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“I hope well of to-morrow." - ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
HAPPEN what will, an attorney must nover lose his temper or his self-possession with a client: they often try one shamefully, but we must put up with all, save perhaps in some extreme and peculiar cases. If a client challenge you with losing his cause, or advising him rashly to embark in litigation, you may be sure, if your conscience honestly acquits you, that this is preliminary to a quarrel about your bill, and possibly to a taxation of it, and then show as much spirit as you please. I have always armed myself against such assaults with clients that I at all suspected, by addressing a letter to them previous to the suit, in which, after stating the facts of the case, as they have reported them, I have recorded my opinion on the course that under the cir
cumstances they ought to take. It is very satisfactory to be able to appeal afterwards to such a testimony to your own straight-forward proceedings. After all, however, clients are entitled to be captious, impatient, and unreasonable; it is foolish as well as unjust on their part, for they often weary and alienate the sympathy of their attorney, and thus render him less energetic in their service; they sometimes bewilder him, and thereby make him uncertain and indecisive; nor will any client of liberal feelings forget that there may chance to be twenty other matters going forward in the office, every one of which may be as urgent and as important as his own: but be the client what he may, the attorney must humor and indulge him, except in one point; a nervous and fidgety client should never be allowed to be present when his cause is tried; the chances are ten to one that he ruins the best case ever laid before a jury, unless his counsel is endowed with more than common firmness: he will never “let well alone,” but persevere in prompting his attorney and his counsel, till he makes the jury share the distrust that he feels him. self.
A beginner has one advantage which he never enjoys in after life, if he acquires any business at all; he is allowed the reputation of being able and willing to devote all his time to a client's interest. It is very true that this reasonable expectation is formed by nineteen clients out of twenty, whether their solicitor is old or young; a new man, or established in credit and connexion; but it is certainly a powerful inducement to come to a juvenile attorney, provided he is clever, honest, and all that, that he has nothing else to do. Hence it often arises that in cases of long acumu. lating confusion, where correspondence, at first friendly and explanatory, and then expostulatory, and finally hostile and menacing, has brought the parties to that happy position in which neither knows what the other means, or when the squabble began, or where it is to end, they seek out a solicitor not so much to advise on the quid agendum, as to unravel the web which conflicting interests, aided by illtemper, have woven around them; this duty peculiarly falls to the lot of a young man who “ has nothing else to do!” Yet it is in businens of this description that I have most frequently found clients of all others the most difficult to guide; I can find no happier term for them than “ the class despondent.” In the majority of cases despondency springs more from temper than from a conviction of insuperable difficulty. One disappointment, of slight moment, and only on a collateral issue, is speedily followed by a second, possibly by a third; though the merits of the dispute are still untouched, a sanguine or anxious man attaches to every interlocutory matter an importance that does not belong to it; he makes up his mind that all must turn upon that single question, and if decided against him he becomes abattu. We have no English word exactly to convey the meaning, unless it is the expressive slang, that he is “floored.” When two or three defeats of this kind have followed each other rapidly, however trifling they may be in themselves, and the result most probably of some pettifoggery of a grasping opponent, practiced to obtain a dirty profit of three or four pounds in costs by way of penalty for an oversight or blunder, the client becomes disheartened: he is “an unlucky man "_"nothing ever succeeds with him," and his confidence in his solicitor is imperceptibly shaken, though he would be at a loss himself to say why. It is principally in proceedings in equity or bankruptcy that cases of this description occur; partly because in modern times a practice of doubtful propriety, though undoubted convenience, has crept up of disposing of a cause by a sidewind motion; but chiefly because such proceedings, from their procrastinated and infinitesimal character, admit of much appeal to the court upon collateral and incidental points. There is considerable difficulty in dealing with such clients : if you give into their despondency with misplaced sympathy, you run the chance of confirming them in their secretly cherished though unacknowledged purpose of compromising the affair for themselves, at whatever disadvantage; and you are privately accused of the heavy loss they sustain. The injury derived from these whispered charges, industriously circulated to excuse their own irresolution, may prove incalculably great throughout your whole connexion. On the other hand, if you sustain and encourage their desponding spirits, you subject yourself, in the event of failure, to the