In the public mind, Abraham Lincoln is best remembered as our 16th president—perhaps the greatest in U.S. history. He steered the nation through the turmoil of the Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and set the standard for presidential eloquence with the Gettysburg Address.
But before all that, Lincoln was a lawyer.
And not just in name. For a quarter-century—from 1836 until he was inaugurated as president in 1861—practicing law was Lincoln’s primary livelihood. Based in Springfield, Ill., but also “riding circuit” in other parts of the state, Lincoln maintained a busy and diverse practice.
Lincoln was well-liked by colleagues for his direct manner, sense of humor and storytelling abilities, but as the bicentennial of his birth is commemorated in 2009, he may be a more popular—and relevant—figure among lawyers than ever.