Law & Legal Studies

Thinking About Law School? Read These 5 Books First.

Thinking About Law School? Read These 5 Books First.
From LSAT tips to can't-miss lectures from law school faculty, these books will help you enter law school with eyes wide open. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly November 7, 2019

No offense to John Grisham, but there are other books on the law school list worth mentioning.

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Anyone attempting three (or more) years of rigorous law school courses, case-briefs, and cold-calling doesn’t exactly need to have their future mapped out, but they should be able to nail down the underlying motivation behind their degree plans.

Maybe it’s the lure of the constant, unique intellectual challenges that law tends to pose, whether you’re reviewing court decisions, writing memos, or preparing arguments. Or maybe, you see law school as a fool-proof path to confronting social justice and public interest issues—often including discrimination around race, gender, or sexual orientation. The potential for financial gain with a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree is also hard to resist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the lawyers pulled in a median annual wage of $120,910 in 2018.

Once you know what’s driving your degree plans, you’ll need to consider some additional basics. Like, are you ready to be a law student? Do you know the difference between undergraduate and law school exams? Are your time management skills up to snuff? How’s your reading stamina? Don’t answer those questions just yet—and don’t let a sense of disenchantment set in either. Knowledge is power, right?

Understanding the basics of the law school experience will set you up to go into your program with eyes wide open, and achieve success in your first year and far beyond. To do that, you’ll need to take time to prepare yourself for everything from starting law school to rethinking your skills to exploring career paths and honing your understanding of the field. So, without further ado, here’s some required reading before the real required reading begins.

Defining Moments: Insights Into the Lawyer’s Soul by Melanie Bragg__

Attorney Melanie Bragg uses this collection to reveal that every lawyer has a collection of success principles that they live by, and shares 42 essays by accomplished lawyers detailing their path to conquering their fears, overcoming obstacles, and discover their voices in the field. These professionals include judges, past American Bar Association Presidents, and big and small firm lawyers who offer a roadmap for any student seeking opportunities for leadership and personal growth in law school and beyond.

Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams by Jeremy R. Paul and Richard Michael Fischl__

This book is for every law student who will soon hear their professors say that “learning the rules is not enough” and wonder how to progress beyond their warning, especially in terms of law exams. Not a simple challenge, right? After all, law students are expected to demonstrate excellence in a setting where “knowing the answer” is the wrong way to think about excellence.

To do that, Professors Fischl and Paul explain law school exams with an eye toward improving the reader’s performance. The book begins by describing the difference between educational cultures that praise students for “right answers” and the law school culture that requires nuanced analysis of often ambiguous situations. From here, they teach readers how legal analysis applied to exams by offering studying hints as well as tips for how students can present their ideas without zero uncertainty or doubt.

Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law by Jill Norgren__

This remarkable book serves as both an inspirational account of personal successes and a historical analysis of the march toward gender and racial equality in the United States. In it, Jill Norgren details the lives of dozens of extraordinary women, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Herma Hill Kay, and Norma Shapiro. She shares the roadblocks of discrimination they faced while making their way through law school, up the professional ladder, and continue to confront lasting bias in their personal and professional lives. Their stories are a window into the past and a beacon for the future, revealing just how far women have advanced in the field with how lawyers of all backgrounds can keep the fight for equality going strong in the 21st century.

The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study by Karl Llewellyn__

What do you call a book that was written almost 90 years ago but remains highly relevant today? Yup, a classic. This collection took shape a series of introductory lectures given by legal legend Karl Llewellyn to new law students at the University of Chicago and Columbia University. In it, he introduces students to fundamental law concepts, how to read cases, how to prepare for class, and how justice in the real world relates to the law.

From here, Llewellyn offers a pointed and clear explanation of case briefing before class, visualization of cases, active learning in class, note-taking, the use of precedent, exam format, and the limits of logic have proved timeless and highly practical. Decades later, his lectures remain excellent advice for prospective students to consider and implement in their journeys into the legal field.

24 Hours with 24 Lawyers: Profiles of Traditional and Non-Traditional Careers by Jasper Kim__

Jasper Kim has worked in various traditional and non-traditional careers as—a lawyer, banker, consultant, author, columnist, and academic—since graduating from law school, and it may have sparked the idea for this book. Over 24 chapters, he breaks down the day-to-day lives of lawyers in every possible niche, giving readers an in-depth look at career profiles across corporate law, legal consulting, lobbying, mediation, among others they may have other not know about. This book is well-suited for prospective students hoping to determine which occupation or specialization will suit them best in the field. As for choosing a law school, that’s left up to you.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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