Lincoln & Lauer, PLLC


John C. Lincoln (RETIRED)

The Lawyer Who Never Went to School:

An Arizona Lawyer, and An American Success Story


John was a prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for three and a half years. He prosecuted several murder cases before a judge recommended him to join a private firm. John opened his practice in 1978, and was certified as a specialist in estate and trust law by the State Bar of Arizona.


John was a member of:

  • State Bar of Arizona
  • Former Executive Council Member, Mental Health and Elder Law Section
  • Former Chair, Sole Practitioners and Small Firm Section
  • Probate and Trust Section
  • Former Board Member, Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Section
  • AZ Medicaid Attorneys Council

John has published articles on long-term care planning in professional publications, and has served as faculty in seminars for other attorneys.


John was born in California, grew up in old Mexico, and has lived in Phoenix since 1965. He speaks fluent Spanish and he enjoys reading history, playing tennis, and woodworking.

What does that mean to be a certified legal specialist in Estate and Trust Law?

To qualify for certification, an attorney must:

  • Be licensed to practice law for at least 5 years
  • Have 4 years of practice in the specialty field
  • Devote the equivalent of 50% of a full-time law practice in the specialty field (Mr. Lincoln devotes 100% of his full-time law practice to his specialty)
  • Demonstrate integrity, professionalism and a high degree of competence in the specialty field
  • Receive favorable peer review from attorneys, judges or other professionals in the specialty field
  • Pass a written examination

(The above taken from the State Bar of Arizona’s brochure “What Does It Mean To Be A Certified Legal Specialist In Arizona?” 9/00)

“The truest help we can render to an afflicted man is not to take his burden from him, but to call out his best strength that he may be able to bear the burden.”
– Phillips Brooks

John’s Story

With few and fleeting exceptions, John never went to school before John started college. His mother home-schooled him and his six siblings until he was seven. The home-schooling ended with his parents’ divorce in 1957. For the next twelve years, until John started college in the Spring of 1969, he had almost no formal instruction. His father was able to get custody of the kids temporarily in the Spring of 1958, and John attended second and third grade in California for a few months. He was far ahead of his classmates. Then his mother regained custody, and the kids ended up in Baja California until July of 1961.

John’s mother brought her kids back to the U.S. temporarily, but soon returned to Mexico, to Nogales, Sonora. John and his younger brother, the only two remaining at home, were supposed to do their lessons on their own during the week. Their mother would check their progress when she came home on the weekends from working in Tucson. They often played with their friends instead of doing their lessons, and their mother was often too tired to check their progress when she came home. John did, however, learn much during the years in Sonora. They lived in a 27′ travel trailer, which housed over 1,000 books. Most of the books were history, great literature, and art. John loved to read, so he learned. He liked to read the Encyclopedia Britannica, but he would wander a lot. He was always getting interested in articles along the way to the article he started out to look up. He was, however, not entirely delinquent in doing the lessons his mother left for him. By the time they left Mexico in the Spring of 1965, he was fluent in Spanish. None of his friends spoke English, so he had to speak Spanish. The biggest part of his education in Mexico was growing up in a third world country with little to eat. Hardship builds character and insight, and he suspects he has more of both than he really ever needed.

The only formal schooling John had in Mexico was a few days in a Mexican grade school. He and his younger brother were alone in Mexico during the week, and one day they decided on their own that they should go to school. They went down to the local school and wandered around the halls, without any idea of how one might sign up to go to school. After awhile, a teacher asked them what they were doing there, and they told her they wanted to go to school. She asked them what grade they were in, so John said “sexto,” which means sixth. That is equivalent to the American eighth grade. John started school, but only lasted a few days because he did not like all the kids calling him “Gringo.”

When he came to Phoenix and started looking for a job, he was 16. He found work in a restaurant, but kept interviewing for better jobs. Employers kept telling him they could not hire him if he did not have a High School diploma. He finally decided if that was what they wanted, that is what they would get. He was about halfway through a High School correspondence course when he turned 19. At that age, he could get a General Equivalency Diploma (the G.E.D.). He took the test, and passed with a 92; he took the college entrance exam, and passed with a 98. He started college in the Spring of 1969.

He wanted to go to law school because he wanted to run for public office; he thought being trained in the law would be a good preparation for making the laws. Admission to law school required a bachelor’s degree, which usually takes at least four years. Law school usually takes three years. The total course of study therefore is normally seven years. He did not want to wait that long; he graduated summa cum laude with his bachelor’s degree, and cum laude with his law degree, in a total of five years. He was able to achieve academic distinction in undergraduate school and law school despite the fact that he had to work full time waiting tables to put himself through college and law school. He was admitted to the Bar in the Spring of 1974.

John’s total formal education was therefore only a little more than five years, consisting of a few months in second and third grade, a few days in the Mexican sixth grade, and five years of college and law school.