In the course of the 20th century, Auerbach argues, lawyers have become Brahmins and cowards, dominated by corporate interests, refusing to initiate redress for injustice to the poor. In addition to the corporate bureaucracy, it was specialization, anti-Jewish quotas and American Bar Association conservatism that rendered lawyers servile; the Depression bankrupted them too, nevertheless. They failed most egregiously in the McCarthy period, when the few attorneys willing to defend Communists were pilloried by the courts, the most dramatic case being that of Sacher and Isserman, who fought the Smith Act and were disbarred and jailed for their courage. While Auerbach maintains that patrician Anglo-Saxons have tended to be most discriminatory toward the poor or those immediately in need of legal assistance, lawyers of Jewish, working-class or black origin also have less than sterling records. Auerbach considers Watergate a low point of demoralization after the civil rights movement and OEO programs of the '60's had injected a certain elan into the profession. The intervals--including the 1930's and the 1960's--when social groundswells gave lawyers some spirit of social responsibility are reconstructed anecdotally, with attention to the changing climate of law schools and pressures at the bench. Auerbach ends by calling for ""public regulation of the legal profession in the public interest,"" so that provision of legal services depends on ""need, not wealth."" Along with a certain subtle cynicism that assumes the poor will always be poor, but deserve full rights, the book provides straightforward access to the safe retreats of the majority of the legal profession and the accomplishments of a few of its members. Auerbach directs American studies at Wellesley College.