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Recommended Reading for Law Students:

Conglomerate asks, "If You Could Choose Only One Book For Prospective Law Students, What would it be?"

I would answer F.A. Hayek, Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Volume 1, Rules & Order. In this book, Hayek sets out the "spontaneous order" theory of the common law. I like it because it is implicitly a defense of traditional legal conceptualism, to understand the elegance and wisdom of the common law, and to help appreciate the importance of the common law and the rule of law as the foundation of freedom and prosperity in the Anglo-American world. The deep and tacit wisdom embedded in the common law is often lost in the modern legal realist perspective that dominates the academy today.

But then again, "Hayek" is my answer to every question like this, prospective law student or otherwise.

As a close second, and certainly more enjoyable than Hayek, I would recommend Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions, which I have commented on previously. Sowell's book helps us to understand the fault lines in much of public debate today, and none moreso than disputes over differing approaches to law in society today, such as the role of economic analysis, the debate over originalism versus non-originalism in constitutional interpretation, and the importance of public choice theory in understanding law. I think that understanding these rough fault lines helps to recognize the unarticulated starting points that lie behind many modern legal debates.

Carolina:
The books you suggest are excellent. However, for a student actually about to start law school, I would recommend something more pragmatic, Anatomy of a Lawsuit by Peter Simon.

A short (~120pp) paperback, this book traces a fictional auto accident suit from the accident to the decision by the state supreme court. Along the way it introduces the reader to pleadings, discovery, summary judgment, the appeals process, etc.

It really gives students a leg up because when they begin reading cases on the first day of law school, they will understand what an appellate court means by holdings like "Grant of summary judgment to Defendant reversed."

It's well-written and easily digested in 2 or 3 hours of reading.
7.12.2005 7:43pm
T:
Well, I'm glad I read A Conflict of Visions earlier in the summer and am nearly finished with LLL V. 1...
7.12.2005 9:09pm
Dave! (mail) (www):
I found Anatomy of a Lawsuit pretty dated and not really very helpful. Perhaps it would have been of more use if I were coming to law school straight out of college (as opposed to 10 years later) but I thought it was really remedial.

I do agree that something more pragmatic than the suggestions from Profs. Smith and Zywicki would be best, though.

Contrary to Darren Roulstone's latest post, not everyone wants to be a law professor.
7.12.2005 10:02pm
gr (www):
I enjoyed Fischl's "Getting to Maybe," and Cardozo's "Nature of the Judicial Process."
7.12.2005 10:02pm
Craig Oren (mail):
I actually read that volume of Hayek in law school. I admire Hayek's rigor, but I didn't find him that useful. Hayek comes from the civil law tradition in which, in theory, there is a rule covering every case and in which the only job of the judge is to find the facts and apply the relevant rule. He thus does not have the common lawyer's appreciation of how law is made through decisions, and that judges are not automata.

BTW, I think Anatomy of a Lawsuit is ok, but not any more than that.
7.12.2005 10:39pm
Craig C. (mail):
"The Brethren" by Woodward &Armstrong!
7.13.2005 12:41am
Anon:
Epstein's Simple Rules for a Complex World.
7.13.2005 1:12am
AL:
They - everyone - should read more than just law. Its not about the Bike - Lance Armstrong's autobiography is a great read.
7.13.2005 10:00am
AD12 (mail):
Bastiat's The Law

Law School Confidential by Robert H. Miller

I also enjoyed working through the Federalist Society's Pre- Law Reading List.
7.13.2005 10:36am
Paul Gowder (mail):
Kafka: The Trial. As a precautionary tale both of law school and the world beyond.
7.13.2005 10:37am
Tumbling Dice (mail):
The Art of Cross Examination
7.13.2005 11:08am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Bleak House by Charles Dickens. You will get enough of the techy stuff, anon.

When you read Dickens you should understand that the procedural rules of the 19th century British court of Chancery were imported to the United states at the beginning of the 20th century as the rules for equity proceedings in Federal Court, and those were the basis for the federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

A tip to law students, after you have read Bleak House, always check the opinions in the case books for the dates of the underlying events and the date upon which the decision was handed down.
7.13.2005 1:39pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Hm. The book that always came to my mind in law school was Plato's "Gorgias." But that surely says more about me than about law school.

Also, the seminary section of "The Red &the Black" was pretty damn on-point. (A favorite novel of Al Gore and Richard Posner, weirdly enough.)
7.13.2005 3:18pm
Josh:
Both Sowell and Hayek should be read not only by law students, but by anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the human condition.
7.13.2005 3:18pm