Suggested Reading List

To Our Incoming Law Students:

Each of you is eager to begin your legal career.  Here is a list of suggested books which will give you some practical advice on getting ready for law school and some insight into the legal profession and the workings of the legal system.  This is not required reading and please do not feel that you need to read this entire list of suggested books.  I think you will enjoy and benefit from those books that you do read, and some books even fall into the category of enjoyable poolside reading.  The titles below are divided into three categories:  Tier # 1 is recommended for all incoming students.  Tier # 2 is a middle range of titles for students who desire a bit more depth about selected legal topics.  Tier # 3 is a list of titles that I recommend to you once you actually start law school and can relate better to the discussion.  Whenever you choose to examine these books, they will be available now and anytime after you begin your law school career.

We have multiple copies of every book on this list.  You may check out any of the suggested books in one of two ways:  (1) by visiting the Mabee Legal Information Center and identifying yourself as an admitted student; or (2) by making arrangements to have a book mailed to you.  If you need to have a book sent by mail, please contact Melanie Nelson by email: If you have any questions regarding check-out procedures, please call our Circulation Desk at 918-631-2404.

At the end of this reading list, I have also assembled a list of some of our favorite legal movies.

TIER # 1 [Introductory / inspirational – recommended for all incoming students]

Preparing for Law School

Andrew J. McClurg, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School (2009) [Highly recommended]

Chapters 1 through 12 provide a great introduction to the law school experience.  The author begins with the premise that what generates the most fear and anxiety in beginning law students is the uncertainty of what to expect, what is expected of students, and how students can best meet those expectations.  With this in mind, Professor McClurg sets out to dispel many of the mysteries that surround the first year of law school.  The book includes most topics broken down into easily-digestible lists, such as five ways to impress your professor and five habits of successful law students.  I love the author’s observations on the relationship between seat selection and academic performance.  NOTE:  I suggest that you wait until you start law school before reading chapters 13 through 16.

Herbert N. Ramy, Succeeding in Law School (2d ed. 2010).

This new edition offers an interesting presentation of information with text followed up by sample exercises.  There is some overlap with the content found in the other books offering tips for success.  Read Chapters I through V at a minimum.  If you complete some of the exercises, please note the answer key at the back of the book.  NOTE:  I suggest that you wait until you start law school before reading chapters VI through IX and XII.

Carolyn J. Nygren, Starting Off Right in Law School (1997).

This book takes a different approach from the two titles listed above.  It provides a nice introduction to: sources of law, especially cases; reading cases; taking notes based upon what you read; sample notes; stages of a trial; and other practical information.

NOTE:  The books above are ones recommended, but there are other books available on preparing for law school.  If you wish to read more/different books on getting ready for law school, we have multiple copies of these books available to loan:

Helene Shapo & Marshall Shapo, Law School Without Fear: Strategies for Success (2d ed. 2002).
Ann L. Iijima, The Law Student's Pocket Mentor: From Surviving to Thriving (2007).
Ruta K. Stropus & Charlotte D. Taylor, Bridging the Gap Between College and Law School: Strategies for Success (2d ed. 2009).

Lawyers & Judges as Guardians of the Rule of Law

Rennard Strickland and Frank T. Read, The Lawyer Myth: A Defense of the American Legal Profession (2008).

Each author has at one point in his career served as law school dean at the University of Tulsa College of Law.  As Chief Justice Durham of the Utah Supreme Court notes in a review at the beginning of the book: “This book intends to engage idealistic young people considering careers in law, but it will equally engage every lawyer, judge, public servant, and American citizen who cares about our constitutional system of government and the concept of justice under the law on which it is predicated.”  As a testament to Chief Justice Durham’s view, one of my colleagues on the law faculty recently ordered three copies of this book to give to three lawyers in his family.

Donald P. Lay, Law, a Human Process (1996). [Highly recommended by a law faculty colleague]

“Judge Lay, drawing on his rich experience as a trial lawyer and Federal judge, teaches young lawyers, indeed all lawyers, that the human side is the linchpin of life as a lawyer.” (Griffin B. Bell, Former Attorney General of the United States)

My First Year as a Lawyer: Real-World Stories from America’s Lawyers (Mark Simenhoff ed., 1994).

From editor Mark Simenhoff:  “Eighteen lawyers share the stories of their first year of practice, revealing both the challenges and rewards of the day-to-day grind of a novice attorney….Full of humor and insight, these memoirs go beyond the bounds of the courtroom and explore the life lessons learned during the first year of practice.”

Joseph R. Grodin, In Pursuit of Justice (1989).

"Justice Joseph R. Grodin's slim and eminently readable account of his own career, In Pursuit of Justice, is an unusually valuable variation on previous reflections by appellate judges."  (Reviewed in 103 Harv. L. Rev. 2067, 2073 (1990) by Hans A. Linde)

Inspiring Accounts of Legal Cases

Gerald M. Stern, The Buffalo Creek Disaster (1976).

"This book is exciting, easily read, and clear both as to facts and the legal procedures [surrounding a 1972 dam collapse and the follow-up litigation].  It provides a beginning law student with a refreshing and often positive view of how competent lawyers can use both the substantive law and civil procedure creatively."  (Reviewed at 37 J. Legal Educ. 378, 382).

John Grisham, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006).

This is the one book on this list that is required reading prior to Foundations of Legal Study in late August.  A TU law alumna is one of the heroes in this true story.

Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action (1995).

This book chronicles a class action lawsuit alleging that the defendants allowed toxic chemicals to seep into local drinking water causing an outbreak of leukemia in Woburn, Massachusetts.

David Ngaruri Kenney and Philip G. Schrag, Asylum Denied: A Refugee's Struggle for Safety in America (2008).

"A story of courage, love, perseverance, and legal strategy, Asylum Denied brings to life the human costs associated with our immigration laws and suggests reforms that are desperately needed to help other victims of human rights violations." - From the University of California Press Release.

Law Student Favorites

Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird (1960).

This inspiring book reminds us of an attorney’s obligation to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.  NOTE:  A survey of the Library of Congress found that this book was "second only to the Bible in being most often cited as making a difference in people's lives."

Anthony Lewis, Gideon's Trumpet (1964).

A very readable account of how an indigent defendant challenged the constitutionality of the criminal justice system and won! In the case Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all defendants accused of felonies have the constitutional right to be represented by a lawyer.  This book also has an excellent explanation of how the Supreme Court goes about deciding a case.

TIER # 2 [Recommended for students who desire more depth in certain areas]

Robert C. Berring & Elizabeth A. Edinger, Legal Research Survival Manual (2002).

This book discusses legal research sources and methods in more detail than an incoming student might desire before starting classes at TU.  I add the caveat that the book is a bit dated in regard to electronic sources.  On a positive note, it is under 95 pages long.

Ruth Ann McKinney, Reading Like A Lawyer: Time-Saving Strategies For Reading Law Like An Expert (2005). 

Important Note:  I have a colleague who says if you have time to read only one book on this list, make it this book. 

As the book jacket states:  “The ability to read law well is a critical skill that can make or break the academic career of any aspiring lawyer….By knowing how to read law well, students will benefit more from class, can reason more clearly, and will gain more confidence in their analytical abilities.”

Susan M. Reinhart, Strategies for Legal Case Reading & Vocabulary Development (2007).

From the book jacket:  “The goal of the text is to help students develop the case reading and vocabulary strategies they will need to compete and succeed in an American law school.”

Daniel Meador, American Courts (2d. ed. 2000).

From a reader at, "Reading this book won't make you a lawyer, but you will understand exactly what happens in our court systems. . . . It was an invaluable help my first year of law school. . . ."

David Currie, The Constitution of the United States: A Primer for the People (2d. ed. 2000).

The title pretty much says it all.

TIER # 3 [Recommend reading after law school is underway] 

Richard Fischl & Jeremy Paul, Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams (1999).

Do you really need to feed your anxiety prior to law school by reading a book (and it is a great book when the time is right) on law school exam-taking?  Read it before your first mid-term or practice exam.

Andrew J. McClurg, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School (2009).

Read chapters 13 through 16 once school starts.

Herbert N. Ramy, Succeeding in Law School (2d ed. 2010).

Read chapters VI through IX and chapter XII once school starts.

Suggested Legal Movies*

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

Twelve Angry Men (1957)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)  

Inherit the Wind (1960)

Judgment at Nuremburg (1961)   

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Breaker Morant (1980)

The Verdict (1982) 

My Cousin Vinny (1992)  

A Civil Action (1998)

Flash of Genius (2008)  

Presumed Innocent (1990) 

Michael Clayton (2007)

A Few Good Men (1992)  

The Social Network (2011)  

* We are unable to loan copies of DVDs listed on this "Suggested Legal Movies" list.  Please rent these movies from your normal source for rental movies, and note that all of them are available on Netflix.