Being Atticus: Bearing the Name of America's Most Revered Lawyer

atticus-wegman.jpg Atticus Wegman of Aitken*Aitken*Cohn in Santa Ana, Calif., a listee in the 2012 issue of Southern California Rising Stars, has the distinction of being the first lawyer named Atticus on any of our Super Lawyers or Rising Stars lists. In part two of our two-part interview, Wegman talks about the positives and negatives of being named for the most famous and revered fictional lawyer of all time. (Part one can be read here.)

Were you named for Atticus Finch?
I was. I grew up in a small town in Iowa, 5,000 people. The county has about 30,000 people and my uncle is currently the county attorney there, and my grandpa was the county attorney before him. My great grandpa was the state treasurer of Iowa.

That was my mom's side of the family. She was always surrounded by law and she always wanted to go to law school but didn't. She loved "To Kill a Mockingbird" and decided to name me after Atticus Finch. I doubt she thought about how that would affect me if I entered the field of law. [Laughs]

And how has it affected you? What are the negatives of being named Atticus?
The obvious negative is being unable to live up to the expectations of anyone who has read the book. Living up to the expectations is both a negative and a positive, I think, because it holds me to a high standard.

A fictional standard.
Exactly. When I make initial appearances before judges, sometimes I'll get asked that question; and I'll have to say, "Yes, I was named after Atticus Finch." Then I'll put out a disclaimer about expectations and I usually get a laugh.

What are some specific responses you've gotten? Because I've run into a lot of attorneys who became attorneys because of Atticus Finch and "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Yeah, I've run into a couple, too. They ask if it's from the book and then they stand back and think about it for a minute. They probably expect something spectacular--like a magic trick or something.

[Laughs] Or pearls of wisdom. About walking in another man's shoes.
Yes. But I'm really fortunate and grateful. And it is a great story.

How old were you when you first read the book?
My mom read it to me when I was really young; then I read it in grade school; then several times since. Aside from the legal standpoint of going against the grain and standing up for justice, it's a good childhood story, too. Reading about Jem and Scout's adventures makes us all want to be kids again.

Did you have that kind of childhood?
It was very similar. The small town in the book is similar in terms of landscape to Iowa. That's how it is there. My uncle, the county attorney, will still walk to work every now and then. My grandpa before him did that, too.

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In 2003, the American Film Institute voted Atticus Finch the greatest hero in American cinematic history.