It is clear that Atticus recognizes ahead of time that defending Tom Robinson will make enemies in Maycomb. He tells his brother, Jack, that "I'd hoped to get through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me and said 'You're It.' " But Atticus also sees that he has no choice, since his conscience would never allow him to do otherwise. Above all else, Atticus takes pride in doing the right thing and serving as a positive example for his children.
"... do you think I could face my children otherwise? ... I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb's usual disease... I just hope Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough..." (Chapter 9)
Atticus's defense of Tom also serves as a positive step in racial equity for Maycomb's black citizens. It is obvious that Tom's black supporters trust in Atticus when they stand in unison as he exits the courtroom. Although Tom is found guilty, Atticus manages to make at least one of the white jurors think about his decision. In doing so, according to Miss Maudie,
"... we're making a step--it's just a baby-step, but it's a step." (Chapter 22)