To Kill a Mockingbird was the first “grown-up” novel I was forced to read in English class way back when, and now Atticus Finch is in the news again. The publication (under questionable circumstances) of Harper Lee’s novel Go Set a Watchman, has revealed a less pleasant side to the fictional lawyer. Let’s take this chance to go through some fictional lawyers and see whether you’d want them representing you.
Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird version). Representing someone that the town doesn’t want to see represented? Standing up for what’s right and presenting exculpatory evidence? These are all things you’d want to see out of your attorney. We can’t dock Atticus too much for failing to win the case; it’s fair to say the cards were stacked against him and he did the best he could.
Would you want him as your lawyer? 8/10
Atticus Finch (Go Set a Watchman version). People are shocked by the later Atticus’s overt racism and White Citizens Council membership. But these things aren’t necessarily inconsistent with the way Atticus is presented in To Kill a Mockingbird. Abhorrent personal views are, well, abhorrent, but when’s the last time you hired a lawyer for being a good person? We’ll knock him down a couple points just because, but there’s little reason to think his legal acumen is any different. He might still be better than some of the real-life lawyers Harper Lee has had over the last few years.
Would you want him as your lawyer? 6/10.
Elle Woods. This one’s tough. In Legally Blonde, sure, she’s the one who saves the day and helps seal the client’s acquittal. But is her success based on legal acumen or the fact that what she happened to be able to use knowledge about perms and such to challenge witnesses’ versions of events? She gets points for thinking quickly on her feet. Someone (not me) will have to watch the sequel to see if there’s anything revelatory of her actual legal skills. We’ll give her some benefit of the doubt here.
Would you want her as your lawyer? 7/10.
Lionel Hutz. Springfield’s resident ambulance chaser is just that. You wouldn’t want him as your lawyer for, well, anything. Competence isn’t his strong suit. The alcoholism doesn’t help. He may, however, provide some inspiration to underemployed law school grads of the last few years as they try to figure out a career path.
Would you want him as your lawyer? 1/10.
Mel Horowitz. Cher’s dad in the movie Clueless isn’t exactly a nice guy. His clients probably aren’t nice guys either. You probably can’t afford him. But if you could, what’s not to like? There’s no doubt he’d go the extra mile to win your case, or at least to reach a settlement on very favorable terms.
Would you want him as your lawyer? 10/10
What about Charlie Kelly? Bob Loblaw? Let us know which fictional lawyer(s) you’d want on your team in the comments.