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  • 1. Lincoln on Lawyering Gregg W. Emch MacMillan, Sobanski & Todd, LLC (419) 255-5900
  • 2. www.mstfirm.com Lincoln’s Legal Career • Lincoln attended school less than a year • Became a lawyer in 1836 by “reading” • Entire career in Springfield • Partners: Stuart, Logan, and Herndon • “Jack-of-all-trades” practice • Lincoln and partners handled over 5,000 cases until 1860 • Intended to practice after presidency
  • 3. www.mstfirm.com Lincoln’s “Notes for a Law Lecture” (1850) Introduction: “I am not an accomplished lawyer. I find quite as much material for a lecture in those points herein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful.”
  • 4. www.mstfirm.com Diligence • “The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every calling, is diligence.” • Never let correspondence fall behind • Before stopping, do all labor pertaining to a matter that can then be done • Prepare all legal documents once facts are known: avoids omissions and neglect, saves time, less stress
  • 5. www.mstfirm.com Public Speaking • “Extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated.” • Lawyer’s avenue to the public • People slow to bring lawyer work if he cannot make a speech • Don’t rely too much on speech-making • No exemption from “drudgery of the law”
  • 6. www.mstfirm.com Discourage Litigation • “Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.” • Nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time • As a peacemaker lawyer has “superior opportunity” of being a good man • “There will still be business enough.”
  • 7. www.mstfirm.com Never Stir Up Litigation • Stirring up litigation: “A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this.” • Lawyer shouldn’t look around for legal matters to bring to the attention of clients to “stir up strife,” especially if motive is to “put money in his pocket” • “A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.”
  • 8. www.mstfirm.com Fees • “The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread and butter involved.” • Fees should be fair to both lawyer and client • Exorbitant fee should never be claimed
  • 9. www.mstfirm.com Fees (continued) • General rule: Never take whole fee in advance, nor more than a small retainer • If fully paid beforehand, lawyer will have less interest in the case • Less interest: Job will “very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance” • Settle on fee in advance: Lawyer will feel that he is working for something, and will do the work “faithfully and well”
  • 10. www.mstfirm.com Fees (continued) • In 1856, a client sent Lincoln $25 for drafting a legal document • Lincoln responded: “You must think I am a high-priced man. You are too liberal with your money. Fifteen dollars is enough for the job.” • Lincoln returned the balance
  • 11. www.mstfirm.com Honesty • “There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest.” • Not the case: People extend confidence and honors on lawyers, therefore improbable that their impression of dishonesty is “distinct and vivid” • Yet impression is “almost universal”
  • 12. www.mstfirm.com Honesty (continued) “Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief—resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.”
  • 13. www.mstfirm.com Honesty (continued) • In handling hundreds of cases in circuit courts, Lincoln firmly established his reputation for absolute honesty • He became known as “Honest Abe”—or often “Honest Old Abe”—the lawyer who was never known to lie • Lincoln held himself to the highest standards of truthfulness
  • 14. www.mstfirm.com Patent Case • Lincoln represented patent infringement defendant in Parker v. Hoyt • He argued successfully in clear, simple language that Hoyt’s waterwheel device did not infringe • Lincoln regarded this as one of the most gratifying triumphs of his professional life
  • 15. www.mstfirm.com Lincoln Patent • Lincoln only president to receive patent • No. 6,469, issued in 1849 • “Manner of Buoying Vessels” • Patent attorney Z.C. Robbins
  • 16. www.mstfirm.com Lincoln Lessons Don’t be afraid to fail—it’s the only way to become successful Work hard—get the job done Give speeches—they build your practice Discourage litigation—be a peacemaker Charge reasonable fees—your clients will respect you
  • 17. www.mstfirm.com Lincoln Lessons (continued) Most important lesson: Honesty • Be honest with everyone—clients, attorneys, judges, examiners, government employees, co-workers • Build a reputation on absolute truthfulness • Aspire to have “Honest” used before your name