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their solicitor to be consoled, as often as to be assisted: and a prompt self-adaptation to their oddities, a cheerful chiming-in with their fancies, a silent acquiescence in their infirmities of pride or temper, will rivet the confidence which chance only perhaps, or at best a patronizing spirit, has first induced them to repose.
To do this skillfully, and to avoid all mala propos allusions, like the gaucheries to which I have just confessed, a man must take some little trouble to inform himself of his client’s domestic position. In taking instructions for wills or family settlements, this is so obviously indispensable, that it cannot be avoided; but some of the cases that I have above narrated, will prove that it is equally requisite on occasions that scarcely appear to trench at all on the domestic relations. Without some insight into such matters, we can never judge to what extent our advice may not be counteracted by the paramount influence of a wife, a partner, or even a more remote connexion. It once fell to my lot to solicit a bankrupt’s certificate, where there were nearly a hundred creditors to be canvassed: I found my applications fruitless in three cases out of five, till I had enlisted the wife in my service, and then all was plain sailing. I have, at the present time, an extensive circle of clients, all of whom are more or less allied to a gentleman of deserved reputation for good sense and a clear head, though but little versed in business. I am rarely consulted by one in this circle, upon a mixed question of law and prudence, but I am told, “I must ask my cousin what he thinks of the matter; ” this cousin being somewhat timid withal, I have sometimes found my counsel rejected through his resistance, and generally to the injury of my client. Yet I do not feel it politic to deprecate such appeals. I always yield to them as satisfactory to my client, however little so to myself.
It is not difficult to collect this kind of information without appearing to seek it officiously. I have now and then pointedly asked a man who has seemed half distrustful of my advice, if he has no intimate friend that we could take into our counsel? whether his wife or his son feels an interest in the affair? whether he is on such terms with his family as to be sure of their approbation, however things might turn out? if such an investment, or such a proceeding would bring him into unpleasant collision with his partners, his correspondents, his customers, etc.; and such questions, if put with tact, usually elicit sufficient of his feelings or his apprehensions to enable one to detect his weak side, and avoid the risk of unconsciously wounding it. In all cases of character, such as libels, breach of trust, non-performance of contract, or composition with creditors, these inquiries are due even to the party himself.
“Si quid fecimus, certe irati non fecimus.”—IV Tusc., 51.
CLOSE, but silent observation of the manners of a new client, is productive of much convenience in our future intercourse with him. Some men lay themselves bare at once, in their impetuous exposure of their injuries and grievances: they rush into your office, agitated, excited, and breathless with impatience, to find not merely an adviser, but a ready listener. Attention
must be profound, but credulity scarce; never believe above half of what an angry client may
say, but most patiently endure the whole of it. Mr. Wilson, a merchant of great respectability, one day entered my room, accompanied by his senior clerk, who usually attended him as a sort of peripatetic day-book. His face betrayed an irritated mind; and he seated himself in silence, half afraid of trusting himself to speak on the subject on which he had called to consult me:
after a minute's pause his clerk came to his assistance. “Mr. Wilson has called on you, Mr. Sharpe, to mention—” + “Be silent, Taylor, I can speak for myself, I suppose.” “I beg pardon, Sir, but I thought—” “What business have you to think? Attend to your own affairs, Sir.” The clerk was silenced; but Wilson still hesitated, cleared his throat, and began. “'Tis very unpleasant, Mr. Sharpe—” He paused again, again coughed, and once more made a futile attempt. “”Tis really painful, Sir, when a gentleman who has for forty years—” He could not get further. “Forty-one years last Michaelmas,” interposed Mr. Taylor. “You are right, Taylor; forty-one years ago, did I-” and then, after another momentary pause, “and now to come to this!” I thought it must be commercial failure, or something nearly as awful; but I wisely held my peace. “Would you believe it, Sir? it is not an hour since that villain, that dastardlv villain, called
me a swindler, Sir.”