Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
SHARP & SHARP

If Susie Sharp had departed Reidsville feeling that she would never make it as a lawyer, especially in a practice with her father, her return two years later marked a sea change. Apparently having made up her mind that her place was in the Sharp & Sharp office, she caught hold swiftly, beginning a trajectory as a general practice lawyer that would carry her to a solid position in the Rockingham County bar.

At first, however, it seemed that nothing had changed, that clients still “wanted no part of that girl” when they sought legal counsel.1 Clients continued to come to see Mr. Jim, not Miss Susie. But it was not always easy to find Mr. Jim, for he wanted to be out and about, politicking or farming on the land he had long since acquired not far from town. He often left Susie to take care of the office, and emphasized at every opportunity that clients should entrust their business to her. “Your letter was received in the office here this morning in the absence of my daughter who is handling this matter.… I am only doing what is necessary in her absence to protect the client's interest,” he wrote to one lawyer.2 And he chastised an insurance claim adjuster who had come to the office but left without accomplishing anything because Mr. Sharp was out: “My daughter who is my law partner was in the office at that time and would have been glad to discuss the above matter with you, but you did not mention it to her.”3

She did not press, preferring to let the clients think she was a mere handmaiden. “Maybe they didn't know it,” her sister Louise said, “but Susie was making the decisions.”4 In fact, before long it was Susie Sharp who held the office together. In Louise's opinion, “We wouldn't have had any law practice if she hadn't stayed there and tended to business. “Daddy” wouldn't stay in the office.… He wanted to be out in the fresh air.”5

Susie Sharp too did not want to stay cooped up in the office. Like her colleagues, she spent much of her professional time searching real estate titles,

-80-

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