Atticus Finch in the 21st Century: The Soul of Lawyering in a Landscape of Change

Courtroom view from judge's bench

The world is very different from when the iconic attorney Atticus Finch practiced law in To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. His practice was likely the only one in town and people in need could not research other options on the Internet. They could, however, pay for his services — since he accepted whatever cash or barter his clients could afford.  How can today’s attorneys preserve the civility and professionalism of an Atticus Finch with all the disruptive changes we currently face?

Advancements in technology have made the practice of law both easier and more challenging. The law can seem increasingly unsettling to lawyers of all ages! Older attorneys find challenges in keeping up with technology and younger people are choosing other professions. The age statistics for bar associations across the country paint a very clear picture.

Adapting means we need to seize our future.

Resisting means we settle for lost relevance.

We need to start discussions on what the future will hold.

  • How should regulatory systems be changed for the legal profession?
  • Why don’t we allow multidisciplinary practices of accountants, financial planners, counselors and attorneys?
  • What would happen if we allowed non-lawyer ownership of firms in stages over a five-year period?
  • Where are the best fits for licensed and legal technicians in the law?
  • When do we modify the requirements in law schools to create a two-year combined master’s degree that is part paralegal and part juris doctorate?

One-size-fits-all cannot be the model for all legal education across the country.

We are a proud profession with a tradition and history of achievement that cannot be matched by any other profession or business, and we should never forget it. Atticus Finch would probably also wrestle with the difficulties of being a lawyer today, but we can all strive to have his impeccable character (while tweeting a picture of researching the law on our Nooks and Skyping with our colleagues).

Come join me in a continuation of this discussion on Tuesday, May 5, from 8:25 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the WSBA Conference Center in Seattle or via live webcast from anywhere. Atticus Finch in the 21st Century: The Soul of Lawyering in a Landscape of Change provides 6 CLE credits, including 2.5 ethics credits.

One thought on “Atticus Finch in the 21st Century: The Soul of Lawyering in a Landscape of Change

  1. markpattersonlaw

    It is hard to see why character and integrity need be sacrificed just because the world seems to demand everything else changes.

    If I can quote Tennyson:

    “We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

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