– the best books to read before starting law school.

Going to law school this fall? We’ve got a list of summer reading to make sure that you’re 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 you’d better 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!

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. Reread it 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 a lawyer.

Law 101Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About The American Legal System– Kick-start your understanding of the law here. This book is pretty basic, but it gives you an excellent 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 your 1L year. Just because it’s an introductory work doesn’t mean it’s for the simple-minded; this book is an excellent 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.

24 Hours with 24 Lawyers24 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 do on a day to day basis. It’s the ideal way to start thinking about what path you might wish to take in the law.

1L by Scott Turow

One LThis 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, but still perfectly captures the struggles and emotions of life as a 1L. Though it’s not the book that the movie the ‘The Paper Chase’ was based on, it’s captures the same harrowing psychological drama of the law school experience. A warning: fans of faster reads may find it a bit too meditative. Still, I think the type of person that thrives in law school will find this an exciting read.

Read A Book About The City Where You Will Attend School

When we were about to start at the 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 for the place. If you are having trouble picking something, call your school’s 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.

Anonymous 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 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.

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An Introduction to Legal Reasoning– Written by a now-deceased famed legal professor who taught at the 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 students 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.

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.

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