Receiving that long awaited acceptance letter from your law school is exciting, but also daunting. You may be looking forward to law school, but you’re probably also feeling a bit nervous about taking on this challenge. Given that you’ll be spending hours upon hours during your 1L year reading, you’re perfectly justified in taking the final few weeks of summer to rest and recharge. But, if you’re anxious to start preparing for the challenge ahead, consider reading some of the following books before the start of your first year:
For Academic Support
Most future law students intuitively understand that law school classes, assignments, and exams are significantly different from what they experienced in undergrad. Learning about the strategies you’ll need to succeed academically in law school can help you get started on the right foot and give you confidence going into your first day of classes. There are numerous law school academic support resources available, but two of the best are Herbert Ramy’s Succeeding in Law School and Michael Hunter Schwartz’ Expert Learning for Law Students. Both books are filled with useful information and exercises to help you start practicing the skills you’ll need in law school. For any future 1Ls looking to improve their critical reading – an essential skill in law school – Ruth Ann McKinney’s Reading Like a Lawyer is another good resource. Of course, you can also check out the numerous posts we have to help you succeed in law school, like the ones here, here, and here!
For the Inside Scoop on Law School
You can’t truly appreciate the insular, competitive, sometimes adolescent environment of law school until you’ve experienced it for yourself, but you can get a taste of what to expect from a few books. For insight into the psychological trials and tribulations of the first year of law school, Scott Turow’s 1L and John Jay Osborne’s The Paper Chase are both classics. (For those wanting the cliff notes version, the latter was made into a movie in the early 70s). Ivy Briefs by Martha Kimes provides a sardonic, sometimes humorous look at the different personalities you’ll likely meet in law school. Lastly, Law School Confidential by Robert H. Miller gives you a practical guide to what to expect and how to succeed.
To Learn About Learning
While previewing specific law school study strategies will be helpful, you may find that learning about how human’s generally acquire knowledge and improve performance is even more beneficial. Benedict Carey’s How We Learn, Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated, and Peter C. Brown’s Make It Stick all provide insight into how we learn and improve, and their ideas can certainly help you succeed in law school and beyond. For a more narrative approach to these subjects, check out Joshua Foer’s excellent memoir Moonwalking with Einstein.
To See What Lawyers Really Do
If you’re already looking beyond law school and hoping to get an accurate idea of what lawyers really do, 24 Hours with 24 Lawyers by Jasper Kim will let you glimpse what the daily grind of being a lawyer actually entails. Spoiler Alert – it’s not nearly as glamorous as Suits. If you’re looking for a compelling but true story, Jonathan Harr’s A Civil Action will expose you to the high-stakes risks and rewards of litigation. (Also in movie format for those looking for a shortcut!) If you’re wanting to go a little more low brow, try The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. It’s a work of fiction so it’s not necessarily an accurate depiction of your average attorney, but it does give you a look at the dingier side of some legal work. (Again, movie version available)!
For Background on Our Legal System
Having a basic knowledge of the structure of our courts and the progression of a lawsuit will give you some much-needed context when reading cases in law school. Law 101 by Jay M. Feinman provides a comprehensive introduction to the legal system, first-year legal topics, and the litigation process. Michael G. Trachtman’s The Supremes’ Greatest Hits, which summarizes landmark Supreme Court cases and the key legal battles that shaped our country, is another good read for a future law student.
These recommendations are just a few of the resources that can help you feel more academically and mentally prepared for law school, but there are many other great resources that can help you get started on the right foot. And don’t be too worried if you’re tired of academic success books and instead read classics, historical novels, or contemporary fiction instead. Any book that increases your fund of general knowledge and exposes you to great writing will also aid in your development as a successful law student.
For more helpful advice, check out these articles:
- Ahead of the Curve: A Guide to Essential Law School Supplies
- Read to Succeed: Learn the Language of the Law
- Ahead of the Curve: Time Management When Starting Law School
- Everything You Need to Know About Finding Your Law School
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.