Summer Before Law School Reading List
Did you recently get into law school? If so, congratulations! With a major hurdle passed, you still have a few demanding (but very rewarding!) years ahead of you. The summer before law school is a busy time, during which you may be moving to a new area, working a full-time or part-time job, visiting friends and family, going on vacations, and so on. In the midst of all that, as day one of your 1L semester of law school nears, you may be wondering what to expect and how to prepare. You may even feel nervous or anxious, which is completely normal! The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to prepare before law school over the summer and set yourself up to succeed. One of the best ways though is summer reading!
Summer Before Law School Reading List
The Importance of Summer Reading
So, why exactly is doing summer reading one of the best ways to prepare for law school? We’ll discuss a few reasons below.
Law school is reading intensive.
The majority of your law school assignments involve reading. You’ll parse through dense caselaw. You’ll make it through hundreds upon hundreds of pages of material throughout the semester. Gone are the days of passive reading, replaced by reading assignments that require extreme focus and strong active reading skills. If intensive, critical reading is not something you are used to, summer reading is the perfect way to get started. Adding reading as part of your routine now will make your assignments during law school more manageable. We’re not recommending you fully simulate your law school schedule before school begins. In fact, you should not do that. This allows you to take advantage of the time you have during the summer before law school to relax and have fun!
Law school is daunting (but less so when you know what to expect)
Admit it, you’ve felt nervous or anxious about your upcoming school year at least once! Knowing what to expect helps to alleviate those feelings and build your confidence. We’re not promising that just because you do some summer reading that law school will be easy—because it won’t. However, summer reading will help you be prepared about what to expect from classes, exams, interviews, and so on.
Law school requires adequate preparation.
Throughout your life, you’ve prepared for various things. For example, you just spent a ton of time preparing to get into law school. You worked hard to get good grades in college. Then you studied for and took the LSAT (maybe more than once!), wrote a personal statement, visited law schools, filled out applications, and maybe even interviewed at some of those schools. Investing all that time and energy paid off—you are going to law school! Why should actually going to law school be any different? Invest that same time and energy into reading books during the summer before law school that will prepare you for the years ahead. Check out our post for advice on other ways that you can prepare here!
Law school requires skill.
Would you rather show up to your first day of class and just wing it? Or would you like to be armed with some skills that will help you to do well? Our guess is you’d probably prefer the latter (if so, check out our post with specific ways to prepare for class in law school here!). The summer before law school is the perfect time to get ready for law school and beyond through reading books that supply you with the knowledge to form good habits, hone important skills, and prepare adequately for the years ahead.
Three Must-Read Books the Summer Before Law School
What are the Must-Read Books?
Now that we’ve convinced you that summer reading is important, you’re probably wondering what you should read. We realize there are TONS of helpful books out there, so it can be hard to narrow down which to focus on. As we mentioned above, you don’t want to spend all of your summer reading (remember to relax and have fun!). That is why we’ve put together the list below of the three absolute, must-read books to maximize your summer before law school!
1. Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams – by Richard Michael Fischl & Jeremy Paul
Our first must-read recommendation is Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams written by Richard Michael Fischl and Jeremy Paul. (Commission earned when you click on the link. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.) Richard Michael Fischl and Jeremy Paul are two amazing professors we interview in our free law school prep course! Their book discusses ways to excel on your law school exams with tips on how to best study and prepare that actually work.
This is one of the very few books that actually offer advice on how to do well on exams. Exams make up the vast majority if not all of your law school grades. So this book is not only one of a kind, but it is also a great primer on how to succeed on the one thing that actually matters.
You may be thinking to yourself that you already know how to study for and take exams—you did do well enough in college to get into law school after all. Think again, though! Law school exams are very different from the ones you have taken previously, so knowing the proper way to study and take those exams is key. In fact, for many law school courses, the final exam is worth 100% of your grade—which makes exam-taking skills even more important to master!
Getting to Maybe breaks down how law school exams are structured and how to best approach them. First and foremost, this book covers why simply “knowing the material” is not enough. Law school exams are full of ambiguity and require critical thinking and analysis. You are then given strategies for issue spotting, analysis, and argument. Three chapters of the book are even dedicated specifically to the discussion of 22 detailed tips for preparing for a law school exam, writing exam answers, and mistakes to avoid, such as:
- Exam preparation takes all semester.
- Focus your exam study on your class notes.
- Review your professor’s old exams.
- Organize and outline before writing your answers.
- Explain your reasoning.
- Avoid conclusory answers.
- Don’t repeat the facts.
- Don’t B.S.
Not only will Getting to Maybe teach you how to approach exams, it also is a great introduction to how to start thinking like a lawyer! Among other things, you will learn how to argue both sides of a legal issue without appearing indecisive, work through ambiguity in legal analysis, transform feelings of uncertainty or doubt about what the correct legal outcomes are to your advantage, and improve your critical thinking performance. These are invaluable skills that you can carry forward with you not only in law school, but throughout your career, making it is a must-read!
We highly recommend that all incoming 1Ls read Getting to Maybe the summer before law school. (Commission earned when you click on the link. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.) Also, be on the lookout for the second edition of the book, which should be coming out soon!
2. Law School Done Right: Proven Tips for Success from Recent Grads Who Killed It – by Michael Seringhaus & Brian Savage
Our second must-read recommendation for the summer before law school is Law School Done Right: Proven Tips for Success from Recent Grads who Killed It . (Commission earned when you click on the link. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.) Law School Done Right is written by two impressive authors who excelled at top schools (Michael Seringhaus, a graduate of Yale Law School and Brian Savage, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School). They also polled their classmates and colleagues (who are all similarly high-achieving and very successful!) to compile the absolute best advice to on how to do law school “right.” The book is thus aptly named. It is full of advice from people who not only went to law school but who did exceptionally well.
Note – we also interview these amazing individuals in our free law school prep course!
This book is one of the best and most practical law school books you can read, especially if you are a first-generation student who lacks the institutional knowledge other students may have. It goes beyond exam advice and gives you real-life tips to excel both in and out of law school. Truly, is one of our most highly recommended books.
Law School Done Right covers a large range of topics from selecting a law school to life after law school and everything in between! You will learn practical tips on how to choose the right school for you, select courses, build a strong network, understand ways to get top grades, aim for a top-class rank, make the most of your class time, study and do well on exams, and apply for clerkships and jobs.
The best part? The book contains 60 tips without any unnecessary filler, so it will take you less than 45 minutes to read. Who doesn’t love reading something that is short and gets right to the point?!
Some of their best advice includes that “your 1L grades may well shape your entire legal career.” Although this places a lot of pressure on your first-year performance, unfortunately, it’s true that your 1L year has an immense impact on your future. Your 1L grades affect (for better or worse) your class rank which, in turn, impacts who will offer you interviews, where you will spend your summer working, and where you will end up once you graduate. If you do poorly during your first year of law school, it can be difficult to improve your GPA and class rank in subsequent years. So, as the book urges, you need to take your 1L grades seriously!
Another great tip is that “what you learn from class and what you need to know for the exam are practically mutually exclusive.” If you’re planning on skipping lectures and leaning on commercial outlines instead, think again. Remember, your professors write your exams. It makes sense that the material they cover in class is what you will see on the exam! Taking excellent class notes is a key to doing well on your exams.
Law School Done Right is full of countless other accurate and honest tips on how to succeed during law school and beyond, making it a must-read during the summer before law school. (Commission earned when you click on the link. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.) Want to learn more about this book before purchasing? Check out our post dedicated to why Law School Done Right is a book that finally “gets it” here!
3. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – by James Clear
Although not specific to law school, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad One is written by James Clear, a leading expert on habit formation. (Commission earned when you click on the link. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.) Atomic Habits lays out useful strategies for how to build habits that can help in any area of life. Since law school requires such a focused approach to succeed, we recommend reading it not only for establishing habits to support your physical and mental health, but also to build a great habit-based study schedule!
Some of the habits we really recommend in law school are regularly outlining, regularly reviewing outlines, and taking practice exams. These serve as the backbone of your success on final exams. So building a good system of habits before law school is critical.
Atomic Habits offers an easy-to-follow guide on how to form good habits and abandon bad habits through practical strategies that can achieve remarkable results in any aspect of your life. It explains that when you have bad habits, you are not the problem—your system is the problem. To help combat this system, the book lays out four key behavior changes that are necessary to create good habits.
- First, make the habit obvious. Naturally, if a habit is obvious, it becomes effortless, and thus much easier to follow! Try setting a specific time and place for the new habit, or incorporate a framework that works for you.
- Second, make the habit attractive. Who wants to do something that sounds unappealing? Not us! If the habit is attractive, you’re less likely to avoid it or lose the willpower to stick to it. Tie the habit to something fun so that it is more of a reward than a burden.
- Third, make the habit easy. If something is too difficult, the chances of sticking to it decrease. Start off small and go from there. If your goal is to make a huge lifestyle change all at once, you’re less likely to stick to it. By getting there in baby steps, you’re able to adjust more easily.
- Fourth, make the habit satisfying. Reward yourself for the habit so that you actually want to continue doing it!
Atomic Habits goes beyond just teaching behaviors necessary to form a good habit. You will learn about the science behind habit-forming. This includes why small habits can make a big difference, how habits are formed, how to create visual cues to help make the habit obvious, the importance of habit tracking, and overcoming a lack of motivation and willpower.
All in all, Atomic Habits will give you a jumpstart on building good habits that will help you succeed in law school and beyond—and nixing bad habits that will hinder your success! (Commission earned when you click on the link. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)
If you are looking for additional reading material, check out our post on 10 books to read before starting law school here! Just remember that preparing for law school is important, but it is equally important to not overextend yourself. The next three years ahead will be challenging, so be sure to have fun too. Read our post on how and why to have fun the summer before law school here!