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With all due respect? History - lite


Every Issue

Cite as: (2009) 83(03) LIJ, p. 88


In keeping with the theme of this edition’s acknowledgment of the LIV’s 150 year history, WADR feels an obligation to revisit moments of not, perhaps, great historical significance, but some amusement. After all, the LIV has had thousands of members over the years and statistically not all could have been ornaments to the profession.

On 31 March 1926, the reading public was introduced to Melbourne solicitor William George Manchester who was representing Henry Keener, butcher, who wanted to divorce his wife for desertion.

Lawyers are often called to explain the non-appearance of their clients for a court date.

However, when Keener’s matter was called the butcher said that while he had spoken with Manchester in the lobby only minutes before, it appeared he had been deserted.

Three years later Manchester appeared before the St Kilda Court on a charge of public drunkenness.

A policeman told the Court Manchester “was very drunk, and staggering about on the footpath” when arrested for creating a public disturbance outside the same courthouse a few weeks earlier.

The brouhaha erupted after Manchester believed he had been ripped-off by a taxi driver.

“He wanted to charge me 15/6,” Manchester said.

“Some taxi drivers have a habit, instead of driving people to their homes . . .”.

At this point the magistrate, according to The Argus newspaper, told Manchester to be silent and decreed the four hours he spent in custody following the incident would suffice as punishment.

However, Manchester continued to speak over the magistrate, who told the lawyer to “go away and sin no more, you will talk yourself into a fine in a minute”.

Manchester said he could not go away as “I have to represent a client here in a few minutes, but I appreciate your Worship’s consideration, all the same”.

Later that year, Manchester disappeared while a jury mulled over his client’s guilt or otherwise. When counsel was called back Mr Manchester could not be located.

The disappearing act prompted the presiding judge to say “this is not the first time Mr Manchester has failed in his duty to the court”.

“There is not a judge on this Bench who has not had, on occasion, in some way, to admonish him,” he bristled.

In 1932 the LIJ joined the reportage in stating Manchester had been suspended from practice for two months after being charged over a number of years, and six times in 1931, with multiple public nuisance offences.


The Argus’ resident poet “Oriel” penned this little ditty in 1949 after becoming “shocked” to hear that solicitors were unhappy when comparing their pay packets to those of barristers.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Oriel called on “all social workers, slum clearers and philanthropists to open a Save the Solicitors Fund to help this underprivileged group in our midst”.

Take pity on the learned poor,

Too proud to beg from door to door,

Who sit in draughty rooms instead,

Performing duties for the dead,

Their shoes are cracked; their suits are shiny,

Their incomes, for the most part, tiny,

They earn a mere, unbuttered crust,

By handling others’ wealth on trust,

And as they sip their frugal tea,

Their tears are salty as the sea.

What is their sin, they ask, that they,

Should be compelled to waste away,

Deprived of all financial aid,

Unwept, unhonoured and unpaid,

While barristers can live like lords,

Replete with honours and rewards,

Inscribing on their briefs whatever,

They think is due to one so clever,

(For barristers take silk, and may,

With luck, attain the bench some day.)

So spare a moment’s pity for

The underpaid solicitor,

Who faces hardship with defiance,

And saves his pity for his clients,

Who ponders over musty deeds,

To earn himself his barest needs,

And suffers endless deprivation,

To save his children from starvation.

Though crammed with law from head to foot,

He seldom gets his share of loot,

And never boasts a head so big,

As one surmounted by a wig!


And, to prove the world has come a long way, the following is from a letter to the LIJ editor in 1975.

A solicitor wrote to protest the then LIV president [John Dawson] using his position to “disseminate propaganda on behalf of the so-called Women’s Liberation Movement”.

“In the present economic situation it is probable that a considerable number of solicitors are unemployed,” he wrote.

“No practitioner with any regard for decent family values or sense of national responsibility should employ women solicitors if it involves taking away the livelihood of men solicitors who have wives and families to support.”

Times, thankfully, have changed.


Miss Demeanour’s guide to life, love, law and disorder

Cite as: (2009) 83(03) LIJ, p. 89

Dear Miss Demeanour,

A good friend recently confided in me that she was having an affair. We spent many hours discussing the relative merits of her boyfriend v her lover, and speculating as to what the future might look like if she took one of several hypothesised courses of action. She asked me for my advice, and I gave it to her straight – tell her boyfriend about the affair and leave him for Mr Lover, which she did. Now, Miss Two-Timing has decided Mr Lover was “inappropriate” for her needs, and she misses her boyfriend and wants him back. He’s livid and refuses to talk to her, and she blames me and has threatened to sue me under the Relationship Act for bad advice! Can she do this?

Regards, Confused adviser

Dear Confused adviser

Many questions flit through Miss Demeanour’s attractive and competent head when reading this letter. First, why on earth did the writer of this sorry tale not leave the business of dispensing relationship advice to the professionals? Second, Miss Demeanour is comforted by the obvious fact that the writer has learned their lesson and is now seeking advice from the best in the business. Third, Miss Demeanour briefly considers whether constant referral to Oneself in the third person is too Queen Victoria for these modern times. Ahem.

Dear reader, dispensing relationship advice is fraught with minefields, which is why anyone holding themselves out to be a professional adviser must possess a licence, insurance and a photogenic-yet-trustworthy smile. The Act classifies advice into two categories: general and personal, with different obligations attendant on each variety. Personal advice, which was certainly your caper, requires that you consider the individual’s objectives, relationship situation or needs. You also have to show that you have a reasonable basis for dispensing the advice. Hark back to your conversations with your adulterous friend. If you can show that she waxed ad nauseam about being sick of her boyfriend and longed for life with Mr Lover, then you’re safe as houses.

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