When the McCleskey Law Firm hired Texas Tech School of Law student Scout Blosser as a law clerk this spring semester, more than a couple of the firm’s attorneys were curious about her first name.
Was it connected to the main character’s daughter in the book and movie “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which inspired not only some McCleskey attorneys, but a generation or more of lawyers?
Scout’s name came directly from the pages of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, made into an Oscar-winning movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the principled small-town southern lawyer – and Scout’s dad.
Finch defends a black man against a charge of rape in the town where his guilt is assumed because of his skin color.
The book was required reading for Blosser’s mom in school. She circled the name Scout on page 34 of that book, writing “Future Daughter” on the page.
The 1962 movie had such an impact on McCleskey attorney Bill Lane – 10 years old when he saw it in the 1970s – he was ready to start practicing law that day in his hometown of Sweetwater.
“I saw Gregory Peck portray what I consider to be one of the absolute heroes of cinema. I knew then and there I wanted to be just like him in so many ways,” Lane said in his office five floors above the southwest corner of 50th Street and University Avenue in Lubbock.
Lane asked his mom for help. They scoured information about a law career.
“I told her I was gonna go down and apply at the local law firm. So she got me in my suit and tie and took me down there. It was the oldest law firm in Sweetwater and the whole firm turned out to see me,” Lane said.
About five or six lawyers met with the young man, including the firm’s patriarch.
“They spent well over an hour with me, talking to me about being a lawyer,” he said.
Young Lane kept on task, asking for a job.
“They basically finally had to say, ‘well, our law clerks usually come out of law school, which means you’ve got to go to college first, which means you have to get a high school diploma first, so you still have a few years to go young man,’” Lane recalled.
“I was very disappointed, because I thought I was well on my way to be a lawyer that day,” he said.
The deflated 10-year-old left the office and went down the elevator.
“I went to the car where momma was waiting. I told her I did not get the job I hoped for. There were a lot of years and degrees I had to obtain before I could become a lawyer. Anyway, she told me she was proud of me for going and interviewing and would help me,” Lane said.
He never lost touch with that dream of becoming an attorney and being Atticus Finch.
“The person with that much integrity, a servant’s heart, a scholar of the law, all those incredible things. But his humbleness and humility were probably the greatest of his traits in that movie,” he said.
Lane’s mom was his biggest fan for his desire to become an attorney.
“I was thankful she lived long enough for me to obtain that degree and got to see me become an attorney,” Lane said.
Peck’s performance lit a fire for many attorneys now in their 50s and above, Lane said.
“That movie came out and a lot of people said, ‘that’s what I want to be.’ If you ask lawyers about Atticus Finch, he’s considered the quintessential lawyer you strive to be like. That’s kind of how I feel,” he said.
McCleskey attorney Ben Davidson already knew he wanted to be a lawyer growing up in Littlefield, where he’d go to the courthouse to watch trials.
But seeing Atticus Finch helped solidify the kind of attorney he wanted to become.
“When I saw Atticus Finch, I saw a man of principle, a gentleman doing the right thing even though it wasn’t the popular thing. That’s all he cared about. Do the right thing. Be a man of integrity. So even at a young age, I wanted to be like Atticus Finch,” Davidson said.
“That’s aspirational. None of us achieve that. But that’s what we’re supposed to be. Persons of integrity. Persons who are committed to doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. It may not be popular. It may not make you any money. But you’re gonna do the right thing in whatever profession. If you file those two things away, you’re going to do OK,” he said.
McCleskey attorney John Shanklin was not inspired by the book or movie to practice law, but it recently had a different impact.
His son read the book for school and told his dad it made him more impressed about his father’s profession.
“That always makes a dad happy,” said Shanklin.
Meanwhile, Blosser wanted to be a pediatrician, growing up in Lubbock. She went to Monterey High School and planned to go to Texas Tech for pre-med as a biology major.
“But I really did not like science,” she said.
Blosser had done mock trial all four years in high school.
“We went all the way to state. We didn’t win, but we did pretty well,” she said.
Her teacher had graduated law school but never took the bar because he wanted to teach.
“He really inspired me to look into law,” she said.
But she still decided to follow her dream of being a pediatrician – until finally realizing it wasn’t for her.
“So I took a step back, did a 180,” she said, getting a political science degree from Tech before going to its law school.
If her first name was familiar to attorneys, her last name is also familiar to people in Lubbock who knew Merle Blosser, her late grandfather, well known in the community for the Blosser Report, focused on the local real estate market.