In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus takes the case of defending Tom Robinson even though he is aware that he will probably lose the case. He believes that justice is meant for all people, not just whites.
'Atticus, are we going to win it?'
'Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,' Atticus said.
By agreeing to serve as Tom's attorney, Atticus not only extends to Tom his rights guaranteed by law, but he also takes a stand in the community for white and blacks to see. Atticus is a man of impeccable character, who is ruled by his moral compass: that part of him that lets him know what is right and what is wrong.
Atticus is also a man who is not judgmental; he believes, too, that it is important to understand how others feel. This is why he advises his children to walk in another person's skin to better know that person. Atticus and his family take a good deal of ridicule, even from their own family members, but Atticus acts based upon what he knows to be correct.
And even though he loses Tom's trial, every member of the black community know Atticus as a man of honor; they know he has proven Tom innocent; and, they know that Atticus lost only because of the racism they all have been facing for hundreds of years.
When Atticus leaves the courtroom, the black community members in the balcony stand out of respect to acknowledge all of this: Atticus treated Tom as a client, not as a black man. Atticus did his very best and did not lose the argument: he simply could not turn aside prejudicial beliefs still deeply ingrained within the society of Maycomb. Rev. Sykes and the others not only stand out of respect and thanks, but they send food to the Finch household to say thank you. And as is the character of Atticus Finch, he is humbled and touched by their kind regard.