Planet Law School II:
The Best Hard Copy Book on Law School Success You Can Buy

As I mention elsewhere, Planet Law School II (affiliate link) is the gold standard for a law school book to buy other than your case books. I would still buy a number of other books as well, but if someone pointed a gun to my head and allowed me to buy only one book, this would be it.

Frankly, I recommend to every law student that I tutor that they buy this book. I have mostly praise for this book, and only a few criticisms, but honestly, no other book currently on the market comes close to being honest about the law school game and how to beat it.

Planet Law School: The Good

The author, Atticus Falcon (obviously not his real name), provides a clear-eyed, well-articulated critique of the entire law school system.

No one describes in more rich and convincing detail the pathology of law school, the <a href="">Socratic method</a>, and the ultimate bait and switch of it all, in short: you spend a lot of time out of class reading cases, all your class time watching your professor make the law much more complicated than it is.

Only Planet Law School, of all of the books I've read, puts together such a readable retelling of an ancient history that has such relevance to the lives of law students and that so few in the legal academy wants to revisit.

Why is it important to know the history of law school?

If you know, before going to law school, how arbitrary and insane the curriculum actually is, and how far removed it is from actual legal practice, you will approach law school with the proper perspective.

You can detach emotionally from your instinctive and unthinking sense of obedience to do what the professor wants, and do the opposite--that is, do exactly what you need to in order to ace law school.

To do well in law school, you need to be at least a little bit cynical about law school. Once you have read Mr. Falcon's history of legal education, you will never be the same again. Just as you will never want to eat another sausage after reading the jungle, you will never again trust another law professor.

Planet Law School isn't just full of history, however. There is plenty of extremely practical advice, most of which I agree with. For instance,

  • Atticus Falcon recommends pre-studying, using commercial outlines, because the Socratic method/case study method does not make any sense in terms of mastering the black letter law which you are actually tested on law school.

  • Planet Law School also recommends not briefing cases because it is a giant waste of time.

  • PLS also emphasizes taking as many practice law school exams as possible.

Planet Law School: The Bad

I have a couple criticisms of this book, but they do not prevent me from recommending it to law students. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Kind of disorganized. The book is refreshingly quirky in tone and in substance, but I wish it were not so quirky as to form. The chapters are not named in a straightforward way, and while I appreciate the literate and clever references (the chapter on the law school bait and switch is titled "The Walrus and the Carpenter"), they make navigating the book annoying especially if you want to find helpful advice fast.

  • Too long. Planet Law School weighs in at 800 pages, almost doubling the size of the original book, Planet Law School I. Many chapters are I think better left out of the hard copy of the book, perhaps to go in an online supplement for people who want to read more.

  • For instance, there is an entire chapter in which Mr. Falcon addresses a number of criticisms of the first addition from his book. Why does this need to be here? Who, among his first-time readers, cares?

  • Certainly, his arguments are convincing but they get to be arcane and almost presume the very knowledge that the student reading the book is looking for. Too much detail that aimed at defending the methods set out in the book, but they quickly add to the student's information overload.

  • In short, too much of a good thing. That said, even though the book could be more reader friendly, perhaps the best way to view the book is as a full reference (like a dictionary or encyclopedia) instead of a handy, quick start, "how to do law school" action guide.

  • Not a one stop shop. At 800 pages you think that Planet Law School would include everything you need to succeed in law school, but it doesn't. Atticus Falcon specifically recommends that you buy a number of other books on top of his in order to do well in law school. I have no problem with his recommendation that you buy a bunch of law school primers, because I believe, as he does, that they are important to your success in law school.

  • But you would think that PLS itself would contain enough methodology--concrete steps on how to do well on a law school exam. It doesn't. He recommends that you buy LEEWS, as well as books by John Delaney.

  • I thought it would have been nice if Mr. Falcon had provided more specific, usable tactics on how to write a good law school exam. This would have been nice. He does, however, go through an exam in detail.

Overall assessment of Planet Law School

Despite my criticisms, and they are minor, I highly recommend this great book if you are about to start law school, or even after you start. If you find yourself at all lost or alienated by law school, but still want to do well, please get this book.

I have asked that most of my tutoring students purchase this book. Most of them have found this idiosyncratic book eye-opening and helpful.

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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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