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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Developing an innovative pre-law school summer reading list

Lbcover_2_1 An always useful topic for collective discussion is what should a person read the summer before starting law school. 

Of course, One L by Scott Turow is the modern classic, and it is still probably worth a read even though it is now a bit dated.   One of my favorite recommendations is  Broken Contract by Richard Kahlenberg, which does a nice job exploring how law school turns motivated public-spirited individuals into amoral solvers of legal problems.   And for a lighter read, future law students might check out the new Lawyer Boy by Rick Lax, which amusingly explores the experience of someone who was essentially fated to go to law school by accident of birth.

Eugene Volokh covered this question here last year, and I especially liked the commentor who recommended a cover-to-cover reading of the Constitution.   Helpfully, New York Law School's Library has this on-line multimedia bibliography of "Books & Films on Law & Law School" providing lots of ideas.

OhpBut perhaps folks through the comments might aspire to be a bit more innovative.  In a world heavy with law and legal ideas, there are surely lots of fiction and non-fiction works that may not immediately spring to mind, but still would be especially valuable for a future law student to consume.  Seeking to be innovative, I'd probably recommend some piece of legal or social history such as the collection of essays in The Oxford History of the Prison.

Any truly innovative suggestions, dear readers?

Cross posted at Law School Innovation.

Posted by Douglas A. Berman on July 12, 2008 at 12:14 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Read www.abovethelaw.com, www.autoadmit.com and www.philalawyer.net. That should give you more than enough information on what you are doing.

Posted by: Pete | Jul 19, 2008 4:57:27 PM

My standard advice to incoming law students is to read absolutely nothing related to the law the summer before law school starts. They're going to spend the next three years completely immersed in it, so take the time now to read great fiction or interesting history or enlightening science or whatever -- anything but law. There'll be plenty of that for the rest of their lives.

Posted by: David S. Cohen | Jul 14, 2008 10:51:24 AM


Why don't you read the review above which puts this book in the same category as One L or for that matter all of the other published reviews to date. Even better, why don't you take the time the read the book and see if those reviews are correct.

Posted by: Chuck | Jul 13, 2008 4:52:48 PM

Just want to say that Rick Lax is terrible and boring. His book is probably the same.

Posted by: anon | Jul 12, 2008 6:55:31 PM

Stephen, you convinced me.

Can I put in an anti-recommendation for Law School Confidential which, if I remember correctly, tells students to read each case three times and to highlight it in five different colors? Talk about a recipe for burnout.

Posted by: Katie | Jul 12, 2008 6:06:23 PM

Karl Llewellyn, The Cheyenne Way (written in collaboration with the anthropologist E. Adamson Hoebel). Brilliant study of the jurisprudence of a society that had neither courts nor written codes, using interviews of Cheyenne elders discussing how they resolved "hard cases," instances when an individual violated societal norms.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 12, 2008 5:20:28 PM

Innovative? Then you should definitely recommend World of Warcraft.

You know, the computer game.


It's the perfect preparation for any aspiring big law firm associate.

You learn to complete repetitive tasks over and over again, slowly gaining experience and earning more money, material goods, and status until--after hundreds and hundreds of hours of dull gameplay--you finally "level up" to a point at which the game becomes more interesting.

However, the majority of players realize that they don't have the wherewithal to reach such a level and drop out before reaching this point. This churn of new players is necessary to provide the subscription fees used to support the lifestyles (i.e. new gameplay content needs) of higher level players.

The few high level players that remain then proceed to complete slightly less repetitive and more intellectually interesting tasks to accumulate even more money, material goods, and status. The best players spend 60, 70, or more hours per week in the game--often neglecting their families or health--in order to accumulate the most money, material goods, and status. Rankings of the best "guilds" of players are published, so that everyone can see which players have the most wealth, material goods, and status. Serious new players aspire to be invited to join the most prestigious guilds so they can impress their fellow players.


Many players do this in an effort to "win" the game only to eventually realize that, because new content is added faster than one can complete it, it's impossible to win. But that doesn't stop them from trying!

Even though non-World of Warcraft players think all of this is crazy, their opinions aren't really important. (Some of them are former players who weren't strong enough to reach the higher levels of play and are clearly just jealous. Others are solo players or members of small, "lifestyle" guilds who clearly aren't that talented or they would be playing for one of the larger, better known guilds.) No, what's important are the opinions of your fellow players--especially players in other prestigious guilds--for whom all of this is not only normal, but expected and praised.

Posted by: Stephen Aslett | Jul 12, 2008 2:45:20 PM

I found Kahlenberg's book insufferably holier-than-thou, repetitive, poorly written, and ultimately a waste of my time. The subjected needed (and needs) to be written about -- I just wish it had been done better.

Posted by: Jason Wojciechowski | Jul 12, 2008 1:34:52 PM

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