The 8 Best Books New Lawyers of 2020
Learn the stuff law school didn't teach you
We are committed to researching, testing, and recommending the best products. We may receive commissions from purchases made after visiting links within our content. Learn more about our review process.
You have studied your way through three years of law school, have passed the grueling bar exam, and have even landed your first job. Leaving your training behind and entering the real world can be quite a challenge because what you will do every day as a lawyer is often quite different than what you did every day as a student. Thankfully, by learning from those who have gone before you, you will become a pro at navigating the legal field and professional world in no time at all. Take a look at some of these best reads for freshly minted lawyers, so you can learn some quick tricks of the trade.
Best Overall: The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book: A Survival Guide
Consider this book your textbook to getting through “4L,” your first year as a lawyer in the real world. Inside, you’ll find a no-nonsense guide to workplace etiquette, navigating relationships with your superiors, researching like a champion, drafting impressive memos, moving on from your mistakes and how to handle your workload without losing your mind. The author also shares anecdotes from his own life that will prove useful illustrations of the concepts described inside. Though it’s packed full of wisdom, this book is written in a light-hearted manner that will make it easier to read even on a first-year associate’s schedule. Whether you’re in a large firm or a small agency, you won’t regret getting your hands on a copy of this book.
Best Workplace Primer: The New Lawyer's Handbook
Law school teaches you how to perform the research work of being a lawyer, but that’s only half of the battle. Once you have graduated and landed a job, whether, in a large multinational firm or your private practice, you have got to learn how to build relationships. It is also important to work well with others and handle challenging clients. This funny, short and easy-to-read book will help you navigate the murky waters of legal practice or make an excellent gift for a recent graduate. A lot of the advice may seem like common sense, but the book’s useful format will help you apply the tips and tricks in your everyday life. The expert advice and short meditations will have you flipping through the pages again and again.
Best For Helping You Keep Your Cool: Flourish
If there’s one thing no one likes, it’s a hot-headed lawyer. Not only is flying off the handle terrible for your mental health and personal life, but it also is a source of frustration for everyone around you. To truly succeed in the challenging field of law, you need to cultivate healthful mental habits that will help you stay calm in high-pressure situations and give you a sense of purpose beyond the daily grind. Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology movement, has written an inspiring new book that you’ll find invaluable as you’re starting out in the stressful world of practicing law. His methods and interactive exercises will help you go beyond striving for happiness and help you form positive relationships and accomplishments in your work and personal life and build resilience along the way.
Best For Aspiring Activist Attorneys: The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow
Charles Darrow was one of the most prolific lawyers who ever lived. In 1984, he resigned from his lucrative job as chief counsel for a railway company to defend Eugene V. Debs, president of the nascent American Railway Union, pro-bono. In his 50 years of legal practice, he helped establish union workers’ rights, exposed shocking conditions in coal mines and the horrific practice of child labor, fought for a teacher to be able to teach evolution in public schools and fought back against racial discrimination. In this book, he reflects on his life’s work and the most notorious cases he was responsible for winning, as well as what motivated him to fight back against systems of oppression. As one reviewer wrote, “Such a pure soul but never boring, [Darrow] so loved his fellow man that he studied and lingered over their shortcomings and why they did the terrible things they did.”
Best Memoir: My Life in Court by Louis Nizer
This classic book has been captivating readers since the 1960s. Inside, brilliant attorney Louis Nizer recounts his role in helping shape some of the most classic trademark, copyright and defamation cases in U.S. history. He manages to describe complicated matters in a way that is more thrilling than the most far-fetched of novels, while also introducing you to key components of and complicated maneuvers within the legal system in the United States. In addition to being a skilled legal professional, Nizer also manages to tap into the human condition in a way that all excellent aspiring lawyers can learn from. In recounting his cases successfully suing for slander, he illustrates before the jury and his readers alike just how terrible it is to impugn someone’s character.
Best If You Feel Like Giving Up: From Law School to Lawyer
Law school is expensive: you pour three years of your life and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars into something that isn’t even necessarily guaranteed to pay off in the long run. So what do you do if you find yourself in a successful job after school and still don’t quite feel like you know if you want to be a lawyer after all? This book will help you ward off despair — it highlights true stories of attorneys who left the legal profession and went on to have successful careers in something else entirely unrelated to law. Though the anonymous author framed this book in a way meant to help people figure out if they want to invest in law school, it can also be tremendously helpful to graduates who feel like they’re stuck with no options outside of practicing law.
Best Historical Case Study: And the Dead Shall Rise
If you want to be a good lawyer, you have to understand what happens when justice doesn’t do its job and vigilante mobs take its place. This book tells the chilling, thrilling story of the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan and the coverup of the lynching of Leo Frank, an educated Jewish man convicted of her murder mainly based on the testimony of one person. The lynching of Frank has been credited with both the revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the evolution of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish Civil rights organization. This deeply researched book dives into the ins and outs of the proceedings that led up to Frank’s trial, how the lynch mob fomented and why the grim details were covered up for so long.
Most Humorous Book: The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Packing quite a punch in its 135 pages, this book is as hilarious as it is informative. Inside, veteran lawyer Mark Hermann walks you through a day in the life of a lawyer, through the eyes of his fictional no-BS character, The Curmudgeon. By following along in the daily life of a private attorney, you’ll learn about research strategies, billing paperwork, dressing for success, and all about office relationships. There’s a particular chapter written by The Curmudgeon’s fictional secretary, who explains her role in depth, as well as vignettes from other characters you’ll encounter in your real working life. Each chapter is packed with memorable anecdotes, classic mistakes and helpful advice you’ll remember for years to come.