Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I can remember him perched happily in his corner window office on a Saturday morning, surrounded by his beloved law books, smoking a prized cigar, relaxing in short-sleeved shirt and flipping through some corporate minute books for a client.
Or chatting cordially across a table at the Registry Office with another solicitor, title abstracts, deeds and closing documents all around, going through the agenda of a house purchase transaction.
Or walking briskly with signature pork-pie hat over to St. Peter's Basilica (London) for a mid-day meditation and possible exchange with the Monseigneur.
This was Mr. Unger (Edward G.), my Dad's business lawyer and my mentor for law articles, following three years of law school. He was the definitive gentleman sole practitioner. One of the last in that strange breed who would presume to practice it all. (Now all is specialty and large departmentalized partnership with ranks of conveyancers and para-legals on the payroll.)
Mr.Unger also traveled once weekly to the small farm community of Lucan (of Black Donnelly fame) to serve his long-time country clients with wills, loans, land severances and new acreage purchases.
There had been a time when he donned the court room gowns. Even a murder trial back "in the day when the loser got the rope". He won. Latterly he would try to add a mediatorial or comforting touch to divorce cases. Otherwise court work got handed over to the new breed of "black or white" advocate.
Many of these attributes - general practice, single-man office, hands-on conveyancing, mediation in conflict made my boss the brunt of gentle jokes from the leaner, meaner community at law. The brethren. To them he seemed sort of "old-womanish".
It was evident to me that his life's priorities were large family, Church, law, baseball, cigars, the army and a men's service club. I had just gotten married. No children yet. This he referred to as "scoring a run". We had talks, I remember, about a stimulating television series hosted by Malcolm Muggeridge, agnostic journalist turned thoughtful Roman Catholic man of faith. (the series featured Bonnhauffer, Blake, Wilberforce, Pascal, Kierkegaard and their experiences of Christ).
Post bar exams I went to practice with one of those leaner, meaner groups. But Mr. Unger's contributions in profession and in life remain with me as things of value. Treasured memories. Thirty-five years later.