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Hero of the hour January 24, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Law, Lovely people, Uncategorized.

I read on Wikipedia this afternoon that he’s America’s Favourite Hero.  He’s a single father.  He’s about a million lawyers’ Why Am I A Lawyer, You Say?  Well Sit Back I’m Going To Tell You A Story of choice.  He’s all man, he’s bringing sexy back, and he puts the electric into Electra Complex, yes, hero of the hour:

It’s Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Jokes.  All beast though he may be, and I *might* have named my computer after him (cough) but frankly… he went on a bit.

It’s Atticus Finch.  Clearly.

I read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ a very, very long time back and, like all good aspiring lawyers and people who Wanted To Read Something American but couldn’t be doing with Steinbeck, I adored it.  (To be honest, at that point I wasn’t really so interested in the law so much as the politics, and thirteen-year-old Fi took Atticus Finch on as part of her Let’s All Be Militant phase, alongside Sylvia Pankhurst and Winston from Nineteen Eighty Four.  What can I say, I’ve never particularly wanted to be a politician because even I would be scared of myself.)

Atticus is such a fantastic character, I think, because ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ comes under the category of books that can be roughly summed up as Situations I Wouldn’t Want To Be In.  Before that sounds flippant, let me qualify it: there is a certain type of book that is grim.  The subject matter is grim.  The situation is grim.  A lot of the characters are not particularly nice people.  If somebody said to you, would you like to spend a day in this book, you would say not on your life.  I’m thinking like, ‘Lord of the Flies’ – I hated that book.  I can’t name that many off the top of my head because I tend to put them down very quickly and never pick them up again – unless, like TKAMB, they have some kind of redeeming feature.  The fact is that whether we would act like Atticus or not, given the situation, everyone while they’re reading it would like to think they would.  He does the right thing.  He keeps on doing the right thing, ad infinitem, and he stands for all the things that we’d like to think that as liberal, open-minded bearers of the standard of justice and equality for all (hoorah), we also stand for.  He was built to be a role model.  I think a lot of lawyers who say they take their inspiration from him are idealists: they’re proactive people, and really, they want to be the kind of person who is just that plain awesome, so that’s the route they head down.

The law, as a profession, as an area of study, doesn’t have a stereotype: it has lots of them.  Atticus Finch is a stereotype.  This is a stereotype:

How do you get a group of lawyers to smile for a picture?
Just say “Fees!”

And this is another one:

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

Such number as may be deemed to perform the stated task in a timely and efficient manner within the strictures of the following agreement: Whereas the party of the first part, also known as ‘The Lawyer’, and the party of the second part, also known as ‘The Light Bulb’, do hereby and forthwith agree to a transaction wherein the party of the second part (Light Bulb) shall be removed from the current position as a result of failure to perform previously agreed upon duties, i.e., the lighting, elucidation, and otherwise illumination of the area ranging from the front (north) door, through the entry way, terminating at an area just inside the primary living area, demarcated by the beginning of the carpet, any spillover illumination being at the option of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and not required by the aforementioned agreement between the parties.

There’s also the stereotype that they’re all over the age of 60 ad look like John Thaw, and that they work ridiculously long hours, all read the Telegraph and have libraries full of books that are all leather-bound and look exactly the same.

Law is not a sexy subject.  The old men in wigs image is the prevailing one – even if you have such exciting things like the criminal law, human rights, international law, principles of justice (ooh it’s a controversial one) – it might be interesting.  It might be as intellectually stimulating as you like, but nobody’s mental image of the barrister reeks of sex.

Which makes it quite interesting, I suppose, that one of the stereotypes that is fixated upon most by lawyers themselves… is Atticus Finch.  What can I say?  You would.  You know you would.  It’s the glasses, isn’t it?  Poor Cicero, he never had a chance.



1. annadegenhardt - January 24, 2010

Cicero, though – I would.
Pro Milone’s gorgeous. Shame that actually Milo was convicted, but as he said himself, had Cicero delivered the speech he wanted to and hadn’t been intimidated out of it, Milo would never have got to try the sea-food in what-is-now-Marseilles (or if not modern-day Marseilles, then somewhere gallic and fishy…)


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