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What to read if you're starting out in law

17th March 2020

pile of old law books

When starting out in the world of law, you want to be able to carry a conversation with other lawyers and be up to date with what’s happening within the sector. Whether this is keeping up with the news or being part of different groups of people, it is always beneficial to know what’s going on around you. One way to do this is to read around the subject. This can be newspapers, studies, fiction or non-fiction, it always helps to keep on top of what is being said about your industry.

Therefore, we have brought together some of the best books for a lawyer starting out in the legal profession. These books comprise of literature from the new and old, non-fiction from law student reading lists and bestsellers, all that will help you to keep on top of your legal job.

Letters to a Law Student: A Guide to Studying Law at University by Nicholas J McBride

This first suggestion is aimed mainly at those considering studying law at university, which can be a daunting process however, many have said it has helped them throughout their degree as well as their career. Letter to a Law Student covers a number of questions about the world of law, including ‘Is Law the right subject for me?’ ‘What can you do with a law degree?’ and ‘What do law students do?’

Voted by the Guardian as being one of the top six best law books, it is crammed with advice about studying law, whether you are applying for universities or looking for somewhere to do your training contract, this book discusses the ins and outs, and all that’s in the middle.

Check out a preview of Letter to a Law Student by Nicholas J McBride below.

In Your Defence by Sarah Langford

“Sarah Langford has reinvented a genre ... [as a barrister she has turned] her experience of 11 criminal cases into short stories that are as compelling as fiction, with the added fascination of being essentially true ... Immensely powerful”. Jenni Russell, Sunday Times

This next suggestion comes as no surprise, as In Your Defence is a highly recommended book. Written by barrister Sarah Langford, the chilling and exciting stories of 11 real-life cases has gripped readers since its publication in 2019. She goes into great detail about how it feels to defend the people standing on trial, and how actions can change the outcome of any case.

Rachel from the blog, The Reading Millennial explains “Having studied law for my undergraduate degree, I definitely have a soft spot for books on the subject. If you’re looking for a more personal perspective I would highly recommend In Your Defence by Sarah Langford. This book offers first-person deep-dives into what it is like to work in the legal sector in the UK; it also offers insight into the breadth of the cases one can expect to encounter”.

As Sarah defends “the mad and the bad” she gets to tell the story of what a barrister does day in and day out, whether it reaches the headlines or not, every case is important. This is an important read as it gives a detailed description of what a barrister does and its powerful message that is pushed throughout the book – if you want to get into law, “find the kind of law you like the most” and do it.

Find this preview of In Your Defence by Sarah Langford on Amazon:

The Successful Law Student: An Insider's Guide to Studying Law by Imogen Moore and Craig Newbery-Jones

The Successful Law Student is said to be one of the ultimate companions for all students, current and prospective, studying law, completing their Graduate Diploma in law or training courses. It goes into great detail, advising how to make the most of your studies of law and how to focus on what’s important.

With helpful guidance on how to approach exams and finding that all-important rewarding career, it is filled with a mixture of voices from students to alumni, sharing their experiences of studying law which is a helpful read for those in need of guidance through their studies.

It also includes insight from both law teachers, Imogen Moore and Craig Newbery-Jones who explore how the learning process can prepare you for a long career in law, handling pressures in studying and work as well the success within the legal sector. This book is a good read for those in need of a little guidance once in your studies or career journey. It can clarify the kind of steps needed in becoming successful, as well as showing you past experiences.

Check out The Success Law Student by Imogen Moore and Craig Newbery-Jones in this preview:

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken

Everyone who has any interest in public life should read it” Marcus Berkmann, The Daily Mail

Only known as the secret barrister, this author has kept his identity a secret as he tells his experience of the UK’s legal system, specifically the criminal justice system. The book goes on to reveal how the system is broken and in fact, who broke it.

This first-hand account of some of the most hard-hitting realities of what a barrister’s job really involves is a brilliant read and a certain page-turner. It uncovers some eye-opening experiences and really is a conversation started for so many people. A book that can help breach the world of law for those getting into their career.

Find a preview of The Secret Barrister on Amazon here:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a Mockingbird” Atticus Fitch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

This recommendation comes from blogger Katerina, "A masterpiece of American literature that tells the story of a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it when Atticus Finch, the narrator’s father, decides to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who was accused of raping a white woman. Despite the outcry of the local community, he sets to do the best of his ability without prejudice or pathos, becoming at once a moral hero and a model of integrity for lawyers around the world. A compassionate and deeply moving read that explores the depths of human nature"'

A story of racism in the Great Depression, this novel is a must-read for ‘to-be’ lawyers as it inspires so many people and gives an insight as to how law used to be, and how far it has come. This novel is gripping in its journey to pursue innocence and the injustice of prejudice at the time the novel is set.

To read a preview of the novel, find To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee here:

Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future by Richard Susskind

Tomorrow’s Lawyer is a great resource for those lawyers that like to keep up to date with what is happening in the industry. Recommended by LSE Review of Books blog, at the London School of Economics, Anton Moiseienko explains: “He [Susskind] aims to provide a concise and up-to-date account of what the future holds for the legal profession. The result is a cogent, finely crafted work that is imaginative but not in the least sensationalist. While Susskind’s matter-of-fact style does not make for a page-turner, it is effective in making his points clearly and persuasively”.

Put simply, the book is split into three parts. First, identifying the key changes in the legal sector and what drove them to change. Secondly, highlighting a new landscape for law as roles have changed for law firms and in-house lawyers. And lastly, the third part focuses on aspiring lawyers, predicting the future job prospects as well as what questions should be put towards employers by these new lawyers.

Moiseienko finally suggests that “All in all, despite the occasional dryness of its style, Tomorrow’s Lawyers is an excellent starting point for those who wish to think about the issues it addresses”

Check out a preview of Tomorrow’s Lawyer by Richard Susskind:

The Little Black Book of Lawyer's Wisdom by Tony Lyons

“The first duty of society is justice.” Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804)

For those that need a little encouragement or empowerment, The Little Black Book of Lawyer’s Wisdom is a great read. Compiling over 200 quotes from the experiences of lawyers, judges, politicians and preachers, these experiences are a great addition to your knowledge. The law can bring many people from different backgrounds together, and it is the same with this recommendation. A way to keep up to date with the world of law, without having to research all of those important members of history.

From Alexander Hamilton to the US Supreme Court Justice, this book has it all!

Find a preview of The Little Black Book of Lawyer’s Wisdom here:

If you are interested in getting into law in the future and these books have also inspired you, check out LAW Absolute, the legal recruitment specialist.