Lincoln’s advice to fellow attorneys – Discourage litigation

I previously used the publicly visible costs of a charity’s legal dispute to urge you to Please Try to Stay Out of Court.  The costs in dollars and time can be high. (Cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update, because it could help your clients.)

This advice is not anything new.

Turns out Abraham Lincoln gave that same advice to young attorneys.  He said

 “Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser— in fees, expenses, and waste of time.”

That quote is from Allen Guelzo in Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (p. 101. Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Even 160 years ago going to court was expensive.

Lincoln would also counsel clients whose case was on shaky grounds that

“You are in the wrong of the case and I would advise you to compromise, or if you cannot do that, do not bring a suit on the facts of your case because you are in the wrong and surely [be] defeated and have to pay a big bill of costs.”

Prof. Guelzo in turn credited the comment(s) to Lincoln, “Fragment: Notes for a Law Lecture,” July 1, 1850, in Collected Works, 2: 81.

No person ever has a case that is as strong as that person believes it to be.

Again, please try to stay out of court. Even if you win a legal judgment you will most likely lose the economic case.

Take it from Honest Abe.

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