Abe Lincoln: The Lawyer Who Never Went to Law School

May 23, 2024

Abraham Lincoln: The Lawyer Who Never Went to Law School

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most well-known figures in American history. While many people recognize him as the 16th President of the United States, fewer know about his journey as a lawyer. Remarkably, Lincoln never attended law school. Yet, he became one of the most respected lawyers of his time.

Lincoln's path to becoming a lawyer was unconventional. He had a limited formal education, attending school for less than a year in total. Despite this, he was an avid reader and self-learner. He borrowed books from neighbors and read everything he could get his hands on.

He studied law books such as Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Laws of England." He also read the Illinois statutes and the U.S. Constitution. This self-study approach was not uncommon at the time, as formal law schools were rare.

In 1836, after years of independent study, Lincoln passed the bar exam in Illinois. He was granted a license to practice law. This achievement was a testament to his determination and intellect. He joined a law firm and began his career as a lawyer.

One of Lincoln's most famous cases was the "Almanac Trial" in 1858. He successfully defended a man accused of murder by using an almanac to prove that a key witness could not have seen the crime as claimed. This case showcased Lincoln's ingenuity and attention to detail.

Impact. His approach to law was practical and rooted in common sense, which resonated with many of his clients.

His legal career also influenced his political life. The skills he honed in the courtroom, such as public speaking and logical argumentation, were invaluable in his political campaigns. These skills helped him win the presidency in 1860.


Today, Lincoln's legacy as a lawyer is often overshadowed by his presidency. However, his legal career remains a significant part of his story. It highlights his ability to overcome obstacles and achieve greatness through self-education and perseverance.

Lincoln's journey from a self-taught lawyer to the President of the United States is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved with determination and hard work. His story continues to inspire aspiring lawyers and individuals from all walks of life.