Law Practice—Rules for a Lawyer—Law and Politics: Twin Occupations—The Springfield Coterie—Friendly Help—Anne Rutledge—Mary Owens
Lincoln’s removal from New Salem to Springfield and his entrance into a law partnership with Major John T. Stuart begin a distinctively new period in his career, From this point we need not trace in detail his progress in his new and this time deliberately chosen vocation. The lawyer who works his way up in professional merit from a five-dollar fee in a suit before a justice of the peace to a five-thousand-dollar fee before the Supreme Court of his State has a long and difficult path to climb. Mr. Lincoln climbed this path for twenty-five years with industry, perseverance, patience—above all, with that sense of moral responsibility that always clearly traced the dividing line between his duty to his client and his duty to society and truth. His unqualified frankness of statement assured him the confidence of judge and jury in every argument. His habit of fully admitting the weak points in his case gained their close attention to its strong ones, and when clients brought him bad cases, his uniform advice was not to begin the suit. Among his miscellaneous writings there exist some fragments of autograph notes, evidently intended for a little lecture or talk to law students which set forth with brevity and force his opinion of what a lawyer ought to be and do. He earnestly commends diligence in study, and, next to diligence, promptness in keeping up his work.
“As a general rule, never take your whole fee in advance,” he says, “nor any more than a small retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case as if something was still in prospect for you as well as for your client.” “Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech. And yet, there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too much on speech-making. If any one, upon his rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance. Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior