I promised myself that when I grew up and I was a man, I would try to do things just as good and noble as what Atticus had done for Tom Robinson. – Scott Turow, lawyer and author

Today The Guardian reported that To Kill a Mockingbird and Mice and Men are being axed from the GCSE curriculum because of the insistence by the education secretary, Michael Gove, on students studying more British literature. To read that article, click here.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and in our current nonfiction book A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, my co-author/wife Colleen Collins and myself picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of our favorite 10 legal films, and what it can teach writers crafting legal characters and stories. The book excerpt is below.

Available June 2014

Book Excerpt: Recommended Legal Films – To Kill a Mockingbird

One of the amazing things about the writing in To Kill a Mockingbird is the economy with which Harper Lee delineates not only race—white and black within a small community—but class. I mean different kinds of black people and white people both, from poor white trash to the upper crust—the whole social fabric. -Lee Smith

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Starring Gregory Peck as the iconic Atticus Finch, who stood tall before a racially biased jury as he pleaded for justice for a black man wrongfully accused of rape. Peck won the Best Actor Oscar.

This theme of a legal professional’s struggle with his/her duty versus the dictates of the law plays out in other films

Mockingbird

mentioned in this list. In writing, this is sometimes referred to as the conflict between the external and internal motivations, something to think about as you develop your legal hero or heroine.

We’ve talked about the layout of courtrooms in this book, and how different actors, such as Katherine Hepburn, visited trials to get a feel for the nuances and details of lawyers at work. For To Kill a Mockingbird, production designers traveled to Monroeville, Alabama, and took pictures and measurements of the Monroe County Courthouse. Back at Universal, they built a duplicate of this courtroom for the movie. Remember, you can visit your local courthouse at any time to watch real-life trials — excellent research for your legal character/s and/or story.

One thing real-life lawyers have also mentioned that they admire about Atticus Finch is his empathy for others, and how he puts his client first. That Finch, although a fictional character, is what lawyers aspire to be — an attorney who didn’t put money or fame ahead of his integrity.

There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.  -Atticus Finch

 -End of Excerpt –

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Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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