Had not politics early attracted President McKinley, he would without doubt have attained eminence as a lawyer. His pursuit of the law was marked with the same fidelity that characterized his every undertaking, and at the bar he won not only success, but popularity as well. An incident in his career as a lawyer is related as follows:One of his cases long remembered was when he was pitted against John McSweeney, then considered one of the most brilliant lawyers of the Ohio bar. The case was a suit for damages for malpractice, the plaintiff charging that a surgeon had set his broken leg in such a way as to [start page 431] make him bow-legged on that side. McKinley defended the surgeon. McSweeney brought his client into court and had the injured limb exposed to the view of the jury. It was very crooked, and the case looked bad for the surgeon. McKinley had both his eyes wide open, however, and fixed them to good purpose on the man's other leg. As soon as the witness was turned over to him, he asked that the other leg should also be bared. The plaintiff and McSweeney vigorously objected, but the judge ordered it done. Then it appeared that his second leg was still more crooked than that which the surgeon had set.
"My client seems to have done better by this man than nature itself did," said McKinley, "and I move that the suit be dismissed with a recommendation to the plaintiff that he have the other leg broken and then set by the surgeon who set the first one."