Tony Lawrence (Paul Newman) inherited his late father's name but not his fortune. His single mother (Diane Brewster) pushes Tony towards upward mobility. He studies law and postpones marriage to his sweetheart, Joan (Barbara Rush), to further his career. The higher he climbs on the social ladder, the less ethical Tony grows, poaching a client (Billie Burke) and seducing his boss' wife (Alexis Smith). When called to defend an old friend (Robert Vaughn), Tony is caught in a moral dilemma.