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British Journal of American Legal Studies








Atticus Finch, protagonist of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and longtime hero of the American bar, is well known, but he is not well understood. This article unlocks the secret to his status as the most admired of fictional attorneys by demonstrating the role that his rhetoric plays in his exemplary fulfillment of the duties of an attorney to zealously represent clients, to serve as an officer of the court, and to act as a public citizen with a special responsibility for the quality of justice. Always using the simplest accurate wording, focusing on reason over emotion, and speaking in the same manner whether in private or in public, Atticus’s rhetoric exemplifies the ancient Roman style known by students of rhetoric as “Attic.” Using this style to navigate the potential for conflict among his duties, Atticus reveals the power, the elegance, and the ethical necessity of Attic rhetoric. Connecting Atticus’s name to the Attic style of rhetoric for the first time, this article advances several scholarly debates by demonstrating the mutual compatibility of the duties imposed by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and proffering a powerful tool to attorneys seeking to practice or to teach improved ethical conduct.


© 2019 Michelle Kundmueller, published by Sciendo. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

Original Publication Citation

Kundmueller, M. (2020). To Kill a Mockingbird and legal ethics: On the role of Atticus Finch’s attic rhetoric in fulfillment of duties to client, to court, to society, and to self. British Journal of American Legal Studies, 8(2), 289-325. doi: 10.2478/bjals-2019-0011