The Film That Inspired Lawyers Across Generations


A lot of young people often develop their ideas of the courtroom through movies and television shows. How many young kids have been inspired to pursue law degrees after seeing an inspirational courtroom scene that shows the integrity and nuances of our legal system?  People’s interest with the justice system has made for countless classic scenes that form part of our collective culture. How many times have you heard someone utter the famous lines of, “You can’t handle the truth!” Last month we wrote about the importance of a police report in traffic accidents. In the spirit of the holidays and classic-movie-watching season, we thought we’d do something different and take a look at one of the most beloved fictional lawyers around.

For the Love of  Justice

There is something about courtroom dramas that draws viewers in. It has built-in drama, as there is generally a fight between good and evil, moral and immoral, just and unjust, and all the gray and complex areas in between.  Everyone is intrigued with the way our society carries out justice. When it comes to entertainment, people are drawn to rebels, criminals, and those that work to uphold the law of the land. Nothing makes for good drama like character flaws, people standing by their principles, intricacies of our law, and the Socratic and poetic articulation of legal arguments.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Perhaps one of the most classically portrayed lawyers in all of film history is Atticus Finch. He is not only the most beloved literary lawyer but an eternal symbol of moral fortitude resilient enough to go against public opinion at a time where this particular public opinion was expressed violently and by force. Many modern films have made caricatures of courtroom lawyers or distorted them into babbling liars or immoral actors that are perfectly fine doing reprehensible things in order to win the case. This, of course, is not often a fair portrayal of what attorneys do. Yet, one early and classic portrayal of a lawyer whose character is calm, cool, and collected is that Southern lawyer created in Harper Lee’s novel.

The novel and film take place in mid-1930’s America in a small fictional community in Alabama. It captures a racially charged and economically deprived time in the country. The story is told by Jean Louise French (Scout), an astute yet innocent girl who sees the world unfold before her and finds herself defending her father’s honor at school with fist-a-cuffs. Her father is an attorney that is appointed to defend a black man (falsely) accused of raping a young white woman.

A Character That Echoes Beyond the Page

Atticus Finch is perhaps the epitome of integrity and steadfastness when it comes to upholding the law and standing up for one’s own convictions. He continues with the defense despite pressure from community members to back off, despite ridicule, and violence. Atticus faces all kinds of vitriol from the community and the witnesses, one of which spits in his face.

The film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird has showcased to movie watchers of all ages and across generations the courage of Atticus Finch. In the end (spoiler alert) Tom is convicted of the crime sent to prison and dies at the hands of the guards. Atticus Finch maintains his demeanor and class.

The film was released in 1962 and has since been an instant classic, shown to children everywhere as an example of fighting a moral fight. There has since been plenty of discussion about Atticus Finch, but people seem to agree that he encapsulates many people’s ideas of a good lawyer: someone who is courageous, truthful, and graceful.

If you have yet to see or read the classic novel, this holiday season might be a good opportunity to see the magnificent performance by Gregory Peck, in a story about justice, injustice, the loss of innocence, and the futile attempt to try to understand human beings, their actions, their anger, and their flaws.

The Huerta Law Firm specializes in criminal, personal injury, and family law. We always strive to uphold the highest principles and defend our clients honestly through our knowledge and expertise. If you find yourself in a legal bind, minor or otherwise, give us a call and we’ll guide you through it.