These are perilous times for America's lawyers--and for Americans who rely on lawyers. Blatant abuses of power and trust, reckless ethical misconduct, grossly unjust billing practices, and dishonesty disguised as client confidentiality have all undermined the credibility of lawyers and imperiled the authority of the legal system. In the court of public opinion, many lawyers these days are more culpable than the criminals they defend and prosecute.Is the public right? In this eye-opening, incisive book, Richard Zitrin and Carol Langford, two practicing lawyers and distinguished law professors, shine a penetrating light on one of the most critical issues now confronting our judicial system: legal ethics. Pick up any newspaper and you will no doubt see a heated debate between lawyers who view certain legal behavior as "ethical" and average citizens who judge that same conduct in terms of "morality." Through in-depth analysis and case studies of actual trials ranging from murder to class action suits, Zitrin and Langford go behind the headlines to investigate why lawyers behave the way they do--and what impact that behavior has on our legal system. The result is a stunningly lucid exploration of law as it is practiced in America today--and a cogent, detailed, ground-breaking program for legal reform. Zitrin and Langford begin with a frank and fascinating discussion of a harrowing criminal case to illustrate why a defense lawyer's zealous advocacy is necessary not just to protect reprehensible clients but to ensure many of the freedoms we all enjoy. But problems arise when that same unfettered zeal is applied to the civil arena, where the power and money of large corporations can jeopardize the ordinary citizen's access to justice.Zitrin and Langford then probe the other major legal issues of our day, including how large multinational law firms use prolonged, expensive "discovery wars" to win the majority of cases before they ever come to trial--or to the public's attention; how lawyers have turned trials into legal theater in which race, sex, and "spin" replace evidence, facts, and truth; and how lawyers have managed to turn class action suits into massive money-makers--for themselves.But it doesn't have to be this way. In the book's powerful final chapter, Zitrin and Langford outline a concrete, workable program for changing the way law is practiced while retaining the vision and intent of the Founding Fathers. Timely, provocative, and absolutely mesmerizing, The Moral Compass of the American Lawyer is essential reading for anyone who cares about truth and justice in our society.