As a young lawyer, Watson eagerly accepted virtually every law case that came his way. His gifts of eloquence and intellect and his willingness to spar with lawyers twice his age and experience soon positioned him among the foremost trial lawyers in Georgia. A protégé of boyhood heroes Robert Toombs and Alexander Stephens, Watson displayed in court a balance between fiery oration and logical argument. Watson’s mastery of rural idiom, country metaphor and his appreciation of folk humor, all gained honestly by living among Georgia’s farmers, completed his formidable courtroom arsenal and jury appeal.

After his first year at the bar, Watson repurchased the Sweetwater Place, a 700 acre plantation once owned by his father. In 1877, he moved his family from their Augusta shanty to the Thomson farm, no doubt satisfying Watson with a social, economic, and moral victory over post war defeat and denigrating city life. In the meantime, Watson’s growing trial practice began to focus more closely on criminal defense. By 1890, Watson’s income was reportedly larger than any other famous Georgia lawyer except for Robert Toombs or Benjamin H. Hill. By 1897, lawyers throughout Georgia bitterly complained they could not earn convictions when Watson appeared for the defense.