Amid the flash and din of Boston's raucous Chinese New Year's celebration, an elderly man is shot while watching the parade from his window. Anthony Bradley, the son of an African-American judge, is standing across the street at the time and is immediately arrested for the crime. Michael Knight, a young lawyer who's going places, is surprised when Judge Bradley asks him to defend his son in such a high profile and politically delicate case.
Michael Knight and Lex Devlin agree to defend a jockey accused of murdering a fellow jockey during a race at Boston's Suffolk Downs. Michael's expertise in the machinations of horse racing is expected to serve them well. But a personal attachment to the murdered jockey thrusts Michael and Lex into the midst of conflict between Boston's Irish mafia and remnants of the terrorist branch of the Irish Republican Army. Now they are in the crosshairs of both, and the brutality of these combatants knows no bounds.
After graduating from Harvard Law with his closest friend John McKedrick, Michael Knight takes a job with his mentor, legendary trial attorney Lex Devlin, while John becomes sole associate of a notorious mob lawyer. Michael never lost hope that John McKedrick would escape to "cleaner pastures" - until John is murdered in a car bombing bearing the signature of his questionable clientele. How could two friends who were so close have taken such wildly divergent paths?