Best Books for Pre-law Students – Summer Reading Before You Start Law School


Going to law school this fall? We’ve got a list of summer reading to make sure you are fully primed and ready to go. We also suggest some pleasure reading to keep your mind agile. Remember, law school is a reading-heavy enterprise. You might not get a chance to read a novel for fun for a while, so do it now! However, this law school reading list is mostly designed to make sure you are ready to meet the challenge of law school exams, note-taking, and case briefing. Read up on what to expect in law school and you’ll have a little less pre-law anxiety, making it easy to enjoy the summer!


the best books to read before starting law school

Getting to Maybe Getting to Maybe – This is the essential guide that nearly everyone reads to get ready for law school exams. Skim it once now to get an idea what exams are like- this will help you focus on what’s important when you start class in the fall. Read it again as exams approach. If you only read one thing on this list, make sure it’s this book. It provides a critical first step to thinking like lawyer.

law-101-newLaw 101: Everything You Need to Know About The American Legal System– Kick-start your understanding of the law here. This book is very basic but gives you a great primer on stuff you’ll be learning in much more depth 1L year. Read this book in part because it will show you how little you know now, and give you a bar to see how far you come after 1L year. Just because it’s an introductory work doesn’t mean it’s for the simple-minded; this book is great read laced with helpful, intelligent analysis.

Law School Confidential Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to The Law School Experience –  This book tells you everything you need to know to navigate 1L year successfully, from how to brief cases to how to prepare outlines for exams. Just a head’s up, it’s advice on case briefing is perhaps a little overboard. Rather than devoting yourself to following the book in all its details, I would read the book more to get an idea of what you should do. As you actually start law school, be flexible and seek lots of advice until you find an approach that works for you.

24hours24 Hours with 24 Lawyers – This one was a recommendation by Anne Levine, the well-known admissions consultant and author of The Law School Admissions Game (the book I recommend most often for learning about the law school admissions process). In the book, 24 lawyers in all sorts of careers from JAG and Venture Capital to take you through a typical day in their lives.  Read this and you’ll have a much better idea of what lawyers actually do for a living. It’s the ideal way to start thinking about what path you might wish to take in the law.

1L1L by Scott Turow – This is Josh’s recommendation, a fantastic book about a Harvard Law student’s first year written by the well-known practicing lawyer and fiction writer. It was published over 25 years ago now but still documents perfectly the problems and emotions of life as a 1L. Though it’s not the book that the movie the ‘The Paper Chase’ was based off of, it’s captures the same harrowing psychological drama of the law school experience. A warning: fans of faster reads may find it a bit to meditative. Still, I think the type of person that thrives in law school will find this an interesting read.


Read A Book About The City Where You Will Attend School

devilWhen we were about to start at University of Chicago Law, the school recommended we read Devil in the White City, a non-fiction “novel” about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the serial killer H.H. Holmes who was active at that time. Reading a book about the history of your new city will orient you and give you a deeper feel of the place. If you are having trouble picking something, call your schools admissions office for a recommendation or check their site to see if they already make one. I guarantee they won’t find this question silly- they are likely passionate about their city and want to help you get to know it.

AnonymousAnonymous Lawyer is a parody book, in the form of a blog ostensibly written by a partner at a major law firm, covering his plot to take over the position of managing partner. Though it’s fiction, it was apparently so accurate that everybody thought it was about their law firm and was written by their boss. Nobody is safe from the author’s sarcasm. I promise it will have you doubled over laughing.


anintroAn Introduction to Legal Reasoning– Written by a now deceased famed legal professor who taught at University of Chicago, Edward Levi, this book is required reading in many “Elements of the Law” courses, a now common part of the 1L curriculum that teaches student about various themes that run through the law. It’s a little dry, but very informative. Especially read it if your school does not have an “Elements of The Law” class.

Elements of Style The Elements of Style – Although this book is not specific to lawyers or law school students, it is perhaps the most well-regarded and oft read guide to writing in the English language. Most writers look on it as a kind of bible. Read it and you will be in a much better position to become an accomplished legal writer.



  1. Hi good day I am a graduate Paralegal Studies at Universidad De Manila from Philippines,I graduated from the university since year 2014 and have being working as a Service Crew For Fart time to support my study but until now i dont experience about my course because i dont have confidence to try applying legal position but now i want to study law school but i dont have money to study o to buy a book hope u have a PDF copy to send me for free…

  2. Hi, I am a graduate of Human Communication from Lagos, Nigeria with a G.P 3.14. I graduated from the university since year 2011 and have being working as a primary school teacher but now i want to further my education in law. Is it possible to apply for my masters degree in law and what are the admission requirement? I will appreciate a quick response. Thanks. F.B

  3. I’m just a kid who’s dream is to be lawyer and I hope these law books help so that whenever I tell my friends I want to go to Harvard law school they don’t laugh at me

  4. Wai Hlyan Htet on

    Hi,I am First Year Law Student.I am Myanmar Civilian.So,I am studying the law at Dagon University in Yangon in Myanmar.In our legal education,we must study about Five Years to get L.L.B.I would like to know is which books are recommended to read for each years.The books that are related with the study of law.
    If u have free times,come to our University and give us the advice about our legal education.We welcome.

  5. Hi, I just recently decided that I want to go to law school. I have become obsessed with the idea and have this burning desire to make it come true. I’ve been a student athlete my whole life went to online high school and then got a full ride to play for University of Miami. At UM I had a 3.5 GPA majoring in economics. Athletics for me always came first so I never really fully dedicated myself to school. I was kind of cruising by. Fast forward two years and I decide to transfer to Purdue. Purdue academics were a huge surprise for me. Academics at Purdue are 10x tougher than that Miami. My first semester I did awful. Failed a class and got 3 B’s. (first time I fail a class). I had to change majors to remain eligible so I switched to Tourism management. I’m still considering my minor but it will probably be economics since I read that it helps have better performance on the LSAT. My second semester I had to take 6 classes, getting four high B’s and two C’s. I plan on retaking the class I failed so it doesn’t stay on my transcript. Without that class I stand at a 3.0 GPA. I know it is very low, but I still have 2 more years of school left. I have decided that academics will come first as it always should have. Do you think I have a chance to get into law school if I work my butt of for the next two years? Purdue is so rigorous its even ranked eight hardest school to receive an A in. By the way I know that a top tier school is most likely not possible. Will law schools take into consideration that I’ve been a student athlete at top division one schools? Please give me any thoughts or advice you may have. Thank you very much. I really appreciate any advice you have to give me.

  6. With law being so closely related to politics, I would be interested to know what kind of political background or information you suggest a 1L should have before beginning law school.

    • Hi Kristen!

      I’m a friend of Josh and Evan and a fellow UChicago Law School grad. I check out this site from time to time, so I thought I’d chime in here.

      The answer to your question depends on what you mean by “politics.” You should be familiar with the basics of the American political structure – it might be worth dusting off the old textbook from AP US Government (or comparable college Intro to US Government). I’ll call this sort of limited background “Government 101.” Without being familiar with federalism, separation of powers, etc., you will be at a disadvantage not only in the more obviously government-oriented classes (e.g. Constitutional Law), but also meat-and-potato classes such as Civil Procedure and Criminal Law.

      But I suspect that you are asking about a political background that would include knowledge of the parties, each party’s respective strength in federal, state and local political bodies, specific political issues, demographic trends, etc. I’m a political junkie, but if you don’t find the subject interesting, you really don’t have to have any particular background beyond “Government 101”. If you are like me and you would like to become as familiar as possible with politics in the broad sense of the word, I suggest that you spend time reading political news articles, opinion pieces, etc. Basically just keep up with current events – and reading books (or even just Wikipedia pages) on history would help as well. I was able to use my political interest in knowledge to my advantage in a number of classes, mostly electives, but also (to a lesser extent) mainstay 1L classes where policy questions appeared on the exam.

      Again, though, I should emphasize that you don’t have to be a political junkie in order to do well in law school. I know more than a few successful friends both from law school and my firm who are politically apathetic and probably know very little about government and politics beyond “Government 101” and the top headline news.

  7. Alice M. Phillips on

    Your two lists on your blog are awesome! I’m steadily making my way through them (read 1L of a Ride, OneL, and Law 101–all were great! 24 Hours with 24 Lawyers is good so far, but I’m a little sad that so few of the 24 are women). I would add Fred Schauer’s Thinking Like a Lawyer, which I have really been enjoying and which so far three profs from different schools have recommended to me. I’ve also been reading Justice: A Reader and following along in Michael Sandel’s course on Harvard’s website and it’s been great just for getting broad philosophical perspectives on justice that I expect to encounter in case reports haha (though admittedly some of the older texts are dense)

  8. FANTASTIC advice and suggestions. Thank you so much for putting such effort into helping us prospectice law students!
    Ive reserved my seat for Dec LSAT. I want to learn/know as much as possible.
    Again, thank you!

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