Being in a small town, Atticus is one of the few attorneys in Maycomb, and he is probably the most competent lawyer in the county. Judge Taylor specifically chooses Atticus to defend Tom Robinson instead of the normal public defender because he knows Atticus will provide a staunch defense for the black man accused of rape. Atticus is also Maycomb's representative to the state legislature, running unopposed in each election--a sure sign of the town's trust in his abilities and his dedication to the people. Atticus is the quintessential example of a liberal Southerner of the 1930s: He is color-blind to the races, treats women with respect, is educated and believes school is important, and acts "the same in his house as he is on the public streets." It makes him a minority in the ultra-conservative town where most whites proudly display their segregationist views and treat African Americans as second-class citizens. Yet, even the most bigoted rabble rousers, such as the Cunningham clan, respect Atticus for his honesty and work ethic, and it is Atticus that most of the townspeople seek out when they need legal representation or just good advice. As Miss Maudie tells Jem,
"... there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them." (Chapter 22)
Atticus serves as the conscience of the town, the man people seek out when they are in trouble and who they know will always do the right thing.
"We're the safest folks in the world," said Miss Maudie. "We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like Atticus to go for us." (Chapter 22)
hes the town lawyer