What law school books
are worth buying?

Interesting question. You could spend a ton of money on law school books (aside from the casebooks which you have no choice in buying).

There are in my mind only three real categories of law school books:

(1) Textbooks or Casebooks;

(2) Law School Guides ("How to Succeed on Exams" types of guides); and

(3) Treatises and Commercial Outlines.

I discuss these types of books and whether some are worth buying, and if so, which ones in particular.

1. Law School Textbooks (Casebooks)

Okay, technically, you are forced to buy law school casebooks, not textbooks.

Actually, it would be nice if you actually read textbooks that told you what the black letter law was (instead of reading cases that just confuse you about what the law is). They are one of many kinds of law school books. There are some ways to get law school casebooks cheaper, and I'll show you the way.

2. Law School Guides

There are many of these out there, and I will try to review them all as a public service.

Some of these books are quite bad and can hurt you.

But you should read at least one law school guide.

As I mentioned before in explaining how to prepare for law school, no one tells you how to study for law school the right way.

And maybe you think to yourself, "Oh, law school is so expensive already, and I'll save some money by not buying books other than the required case books."

Wrong. This is short-sighted thinking.

It may seem like a waste to buy books that are not assigned reading by your professors--after all, you probably didn't buy any "recommended but not required" books in college, did you?

But law school is different. Some law school books are worth buying because they help you learn how to study and master the material before you start law school.

It is more expensive for you not to buy a treatise or supplement because you wanted to save money if you have no idea what you are doing during law school.

You have some money (even if you're borrowing from Sallie Mae). What you don't have is a ton of time. And if you read too many how to do well in law school books, you will scramble your brains and be paralyzed into inaction (honestly, I have seen this happen to students as well).

Finally, on how to use these kinds of law school books: Read them long before law school--the summer before. As I mention on the page on how to prepare for law school, you need to start preparing for law school long before you actually arrive on campus.

Here is a short list of bestselling "law school guides" according to Amazon (which I pulled totally unscientifically by searching for "law school" and selecting the books that did not involve LSAT prep). These are the most commonly purchased law school books:

  • Planet Law School II, by Atticus Falcon - This is an 800 page monster of a book and densely written. Still, it is, in my mind, the gold standard--currently the best of the "how to succeed" law school books on the market right now. I do have some criticisms, but this is a solid book, full of generally great advice.

    I know that at least one of my law school classmates used this book to great success (graduated magna cum laude, clerked on the Second Circuit). Interestingly, Planet Law Schooldoes not claim to be the only book you will need--it specifically advises you to buy other helpful law school books as well.

  • Law School Confidential, by Robert H. Miller - This is a well-organized, well-planned book that contains some helpful advice but, on the whole, provides very little on the key issue of how to write an excellent law school final exam. Some of the advice is good, but much of the advice is disappointingly general and, at times, trite.

  • Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams - This book, written by law professors, has certain helpful tips on how to spot issues on an exam, but is confusing in places to me. One of my tutoring students told me this book seemed helpful in theory but was too hard to implement. I think there are some great points in this book, but some of the advice I think is not great and/or reflects some of the blindness of law professors.

  • LEEWS - Helpful; fuller review to come.

One further comment. The interesting paradox about "my guide to success"-type law school books is this that they are rarely written by people who were at the absolute top at the top-ranked law schools.

Sometimes they are even written by people who did fine but not well enough to be in a position to teach others their so-called methods.

I have not seen a single book called "I graduated #1 from Harvard Law School and You Didn't" book. Most writers (including me) did very well, but not "future Supreme Court justice, bow before your master" well.

I guess it is because these "best of the best" students are simply working too hard at awesome cases (I am not being sarcastic), clerking for the Supreme Court, and having lesser graduates such as myself peel grapes for them (maybe sarcastic now) to write about how they did so well. Perhaps they also do not want to give up the recipe to the special sauce.


3. Treatises and Commercial Outlines

There are many products of this type--treatises and commercial outlines that summarize the law. These kinds of law school books--study aids, really--I believe are absolutely essential. However, it is sometimes hard to pick the right treatise or outline. Here is one you must buy; I will add more later.

Return from Law School Books to Law School Hacker Home.


Manny Recommends:

Here are my personal recommendations for products and services that I have reviewed that can improve your results in law school.  This list is short because I include only my top picks.  

LARRY LAW LAW - Get top grades in law school.
Planet Law School - The best book on understanding the law school game.


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