Adams was certain that he was destined for greatness, in spite of his perceived disadvantages. One month later, on August 21, 1756, John signed a contract with James Putnam, a young attorney from Worcester, to study law for two years. The following month, John moved in with Putnam to pursue his career in law while continuing to teach at the Worcester schoolhouse. He devoured the legal texts Putnam lent him, and in no time he had breezed through several legal books that would become crucial to his understanding of English law, and constitutional rights.
In the autumn of 1758, Adams finished his two year contract with Putnam and moved back to Braintree to establish a legal practice of his own. But he continued to read legal texts voraciously. He was full of opinions, he would recall, but “I was young and then very bashful.” But still Adams had faith in his own star, and believing he was destined for greatness, he attended court where he witnessed the two leading attorneys of the day; Jeremiah Gridley and James Otis Jr. argue their cases. Adams exuberantly explained to a friend, “I had the pleasure to sit and hear the greatest lawyers, orators, in short the greatest men in America, haranguing at the bar, and on the bench.” Indeed, John was awestruck to watch James Otis Jr. argue with such passion and ferocity, completely outwitting his opponents. It was at this time that John Adams approached Jeremiah Gridley to admit him to the bar. Gridley questioned Adams on his studies for several hours, leaving him with sound advice to “pursue the study of the law itself, rather than the gain of it.”
On November 6, 1759, John was admitted to the bar before the Superior Court at Boston. Within a few weeks, Adams took his first case in which he lost on the wording of the writ he drew up. The outcome of the case was humiliating to John, but provided him with the spirit to overcome his pitfalls by applying himself to his profession like never before. Never again, he vowed, would he be bested in the court of law. Drawing inspiration from Cicero, Adams read aloud “The first way for a man to set himself on the road to glorious reputation is to win renown.” To acquire the glorious reputation and the renown he so desired, he decided he would have to open a practice in Boston, where more opportunities would be available.