Everyone loves lawyer jokes – until they need a lawyer.
We forget sometimes, what it means to be a lawyer in North Carolina. It is an honor and a calling, a duty and a responsibility.
From the North Carolina Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 0.1 – Preamble: A Lawyer’s Responsibilities: A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.  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.
Lawyers are advisors, advocates, negotiators, and evaluators. Nowhere does this hold as true as it does for the criminal attorney. We must be all things to our clients or the victims we represent. Webster Dictionary defines “zeal” as “a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something.” “Zeal” has become entangled with the word “overzealous.” It is often used as a negative term in our profession. We must strive to change that, to reclaim the word. Without the zeal to be all things to those we help, then we fail the promise of our profession.