Law Student

Pershing began law school at the university upon Chancellor Canfield's suggestion that he should pursue a law degree. The Chancellor recommended this because he noticed that Pershing had a lot of time on his hands, and that this would be a productive outlet for his time. Pershing was very interested in law, in fact he would sometimes talk about entering a law career after his degree. Pershing talked about this with local lawyer and friend Charles G. Dawes. (Smith)

Pershing began his law school career here at Lincoln in 1892 under Dean Smith. The law school during this time had virtually nothing except a couple wooden chairs, bulletin board, and a manuscript holder. Pershing grew to like the serious professor, Dean Smith, who found legal exposition interesting, but Pershing more importantly enjoyed the new friendship of his fellow classmates. Intrigued by law since his days at West Point, Pershing now had a chance to endulge in this interest. He was far ahead of his classmates, the formal learning of law fastened a glorious discipline on his mind. Pershing and one of his fellow classmates and friends Elmer Burkett became very involved and critical of Smith's lectures. Regardless, "the teacher struck sparks on his abrasive students." (Vandiver) This is especially evident of Pershing, considering how much he thought about becoming a lawyer and entering civilian life after receiveing his degree in the last year of his assignment to the university in 1894-95. (O'Connor)

There were numerous factors in Pershing's mind on whether or not to enter civilian life. Truthfully, Pershing had never set on being fully committed to a lifetime of soldiering. He entered West Point because of the educational oppurtunities it offered, and stayed in the military because he felt he owed it to the government. He had lost for the time being, the romanticism of war and other aspects of a military career. These aspects were the narrowness, its caste consciousness, and its smug self-efficiecny. Another concern was that of his mother's hopes that he would leave the army, this was because of the memory of her brother being brought back maimed and helpless from the siege of Vicksburg. There were other more practical reasons for leaving the service as well. One of these concerns was his age, Pershing believed that this was the age where a man needs to make sure of his course before it is too late. He had doubts to whether he had any real future in the Army, and a number of his classmates had resigned their commissions and were successful in civilian life. (O'Connor)

Even through all of these doubts, Pershing still decided to stay with the army. He had become familiar with the military, and also knew that beginning his law career would not be easy. After this time of temporary unsureness, Pershing never again was tempted to change professions.