Downtown New York attorneys muse, dish, and kvetch about practicing law in the '90s, in this dead-serious, mordantly funny collection of interviews. Joseph (Law/St. John's Univ.; Common Sense, 1993) converses with 15 lawyers of various stripes, including a female federal judge, a medical malpractice solo practitioner, a criminal defense lawyer, a black partner in a municipal bond firm, a female labor lawyer, and several disaffected associates. The paychecks vary, but the lawyers share a deep disillusionment with the law: Says the criminal lawyer, ""Every lawyer [should] tell his or her client that becoming involved with the legal system is like three years of experimental chemotherapy, 100% guaranteed not to work."" The lawyers concur that justice is just what money can buy; that the work is maddeningly complex, too specialized to delegate to associates; that the role of attorneys as counsel has deteriorated, as clients now feel free to ""tell you--in no uncertain terms--what they want""; and that the highest rewards, such as partnerships and judgeships, ""aren't worth shit."" The depressing tales of mental and physical breakdowns, firings and demotions, are leavened by gabby, self-aggrandizing anecdotes with deferred punchlines and plenty of cusswords. (Despite the frequent vulgarities, only a confrontation between two labor lawyers actually gets ugly.) Joseph has altered the ""names, circumstances, and characteristics of persons and places portrayed,"" but it's fun to try to pierce the veil. (For example, tabloid readers will recognize the partner ""murdered up in the Bronx by a male prostitute at one of those fifteen-dollar motels"" as a leading partner at white-shoe Cravath, Swaine & Moore.) Oliver Wendell Holmes meets David Mamet in this collective portrait of lawyers' love-hate relationship with their profession.