Legal Commentary by Monte Vines

Wise Words from Abe Lincoln–For Lawyers

History honors Abraham Lincoln as one of our greatest Presidents, and for good reason. He proved to be a wise, honorable, courageous man.  Before serving as President, Lincoln was a lawyer.  So I take to heart what he had to say to lawyers:

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

More than 150 years after Lincoln said this, people continue to get into disputes involving their legal rights and obligations.  With more people now, and a much more complicated society, there are many more legal disputes today than there were in Lincoln’s day.  That makes Lincoln’s point even more important now than it was when he said it.

I’m sure Lincoln did not mean that there is no principle worth standing up for, and vindicating in court if necessary.  He meant that when a dispute arises, a lawyer can best serve the client by helping them find a good and timely resolution.  Sometimes the only way to do that is with the help of a judge or jury.  But there are good resolutions that can be found outside the courtroom for many legal disputes if the parties and their lawyers devote themselves to finding them.  And lawyers are in a unique position of trust and confidence with their clients to do that.

For a litigation lawyer, it can be very satisfying to stand up before a judge or jury in court and advocate on behalf of a client.  But to me, one thing even more satisfying than that is to help a client achieve a good and timely resolution without the need for the courtroom drama.

So, thank you, Mr. Lincoln, for your wise advice.

6 Responses to Wise Words from Abe Lincoln–For Lawyers

  1. Monte, I also admire President Lincoln. Thanks. I enjoy your posts and find them interesting for my inquisitive mind. Thanks again.

  2. Many thanks, Monte. You are doing a good work in bringing such things to mind.

    A few years ago, when Ross Hollander was president of the bar, he quoted Lincoln in one of his monthly messages in the Bar-o-meter. I don’t remember it word for word, but the gist of it was that he was responding to an inquiry from a lawyer who wondered how he could be honest and practice law. Lincoln told him something like. “It is in my opinion very possible to be honest as a lawyer. If you find it impossible to practice law honestly, my advice is to give up law and pursue another career in which you can be honest.”

    Keep the blogs coming. Thanks again

  3. As a non-attorney, I can certainly appreciate Abe’s words of wisdom. My favorite is from scripture—-“the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man seeks counsel”.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Thanks, Monte, for sharing and always encouraging clients to seek amicable solutions that come from within ourselves instead of being litigated by others….mediating peace is indeed a “superior opportunity” with far more value than “prevailing.” Lead on…..

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