Taking a case to trial is a fact of life for many lawyers. And the truth is prepping and trying a case is nervewracking for the unprepared. That's why we've compiled this list of the best books for trial lawyers.
We've gathered up books that cover a range of trial-related topics.
You'll find textbooks that cover the whole process and books that zero in on negotiation and psychology. We've even added some books for general audiences that are a no-brainer for lawyers. And they're all just as useful for lawyers about to tackle their first trial as they are for old hands.
Here are the top 16 books to read if you want to master the art of the trial, along with quotes from people who’ve read them.
1. Trial Techniques and Trials
Authors: Thomas A. Mauet and Stephen D. Easton
Trial Techniques and Trials is a textbook, but don’t let that scare you away.
This one is a great introduction to a range of trial strategies to help you feel more confident about your trial prep. It’s packed with illustrations and examples to lay out the concepts. Buying a new copy of the book gets you access to a companion website with trial notebooks, other examples, and video lectures.
You'll also find a deep dive into the psychological aspects of opening statements, closing arguments, and jury selection.
"This book is extremely helpful. I got it for a trial advocacy course in law school. However, it became increasingly helpful when I began trial work at the prosecutor's office I clerked for. The book spells out how to do an opening and closing statement, direct and cross-examination, etc. It made it easy to transition into the courtroom as I prosecuted my own trials. Once I become a licensed attorney, I undoubtedly will keep the book as a reference." — Sheree C.
2. Evidentiary Foundations
Author: Edward J. Imwinkelried
Evidentiary Foundations is a key starting point for anyone who wants to brush up on evidence presentation.
The book provides clear steps to turn Federal Rules of Evidence sentences into question lines at trial. The examples help draw connections between the foundational steps of evidence introduction and the various rules to which they align.
Get the most recent version of the book for new additions, such as how social media posts, automatic surveillance cameras, and digital writing impact trying cases.
"A well-known, complete, and solid reference work that should be part of any trial lawyer's library." — Janice D.
3. Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques
Authors: Larry S. Pozner and Roger Dodd
This one is not cheap, but it's extremely popular with lawyers.
Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques has been a standard in law schools for over two decades for a reason, too. It explains how to leverage objections for more comprehensive and persuasive cross-examinations and how to best approach the boundaries of admissibility rules.
One of the most important parts is the strategic discussion on how using "loops" and "double loops" with witnesses and exhibits equips attorneys for any trial.
"I am a criminal defense attorney in Chicago and I cannot wait to really employ these methods in full. Many of you already use parts of this system and don't know it. This was certainly true for me. I know never to ask an open ended question on cross but never really knew a way to get the same information without giving the witness the chance to give a long, self-serving answer. Unfortunately, I have done it and have been badly burned. Never again." — Marcus S.
4. Winning at Trial
Author: D. Shane Read
Winning at Trial garnered an award from the Association of Continuing Legal Education for the succinct discussion of key elements and forward-thinking ideas.
This book comes with hours of video and transcripts from actual trials to illustrate the concepts inside. What makes it unique is that the author selected these videos in conjunction with DecisionQuest, a leading jury consultancy. It includes both good and bad examples of lawyers in action to hit home the teaching points.
"The perfect resource for any lawyer both new and experienced. Winning at Trial not only walks you through the basics of trial from beginning to end but also teaches you key points in how to win by shaping your case for a judge or jury. It teaches you the finer points of how to present a case by examining trial presentations through both the perspective of the presenter and the audience. … Consider this book not just Winning at Trial but Winning as a Lawyer, you and your clients will be happy you did!" — Michael D.
5. Winning at Cross-Examination
Author: D. Shane Read
Winning at Cross-Examination is just as much practical as it is interesting. And that’s all thanks to the author's efforts to weave in both effective and failed attempts at cross throughout the narrative of basic ideas.
The book includes modern strategies to handle a range of witnesses backed by actual transcripts. It also comes with access to a companion website where you can view videos of the examples named in the book as well.
"Most cross-examinations are an unwitting showcase of missed opportunities. Tragically, the lawyers usually don't even realize what they missed, or how much better they could have done with just a little more work and focus.
Read, a practicing trial lawyer as well as prolific author, adds this much-needed book to his collection of excellent advocacy titles. He dispels many myths and lays out simple principles any lawyer can follow to improve their trial performance." — Eric W.
6. Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges
Authors: Bryan A. Garner and Antonin Scalia
Who wouldn't want to read Supreme Court Justice Scalia's insights on how to make a strong impression on judges?
Making Your Case is a guide to both oral arguments and legal briefs, but it also explains how to use those elements to build the entire case. This book gets rave reviews from attorneys and non-lawyers alike since the explanations of reasoning and persuasive language have applications far beyond the courtroom.
"If you're a trial lawyer handling your first appeal, you should absolutely read this book cover-to-cover. I've practiced solely appellate law for ten years, seen hundreds of appellate arguments, written hundreds of briefs and argued nearly a hundred cases, attended national trainings on appellate practice, and taught hundreds of new attorneys how to handle their first appellate case. I agree with almost everything the authors have to say— and what credible authors!" — Zabica
7. The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win
Author: Joel P. Trachtman
The Tools of Argument is a well-reviewed resource that will help you think about various aspects of preparing your arguments.
This is another that both trial lawyers and those outside the legal profession will get value from. It's all about argument tools that prove successful across many disciplines. Trachtman lays out and demystifies “thinking like a lawyer” to give readers the confidence to create their own strong arguments.
"The author explains the difference between law and common sense, law and ethics, understanding of crime in legal terms and in layman words. The book closely examines the logical reasoning of the law professionals, demonstrating the "tricks" used in courtrooms." — Russky
8. Rules of the Road
Authors: Rick Friedman & Patrick Malone
This strategy book by two national trial lawyers first came out in 2006, but Rules of the Road continues to be a winner.
The ideas between these covers have broad potential uses in many litigated cases, such as personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, premises liability, insurance bad faith, and product liability.
It includes tips for how to differentiate principles from rules, how to handle issues with rules, and how to apply the Rules of the Road thinking to various case styles.
It goes beyond the opening statement to closing arguments, too, since you'll find how to apply this knowledge in voir dire, depositions, and motions in limine, making this a comprehensive roadmap for any trial attorney.
"Is it really as simple as establishing the "rules" for the jury and then showing how the defendant broke them and harmed your client? Mr. Friedman's book reminds us that it is, that even in the most complex cases, the narrative arc for proving liability can be simple, compelling and truthful. This book provides a helpful, well written and instructive road map to the essence of proving a plaintiff's case, be it car accident, products liability or professional negligence." — Christopher C.
9. Reptile: The 2009 Manual of the Plaintiff’s Revolution
Authors: David Ball and Don Keenan
Don’t let the date in the title hold you back—Reptile still holds plenty of value for today’s lawyers.
This book puts you in the frame of mind of what's important to a juror, which should be at the forefront of your mind when developing your own strategy in trial cases. The goal is to help lawyers abandon some outdated trial strategies and instead lean heavily into the psychological aspects of convincing others and developing a throughline.
"An important application of some basic neuropsychology to the jury system, this book should be required reading in law schools, public defender offices and anywhere young lawyers are thinking about just how to prove their cases. It looks deeply at what motivates the average citizen juror, and is designed to help trial lawyers get rid of old, tired and dusty trial themes." — Carolin S.
10. The First Trial (Where Do I Sit? What Do I Say?)
Authors: Steven H. Goldberg and Tracy Walters McCormack
The First Trial takes a 30,000-foot view perspective to help lawyers prepare for trial, using both procedure and persuasion techniques to explain things.
This includes drilling down from that high-level view into basics such as what to say and literally where to sit in the courtroom. This is a great introductory book for attorneys to explore. Plus, it’s a good one to turn back to before any upcoming case since you can read it in one sitting.
"For us law students, the Nutshell series is often the last night before the exam's lifesaver. In this volume, if you wait until the night before your trial, ask for a continuance, and read this book. For the layman, it will help you understand what is going on. For the trial attorney, well lets just say, it's the bread and butter of the nuts and bolts of what is going on in a trial." — David Z.
11. Twelve Heroes, One Voice
Author: Carl Bettinger
Trial preparation and execution is something most lawyers should consider before they even decide to take a case.
But lawyers are also telling a story. Knowing how to craft that narrative in a way that the jury and judges can make sense of is vital. Twelve Heroes, One Voice lays out some methods for building that story to connect with others.
"This is one of the best books I have read. It is key to understand storytelling within the context of a courtroom. Every case has a story and it is more powerful than you may think in driving your point home and winning the hearts and minds of those in the jury box." — Sal M.
12. Win Your Case
Author: Gerry Spence
Author Gerry Spence has the experience to back up what he says. He’s never lost a criminal case and hasn’t lost a civil jury trial since 1969.
He has a lot of solid advice for lawyers, but the idea of making persuasive arguments can benefit so many others. Win Your Case walks the reader through every aspect of the trial process, including choosing jurors, making opening statements, responding to cross-examinations, and making a closing argument.
“This is the absolute bible when it comes to psychology and persuasion. The chapters are so detailed that it really requires multiple readings and lots of note-taking to process the wisdom instilled but it is so worth it.
This isn't a book about civil procedure per se — it's a book about everything else. Before your case, studying what jurors think, how to do a real focus group, extracting information and reading a room, lessons that can be used for depositions, and then of course trial practice.” — Zach A.
13. The Articulate Advocate
Authors: Brian K. Johnson and Marsha Hunter
You have to use the right words and know what order to use them in for success at trial. But winning is more than the words you choose.
The Articulate Advocate dives into some of the more psychological aspects of trials. The authors break down practical ways to use things like hand gestures, speaking techniques, and neuroscience to present a compelling and polished case.
"You'll likely know most of the material covered in the book if you have any public speaking experience, but it's the minute details they cover in this book that make it so wonderful. I have benefited greatly, both personally and professionally, from reading this book and applying the concepts in it. A must read for young attorneys, teachers, professors, salesmen, or anyone whose career requires frequent public speaking." — Jacob
14. Thinking, Fast and Slow
Author: Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow is the first of three books on this list where the primary audience is broader than lawyers.
But it’s a powerful tool for anyone who needs to understand how people think.
Tapping into what people think and feel about the world and then aligning your presentation to that worldview is key for how you present evidence and cross-examine. That's what you'll find inside this book by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman.
Kahneman breaks thinking down into two systems.
The first is intuitive and emotional, and the second is more logical and deliberative. He explains how these two systems show up in human life and decision-making. Both systems apply to many aspects of how you prepare and present a case as a trial attorney.
Chicago-based trial attorney Patrick Salvi II recommended this book in his appearance on the Personal Injury Mastermind podcast. He cited it as a major influence on how he prepares for trial.
“The book is a real eye opener for me as a lawyer who needs to understand how and why jurors decide cases.” — John C.
15. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
Author: John Medina
If you love the intersection of law and science, check out Brain Rules.
John Medina makes brain science accessible to the masses in a way that can help you better present yourself and your arguments in court. Consider adding this to your to-read pile if you want to expand on some of the other books on this list that look into things like gestures and body language.
California-based personal injury attorney Rex Parris cited this book as a must read in his appearance on Personal Injury Mastermind.
Rex uses neuro-linguistic programming to help him forge strong arguments and win at trial. He recommended this book as an entry point into using this technique since it breaks down the core ideas into bite-sized chunks.
"But for the same reason anyone interested in education should read it, so should lawyers. The truth is -- like it or not -- most lawyers are in the education business. We spend much of our working lives teaching our clients about the law, and our opponents, judges, and juries, about our cases. If we don't know what there is to know about how to get people to understand and remember what we are trying to teach them, we are wasting a whole lot of time and effort." — Richard C.
16. Never Split the Difference
Author: Chris Voss
Every lawyer needs expert-level negotiation skills, and this book comes from an expert in getting people to agree with you.
Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss wrote Never Split the Difference for a broad audience of readers. Voss lays out practical tips for staying on top in any negotiation. The skills that he teaches are essential for more than just succeeding in trial, but also in any instance where you need to win your case.
"I don't review books. However, I also don't buy multiple copies of a book to hand out to friends, but I did with this one. As a lawyer, my livelihood is dependent on successful negotiations. This book opened my eyes to a lot of techniques to use to get my clients what they deserve. (To be fair, it also opened my eyes to techniques being used on me!) Buy this book. Read it. Read it again, it's that good.” — Charles S.
Expanding Your Legal Skills
The more you can invest in staying at the top of your game, the more confident you'll feel and the easier it is to deliver a great client experience.
The books on this list walk you through the mindset and tactics you need to be at the top of the trial game.
But going to trial isn’t the only thing lawyers need to know how to do. You also have to balance managing and marketing your practice. The good news is that there are plenty of books that can help with that. Our guides to the best books for lawyers and the best law firm management books will help you kickstart your reading list.