This week we welcome guest writer and Law School Toolbox tutor Natalie Holzaepfel to talk about what to read the summer before 1L year to get ready!
With the summer before law school in full swing, you’re probably going and back forth between being both thrilled and terrified about law school starting in a few months. Your summer before law school is a great time to relax poolside with some reading that will not only remind you why you decided to go to law school, but also what it’ll take to get you through.
1. One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turow
Just in case you haven’t seen this book mentioned in a myriad of other blog posts about great One L reading, I’m mentioning it yet again here. Scott Turow’s book One L is an iconic introduction to the trials that every first-year law student faces. Turow’s book is a memoir of his first year at Harvard Law School, and you get a front row seat to the madness of professors, stress of exams, navigating law school relationships, and much more. Published 30 years ago, this book is still relevant today (which is a testament to the writer, a referendum on the state of legal education, or perhaps both).
If memoirs aren’t your thing, you can also check out the classic movie the Paper Chase.
2. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Everyone has a reason for going to law school, and oftentimes that reason is to pursue an impassioned social justice mission. If you are passionate about criminal justice, or have an affinity for those pursuing a noble goal, Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy will remind you why you wanted that law degree in the first place.
In it, Stevenson recounts his lifelong pursuit to advocate for disadvantaged people caught up in the criminal justice system. Whether wrongfully convicted or sentenced to a harsh punishment, Stevenson takes a look at the human toll of incarceration and gives a voice to those whose stories would otherwise never be heard.
3. Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse by Steven Bogira
Like Just Mercy, Courtroom 302 also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the criminal justice system in America. In Courtroom 302, a reporter spends a year in the busiest felony courtroom in Chicago. Following the defendants, prosecutors, judges, and victims, the book provides a birds-eye view of all of the moving parts—and players—involved in state court criminal cases.
4. A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
Also penned by an investigative journalist is A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr. The book tells the heartbreaking (and infuriating) story of families who suffered as a result of corporate chemical dumping that infiltrated their water sources. As with any complex environmental and tort case, this one involved intricate and procedurally nuanced litigation between the families and accused corporations Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace.
Author Jonathon Harr masterfully breaks down the complex litigation into terms that any reader can understand. This book will give you an overview of the litigation process, and an understanding of how civil procedure operates in the real world.
5. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
You’ve likely heard of mindfulness meditation and all of the benefits of incorporating it into your life. Well, for many students, the issue isn’t why they should it, it’s how they should it. The book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World actually provides you with a step-by-step guide to incorporating mindfulness into your life. The time cost of entry is minimal: the initial suggestion is simply to practice mindfulness for one minute.
This summer, take a step towards success by allowing yourself just a little bit of time each day to go through the book and practice the meditations. The book not only provides transcripts, but also links to audio tracks for you to follow along. Your 1L year is going to be a rollercoaster, but by arming yourself with stress-fighting skills ahead of time, you can minimize the amount of anxiety you encounter during the year.
6. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
“Grit” is a popular buzzword these days, but for good reason. Grit describes your ability to blend passion and perseverance to achieve an ultimate goal. In her informative book, psychologist Angela Duckworth shows that raw talent isn’t the only thing that will allow somehow to succeed; it’s also this lesser-known quality called grit.
Duckworth provides real world examples of how and why the hallmark of high achievers is that powerful combination of dedication and a willingness to go the extra mile to achieve an important goal. Incredibly, she also highlights how anyone, including you, can grow your own grit.
Hopefully you find time this summer to peruse these books, or check out additional recommendations here, so that you can start your 1L year off right.