Soon you'll have more reading than you can handle, but before law school starts there are some important books that can help you prepare for your education and learn more about the profession. The following is a short list of some highly regarded texts that any pre-law student will find useful and entertaining.
Books about the Law School Experience
As you are preparing for law school, you may be curious about what it's like getting a legal education. Many books have been written about the trials and tribulations of law school. Some books about law school are autobiographical, such as One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turow. Turow is well known for his legal thrillers and he illustrates the euphoric highs and crushing depressions of law school with the dramatic tension that makes his fictional works so popular.
You can return to Harvard for the fictional account of another first year law student for The Paper Chase by John Jay Osborn, Jr. The story depicts a law school whose students are locked in battle with each other and with a demanding contracts professor. The book was also made into a 1973 film that remains a law school favorite.
However, you are unlikely to be attending Harvard in the 70's (the setting of these two previous books). Although many of their observations may remain relevant, you may prefer to read a book like Law School Confidential by Robert H. Miller, which was published in 2011 and compiles the advice and observations of a panel of law school graduates from across the country. The book contains a wealth of practical advice about admissions, financial aid, choosing classes, study and test strategy, and finding a job after graduation.
Having learned more about the law school experience, you may then be interested in developing some legal skills.
Books about Legal Skills
Early in your education and career you'll be doing an enormous amount of reading. However, reading and interpreting legal texts requires an approach that is quite different from other courses of study. While his political positions are highly polarizing, even his most strident detractors have to admit that Antonin Scalia's skill and sophistication in legal interpretation and argument are virtually unparalleled. The Supreme Court Justice was also a prolific author and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts is a valuable resource whether you intend to fight or support the Scalia's own legal positions later in your career.
Alan Dershowitz is another figure that some people love and others hate. He was the youngest full professor in Harvard's history and has been involved in the defense of a variety of notorious celebrities such as Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst, and O.J. Simpson. Dershowitz's book, Letters to a Young Lawyer, is an extended rumination on his celebrated career. Dershowitz outlines the temptations of power, money, and fame, along with the pitfalls associated with them.
Of course, your classes will cover the philosophy, ethics, and practical skills necessary to be a lawyer. You may prefer to seek out books for pre-law students that help them advance skills that lawyers need, but are less frequently covered in law school classes.
Books about Other Important Skills
Apart from a knowledge of laws and procedures, there are some basic skills that helped you get to law school and will serve you throughout your career. There are some books that can help pre-law students sharpen these skills in preparation for school.
Effective writing is, in many ways, the cornerstone of a lawyer's effectiveness. While many of the specifics of the classic book Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White have fallen out of fashion, it remains an important text about clear and effective writing.
While Elements of Style is falling out of fashion, Legal Writing in Plain English by Bryan A. Garner predicts the future. Garner argues for plain, direct speech in legal argument and your law school professors will appreciate when you don't succumb to the law student temptation to pack essays with unnecessary jargon.
If you want to improve your interpersonal skills, Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton will help lawyers involved in business transactions, seeking settlement agreements, negotiating contracts, and other situations where an agreement between parties is necessary. The book's popularity isn't limited to the legal profession and can be very helpful for those expecting to work in a business environment.
Finding Additional Resources
If you are looking for more books for pre-law students or other resources to prepare yourself, FindLaw is ready to help. Our Law Students section contains materials and links to additional content that can help you make the most of your law school experience.