Knowledge. Experience. Results.

Abraham Lincoln the Lawyer

by Cameron Strause

Over the years, Kentucky has produced a plethora of distinguished attorneys. Abraham Lincoln is amongst the most famous and well-respected of all time. 150 years after his death, his lasting impacts are taught in every classroom throughout the country. However, his lengthy legal career prior to his term in the oval office is often overlooked.

Prior to his presidential campaign, Lincoln was a successful lawyer in Illinois for nearly 25 years. During this time, most lawyers learned to navigate the legal field by studying under established lawyers, rather than attending law school. John Stuart, a Springfield Illinois attorney, encouraged Lincoln to study law and loaned him necessary resources. After 3 years, self-taught Lincoln was admitted to the bar in Illinois and joined Stuart’s practice. He would go on to provide a range of legal services from business disputes, to divorces, and even criminal cases. In 1838, Lincoln even successfully represented an accused murder suspect. Nearly 20 years later, in 1857, Lincoln also successfully prosecuted a murder suspect that attempted to utilize insanity as a defense.

Lincoln’s legal career is well documented. His legal experiences gave him a foundation for his 1860 presidential campaign. While Lincoln may be the most well-known attorney from the state of Kentucky, he is far from the only lawyer to serve in the oval office. In fact, nearly half of all US presidents come from a legal background. Exactly 25 out of 46 United States presidents practiced law before campaigning.