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Jan 14, 2011

Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 2 of 5]

By: Paul Ebeltoft

A Suggested Reading List
For People Who Would Like to Become A Lawyer

"What will help prepare us for law school?" "What are the skills that may make a good lawyer great?" "What is it like to be a lawyer?" We lawyers have all had these questions asked of us. I rely on others to begin to answer them.

Due to space limitations in this column, I have divided 25 recommended readings and film suggestions into sections. This is the second of five. Look for the remaining sections in coming months or check in the archives to the left for those you may have missed.

I welcome suggestions and comments.

B. So You Still Want To Be A Lawyer

1. One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School
By: Scott Turow

This is Turow’s story of his first year at Harvard Law School. If you are contemplating law school, this book is a practical way to find that your worries are real. You will also learn that you likely will overcome them.

2. The Lure of Law: Why People Become Lawyers and What the Profession Does to Them
By: Richard Moll

This is a compilation and analysis of information gained from surveys of aspiring lawyers, practicing lawyers and retired lawyers. It is not great reading, but much of life is not good story material. It is a practical way to learn that a career in the law is anything but straight pathway to achieve one’s goals.

3. The Bramble Bush: The Classic Lectures on the Law and Law School
By: Karl N. Llewellyn

Having Karl Llewellyn as a professor must have been a humbling and deeply enriching experience. This book is the next best thing. Let him tell you about the law, how it is taught, why law schools are the way they are, and what you have to look forward to. If you can find a better guide, buy it. I doubt that you will.

4. The Nature of the Judicial Process
By: Benjamin N. Cardozo

The books I have recommended thus far are respected studies of people and events that formed our system of justice; or they are stories of cases, and the lawyers and judges who tried them, about which history has already rendered its verdict of greatness. I have also recommended books about lawyers, caught up in compelling times and events, upon which history’s mantle may not settle. This book is different. The book itself is a classic. Written by an intellect of the first water, Benjamin Cardozo, it explains the workings of the judicial system, and the manner in which judges decide cases. Its prose is dated, but as classics always will, it is will ensnare you. Not only important to read today while you are contemplating a career in the law, it will be worthwhile to re-read after years as a lawyer. You will find it a different book each time, giving substantial value each time.

5. Anatomy of a Lawsuit
By: Peter Simon

Simon has written “law textbook-light. That is why you should read it now. It follows a lawsuit – a car crash – from accident to appeal. At the end of each section dealing with a discreet portion of civil litigation procedure, there are questions. You can get a lot out of the book if you do not answer the questions, you will get more if you do. What you will get is a little taste of 1L.

6. Law 101: Everything You Need To Know About The American Legal System
By: Jay M. Feinman

This book is exactly what it says it is. It is the introduction to a vast array of common legal concepts. The book expands the scope of Anatomy of a Lawsuit, covering the subject matter you will encounter during your first year of law school. Again, it is “law textbook-light.”

7. In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action
By: Ellen Alderman & Caroline Kennedy

This book could well have been included in the first set. I did not because its cases are not groundbreaking. Its protagonists are a mixed bag. Alderman and Kennedy serve up cases, like Gideon, in which ordinary people found themselves caught up in events that took them all the way to the Supreme Court. It is an entertaining book. I place it here as it will serve to remind an aspiring lawyer that rogues, crooks and some slightly nicer folks have shaped how we view the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It is an introductory lesson in client selection.

8. The Supreme Court
By: Lawrence Baum

This is a comprehensive look at the “Roberts Court”, our current Supreme Court. It is not “Supreme Court light” but rather applies principles of analysis introduced to the student by several other volumes on this list to up-to-the-minute cases with currently sitting Justices.

9. Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court
By: Edward Lazarus

This book is a presented as a foil to Baum’s volume. To be sure, it addresses a different time and a different court. Unlike Baum, who works at a balanced portrayal, Lazarus in the words of one reviewer “spills the beans.” Yet the Lazarus book is not merely a tell-all. Its sometimes-unflattering presentation of the Court is made substantive by the context in which the dirt is dished, a context that involves real decisions about important issues. The student will learn from both Baum and Lazarus. The student might enjoy Lazarus more.