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Self-effacing Montana attorney Maxwell Webster comes home to his wife Julie and their three young children, happy that his law firm has just won a big case, because of his research and summation writing. Max has never argued a case himself, and Julie thinks he does not get enough credit. At the firm's country club celebration that night, Julie drinks too much and drunkenly proposes a toast to the over-looked efforts of her husband. The embarrassed Max does not get angry, but in the middle of the night, Julie wakes up to find him brooding about being a failure in her eyes. She urges him to ask his boss, Edmund Jethrow, for a partnership, and the next day he does, but loses his job. Figuring that now is the perfect time to start out on his own, Max convinces Julie that they should move to Los Angeles, where the weather is warmer and opportunities greater. Because the house they planned to rent will not take children, the family moves into a California bungalow that the realtor says is in a "fast" neighborhood. Max and Julie are content with the place, except for the two telephones that ring constantly with people trying to place bets with the bookie who used to reside there. When Max enrolls in a course to help him pass the California bar examination, he uses the last of his money for one of the books. One of his fellow students, attractive Joyce Laramie, who has failed the exam twice, recognizes Max as an excellent lawyer and suggests they study together, as she has bought all of the books. Julie is not jealous of Max's new friend, but laughs when he says that Joyce, who works for a collection agency, could get him a part time job with her company. Max is incensed that Julie does not think he could do collection work and decides to take Joyce up on her offer. On his first day on the job, Max is shocked by the subterfuge the company uses against its "deadbeat" clients and is unable to collect a single dollar. At home, Max is frantic when a man named Eddie Tasling, who telephoned that morning to place a bet, calls again, demanding his $800 winnings. That night, when Max goes to study with Joyce, he is too embarrassed to admit that he collected nothing that day and uses his last twelve dollars to make a payment toward unemployed singer Dorianne Gray's mink stole. The next morning, when Julie notices that $12 are missing from Max's wallet, he angrily says that he spent it, but refuses to say how. As they argue, Eddie calls again and threatens them, saying that he will find out where they live by going through the telephone directory. Later, while trying to think, Max takes a walk and comes across a bar called Eddie's, then confirms that this is the same Eddie because the man keeps using the phone book to make calls. Some time later, Dorianne comes to the collection agency to pay off the balance of her stole because she has finally gotten a singing job. When she learns that the balance is $12 less than she thought, she deduces that Max made the payment and assumes that it is because he likes her. As the bar exam date approaches, Max spends more time studying at Eddie's, trying to sabotage Eddie's trek through the telephone book before he gets to the letter W. After taking the exam, as Max anxiously waits for the results, he is upset when Julie confesses that she had written to Mrs. Jethrow hoping to help him get his old job back. Max angrily says that Julie has no confidence in him, and Julie lashes out, saying that he has only tried mythical cases "in the bathroom." She then says that she is going back to Montana, and Max leaves. As he walks out, he runs into Eddie, who asks if he is the man who takes the bets, and Max answers by slugging him. Now frightened, Eddie tells his companion that he suspects Max is part of a new gang, and the two quickly drive off. That night, when Max does not come home, a worried Julie goes to Joyce's apartment looking for him. At first Julie is jealous, but soon realizes she is wrong and the two women become friends. Meanwhile, Max is in the nightclub where Dorianne sings. While Max drunkenly tells the piano player what a good mother Julie is, mobster Brick Davis comes into the club with Eddie and sits at Max's table. Brick threatens Max if he does not pay the $800. A few moments later, Dorianne, who knows Brick, comes to the table. When Brick is first rude, then pushes Dorianne, Max takes a swing at him and a brawl ensues. At night court, Brick's lawyer tells Max to accept a plea bargain to plead guilty on a misdemeanor, but Max refuses because it would prevent him from becoming a member of the California bar. When their trial comes up in a few days, Max, who has refused to see Julie while he is in jail, tells Joyce that he is disappointed that they have so little faith in him that they have hired a "good" lawyer, and determines to defend himself. At the trial, Dorianne and other witnesses fearfully refuse to confirm that Brick started the fight. Despite this, Max's honest summation so impresses the jury that they find Max innocent but the others guilty. After the verdict, Dorianne apologizes to Max, and Joyce informs him that they both have passed the bar. Ashamed of herself, Julie runs sobbing from the courtroom. At home, Max and Julie make up and Max tells her that Clayton, a well-known lawyer who had observed the trial was so impressed that he offered Max a junior partnership.