In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is an attorney. This is significant because he is appointed to be the public defender for Tom Robinson, a black man who has been falsely accused of the beating and rape of Mayella Ewell, a white woman. This draws a great amount of ire from the racist town of Maycomb and inspires criticism of the Finch family. Despite this, Atticus boldly defends Tom, clearly illustrating that Tom did not commit the crime and making it evident that it was Mayella's father who was responsible. However, due to the attitudes toward black individuals in the town, Tom is found guilty and sent to prison, where he is shot before Atticus has the chance to appeal.
As an interesting side note, Atticus's character is based on Amasa Coleman Lee, Harper Lee's father. Like Atticus, Amasa was a lawyer; in fact, he defended two black individuals who were accused of killing a white storekeeper. Ultimately, the case—like Atticus's case—was lost, and the two men were hung.