A career in the legal industry is a rewarding one, but it's not for everyone. Getting through law school and the day-to-day work is full of challenges, and reading books for aspiring lawyers will give you a good idea of what you're getting into.
Over 100,000 people each year are in law schools seeking their juris doctorate (law degree).
Deciding if you should be among them takes some soul-searching. But thinking about going to law school and following through with it are two different things. It's worth doing some reading in advance to confirm this is the right choice for you before you make your commitment.
Our list of books will help you determine if going to law school is the right fit for you.
1. Law School Confidential
Author: Robert H. Miller
Trying to figure out if law school is right for you? Curious about the expectations and the day-to-day?
Check out Law School Confidential. The book comes from the actual experiences of law students, not professors or admins. That means you'll get a real perspective on what might otherwise catch you off guard.
"There are far too many ‘5 things I wish I knew before attending law school’ YouTube videos. And they all touch on the same ideas. If they all had read this book (and I am sure a majority of them did but they need to pump out content) there would be no such videos on the subject. THIS COVERS EVERYTHING." — Rene
2. 24 Hours with 24 Lawyers
Author: Jasper Kim
There are plenty of career options for attorneys. Knowing which legal practice areas appeal to you will help you keep your eyes on the prize as you apply to or attend law school. But picking the right focus is hard to do in a vacuum.
Read 24 Hours with 24 Lawyers to hear from a range of active attorneys and see what makes the most sense for you.
This book includes insights from a range of different lawyers, including a prosecutor, Wall Street attorney, IP lawyer, criminal defense lawyer, and lobbyist. This book will set you on the path to becoming a successful lawyer by thinking about the daily life and work-life balance offered across the legal industry.
"This is exactly what I was looking for. The thorough and insightful stories of each of these lawyers is the perfect way to grasp a better understanding, even if just a peak, of what's possible with a law degree." — Christa
3. Letters to a Young Lawyer
Author: Alan Dershowitz
Pick up a copy of the must-read Letters to a Young Lawyer if you want a philosophical take on life as a lawyer and the responsibility of those in the legal profession.
Alan Dershowitz is a famous lawyer known for his opinions. In this book, he takes on challenges like the fact that there are high levels of dissatisfaction among practicing lawyers and what this means for the future of the legal world. Read this if you want a frank take on the realities of practicing the law and not just how to get through law school.
"The best and most realistic book I have ever read on describing the criminal justice system. Well written and insightful." — Kevin A.
4. The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
Author: Jeffrey Toobin
The Nine is less of a "how to prep for law school" and more of a deep dive into the highest court in the land.
This book is an interesting read about the Supreme Court Justices who make these critical decisions and the dynamics that guide that process. This is a great one for lawyers but makes an excellent read for anyone interested in the American court system.
"This book is a page-turner, not just for political junkies like me or even lawyers interested in what goes on with the ‘Supremes.’ It's a great study of personalities and professional ethics in law and politics." — Allan B.
5. America’s Constitution: A Biography
Author: Akhil Reed Amar
Anyone who wants to go to law school needs to take a hard look at the basis of the law in the United States.
And one of the best ways to do that is by learning about our Constitution. Well-known constitutional law scholar Akhil Reed Amar takes on the history of America's most important guiding document in America's Constitution. This book covers insightful thoughts about what's in the document and why the Founding Fathers made the choices they did.
This is a must-read for anyone who’s beginning to consider a career in law.
"The U.S. Constitution is a huge subject, and Prof. Amar contributes in this book by keeping a focus on the ideas and debates that led up to or were contemporary with adoption of each of the Constitution's clauses. It touches on virtually every phrase." — Joseph R.
6. The Tools of Argument
Author: Joel P. Trachtman
You’re not going to be stepping into real cases on day one of law school, but knowing how to make your case is a critical skill for lawyers.
Joel P. Trachtman's The Tools of Argument breaks down a way of thinking that's essential for a good lawyer but not necessarily intuitive for those new to the legal industry. You have to put in the time to prepare your argument if you want to win when presenting a case.
The sooner you start to think about making winning arguments, the better. This book will help you think through persuasion in and out of the classroom.
"This book in my opinion is amazing, it doesn't just help you ‘argue like a pro’ but explains so much, btw there's a glossary in the back. It is mostly simple wording, if it isn't they do explain it. I really liked this book, it is so informative and may just change one's perceptions just a little." — Nicole P.
7. The Legal Analyst
Author: Ward Farnsworth
You will need to think through a variety of legal problems as you make your way through law school. Giving yourself a framework to think through these problems will give you a leg up in classes, exams, and beyond.
The Legal Analyst is the best book to get you up to speed on applying mental models to the law.
Author Ward Farnsworth walks readers through thought-provoking concepts from game theory, philosophy, and psychology to show you how to solve legal issues. This book is more than a beginner’s guide. It’s a manual you can turn to before, during, and long after law school.
"A great book on the philosophies and principles behind the law. Easily read and filled with well annotated excerpts from studies and other books, you will begin to experience and use some of the most powerful tools in legal reasoning. Whether it is overcoming common misconceptions around probability to current issues in maintaining rights in light of domestic security and global terrorism, the book provides an analysis in 31 short chapters. probably the best book I've read on the subject. Great for the law student or student of the law." — Ed B.
8. 1L of a Ride
Author: Andrew J. McClurg
The first year of law school is shocking for some, but 1L of a Ride will help you prepare.
Knowing a little bit about what to expect will boost your confidence and help you adjust more quickly. This book provides readers with a roadmap to the first year of law school with a focus on helping them balance both academic and emotional success.
Author Andrew McClurg breaks down what the standard first-year curriculum looks like. He also walks readers through topics like how to study the law, participate in class, and prep for exams.
"Bottom line: this is one of if not THE very best, most comprehensive and informative sources available to anyone interested in law. Professor McClurg listens to his students and appreciates their experiences, and his book continues to serve those who read and follow his guidance.” — Amy C.
9. Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams
Authors: Richard Michael Fischl and Jeremy Paul
Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams first came out in 1999, but don't let that dissuade you from checking it out. The authors updated it in 2023, and the book maintains its status as the best resource on law school exams. You'll learn the legal reasoning fundamentals that appear in real-world disputes, in law school tests, and even in bar exams.
Over 70,000 students take the LSAT every year, but that's just the start of exam prep for those who go on to law school.
Knowing how to study for and succeed on law school exams will support your grades, rankings, and opportunities for clerkships and other opportunities. This book makes it clear that succeeding on exams and getting those opportunities isn’t a check-the-box process. Instead, it provides clear advice on what you need to do to apply real legal reasoning to test scenarios.
"This was one of the best investments I made before I started law school! I read this book from July-August before my first semester. Even though I hadn’t taken any classes just yet, it provided me with a decent roadmap for approaching my classes while prioritizing strategy for my finals. I then reviewed the main points of each chapter, especially the last few chapters, in October to make sure I was preparing well with finals fast approaching. Long story short, this book gave me a competitive edge over many of my peers for every final I took!" — Monica G.
10. Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About The American Legal System
Author: Jay Feinman
Jay. M Feinman's Law 101 is a soup-to-nuts look at the way the American legal system works.
This book is packed with information, and even though it’s comprehensive, it’s accessible for non-lawyers. The author breaks down every part of American law, making it a great tool to have before your first year of law school.
Jay Feinman also updated his book in 2023, so it’s not just a dry reading of how constitutional, personal injury, and criminal law work.
It's full of up-to-date insights from current legal events, like shifts in the Supreme Court and how the law deals with new tech like cryptocurrency.
“A first class survey of law as it exists in the United States today. It is exactly what it claims to be in the title.
This is a great topical overview of the body of US law. It covers the general areas of law in sections and gives a clear and adequately detailed explanation of each area of law.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in having a good understanding of ‘how it is’ in US law as compared to ‘how it was’ or ‘how it should be.’” — Peter B.
11. One L
Author: Scott Turow
This is the only work of fiction on our list, but it has earned its spot here.
One L is an autobiographical novel by lawyer and author Scott Turow. He based this book on attending Harvard Law School in the mid-1970s. Not all of it may be up to date for a first-year law student today, but it's got a great perspective on stepping into the legal industry.
"It's a journal of experiences. It's indispensable to anyone who would start their path as a lawyer just to be able to see what lies ahead of them. It only elevates the reader's experience that the writer happened to have attended one of the best law schools in the nation/world. This is a tool for those who would mentally prepare themselves for success. Indespensible." — Philip M.
Put Your Legal Learning to Work
The books on this list are a great start for anyone who wants to be a lawyer. Students who are on the fence about a career in law should pick up a few to see if the career is right for them. And those who’ve already committed to law school will find a wealth of knowledge when it comes to test prep and setting expectations.
Books alone won’t push you through law school, but getting a firm foundation by reading them will give you an advantage over the unprepared.
Many of the books on this reading list will appeal not just to people thinking about law school. Practicing attorneys can get a lot out of some of these books, too. We recommend that practicing lawyers (and even law school students) check out our list of the best books for lawyers for even more insights on things like managing and marketing a law firm.