Contingent Fee Agreement and Promissory Note of James W. Crain to Stuart & Lincoln, 20 April 18381
Whereas John T. Stuart and Abraham Lincoln have engaged as attorneys in my behalf in a cause now pending in the chancery side of the Tazewell county circuit court in which I am complainant and the heirs of Lewis F Crain deceased and others are defendants, therefore if I shall succeed to the full extent of my claim in said case, I promise to pay them, the said Stuart & Lincoln the sum of five hundred dollars; but if I should not succeed in the recovery of the property mentioned in said cause as having been purchased of Peter Menard, but shall succeed in the recovery of all the ballance named ^claimed^, in said cause, then I promise to pay them the said Stuart & Lincoln the sum of three hundred dollars–2
James W Crain
[ enclosure ]
04/20/1838Stuart & LincolnPromissory Note of James W. Crain to Stuart & Lincoln
Six months after date I promise to pay Stuart & Lincoln twentyfive dollars for value received—3
Jas W Crain
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the text of the continent fee agreement and the date, and he also penned the text of the promissory note.
2James Crain dismissed the case in September 1838, perhaps after a settlement of some sort. Unfortunately, there is no record of any settlement or information regarding the result of the contingency agreement in this case. Continency agreements were somewhat rare in the practice of law during the first half of the nineteenth-century, but there were at least fifteen cases that Lincoln handled during his law career in which he or his partners accepted one.
Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 1:55-56; Crain v. Crain et al., Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009),
3Given that Crain dismissed his suit, it is highly probable that neither the $300 nor the $500 contingency came through for Stuart & Lincoln. Therefore, this $25 promissory note probably represented the fee Crain paid them for their legal services in his case.

Copy of Handwritten Document Signed, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).