Before he was President, Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, and he wrote this little-known essay with his advice on law practice, from avoiding litigation to practicing extemporaneous speaking. Above all, is integrity. “[R]esolve 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.” Former judge Frank Ceresi provides commentary and the book includes a thoughtful introduction by Professor Brian Dirck, the foremost expert on Lincoln’s career as a lawyer. Abraham Lincoln’s Law Notes is available on Kindle for 99 cents and a pdf of Lincoln’s handwritten manuscript is free to anyone who buys it.
“There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. I say vague, because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common, almost universal. 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.”
- FRANK CERESI