Fictional Attorney of the Month: Atticus Finch

Few fictional lawyers are recalled as readily and as fondly as Atticus Finch. It helps that he is the star of both a Pulitzer Price-winning novel, published by Harper Lee in 1960 and assigned to most school children in middle or high school, and of a popular 1962 film adaptation featuring Gregory Peck, who won an Academy Award for his role.

With so much written about his fictional lawyer, it's a challenge to write something novel and valuable. He is perhaps so memorable for his astonishing integrity. Lawyers of integrity, bent upon observance of the rule of law, have a particular mythology about them: consider Thomas More succumbing to the deeds of Henry VIII, John Adams representing soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, and Robert Jackson prosecuting war criminals at Nuremburg. These, of course, are all real examples. Lawyers in fiction, for some reason, often do not draw artistic depictions of similar scope--or, perhaps, because it is too challenging to do in fiction without feeling forced.

But Atticus Finch rises above "majority rule" in Maycomb County, taking on the defense of a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. He is deeply empathetic in representing his client. He communicates moral values clearly, and quietly, to his children and those around him, even if he often does not use words. And in anticipation of reading more about him in a second Harper Lee novel this summer, he's the Fictional Attorney of the Month.