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Classic Books That Can Help Prepare You for Law School

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Law school is on the horizon, with only a summer between here and there. What better time to read up on your classics?

Sure, you will soon be reading casebooks that will ruin your eyesight over the next few years. Of course, there will be days when reading another court opinion will make you nauseous. But that is exactly why you need to read the classics. Compared to law school reading, it will be a pleasure and an education.

Law and Literature

Many law schools offer law and literature courses, typically during summer sessions. So your timing is perfect to read something from Socrates, De Toqueville, or Franklin -- the one-name luminaries of western legal thinking. The Founding Fathers had a reading list, too, including the works of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Immanuel Kant.

Your reading list could well include some novels, too. The American Bar Association suggests these top five:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Bleak House
  • The Trial
  • Les Miserables

These books will not prepare you for civil procedure, the hearsay rule, or the rule against perpetuities. You can thank the novelists for that. They will teach you, however, about values that inform your conscience, choices, and conviction to principles. Justice has little meaning without such values.

Reading the Classics

The ABA list goes up to 25, but it would be hard to cram them all into one summer. You can save some for future summer reading, or watch the movie versions if you have to.

The Caine Mutiny is a top 25, a good read, and a pretty good movie, too. The Paper Chase, of course, made the Socratic method famous. You can't say you've read the classics, however, by watching a movie. It's the mental engagement of reading -- not eating popcorn -- that really stimulates learning.

Nobody said you have to be a bookworm to be a lawyer. But you can ease your mind into the reading regime with a good summer book. By the way, Black's Law Dictionary is nobody's idea of summer reading. Apologies Bryan Garner, but leave that book in your school bag until the first semester.

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