"Mockingbird” Anniversary Brings Important Reminder for Lawyers

Believe it or not, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic movie that has probably drawn more attention to the legal profession than any other. Universal Pictures’ “To Kill a Mockingbird” debuted in February 1962 with Hollywood great Gregory Peck playing the role of Atticus Finch, perhaps the most fabled attorney in the history of American cinema. Peck’s portrayal of a Depression-era lawyer defending a black man against a rape charge in a rural Alabama courtroom came only two years after Harper Lee published her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel with the same title.

Many Hollywood depictions of lawyers in the years since “Mockingbird” have been noticeably less flattering, including Paul Newman’s role as an alcoholic, rule-bending attorney in “The Verdict” and Joe Pesci’s loudmouth New York defense lawyer in “My Cousin Vinny.” Despite the fact that both of these fictional lawyers overcame their flaws to see justice ultimately done, Atticus Finch remains the paragon of an honest, hardworking lawyer who was willing to do the right thing in the face of great adversity.

Finch’s effort to right an egregious wrong perpetrated against a defenseless citizen is a quintessential story of American justice. Like baseball players who dream of a chance to win the World Series in the bottom of the ninth inning, every lawyer dreams of being Atticus Finch.

Posted: 2/15/2012 7:20:59 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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