Page images
PDF
EPUB

twenty are wrong-headed,—give ten pounds damages for a broken leg, when they would not have their own gouty toes trod upon for fifty; some thirty more are recovered for taxed costs, and (the case has occurred to myself) after receiving these “party and party” allowances, you remain more than twenty out of pocket. You may gain a verdict for your pauper client, and swallow up all the fruits of . his triumph, even to repay extra costs out of pocket! Reason and equity would say in such a case, that the attorney is excusable for pocketing the damages, as well as the costs; yet character and interest forbid it. It is a hard case: but the attorney must relinquish all, though successful; and to retain the character of a gentleman, must abandon, not only remuneration, but bare indemnity. The most annoying of all causes that a man can undertake, is where he recovers damages, moderate or temperate damages, as they are called, that is to say, fifty pounds for the loss of an eye, or thirty for the crippling of a limb, for a humble client thrust upon him by a wealthy patron, or adopted out of Christian charity! How often have I known jurymen

vaunt with self-complacency, of their justice, when some poor devil has obtained from this same justice, just enough to pay his surgeon’s bill, after having been disabled for life by a drunken coachman, or a larking dandy; while the attorney, who has brought the action from mere compassion, has had the pleasure of hearing himself branded by counsel, as a wretch prowling about the streets for quarrels, and obtains for his benevolence, taxed costs that will just pay for coach-hire and a blue bag to take his papers home ! I lament to add that I never heard of counsel relinquishing fees for a successful pauper; though I have known many in which the attorney of that pauper has been left to pay such fees out of his own pocket. There are other instances, where even among the wealthy, good feeling prohibits an attorney from asking costs. As a general rule, it may be laid down that they never should be taken from a charity purse. The retainer may be refused: but if accepted, nothing can be claimed, but money actually expended. Sometimes, however, yet greater liberality should be shown. It once fell to my lot to be consulted by a poor clergyman, who enjoyed a small benefice in the country. In the plenitude of Christian good. nature, he had become security to the extent of £1000, for the good conduct of a worthless relative, whose only chance of reform appeared to be in accepting a situation of some pecuniary trust, which his friends had procured for him. I never knew a case in which such good offices worked out the object for which they were in. tended; and so it happened here: the rascal became possessed of a considerable sum, far exceeding the penalty of the bond, and absconded. My client was immediately required to indemnify the employers. He was conscious of no defense, and utterly destitute of all means of satisfying the demand, except by mortgaging his living. His self-reproaches, for forgetting what was due to his wife and infant family, in entering into such a bond, not unmingled with painful misgivings whether he had acted honestly even toward his opponents, in giving an indemnity that he found he could not satisfy, were enough to touch a miser’s heart. I offered my assistance: but here again the good man hesitated, because “he could not pay me.” I re-assured him on this point, by declining pay. ment, on the principle that professional aid

was all I had it in my power to give in toc many cases where I ought to be more liberal, and therefore I made a compromise with my conscience at times, by sacrificing six-andeightpence, and debiting charity with the amount. He smiled at my quaint morality in book-keeping, and allowed me to investigate his case; the rather, because there was too much reason to fear that my trouble would only extend to a little negotiation for indulgence. I was too much interested in his case to be niggardly in my exertions, and by dint of close inquiry, I learned that the money which the man had embezzled, was private money, not belonging to his employers collectively, but cntrusted to his charge by one of them on his separate account. I had extreme difficulty in obtaining evidence of this; but eventually I succeeded, and defeated the claim, or rather compromised it on terms of abandoning all costs. They amounted to nearly a hundred pounds. Meanwhile, my reverend friend be. came exposed to further difficulty, by having the young family of a brother thrown upon his hands, by that brother's premature decease. Could a solicitor, under such circumstances, call on him for costs? or ought he to have withheld his aid? I cannot answer these questions for others; but I know many of my profession who would have followed the same course as myself. Many similar instances could be given; but I have said enough on the subject. I will only add, that it is prudent to reo . linquish costs altogether, or to charge the usual * and reasonable fees. I never once knew a client

that gave one credit for a compromise.

« PreviousContinue »