Woman of the Week, Miss Louise Saunders, Evening Telegram, 1946, August 24, p.9
Evidently, in 1910, there was some doubt whether the word “person” included a woman, because on March 22nd, of that year, the Newfoundland Legislature passed an Act amending the Law Society Acts so that where in that Act the word “person” occurred, that word should be held to extend to and include women.
This most far-sighted action on the part of the Legislature brought to the fore, in later years, Newfoundland’s first woman lawyer, Miss Louise Saunders, who, by dint of hard work and many hours of intense study, succeeded eventually in mastering the technicalities of law.
“Of course,” she says cheerfully, “one is always studying. Law is like that. There is always more to learn.”
Miss Saunders has been practicing law since 1933. She defines law as “the rules which we have formed for getting along with one another peaceably to negative the doctrine that “Might is Right,” and the lawyer is the person who has learnt these rules and is therefore able to act as guide to others. No lawyer can know all the complicated niceties of all rules, but he knows where to find them and must be continually studying.”
The routine of daily work in a lawyer’s office includes “everything that comes,” as Miss Saunders laughingly puts it. That means such things as probates, administration of estates, transfer of property, collection work, workermen’s compensation, property rights, making of wills, notorial work.
“Speaking of practice,” Miss Saunders said, “one Newfoundland lawyer was employed by a corporation and was not doing work other than that of the corporation. He was approached by a man who wanted to take out a summons. He replied that he could not do that because he was not in practice. The man answered that oh, it was only a small thing, he wouldn’t need much practice to handle that!”
Miss Saunders has some advice to give ladies on making statements in court.
“To get the truth,” she says, a witness is allowed only to states the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is useless to say, ‘Oh yes, I know she was there, Mom told me.’ That would be squashed immediately. So, ladies, no gossip will get you by in court.”
“However,” she continued, “the good lawyer’s idea is to keep his client out of court if possible. And from that purpose we have all the ‘Whereas’s, ‘Wherefore's’ and ‘Said’s and other language in documents which may be regarded as archaic or quaint. As in every other profession and trade, certain expressions are ‘symbols’ of a great deal. Certain words and expressions have come during the centuries to mean a whole series of ideas.”
“In the preparation of wills, there is necessity for the exercise of imagination, from unless it is a very simple will, the lawyer must visualize what will happen to his client’s property perhaps twenty-five or thirty years hence, and must make sure that the true intention of his client is expressed in language that will be absolutely unambiguous.”
“The lawyer is one who knows his way around with regard to the relation of people one with the other, one whose duty is to protect his client at all times and to see him safely through the inevitable mazes connected with the complicated rights and duties of everyday living.”
“In this, the Newfoundland lawyer has a high standard of professional honour and courtesy. When this country was settled, the English law applied, and has from time to time been modified and altered to suit local conditions.”
The Newfoundland Bar upholds the great traditions of English jurisprudence.
“The legal profession is one to which patients, perseverance, and probity must be brought. In return the lawyer has work which is never monotonous. It brings him in direct contact with people and their problems. It is an extremely interesting work, for problems are brought to you every day and the encouraging part about it is that you can usually do something about them.”
“I have used the word ‘he’ in speaking of a lawyer,” Miss Saunders concluded smilingly, “but in analogy to the Law Society Act “words importing men include women.”
We should think so!