• Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Be the first to comment
    Be the first to like this
No Downloads


Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds



Embeds 0

No embeds

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

    No notes for slide


  • 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