More on Recommended Reading for Law Students:
My own recommendation for the one book to read before law school is a very different type of book: Joseph W. Glannon, Civil Procedure: Examples and Explanations. I don't teach Civ Pro, and haven't looked at Glannon myself in a decade, but law students swear by it.
I'll second Orin's recommendation; I used Glannon myself and found it invaluable. I found that if I only read it, I'd usually have a much better grasp on the subject matter than if I only read the case book. It's by far the best of the "Examples and Explanations" books.
7.12.2005 7:35pm
chuck (mail):
Bad link? I tried in Explorer and Firefox and failed.

How's this?

Joseph W. Glannon, Civil Procedure: Examples and Explanations
7.12.2005 7:49pm
Incoming1L (mail):
I just finished Glannon's Law of Torts, which is part of the Examples and Explanations Series. I found it very useful, largely because he assumes you know nothing and then builds concepts piece by piece in a logical way.
I am about to start on the Glannon Guide to Civil Procedure: Learning Civil Procedure through Multiple-Choice Questions and Analysis.
This is not part of the Examples and Explanations Series, and I would be interested if anyone has an opinion regarding its value. Should I put it on the shelf and pick up its Examples and Explanations counterpart?
7.12.2005 7:55pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I did no supplements at all and finished in the top 10 my first semester and top 10% second semester (I slipped 5 spots). I did not use a single supplement the first year and did much better than a lot of people who did. I read no legal books the summer before (though I had Con Law in undergrad as a PSCI course from a J.D./Ph.D. who taught it Socratically). My personal opinion is that incoming 1Ls should avoid law entirely and get a good book on logic (it's frightening how few people in my section could make an argument or follow one). After that, enjoy the summer: you're going to be reading plenty of law over the next year so you'd better relax now.
7.12.2005 8:46pm
The two books in the series written by Glannon, Torts and Civ Pro, are the best. If there's only time to read one, I think it's best to read Torts. Torts is based on common sense and involves scenarios easily imagined by the "layman," while Civ Pro is a bit tougher to completely grasp for someone with no grounding in the law. I think some pre-law students might put down the Civ Pro volume, reasoning that it's too tough, in another language or not interesting enough, while the Torts volume covers things that a pre-law student likely has a natural interest in. ("Oh cool, that's how the law handles a car accident!") It's much easier to "get" torts the summer before law school than it is to "get" Civ Pro.

Naturally, I also think that Scalia's "A Matter of Interpretation" is a great primer for the role of the modern federal judge generally, and for courses like ConLaw and Fed Courts. One reason I think that it's great for those classes is that in law school you get points for arguing both sides. While the Professor will surely immerse you in liberal arguments, this book is a great foundation for the conservative arguments to make on the exam.
7.12.2005 8:48pm
John: you definitely don't need to read anything, but I think it helps if you do. For me, one of the reasons that I was able to finish first in my section and in the top one percent overall was that I didn't spend much time at all studying Torts--I already "got" it from reading Glannon the summer before.
7.12.2005 8:52pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Unless you had a huge class, that means you were #1, so say so :-)

I disagree--I think that you would have gotten it from the class w/o having read the book because you *did* get it. All the books in the world are just not going to help IMHO. A lot has to do with your professors. All the torts nutshells and treatises in the world would not have helped in my professor's class (5, count them, 5 theories of intent for battery, at least one of which he admitted no one believed...). The supplements are all a racket to prey on nervous and competitive 1Ls. There were no treatises on Thermodynamics or Aristotle in Undergrad, why in law school? You are, after all, paying a lot of money for the education, maybe they should teach you something.
7.12.2005 8:59pm
Incoming 1L: I know nothing about the multiple choice book you mentioned, but I think it's safe to say that if you're going to read a supplement on Civ Pro, read the E&E Glannon on Civ Pro. It's the bible for civ pro students.
7.12.2005 9:01pm
John-- I'll concede that the utility of the book depends greatly on the individual student and the professor he is taking the class from. P.S. I hated Thermo undergrad and actually did swear by the equivalent of a "hornbook," with very bad results.
7.12.2005 9:07pm
Adam K (mail):
Take it from me, a recent GMU grad: you don't need to use any supplements. If you work hard, you will do well, it's that simple. I slacked off my first three semesters, but finished somewhere around the top 1/3. Once I got off my butt and really put time into my classes, my GPA skyrocketed, and it had nothing to do with supplemental materials.

In your more theory-intensive classes, e.g. first-year Torts, Contracts, and Property, your professors are going to play hide-the-ball, but they're going to do it for a reason: they don't want you to just have the black-letter answers, they want you to understand the history and rationale from which those answers were spawned. (Also, a cynic - like me - might say they just want you to know their pet theories about how the law should come out, not how it actually does.) You're simply not going to get that kind of information from a supplement - at least not from the vast majority of those geared toward law students.

The only exception, I suppose, would be classes in which the professor has written a treatise, textbook, Nutshell, or hornbook on the subject. For example, reading Ron Rotunda's Constitutional Law hornbook alongside his textbook gave me a much clearer idea where he was coming from in class, and allowed me to better understand what he was trying to impart to us.
7.12.2005 9:38pm
Steve Newman (mail):
What I found enjoyable and useful to read the summer before I began law school was a series of books about the lives and thoughts of well-known lawyers and judges: Clarence Darrow, Morris Dees, William Douglas, and other lesser lights. Granted, this group might not be the group of choice for the typical readers of this website, but what was good was to have some larger point of historical and philosophical reference while in the midst of the intellectual bombardment that is the first year of law school. I don't think the ideological stripe matters. Excellent biographies and autobiographies of just about every significant lawyer and judge out there have been written.
7.12.2005 9:53pm
DaveK (mail):
I want to join the chorus:

Under no circumstances should you feel like you need to read Glannon's Examples and Explanations before law school. You should backpack around Europe, go to the beach, read Tom Clancy, or whatever else floats your personal boat. Relax: it's your last really free summer for a while.

Glannon is just about the only hornbook that I found useful—I skimmed some others, but it's the only one I was inspired to actually read at any length—but I'd recommend it when studying for one's Civ Pro exam, not sooner. And even it isn't necessary by any stretch.
7.12.2005 10:21pm
JohnO (mail):
I didn't read anything prior to law school. During law school, a lot of my friends had the Glannon treatise and swore by it. I found the supplements very helpful if you used them correctly. Too may law students use the supplements to avoid reading the casebook. I only got supplements once I got into a class and found the prof difficult to follow. I would use the supplement to better understand the "big picture" of a body of law, but never as a substitute for doing the assigned reading.

I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone pimping "The Economics of Justice" yet.
7.12.2005 10:22pm
Craig Oren (mail):
There is something very seriously wrong with today's law school if a prominent professor thinks that the best way a student can prepare is by reading something like examples and explanations. I guess law school must be returning to the lecture method, under which the trick is to know rules, rather than the dialogical (I hate saying "socratic") method under which students were taught to read cases and understand them. The latter method doesn't merely teach students "the law"; it teaches them how to argue about the law and how to teach themselves the law. I am glad that there are students who see the importance of the latter.

signed, an old curmudgeon at 54.
7.12.2005 10:35pm
myalterego (mail):
I need to agree with everyone who has said that an incoming 1L does not need to read anything. I would even suggest that an incoming 1L shouldn't read anything "in preparation for law school" because 1L year is stressful enough that you should enjoy your summer before it. Notably, the stress that I found as a 1L was more a result of the amount of time that everyone spent talking about how stressful it was, but most of those people complaining were just inefficient studiers.

However, since the original post was about what to read if you plan on reading something, I would suggest making sure that you have some general idea of how our government works. John Jenkins said he was surprised how many people couldn't put together a logical argument - I was shocked at how many people didn't understand the basic way our government works. Lastly, I think many people could use a primer on writing clearly, so how about Strunk &White's "The Elements of Style".

And a glutton for punishment could read "The Problems of Jurisprudence" by Judge Posner or "A Theroy of Justice" by John Rawls. Ummm... just kidding about those two.
7.12.2005 10:35pm
Craig Oren (mail):
all excellent advice, myalterego.
7.12.2005 11:01pm
John Jenkins (mail):
myalterego, you're right. I remember going over federalism and separation of powers in Con Law and how few people understood the difference! (For an example of someone else who doesn't know the difference, look here. It's depressing). Your glutton would do well to pick up Political Liberalism (rather than "A Theory of Justice") and Anarchy, State and Utopia.

You're also right about "The Elements of Style," though I might go with the "Elements of Legal Style" instead if you've got to choose. Writing Professors lament the terrible writing of law students (I think some of it comes from an inability to reason well, but that's just me). Oh, how can I forget the second edition of Academic Legal Writing by someone whose name I forget (I have the first edition, presumably the binding is better in the second (my pages are falling out, possibly from overuse).
7.12.2005 11:27pm
Craig writes:

There is something very seriously wrong with today's law school if a prominent professor thinks that the best way a student can prepare is by reading something like examples and explanations. I guess law school must be returning to the lecture method, under which the trick is to know rules, rather than the dialogical (I hate saying "socratic") method under which students were taught to read cases and understand them. The latter method doesn't merely teach students "the law"; it teaches them how to argue about the law and how to teach themselves the law. I am glad that there are students who see the importance of the latter.

Craig, I don't quite see your argument. I agree with your view of the role of law school, but we're not talking about law school: we're talking about the summer *before* law school. My view is that reading a book like Glannon can give a student an overview that will help him or her make sense of the Socratic discussion in class.
7.12.2005 11:45pm
Rob Lyman (mail):
the latter method doesn't merely teach students "the law"

Edit that to "the latter ["socratic"] method doesn't teach students the law at all" and I'll be with you. Only a very skilled teacher--and there are very few even at the best schools--can teach this way and actually have students learn anything more general than the specific outcome of a particular case.

But then, I'm no fan of the case method of legal education. John's right that we didn't have hornbooks when I was getting my physics degree--but that's because we weren't trying to learn physics by reading Newton and Kepler. We didn't start reading actual physics articles until we all had a solid understanding of the principles obtained from what could, in fairness, be called "hornbooks" which distilled and explained the basics clearly.

For my part, I read nothing the summer before. I've used E&E in every class they were available and found it to be very, very useful. For the summer before, I wouldn't recommend anything to do with civil procedure--who needs to be freaked out by it? Worse yet, who needs to cement an erroneous understanding without the benefit of a professor to correct you?
7.12.2005 11:48pm

There is something very seriously wrong with today's law school if a prominent professor thinks that the best way a student can prepare is by reading something like examples and explanations.

The prominent professor that taught me Torts is likely the most Socratic teacher at my school. He recommended Glannon to supplement the class, cases, and notes in the casebook. Incidentally, I loved learning through the Socratic method and think that more teachers should rely on it. That said, supplements can provide great foundation when you read the cases and notes. You see where the court is going in the opinion and what the author is getting at when he asks one of the rhetorical note questions. However, if you are unable to understand a subject despite attending class and reading the casebook, no supplement is gonna get you an A. I also agree that supplements are far from a necessity. I barely touched one after first year, and my GPA went up a bit.

I personally think that Civ Pro is a bit of a different beast. It's much more black-letter friendly. I don't necessarily recommend it, but I only read a few cases (like Int'l Shoe), no notes, paid attention in class, read Glannon very thoroughly, and got the same grade that I received in the majority of my classes.
7.13.2005 12:24am
David Mader (mail) (www):
My 1L experience (just completed) was that those students who had partaken of the 'pre-law school law school' culture - reading hornbooks and watching 'Paper Chase' and all that - became very frustrated very quickly. The reason, I think, is that a lot of the classic law school culture is both time- and location-specific, while the actual law school experience will vary from school to school and individual to individual. Those students who were able to roll with the punches, to learn from new situations and adapt to new conditions, did much better - and not just in terms of marks, but in terms of (apparent) mental health.

To each his own, of course, and certainly some students would benefit from reading Glannon or whatnot. But I'd guess that law school is much more enjoyable for those who have fewer expectations of what it will be, than for those who expect a certain experience that they inevitably will not have.
7.13.2005 1:15am
Do not read Glannon's before law school starts. If you insist on reading anything, I would just read the new Harry Potter. Law school is sort of like Hogwarts.

But anyway, definitely buy Glannon's and refer to it whenever you are confused by your textbook or professor. As thought-provoking as the Socratic method may be, it's close to useless if you have no idea what's going on. But, leaving aside the question of grades (and come on, we all know that there is way to really predict ones performance), law school will be far more intellectually satisfying if you do the reading and attend class, rather than simply reading hornbooks.
7.13.2005 1:44am
nextright (mail) (www):
I took the advice of people saying don't read anything before you start law school. I think it is bad advice. I do think learning some logic is a good idea. I also think Civ Pro is probably best left until the school year starts.
It would not hurt anybody to read Glannons:torts before starting law school.

I also wish I had read, "Getting To Maybe" Fischl &Paul, before starting school.

Depending on how long you have been out of school, or how long it has been since you have done intensive academic writing. I would suggest you refresh yourself about basic grammar and mechanics.

The best thing would be trying to contact older students and asking them about the teachers you will be taking.

You will learn your own style as you go along. But it can't hurt to be somewhat prepared.
Every person that I know who made Deans list, used supplements. It is about personal choice. Do not dismiss them until you have looked at them. I would suggest you wait and ask your Professor for suggestions, especially regarding outlines.

Regardless of how many supplements you buy. Make your own outlines!
7.13.2005 2:13am
Glannon had little to nothing (honestly, more of nothing) to do with 1L Civ Pro. Check it out AFTER your year starts (certainly glad I did...). May I note that my CivPro prof is now dean of GWU??? Honestly, I didn't get the weird psycho law school thing. In my experience, the profs' classes that meshed nicely with Glannon assigned the danged thing.
7.13.2005 4:52am
p.s. i strongly recommend to new law students my favorite book, pale fire, by nabokov. it's for students to figure out the complexity and multiple layers beyond the ridiculousness of academic excesses that are immediately evident. but that's just my take...
7.13.2005 4:57am
Glannon was a great help but I certainly wouldn't recommend reading it before entering school. Use it alongside your casebook to reduce frustration--especially if your casebook is like the one we had, which was an unorganized collection of tidbits that the prof had to jump all over to make coherent.

But also don't expect any reading to do it all for you. I was pretty diligent about my reading but was a wreck when I walked out of the exam, because I hadn't paid as rapt attention in class as I should have. Turns out my prof asked a LOT of questions based on things that were covered ONLY in class.
7.13.2005 7:57am
Adam (www):
Under no circumstances would I recommend that an incoming 1-L read anything that purported to help teach law.

Instead, as with a lot of people who read my blog, I recommend Kermit Roosevelt's new novel, IN THE SHADOWS OF THE LAW, which is a realistic meditation on the choices one has to make upon becoming a lawyer. Shaped like a legal thriller, but not really.

Before you get sucked into the A Big Corporate Firm Is Where I Want To Be vortex, read the book and understand the full picture.
7.13.2005 9:31am
Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
Get a six-pack and One L by Scott Turow. Sit by the pool and enjoy your summer. Law school will start soon enough.
7.13.2005 10:01am
Are there any other books, like Glannon's, that are good for those of us who aren't lawyers and have never been to law school to read to get a better understanding of the law? I ask because I do enjoy reading about the law and I want to understand it better. I realize that law school is the best place for a legal education but that isn't feasible at this time.

Thank You
7.13.2005 10:01am
A Country Lawyer (mail):
I think it's a mistake and a huge waste of time to read law before you go to law school. Instead, read about lawyers. Read biographies of great lawyers: John W. Davis, Emory Buckner, William O. Douglas, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Clarence Darrow, Cicero, or if you like, more modern examples. Try to imagine yourself doing what they do. Learning the law and how to make arguments like a lawyer is relatively easy. Don't sweat it. Spend some time thinking about why you want to be a lawyer and what you want to do with your legal training.
7.13.2005 10:08am
Craig Oren (mail):
Orin, I have no problem with the idea of a student reading a text to supplement class discussion. But I think reading a text before the semester gives the student a totally false idea of what law school is like or should be like.
7.13.2005 10:21am
NaG (mail):
I would suggest that all law students get a copy of William Zinsser's On Writing Well. The sooner you master clear, concise writing, the better.
7.13.2005 10:24am
RPS (mail):
In case there are actual soon-to-be 1L's reading this, I just wanted to clarify that there is no "right" way to prepare or not prepare your summer before law school, just as there is no "right" way to prepare for your exams. What everyone is saying is only their opinion and none more weighty than another. My own experience varied dramatically from professor to professor, so I can't imagine what it's like from student to student.

While the sentiment that you should avoid the law before law school is certainly reasonable advice, and I'm sure in many situations good advice, it's not for everyone. Given the amount of stress and pressure that exists your first year (and it seems to get greater for every first year class) if reading Glannon's E&E will help calm you, I see no harm in that. But if you think it will only stress you out, then maybe not such a good thing. You know you best.

I read Torts and CivPro E&E's casually before I started, and while I don't know that they had a great impact on my eventual grade, I do know that my familiarity with the terms and concepts made it seem easier to learn them my first year and for that it was worth it.
7.13.2005 10:50am
"Get a six-pack and One L by Scott Turow. Sit by the pool and enjoy your summer. Law school will start soon enough."

Judging by the social behavior of some of the people I went to law school with, drinking the six-pack will do at least as much to prepare one for the "rigors" of law school as reading One L (though it was an amusing read; even better post-graduation).
7.13.2005 10:59am
John J. P. (mail):
As this comment thread demonstrates so well, for every possible approach there is to law school, there is someone who succeeded by doing the exact opposite. What will work for you depends on what law school you go to, how you stack up against your classmates, what your study habits are like, what your undergrad training was, whether your personality is restless or sedate, etc. etc. etc.

I read a lot of books about law and law school before I attended, and in my case doing so reduced rather than increased my stress level. I also used hornbooks in many classes, and generally (as far as I can tell) they improved my performance and enabled me to enjoy class more. I don't think I knew anyone who didn't use either hornbooks or outlines they borrowed from students who had already taken their courses.

Personally, I wish I had read Glannon's Civ Pro during the summer before law school. I also wish I had read a good intro to economics. Law's Order by David Friedman is good in this regard, but it may be too dense for pre-law folks.

One book that is often recommended that I would warn against is Edward Levi's Introduction to Legal Reasoning. IMO, it's outdated, opaque, sneakily tendentious, and generally unhelpful.

Finally, to cld above: Send me an email, and I'll give you some readings that I would recommend.
7.13.2005 11:07am
I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Karl Llewellyn's Bramble Bush, which was consistently recommended to me when I asked the same question before starting law school a few years ago. I suppose the prose style might put off some, but--although I agree with the commenters who suggest that there's no need to spend the summer before law school doing this kind of thing--it's a pretty useful introduction to the common law method, which I suspect is, for many students, a relative unknown.
7.13.2005 12:10pm
The Hill:
Have fun. This will be your last extended period of relaxation until, well, retirement.

rising 3L
law review
top 15% of class
first tier school

amount of "law reading" before I started school - none.
amount of pleasure reading before I started school - a lot.
7.13.2005 12:40pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Bleak House by Charles Dickens. You will get enough of the techy stuff, anon.

When you read Dickens you should understand that the procedural rules of the 19th century British court of Chancery were imported to the United states at the beginning of the 20th century as the rules for equity proceedings in Federal Court, and those were the basis for the federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

A tip to law students, after you have read Bleak House, always check the opinions in the case books for the dates of the underlying events and the date upon which the decision was handed down.
7.13.2005 1:44pm
Bobo Linq:
Why is it that fairly good law students like to disparage the use of supplementary materials by other students? Perhaps because it allows them to feel superior: look at me, I got good grades without reading hornbooks or nutshells; I must be smarter than folks who read such things.

As for pre-law-school reading, I (contra another writer) enjoyed Ed Levi's Introduction to Legal Reasoning and recommend it, as well as The Death of Contract by Grant Gilmore. As for during-law-school reading, three books in the Examples &Explanations series stand out: Glannon's on Civ Pro and Torts, and even more, Brian Bloom's on Contracts. That book is phenomenal. As for books on writing, every lawyer should get Bryan Garner's reference books as well as his The Winning Brief.

As for my credentials, I graduated first in my class, by a wide margin, from a top-ten law school. I read some supplementary material in just about every class, for a simple reason: no law-school professor teaches you doctrine, and all of them test you on it. If you managed to do well in law school without reading supplements, bully for you. But it doesn't give you license to sniff at those supplements (though some are, of course, rife with error and worse than useless).
7.13.2005 2:22pm
John J. P. (mail):
I second the recommendation of Bryan Garner's work. Law schools should require that students purchase his Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (at a minimum).
7.13.2005 4:00pm
nextright (mail) (www):
writing well is the biggest skill.
whatever can help improve your writing skills is more important than reading about Torts or Civ Pro. If you can write well, you will do well.
7.13.2005 4:30pm
Does anyone have any suggestions for books on logic?
7.13.2005 7:27pm
John J. P. (mail):
Try Logic for Lawyers, by Judge Aldisert. (It's expensive, though.)
7.13.2005 8:04pm
B. B. (mail):
I didn't read anything the summer before I started law school. I worked instead, continuing my engineering co-op at a Fortune 500 company that was nice enough to have me back even though I was headed to law school. Didn't hurt me one bit. Enjoy yourself, play golf, drink beer, whatever. Heck, make sure you enjoy yourself while you're a 1L as well. Best things I did were to live with a bunch of ultimate frisbee team non-law students my first year and to work out with a guy in my section basically every day, which functioned as a review of that day's classes as well as exercise and stress relief.

BTW, if you're going to start at Michigan Law you should under no circumstances read any CivPro hornbooks before you start. UM pulls all of jurisdiction and choice of law out into a separate class so you'll be reading a bunch of material you will not have in class as a 1L. Though many others find this odd, having an entire class devoted to jurisdiction and choice of law, taught by a professor who was fantastic at conveying the material, I found to be better than adding it to the piles of info you're fed as a 1L.
7.13.2005 8:39pm
One thing I do recommend for Civ Pro in particular is a good audio study aid. Civ Pro is an area where most people have little or no concept of what's coming up -- we all have heard a little about murders, car wrecks and the separation of powers, but most have never ever ever heard of offensive nonmutual collateral estoppel. But if you can get a quick overview while driving around for a couple weeks, you should be ahead of the game.

I borrowed and liked the Arthur Miller tapes, but they're certainly out of date on class actions, at least, due to the recent federal bill on that.
7.13.2005 8:46pm
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
What I would like to know is, why is advice on going to law school is so bad? It is usually: "no worry, just study" or "law school is not like any other school". "Prep the summer before", or "just relax" or "just relax and reading this boring book on writing". I have found law school advice to be so contradictory as to be useless.
7.14.2005 11:43am