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An Atticus Finch Summer

Attorney Mike Bottaro reviews his summer and "To Kill A Mockingbird."


“Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” – Charles Lamb

We are already well into July, the high point of Rhode Island summer living. For me, summer 2012 has been about: (1) physical therapy (“PT”), (2) my young family, and (3) managing our growing law firm. 

As to the PT, I am recovering from the right shoulder surgery and preparing for left shoulder surgery. So, my physical therapist Mary and I spend a lot of time together. She turned me on to re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird. This, in turn, has had an impact on my family and law practice.

Recall that the story is told from the viewpoint of Scout, Atticus’s 6-year-old daughter. Scout is curious about all things, including the mysterious “Radley Place” and her father and his law practice. My own daughter is 4 years old, and is so similar to Scout that I found myself laughing aloud while reading. The book reminds me how these kids watch and absorb all that we adults do.

By the way, my neighbor Dave mentioned that this was the only book that Harper Lee ever wrote!

Notably, the book has re-introduced me to my boyhood hero, Atticus Finch. I enjoy the way that Lee depicts Atticus: kneeling stoically in church….. listening carefully to the lying townspeople testify in court…. teaching his children about how to treat others. Everything is done with thoughtfulness, care, and with integrity. As to the last point, there is this deep juxtaposition between the “church going folks” on the outside who nonetheless act racist – versus Atticus’s sincere faith, desire to help others, and love. To me, Atticus models the authentic Christian man, flawed, but nonetheless striving to do the right thing.

It has been a memorable summer so far for me. As to its impact on my RI personal injury law firm, To Kill A Mockingbird is an inspiring legal story. Even though Atticus loses the trial, his ethics remain intact. In our Providence law office, I am placing the book in our reception area where, in the midst of busyness, it will remind us to help others achieve justice.    

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Billie Thomas July 28, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Mike, in answer to your question, no, she did not mention Truman Capote's influence on the book, which was not really a surprise. We talked about how growing up in Alabama and things in general.had been similar to Monroeville in my own home town but how life and influence for minorities was changing in Alabama (and have happily changed incredibly since then in both attitude and politics). Her book and our talk that day motivated me to work for civil rights most of my adult life, obtaining college scholarships for minorities from my clients, who were major corporations in the state. I decided to stay in Alabama rather than leave, to try to improve conditions in my birthplace., I will soon be moving to RI to be near my son and his family. I will leave with good feelings about the progress we have made in AL and hopeful feelings for "fitting in" in RI? The people I have met there so far are warm and welcoming.. Thank you, Mike, for your beautiful article, for honoring Nell's book , and the opportunity it gave me to relive this experience, which was most 'influential' on me. All my best to you, Billie Ruth Thomas. .
Mike Bottaro July 28, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Hi Billie Ruth: Your comments are truly inspiring and remind me of being in school and listening to a lawyer named Morris Dees speak about his civil rights work and the Southern Poverty Center. We welcome you to Rhode Island!
PM JONES August 08, 2012 at 03:32 PM
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the few movies that brings the book to life! P.S. We all welcome you, Billie Ruth!
Sage-RI August 08, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Love, love, love this book!!!
daparyo November 15, 2012 at 01:50 AM
http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4867/the-art-of-fiction-no-17-truman-capote Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor...

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