A number of law bloggers recently commented on the 50th anniversay of Harper Lee Collin’s To Kill a Mockingbird. In particular, many have noted their admiration of the character of Atticus Finch and how he has become a sort of idolized embodiment of what makes a good and just lawyer.
However, the anonymous Wall Street investment banker who pens Epicurean Dealmaker takes a slightly skewed and contrary view of Atticus Finch. An excerpt below:

But this is not what Ms Noonan identifies as what she wants from her father figures. She wants them waiting through the night at the side of the hospital bed, like Atticus Finch, or providing safety and security by their very presence. But, while emotionally powerful and probably universal, this view of the father is that of a child. Which adolescent among us has not discovered the feet of clay and the lifetime membership card to the Universal Guild of Imperfect Humanity in his or her father’s clothes one sad day? Who among us has not had to swallow the bitter pill that all-powerful Daddy can in fact not protect us from life or our enemies when we most need him? The bittersweet fact of a good father is that he can and will throw himself in front of a speeding car or a charging lion to protect his children, even if he cannot save them. But that is not wisdom. That is love. Let us be clear-eyed enough to distinguish the two.

It is no disrespect to Atticus Finch to say his midnight vigil over his wounded child was the result of love, and perhaps even guilt that his principled defense of his client put his own child in mortal danger. Love and guilt are powerful things, and they can inspire wonderfully selfless behavior, but they are not wisdom. I do not want a counselor who loves me. I want one who is wise.
The Epicurean Dealmaker has a point. Whether they are aware of it or not, clients don’t need lawyers who are subservient and function as yes-men (and women). If you have clients who do, you need new clients. Lawyers are there to provide counsel to their clients, not tell them what they want to hear. Providing counsel is not composed entirely of being the bearer of good news and platitudes. Providing counsel can mean telling clients they may to have to change their plans, questioning the desired outcome of a problem, or even just telling them no.
Anyone can crack open a code book or look up a statute or a case, but all that provides is base knowledge, not the wisdom of what to do with that knowledge. A lawyer’s wisdom is what a client wants – even if it means telling them what they might not want to hear. A lawyer must be brave enough to do it.
Never forget: every wise man started out a simple fool like you or me. He learned wisdom by questioning, by learning, and by doing. There is no secret stash of wise men waiting at WalMart for us to purchase.
It is time we manned up and learned to become our own wise men.
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