Five Books to Read Before Starting Law School
So you're starting law school?
There are many great books that you might want to read before starting law school. Law school is filled with books -- casebooks, statute books, study guides, commercial outlines, and more. Occasionally, a professor may even assign a novel. If you are planning to attend law school, hopefully you are someone who enjoys reading!
Before you begin law school, you will probably have questions about the classes, the exam, and the legal profession as a whole. Luckily, there are many people out there in the business of writing books about law school. While experience is the only thing that will make you truly comfortable as a new 1L (first-year law student), these five books are great introductions to law school, law exams, and the highest court in the nation. They are the top five must-read books before your first year of law school.
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Law School Confidential
Unlike most books, Law School Confidential does its best to cover the entire process, from admissions to briefing cases to exams. It even handles some post-graduation concerns, such as landing a judicial clerkship or passing the bar exam. The book is useful to new law students because it uses a panel of recent grads to discuss the important issues. This edition is updated, which is important as the legal field grows and changes.
That said, you don't have to take the advice as gospel. Use the techniques that suit your style. After all, most of us don't really use five different highligher colors, and we managed to survive our first year of law school!
Planet Law School
There is a cynical side to law school, as many students learn. Law school is a business (one that may be changing in the future as too many graduates enter the market). Like Law School Confidential, Planet Law School II is a recently updated work that covers everything you could want to know about applying to law school, surviving your time there, and getting the most out of your education.
(PSSST: Bonus buying tip! Amazon frequently has deals for buying Planet Law School, Law School Confidential, and Getting to Maybe. Take a look and see if you can get a good price on all three!)
Book Buying Tip: Study Guides and Commercial Outlines
Many law school resources will suggest buying study guides or commercial outlines to supplement your reading. However, you should wait until you start school to buy these books. Talk to 2Ls and 3Ls who had your professors and ask which guides are the best. Your professor may even have a recommendation.
Plus, you might be able to use interlibrary loan to borrow study guides before committing to buying them! Save your money and borrow or buy used, if possible.
Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams
The toughest part of the adjustment to law school for many students is the exams. In most classes, they will make up your entire grade (although professors often have some flexibility to bump your score up and down for things like participation). You will have three or four hours to write down as much as you possible can. Getting to Maybe is a great book to begin familiarizing yourself with law school exams.
The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam
What?! Think about the bar now? That's three years away! I know what you might be thinking, but it is never too early to think about the bar exam. Plus, the main purpose of this book is how to pass the essay sections of the exam. You will be taking many essay exams during the course of law school. The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam is short and to the point. It is filled with practical tips for writing essays appropriate for a legal exam.
I wish I had read it before my last semester of law school. It is an under-acknowledged book that you may find very helpful. After all, you have many exams to take between now and becoming a lawyer, you might as well get some help sooner rather than later!
Why I Attended Law School
When I was 12 years old, I visited Washington D.C. for the first time. We had the opportunity to take tours of the capital, the White House, the Smithsonian... all the big stops. But I was a 12 year-old with big dreams, and there was a moment inside the Supreme Court that took my breath away. At that point, I had no idea what a lawyer did (except what I saw in movies and television shows). Part of me still holds the dream of being a Supreme Court Justice one day.
So, my final book recommendation isn't about surviving law school. But, I think that people who want to enter the legal profession should understand the big picture. Before your first year of law school, take the time to learn something interesting about the judicial branch of government.
Everyone has a passion or dream that drives them to go to law school. The tuition is too massive of an investment if you aren't committed. During your time at law school, find ways to hold onto your passion and remind yourself of the big dreams that sent you there. Those dreams may never be realistic (after all, there are only nine Supreme Court Justices), but they are important and will help you find your way as you approach graduation.
The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
Many people who start law school have no idea how the judicial branch works. They may know that there are trial courts, appellate courts, and Supreme Courts, but the behind-the-scenes knowledge isn't talked about often. The Nine takes you into the workings of the United States Supreme Court. It follows the Court over the decades as the membership changes, and so too does the voting. Personal anecdotes make the justices more real.
History and tradition govern many courts. While you may never work for a Supreme Court justice, or even argue a case in front of SCOTUS, this book is an interesting read that may inspire new students. At the very least, take the time to learn the names of the current justices. Can you name all nine?
Books to Read Before Law School
Which book are you thinking about reading?
Unsure what materials you will need when you start law school? Check out this list of law school supplies for a great start.
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Do you have a favorite book that you would recommend to an incoming law student? Or just a question or comment about one of these? Leave your opinion here and join the conversation!