Books to Read Before Law School: Preparing for Legal Education

Get a head start on your legal education by delving into these essential books that'll have you fully prepared for and ready to ace the challenging, but worthwhile adventure ahead.

Posted June 5, 2023

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If you're considering law school, you may wonder how to best prepare yourself for the rigors of legal education. One way to do this is to read books that will help you develop the skills you'll need to succeed in law school and beyond. In this article, we'll explore the why, what, and how of reading before law school, and we'll provide expert recommendations for books to add to your pre-law reading list.

Why It's Important to Read Books Before Law School

Reading is a fundamental building block for academic success, and this is especially true for law school. Law school coursework is dense, complex, and requires a high degree of critical thinking. Reading books before law school can help prepare you for the kind of deep thinking, analysis, and comprehension you'll need to do in law school. Additionally, reading before law school can help you get a sense of what areas of law you're most interested in and help you develop a passion for the field that will carry you through your legal career.

Another benefit of reading books before law school is that it can help you improve your writing skills. Law school requires a lot of writing, from briefs to memos to legal opinions. By reading books, you can learn from the writing styles of different authors and develop your own writing style that is clear, concise, and persuasive.

Furthermore, reading books can also help you develop your critical thinking skills, which are essential for success in law school and in the legal profession. Reading books can expose you to different perspectives and ideas, and challenge you to think deeply about complex issues. This can help you develop the ability to analyze and evaluate arguments, identify flaws in reasoning, and make sound judgments.

Best Books to Read Before Law School: A Comprehensive List

There are hundreds of books that can help you prepare for law school, but some stand out as particularly useful. Here are some expert recommendations:

  • The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study by Karl N. Llewellyn
  • How to Read a Legal Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students by Orin S. Kerr
  • Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams by Richard Michael Fischl and Jeremy Paul
  • The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  • Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises by Bryan A. Garner

Reading these books can help you build foundational skills in legal analysis, writing, and critical thinking, while also giving you a sense of the history and culture of the legal profession.

However, it's important to note that reading books alone won't guarantee success in law school. It's also crucial to develop strong study habits, time management skills, and the ability to work well under pressure. Consider seeking out additional resources, such as study groups, tutoring, or mentorship programs, to supplement your reading and ensure that you're fully prepared for the challenges of law school.

How Reading Can Help You Succeed in Law School

The skills you develop through reading before law school will serve you well once you're in law school. For example, reading dense, complex legal texts can help you get accustomed to the kind of reading required in law school coursework, where you'll be reading cases, statutes, and other legal documents. Additionally, reading books that focus on legal analysis and writing can help you build the fundamental skills you'll need to excel in your classes and beyond.

Moreover, reading can also help you improve your critical thinking and analytical skills, which are essential in the legal profession. By reading different perspectives and arguments, you can learn how to analyze and evaluate complex issues, and develop your own arguments and opinions based on evidence and logic.

Furthermore, reading can also enhance your communication skills, both written and oral. As a lawyer, you'll need to be able to communicate effectively with clients, colleagues, and judges. Reading can help you improve your vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, and expose you to different writing styles and techniques that you can apply in your own legal writing and speaking.

How to Choose the Right Books for Your Legal Education

Choosing the right books to read before law school can be overwhelming, but there are a few things to consider. First, think about your interests and what kind of law you'd like to practice. For example, if you're interested in environmental law, consider reading books on environmental policy or the history of environmental regulation. Second, consider the skills you need to build. If you struggle with legal writing, look for books that focus on writing techniques or legal style. Lastly, seek out expert recommendations and reviews from law school professors, practicing lawyers, and other legal professionals.

Another important factor to consider when choosing books for your legal education is the level of difficulty. Some books may be more advanced and require a deeper understanding of legal concepts, while others may be more introductory and provide a good foundation for beginners. It's important to find a balance between challenging yourself and not overwhelming yourself with material that is too difficult.

Additionally, consider the format of the book. Some people prefer traditional textbooks, while others may find it easier to learn from casebooks or study aids. There are also audio and video resources available, which can be helpful for auditory and visual learners. Experiment with different formats to find what works best for you.

The Benefits of Reading Non-Legal Books Before Law School

While reading legal texts is important, it's also beneficial to read non-legal books before law school. Reading books on a variety of topics can help you build the kind of broad knowledge base that will serve you well in your legal practice. Additionally, reading fiction, history, or biography can help you develop empathy, critical thinking skills, and a better understanding of human nature - all essential skills for a successful lawyer.

Expert Recommendations: Top Books for Preparing for Law School

In addition to the books we've already recommended, here are some additional expert picks:

  • The Interpretation of Legal Texts by Brian Bix
  • The Puzzle of Judicial Behavior by Lawrence Baum
  • A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
  • The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making by Scott Plous
  • The Oxford Handbook of Legal Studies edited by Peter Cane and Mark Tushnet

Reading these books can help you build skills in legal interpretation, decision-making, and understanding of the legal system.

How to Use Reading as a Tool for Building Critical Thinking Skills

One of the main benefits of reading before law school is the opportunity to build critical thinking skills. To get the most out of your reading, take notes as you go along, and refer back to those notes when you're finished. Look up words or concepts you don't understand, and try to connect the ideas presented in different books to one another. Discuss the books with others or write about them in a journal to help solidify your understanding of the material.

One of the challenges of law school is the density and complexity of legal concepts. Reading books that provide an introduction to legal concepts can help you get a foothold in the material before you begin your coursework. Some recommended books for this purpose include:

  • Legal Terminology by Gordon Brown
  • The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law by Ward Farnsworth
  • Understanding Law by John N. Drobak and Harvey S. Perlman

These books will introduce you to important legal concepts and terminology that you'll need to know to succeed in law school.

How Reading Can Help You Improve Your Writing Skills Before Starting Law School

Writing is a key skill in law school and in the legal profession more broadly. Reading books on legal writing can help you develop the skills you need to succeed in your coursework and beyond. Some recommended books for improving your writing skills include:

  • Plain English for Lawyers by Richard C. Wydick
  • The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts by Bryan A. Garner
  • Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing by Richard K. Neumann Jr. and J. Lyn Entrikin

Reading books on legal writing will help you learn the dos and don'ts of legal writing, as well as strategies for improving your clarity, concision, and persuasiveness.

The Connection Between Reading and Success in the Legal Profession

Reading is a fundamental skill for success in the legal profession. In addition to the skills discussed above, reading can also help you stay up to date on legal developments and build a deeper understanding of the law. Additionally, the ability to read and comprehend legal texts is essential for practicing law effectively.

Engaging with Legal Texts and Cases Before Starting Law School

One key way to prepare for law school is to start engaging with legal texts and cases in a meaningful way before you start your coursework. This can mean reading notable cases or legal treatises, or actively analyzing and engaging with cases you come across in your everyday life. Engaging with legal texts in this way can help you build critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of legal concepts.

Tips for Incorporating Reading into Your Pre-Law Routine

If you're interested in reading before law school but aren't sure how to fit it into your busy schedule, here are some tips:

  • Set aside a specific time each day to read. Even if it's just 15-20 minutes, this dedicated reading time will help you build momentum and stay committed to your goals.
  • Make a reading list and track your progress. Seeing your progress can be motivating and help you stay on track.
  • Read on the go. If you have a commute, try listening to audiobooks or podcasts related to the law.

The Importance of Diversifying Your Pre-Law Reading List

It's important to diversify your pre-law reading list to get a well-rounded understanding of the legal profession and how it intersects with other fields. For example, reading books on psychology, economics, or sociology can help you understand how different factors influence legal decision-making and behavior. Additionally, reading works by diverse authors can help you develop a better understanding of how different experiences and perspectives shape legal thought and practice.

Balancing Fun Reading with Pre-Law Preparation: Finding the Right Mix

While it's important to read books that will help you prepare for law school, it's also important to make time for fun reading that helps you unwind and relax. Finding the right balance between pre-law preparation and leisure reading can be a challenge, but it's important to prioritize both. Consider setting aside dedicated time for each, or incorporating reading into your self-care routine in a way that works for you.


Reading books before law school can help you prepare for the rigors of legal education and build the skills you need to succeed in law school and beyond. By incorporating expert recommendations, developing a well-rounded reading list, and using reading as a tool for critical thinking, you can set yourself up for success in your legal career.

For more tips on how to prepare yourself for law school, check out these fantastic articles:

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