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"My advice to a woman going through a divorce is, find a competent trial lawyer and make him your boyfriend."
Would you say this to a disciplinary panel? Probably not. But Zenas Zelotes reportedly did while being investigated by the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee. He believes that attorneys who are romantically involved with clients provide better representation.
The more an attorney cares about the client, the more aggressive he'll be.
Zelotes also believes that ethics rules prohibiting such personal relationships are unconstitutional, reports the Norwich Bulletin. He says they infringe upon an attorney's freedom of association and represent an unnecessarily "aggressive judicial paternalism."
His view may be colored by his personal situation. He's been representing his fiance for five years, and according to the ABA Journal, has an "intimate" relationship with the ex-wife of the man who filed an ethics complaint.
Though they may be bothersome to Zelotes, these rules arguably exist to protect the profession, attorney and client. Sexual relationships can cloud judgment, create conflicts of interest, and become exploitative, particularly when involving a vulnerable party. They can also create an appearance of impropriety in a profession that covets a positive reputation.
But do they, as Zenas Zelotes suggests, also have the potential to do good? Will attorneys "work twice as hard" for someone they love and care for? And don't other ethics rules already protect against the potential ill effects of a romantic relationship?
No one seems to know the answers to any of these questions, which is probably why attorney-client sex rules vary so widely.