had on the well-being of lawyers. (American Bar Association (2018), Report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, Chicago, Ill.). The word “zeal” is innocent enough. It means, “a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something.” (Webster-Merriam, 2011). The word becomes more lethal when it becomes injected into the adversarial system.

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