Hancock attended the East Tennessee University at Knoxville. He later worked on his father's farm in Alabama before beginning his study of law in Winchester, Tennessee. In 1846 he was admitted to the Alabama bar. In January 1847 he moved to Austin, Texas where he practiced law. In 1851 he was elected district judge of the Second Judicial District for a term of six years. After four years he resigned to resume his lucrative law practice, as well as to engage in farming.