Usually when we think of Abraham Lincoln, it relates to his years as President. Before being elected as President, he did have a successful law practice. He attended law school for less than a year but became a lawyer because of a law that went into effect in Illinois in 1833. A person could be sworn in as a lawyer if they obtained “a certificate procured from the court of an Illinois county certifying to the applicant’s good moral character”.
According to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, he was involved in 5173 cases with his partners. Records show that Lincoln did represent a variety of clients including collections and even arguing over disputes between landowners over their cows. His primary client was doing defense work for the Illinois Central Railroad.
There is some indication that he received some complaints because his law office had a sign hanging out in front with the law firm’s name. Some lawyers felt that such “advertising” was undignified for the profession. (something about that warms my heart!)
The following is part of a closing argument from a transcript of one of Lincoln’s trials, where he was defending a man against a claim for killing a dog:
“My client is like the man who was going along the road with a pitchfork on his shoulder when he was attacked by a fierce dog that ran out from a farmers yard. He uses pitchfork to defend himself and in the process killed the dog. The outrage farmer demanded: “what made you kill my dog?” To which the man replied “what made your dog try to bite me?” The farmer retorted “why did you not try to go after him with the other end of the pitchfork?” To which the man responded “why did not the dog come after me with his other end?”
It sounds a bit different from the Gettysburg Address!
And for pic o’ day, a dog meeting over evidence: