Osgoode Hall Continues to Belch Forth Young Barristers at a Furious Rate – Devious are the Devices Used to Decoy Possible Clients to the Doors of the Ambitious Young Legal Lights.
By Gregory Clark, January 22, 1921
There is a plague of young lawyers in Toronto.
It to estimated that there are now three lawyers for every criminal in this city.
That is a terrible state of affairs.
Osgoode Hall is belching forth raw barristers at a furious rate. Bay street, Yonge street and the other solicitor-laden thoroughfares are crowded at all hours of the day with grim, judicial appearing young men in search of junior partnerships. Several of Toronto’s leading barristers have given up their lucrative practices altogether in order to devote all their time to refusing jobs to the hordes of young lawyers who lay siege to their offices.
Many of the young lawyers have in consequence been forced to accept poor but honest situations as salesmen, insurance agents and office clerks.
But a few of them have courageously extracted a few hundred dollars from their parents and have opened up offices.
Most of the law business goes, naturally, to the old established law firms with six or more names on their office doors. The humble citizen loves to refer to his lawyers in names covering from fifteen to twenty syllables, although the actual work is done by the office boys and students while the numerous senior partners play “Ricketty Aunt” at the club, or shoot birdies in Bermuda.
The young lawyers who set up offices, therefore, have to do some real work in securing clients.
Clients are like pickles. The first pickle out of the bottle is hard to get. After that, they come easy.
It is that elusive first client that is the difficulty.
For the first week, the young lawyers sit in their offices and place huge volume of the law open before them on their desks. They walk out frequently, briskly, for the double purpose of looking again at the fine shiny new name plate on the door, and of creating an impression of traffic. To the same end the new barrister has his father, uncles, friends call on him as many times a day as possible. These know their part. They must walk anxiously, eagerly along the corridor to the law office; worried expressions on their faces; and come out smiling, as if all their anxieties were laid aside.
The young lawyer, for the first few days, has the stenographer copy yards and yards of egregious bunk out of fat law books so that the office will be filled with the comforting, prosperous music of the typewriter.
Some little genius is also displayed in the pursuit of clients. One young barrister, who is bound to be heard from, by the name of Torts, went forth as soon as he had hung his shingle and made the acquaintance of one of the most notorious bad-eggs in the city.
The barrister and vagrant were closeted together for over two hours. Presently the vagrant, well-known to every policeman appeared on the streets in a highly intoxicated and belligerent condition. He was, of course, promptly arrested and locked up.
In the morning, when he was brought to court with nearly a hundred other prisoners of all kinds, the rascal began to shout out to the guards:
“Send for Mr. Torts! I want Mr. Torts! There’s only one real lawyer in this town! I want Mr. Torts!”
Half a hundred prisoners heard this significant praise from one who apparently should know one lawyer from another.
Mr. Torts was, indeed, waiting in the Court. He defended very ably the vociferous scalawag who had called for him and got him off with a $10 fine, which was promptly paid.
Thereupon at least a dozen prisoners in the dock called upon Mr. Torts to defend them. Three of these cases were remanded and went before juries. The ingenious Mr. Torts practice was founded.
Still another inventive young solicitor named, shall we say, Mr. Repleven, hired the hardest looking man he could find in the unemployment line-up. And all this hired man has to do, for $25 a week, is to ride up and down elevators, hang around restaurants and repeat in a challenging fierce voice:
“That’s all right! Mr. Repleven will get me off, he will! If any lawyer in the world can get me off, it’s Mr. Repleven. See if he don’t!”
Repetition! That’s the secret of publicity! Look at Beecham’s Pills and Mayor Church! Repetition. So by hiring this conspicuous and desperate-looking character to go about at random repeating that liturgy, Mr. Repleven has succeeded in drawing his first client out of the bottle.
He is expecting another any day.
Editor’s Note: Osgoode Hall was originally founded by the Law Society of Upper Canada and where one would go to become a lawyer in Ontario. It is now affiliated with York University.