He was a Radical in politics, and expected no appointment from Government, until he was made an advocate depute in 1861, under Palmerston. He prosecuted cases for the Crown including Jessie McLauchlan in the 1863 Sandyford murder case. He was appointed Sheriff of Orkney and Zetland in 1865, but delegated his duties to a resident sheriff-substitute and continued his private practice as an advocate.
His lucrative private practice as an advocate made him a fortune, which he bequeathed towards the endowment of the four Gifford Lectureships on natural theology in connection with each of the four universities in Scotland then extant (Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews); he was a man of a philosophical turn of mind, and a student of the works of Spinoza. He held office as a judge from 1870 to 1881, despite symptoms of paralysis from 1872 onwards.
^ abcd"Biography of Adam Lord Gifford". The Gifford Lectures, Over 100 Years of Lectures on Natural Theology. Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St. Andrews. 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2015.