Three books to read during law school

Photo by Matias North on Unsplash

Reading for pleasure during law school is something a lot of students just don’t have time for. It’s bad enough that each professor assigns about forty pages of reading each day, multiplying that by however many classes you have that semester makes for a very long study session. After law school and studying for the bar, some people even take a “sabbatical” from reading—focusing on fun, family, and friends. Can you blame them?

If you are in the mood to glance over anything but another case on Civil Procedure, here are the top three books to read while in law school. They give you perspective, insight, and most importantly: a break from studying.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    I might be a little biased since I named my dog after him, but Atticus Finch is one of the most recognizable lawyers in all of literature. We all read the book in fourth or fifth grade; all wondered what exactly was up with the socially outcast Boo Radley, and all were surprised at the shocking twist in the end. Reading To Kill a Mockingbird in law school—even if you have no intentions on ever litigating—seems fitting. A quick read, the book can be enjoyed within a single day and reminds us of our (likely) first impressions of what a lawyer is, what a lawyer does, and how society does or does not accept them.
  2. The Defining Decade by Meg Jay
    I don’t often recommend self-help books. For one thing, there seems to be a stigma attached, and the subject can turn a lot of people away immediately. The Defining Decade isn’t exactly what could be considered self-help, but the book does focus on long-term planning strategies to improve your life, and helps readers navigate the difficult decisions ahead. The book deals with issues like establishing your professional identity, managing your money, self-care strategies, and planning for marriage. The last one threw me at first: “Why is this book for twenty-somethings focusing so much on getting married? Ew.” As it turns out, the book provides helpful advice and context for arguably the one of the most important decisions of a person’s life; marriage can be one of the most positive contributions to a happy life, but it can also be a disaster (both financially and personally) if it goes wrong. It’s not that the book pushes you to get married, but rather gives you a wealth of information on the subject, the likes of which you haven’t seen since you researched what law school to attend. I know it sounds odd, but the book is worth every minute you spend on it.
  3. Plain English for Lawyers by Richard C. Wydick
    This one speaks for itself. The book is a quick punch of information: it provides helpful tips to improve your legal writing while familiarizing you with many of the terms of art you are likely to see down the road as a legal professional. Spoiler alert: one of the easiest changes to implement that the book recommends is to avoid the uses of couplets like “to have and to hold,” “warrants and represents,” and the like. One of the mistakes students make is believing they need to “sound like a lawyer” in their writing. But if no one can understand what you’ve written, does it even matter that you sound smart?

In the breaks between classes, during meals, or before you settle down for bed, indulge yourself in a good book. Before law school (and before college, for some people) reading brought so much joy: trips to faraway places, fantasy, adventure. Rekindling some of that love can help bring balance to your life while allowing you to escape to a world with no Real Estate homework—often, for free.