By Rachel Kulhavy • December 04, 2015•Writers in Residence
My Terrible Confession: I’m tired of hearing your name, Atticus Finch.
Ok, ok. I can’t criticize “To Kill a Mockingbird” itself; it's a piece of literature that shows up on every recommended school reading list AND every banned book list, which is quite a feat. BUT:
Atticus Finch. You perfect attorney, you. I heard your name invoked almost everyday as a 1L. “I went to law school because I admire Atticus Finch.” “I went to law school because I want to be like Atticus Finch.” “I went to law school because I AM Atticus Finch.” If you were one of those who said this, please don’t take this too personally. BUT:
As Tina Turner once sang, “We don’t need another hero.” Atticus Finch, yes, you are a hero. You struggle heroically, stoically, and doggedly. But alas, you are mere fiction, Mr. Finch. Tell me a tale of someone real. Give me another hero, but give me a real one. Sing me the song of the mortal attorney who struggles up the hills, and who does great things despite or because of that struggle.
Lawyering is not the easiest profession. Higher unemployment and substance abuse rates have unfortunately dogged the bar for years. However, great strides in mental health awareness have been made. We have a long way to go, but we’re starting to realize how important it is to help each other up if we fall down. Texas State Bar President Allan K. DuBois has been a powerful advocate for attorneys suffering from mental health issues and addictions. The Bar provides resources such as The Patrick Sheeran & Michael J. Crowley Memorial Trust that can save attorneys’ lives by providing them with treatment options.
Prior to the Texas Marital Property Act of 1967, a woman was required to get her husband’s signature for any legal document. That meant that women could not transfer or buy property, open bank accounts, or get a title deed without their husband’s consent. A determined young female attorney fed up with this Texas law, Ms. Louise Raggio, spearheaded the legislative change and the archaic act was dissolved. Ms. Raggio attended the night law school program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and graduated as the only woman in her class in 1952. Although initially struggling in the predominantly male legal profession, she later became one of the greatest advocates of women's rights and was a trailblazer in family law.
So, really, Mr. Finch, I mean no offense. But you see, I've just listed two real legal heroes who struggled as heroically, stoically, and doggedly as you. And I hope that one day their names, and many others, are mentioned with the same reverence as yours.