Marius Barbeau A glimpse of Canadian Culture (1883-1969)
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Barbeau's Story

Université Laval (1)

I was on verge of studying law to become a notary. My intent was to live in my grandmother's beautiful and spacious semi-seigniorial house, presuming that I would be the heir apparent, and there practice my profession. Not a practical idea: Sainte-Marie was a country village where already three notaries and one lawyer were established, which was more than plenty.

I registered at Université Laval and began to take courses, in the morning, from 8 until 10, and in the evening, from 5 to 6. Civil law, with judge Francois Langelier; Roman law with the honourable Edmund James Flynn (former provincial premier); notary Louis-Philippe Sirois, for Roman and municipal law; Alphonse Pouliot for Procedures, and so forth. Each student had to do articling in a practicing professional office. I spent hours copying notary acts. I did not learn much from that, and too slowly. For my law courses I took notes in stenography. I had learned the Duployer system in business classes in Sainte-Marie students had noticed my ability to take notes, and I had already begun to do typed summaries for other less industrious students. I sold them at two dollars for the series, which paid for the fees of a typewriter that I had bought on installment, and a little more. One morning after his course, judge Francois Langelier, professor of civil law, whom we all admired, asked me if I would agree to take steno notes of his course, specifically a session of dictation, for the publication of his course in several volumes. Twenty dollars a month, a half hour of dictation each afternoon at 4 o'clock. I eagerly accepted the offer. This commitment would last three years and allowed me to pay for a good part of my tuition fees.

In May, after his course, the Honourable E.J. Flynn, who taught us Roman law, asked me if I wanted to work for him, in his office, as a law clerk. I told him that I was a student in notary. Smiling, he told me: "An intelligent man like yourself, why do you want to become a notary? A notary never sees the whole picture". Mr. Flynn, without wanting to do so, caused quite a change in me. Yes, why study to become a notary when there was much more of a future in the other profession?


In 1904, I registered at the Bar and was admitted for study. But it required three years of articling and study. I would lose my year of notary. Not important! During the summer I worked as a clerk in the office of the honourable E. H. Flynn. In addition, to increase my meagre salary, I joined the militia for a three-week summer course. That summer, I would spend only two days at my father's before returning to school. But, to my disappointment, I learned upon my return to the city of Québec in September, that Mr. Flynn was not going to continue my job as a clerk. So I had to find another lawyer's office where I could serve as a clerk; that was required by the Bar. I approached the office of Pelletier and Baillargeon. I greatly admired the honourable Louis-Philippe Pelletier as shrewd and eloquent politician. I was accepted, but without salary (as was done elsewhere). In this office, I did very little work as a clerk: they really did not need me. But the stenography for Judge Langelier was sufficient; in addition the typed summaries of courses that I continued to do for myself and for a few less industrious fellow students. In 1906, I practiced as a salaried clerk with the lawyer Dorion, of the city of Québec, replacing a fellow Student years (Aimé Marchand) who wanted to spend all his time studying for exams. I ended up being called back to Mr. Pelletier's office.

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