To Kill a Mockingbird occupies a beloved space in law school classrooms and curricula, especially in its portrayal of Atticus Finch. Frequently held up as the model or “hero-lawyer,” Atticus’s character is powerful in fiction, but problematic in practice. His work is lauded, rather than scrutinized, despite his questionable ability to represent his client in life-or-death circumstances—specifically, a racially charged sexual assault case in the Deep South. Through considering examples of historical lawyers and texts which explore similar themes without the lens of fiction, those engaged in legal education and legal practice can and should look to others to study and emulate rather than continuing to promote the narrative that Atticus Finch is the very best of us.
Sarah Gerwig-Moore, To Outgrow a Mockingbird: Confronting Our History—as Well as Our Fictions—about Indigent Defense in the Deep South, 54 Ga. L. Rev. 1297 (2020).