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Louis Auchincloss, known to most people as the author of best-selling novels, is also a practicing lawyer. In Powers of Attorney he combines his two vocations in a graphic and authoritative account of the internal workings of a big New York law office. Each of the twelve episodes which make up the book concerns a member of the fictional firm of Tower, Tilncy & Webb and their plots are interwoven as inevitably as are the lives of the characters involved.

Clitus Tilney, the senior partner, has set his stamp on the firm. He is responsible for the growth that makes envious competitors refer to it as a "law factory" and responsible too for the retention of ethical principles considered old-fashioned by certain of his colleagues. The realm he rules is contained in two floors of a vast new office building on Wall Street, and it is there that most of the rivalries, victories, disappointments, and compromises are worked out, to the satisfaction of Mr. Tilney and of the reader.

Mr. Auchincloss's understanding of human relations in general and the ramifications of the law in particular expose in clear relief the maneuverings and power struggles of a group of people disparate in all but their calling: Harry Reilly, the bright young man from Brooklyn; Rutherford Tower, last of the founding family; Mrs. Abercrombie, whose forty years with the firm give her a special status; Chambers Todd, driven to questionable tactics by his insatiable ambition; and many others.

Mr. Auchincloss guides us through the byways of the legal world glimpsed in his earlier novel, The Great World and Timothy Colt. With superb craftsmanship, he shows us the denizens of this world in all their human and often touching frailty, balancing humor with warmth, incisiveness with tolerance. This is a book to savor and to lend only to those who can be trusted to return it.

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