It's been open season for investigative reporting on lawyers and the judiciary for some time now, from Bernstein and Armstrong's The Brethren to Steven Brill's monthly The American Lawyer. Now, from Stevens, author of The Big Eight (accounting firms) and Land Rush (real estate), comes an undistinguished addition to the genre. Stevens claims to focus on the giant firms (over 300 lawyers) who are ""fascinating creatures"" of interest for their internal struggles, influence or innovation. In reality, the book is a loosely knit collection of pieces in which Stevens belittles the conservatism of the old-style law firms, often dependent on a single client (Shearman & Sterling/Citibank, for instance), and lionizes the new ""boutique"" and expansionist firms and their moving forces. But, in short order, it gets tiresome reading quotations from anonymous partners about their own firms and others. And Stevens' style can be sloppy. For a writer so interested in firm management, he seems curiously unable to distinguish among rule by consensus, majority and unanimity, and he apparently has few compunctions about voicing contradictory opinions on the same page. The firms he profiles may indeed be powers among American law firms, and much of their power may derive from their innovative practices, but there's virtually nothing here about the practice of law--what all these folks, no matter what their business strategy, are in business to do. Laymen won't find this much of an introduction to the big firms; lawyers will find more titillation and back-stairs gossip almost anywhere else. Dull, slipshod stuff.