Law: Panorama of Defects

The men who milled through the San Francisco Hilton lobby last week seemed prototypical affluent Americans. Lawyers in town for the American Bar Association's annual meeting —some 8,000 strong—they conventioneered in determinedly conventional fashion. Black ties came out for a dinner dance complete with Bob Hope ("This would be a great place to get whiplash"). Outthrust hands took advantage of the boundless cordiality of Lewis Powell, former A.B.A. president, and clients might later be told, "I was chatting last summer with Justice Powell.. ."

All in all, it might have been a blissful,...

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