Every summer, incoming 1L students looking to get a jump start ask me what books they should read over the summer. I know that there are plenty of blogs out there that advise entering law students to read the Examples & Explanations Series from Aspen Publishers or, perhaps, to review the 1L outline series from BARBRI or Emanuel.
I’ll be blunt: This is bad advice, don’t waste your time.
1L study aids are written for a specific audience: students who are currently in law school and are (most likely) preparing for their final exams. Consequently, reading 1L study aids before starting law school is much like reading Secrets to the Perfect Golf Swing without having ever picked up a club. Sure you can read it, but don’t expect that you’ll take any strokes off your game when you finally step foot on the course.
If you’re looking for some good summer reading, check out these two books.
A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr
Talk about a page turner — WOWZA! A Civil Action is a non-fiction book that chronicles the civil lawsuit commenced by a Boston-based personal injury lawyer who represented residents of Woburn, Massachusetts in a toxic torts case.
If that sounds dull, then perhaps you need to reconsider going to law school. However, I promise it’s really engaging. In fact, it’s such a great story that it was made into a movie starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall (but definitely read the book first!).
Why do I recommend this book? First, many first-year civil procedure professors assign A Civil Action as “recommended reading” because it explains the procedural maneuvers that lawyers make in an understandable, accessible way. So, depending on your professor, you may be knocking out some helpful reading over the summer.
Moreover, the book is a great example of how, despite having the facts and justice on your side, if you fail to master the rules of civil procedure you will likely have your case destroyed by opposing counsel.
The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit For Thinking About The Law, by Ward Farnsworth
First off, full disclosure. The author of The Legal Analyst is a former Law Preview professor (one of my all-time favorites) who is now the Dean of University of Texas Law School and, more importantly, someone that I’m proud to call a friend.
In his book, Dean Farnsworth explains what it really means to “think like a lawyer” by introducing readers to different tools of legal thought — common (often mind-blowing) ideas that are illustrated by fun (sometimes horrific) real-world examples that keep the reader’s attention.
Written for an audience of non-lawyers, Dean Farnsworth does an amazing job of explaining how good lawyers (and law students) attack tough problems.