Best law books: the ultimate reading list for legal professionals
What’s something law students and practicing attorneys have in common? A ton of reading.
Indiana University’s Law School Survey of Student Engagement found that students spend an average of 18.6 hours a week reading for class, and the American Bar Association notes that typical lawyers spend 17% of their workday on legal research.
But amid all of that reading, when was the last time you read a law book just because you wanted to? If it’s been too long, get ready to find a new favorite with this comprehensive list of the best law books. Whether you’re looking to strengthen your knowledge of a certain practice area, sharpen your legal writing, or get inspired by a legal memoir, we’ve got you covered.
- Books to read before law school
- Best law books for law students
- Legal project management books
- Corporate law books
- Best law books for improving time management
- Intellectual property books
- Best law books about landmark rulings
- Criminal law books
- Family law books
- Real estate law books
- International law books
- Tax law books
- Immigration law books
- Business law books
- Best books about the Supreme Court
- Legal writing books
- Bonus books
Books to read before law school
The decision to study law can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. These reads will help quell some of those first-day (or even first-year) jitters with advice designed to help you thrive academically while maintaining your wellbeing.
LETTERS TO A LAW STUDENT: A GUIDE TO STUDYING LAW AT UNIVERSITY by Nicholas J. McBride
Letters to a Law Student is a great choice for prospective law students feeling nervous about beginning a JD program. McBride covers the gamut of relevant topics beneficial to aspiring lawyers, from writing like an attorney to the impact of new remote learning methods on law students. We also like its unique narrative style, with the content presented as a series of letters between a professor and a high school student.
1L OF A RIDE: A WELL-TRAVELED PROFESSOR’S ROADMAP TO SUCCESS IN THE FIRST YEAR OF LAW SCHOOL by Andrew J. McClurg
This book draws one Ls in with its witty title and keeps you engaged with step-by-step guidance for crushing your first year of law school without getting overstressed. McClurg uses his years of experience as a law school professor to provide practical, empathetic advice for new law school students. He also includes comments from actual students, so you gain perspectives from both the teacher and the student sides.
HOW TO BE SORT OF HAPPY IN LAW SCHOOL by Kathryne M. Young
As a JD and PhD with a knack for research, Young conducted a study of over 1,000 law students as the foundation of her engrossing read. She blends data with her own perspective on the law school experience, encouraging students to use tools to help support their mental health and wellbeing during this unique period of their lives. The book has glowing reviews from law professors across the country.
Best law books for law students
If you have the time and motivation to read something legal-related during one of your semester breaks, we highly recommend one of these picks. (But if you’d prefer to sleep and binge Netflix, there’s no judgment here.)
THE LEGAL ANALYST: A TOOLKIT FOR THINKING ABOUT THE LAW by Ward Farnsworth
Books for law students sometimes focus too heavily on the literal law and leave out the equally important practice of thinking about the how and why behind the law’s content and common interpretation. Farnsworth helps readers dive into the gray areas of legal work using a variety of examples to challenge your thought process and let you examine laws from new perspectives.
LAW SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL by Robert H. Miller
Miller wanted to create a book “by students, for students,” so he focused his research around recent law school graduates. Miller and his interviewees provide a fresh outlook on everything, from the current admissions process to getting a job with your newly earned JD.
STORMING THE COURT: HOW A BAND OF LAW STUDENTS FOUGHT THE PRESIDENT—AND WON by Brandt Goldstein
If you’re ever feeling discouraged as a young lawyer or questioning the impact you can have on the world, this is the book to pick up. Set in 1992, this thrilling novel is based on the true story of a group of Yale Law students and their professor and their quest to free 300 innocent Haitians detained at Guantanamo Bay after being promised political asylum. It’s a powerful human rights read.
Legal project management books
The legal industry can move slowly when it comes to adopting new processes. However, with the right legal project management strategy and setup, legal professionals can make their lives (and their departments) a lot less stressful.
LEGAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT: CONTROL COSTS, MEET SCHEDULES, MANAGE RISKS, AND MAINTAIN SANITY by Steven B. Levy
Steven B. Levy’s book makes a case for legal project management by showing readers instances where they’ve already needed some form of it in their lives, including cost control, setting more accurate deadlines, and working cross-functionally with other departments. Levy shares his experiences and offers advice on how to use project management to better manage a legal department.
THE POWER OF LEGAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT: A PRACTICAL HANDBOOK by Susan Raridon Lambreth and David A. Rueff
If you’re ready to dig deep into the world of legal project management, this book has got you covered. You’ll find straightforward definitions and practical guidance on implementing a legal project management process. In addition, insights from more than 30 law firms, corporate lawyers, consultants, and legal project management software vendors are included throughout the book.
Corporate law books
Business law books can be dense, but the following books discuss corporate law in a more digestible format.
CORPORATE LAW (CONCEPTS AND INSIGHTS) by Stephen Bainbridge
Although this was written for a law student audience, this is still one of the best books for understanding corporate law. This text covers state and federal corporate law in a reader-friendly style. If you need to interpret laws in a business or financial context, this is a great read to keep on your bookshelf.
THE ANATOMY OF CORPORATE LAW: A COMPARATIVE AND FUNCTIONAL APPROACH by Reinier Kraakman et al.
With 11 contributing authors, this book offers a comprehensive overview of the interpretation and enforcement of corporate law. In the third edition, the authors revised the text to address regulatory changes in the United States and include more global economies, including Brazil, India, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Regardless of whether you are new to practicing law or an experienced attorney, this book is an excellent reference point.
BUSINESS BRIBES: CORPORATE CORRUPTION AND THE COURTS by Cecil C. Kuhne III
Good law books are accessible, but the best law books figure out a way to make even dry topics like corporate law entertaining. Business Bribes includes a collection of engaging true stories that show the dark side of corporate courtrooms. Stories of commercial bribery and their influence on judicial opinions in the United States and around the world provide thought-provoking lessons in corporate law.
Best law books for improving time management
Whether you’re trying to improve your productivity in the office or figure out a way to log off and make it home in time for dinner, these books are helpful resources for managing your time more efficiently.
TIME MANAGEMENT FOR ATTORNEYS: A LAWYER’S GUIDE TO DECREASING STRESS, ELIMINATING INTERRUPTIONS & GETTING HOME ON TIME by Shawn McNalis and Mark Powers
Lawyers are generally not known for their time-management skills or for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This book sets out to address those issues by providing productivity advice specific to the legal profession. You’ll learn how to optimize your daily schedule with tips for eliminating disruptions, managing phone calls, and working with others. If you want to do great work without burning out, this book can help.
DEEP WORK: RULES FOR FOCUSED SUCCESS IN A DISTRACTED WORLD by Cal Newport
Newport’s acclaimed book on deep work, or focusing on a “cognitively demanding” task without distraction, is perfect for lawyers who need to continuously concentrate on complex tasks. Newport walks readers through the benefits of deep work and offers actionable tips to build habits that support deeper focus and productivity.
HAPPY LAWYER: THE ART OF HAVING IT ALL WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND by Beverly Davidek
Written by attorney Beverly Davidek and her husband Dirk Davidek, this is an excellent read for lawyers who feel their career is negatively affecting their personal life and overall happiness. In this book, you’ll find practical tips along with stories that show you how to prioritize your relationships and wellbeing while still thriving as a lawyer.
Intellectual property books
Intellectual property (IP) is incredibly valuable but only if you know how to protect it. These intellectual property books help make sense of the notoriously complicated aspects of IP law.
KEY TO IP: IDENTIFYING YOUR PATENTS, TRADEMARKS, COPYRIGHTS, AND TRADE SECRET by Chris Weiss
If you’re just getting started with IP law, grab this book. Weiss claims, “In about an hour, you’ll learn the language of intellectual property and come out knowing more than 90% of the general public.” Think of this book as a quick-start guide that prepares you for having informed conversations about patents and IP law.
GUIDE TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: WHAT IT IS, HOW TO PROTECT IT, HOW TO EXPLOIT IT by Stephen Johnson
In this complete guide, readers explore important IP law rulings and delve into the nuances of intellectual property law. If you handle IP management, patent prosecution, or patent litigation, this resource deserves a spot in your library.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW: LEGAL ASPECTS OF INNOVATION AND COMPETITION by Kurt M. Saunders
Attorneys and business professionals alike benefit from the real-life examples and practical exercises included in this book. Convenient summaries of applicable law and relevant case excerpts make this book a handy reference guide for paralegals, corporate professionals, attorneys, or anyone seeking a better understanding of IP law.
Best law books about landmark rulings
Add these books to your reading list if you’re looking for a legal precedent or just want to explore key cases that shaped the U.S. court system.
LANDMARK SUPREME COURT CASES: THE MOST INFLUENTIAL DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES by Cindy L. Tate, Roy M. Mersky, and Gary R. Hartman
This comprehensive collection covers game-changing Supreme Court cases that tackled difficult topics, such as civil rights, labor unions, privacy, taxation, freedom of religion, and more. Consider this text a go-to reference for some of the most influential cases in U.S. history.
IS EATING PEOPLE WRONG? GREAT LEGAL CASES AND HOW THEY SHAPED THE WORLD by Allan C. Hutchinson
In this enjoyable and educational read, Hutchinson paints a vivid picture of the complexities of law and its impact by examining eight different legal cases across the globe. He brings the stories to life with rich historical and cultural details, making this legal book hard to put down.
THE COLOR OF LAW: A FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF HOW OUR GOVERNMENT SEGREGATED AMERICA by Richard Rothstein
This detailed account of the United States’ history of segregation is powerful and informative. While it may not be a light read, it’s an important book that sheds light on the role the U.S. government played in keeping America segregated. You’ll finish this book feeling astounded by how discrimination seeps into state and federal laws.
THE ENGAGEMENT: AMERICA’S QUARTER-CENTURY STRUGGLE OVER SAME-SEX MARRIAGE by Sasha Issenberg
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, this book by prominent American journalist Sasha Issenberg takes readers on a journey from when three gay couples in Hawaii demanded marriage licenses in 1990 to when same-sex marriage was finally legalized in 2015. This compelling story provides deeper insight into the Defense of Marriage Act, Proposition 8, and the landmark United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges cases.
GUNFIGHT: THE BATTLE OVER THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS IN AMERICA by Adam Winkler
Winkler’s nuanced legal thriller about gun control in America is centered on 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller case, where the Court overturned DC’s ban on handguns on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. He brings new context to the decision by diving deep into the 400-year history of gun control in the United States, arguing that it created the nation’s cultural divide around the Second Amendment.
WHEN ABORTION WAS A CRIME: 1867-1973 by Leslie J. Reagan
In the wake of SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade, this legal book from University of Illinois College of Law professor Leslie Reagan is a must-read. Reagan walks readers through the mid-19th century through 1973, concentrating on the policing and criminalization of abortion and its impact on millions of women. The book draws upon a wide range of sources, including personal narratives, medical records, and criminal trial accounts — the parallels to today’s climate are staggering.
Criminal law books
These books will help you better understand criminal law, discussing crime, accomplicity, and punishment.
UNDERSTANDING CRIMINAL LAW by Joshua Dressler
Ohio State University’s Joshua Dressler breaks down the concepts of substantive criminal law. You’ll learn the fundamentals like the Model Penal Code (MPC) along with legal theories on punishment, legality, and proportionality. The latest edition also covers topics about accomplice liability and newer laws on sexual assault and self-defense.
FEDERAL RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE by Michigan Legal Publishing
This law book covers the gamut of criminal procedure guidelines, from the arrest warrant and summons stage up to the ruling and post-conviction stage. Use it to deepen your understanding of criminal procedures or as a quick reference guide.
Family law books
These books offer guidance on the role of lawyers in divorce, adoption, and child custody cases.
CONTEMPORARY FAMILY LAW (AMERICAN CASEBOOK SERIES) by Douglas Abrams, Naomi Cahn, Catherine Ross, and Linda McClain
This popular family law casebook walks readers through the evolution of family law. It talks about the different forms of families that exist in today’s modern world, including marital and nonmarital adult families. The authors also advise on the roles of family lawyers in the world of divorce, adoption, child custody, and dispute resolution.
MODERN FAMILY LAW: CASES AND MATERIALS by D. Kelly Weisberg
In this book, Weisberg explores the role of state authorities in family decision-making. With narratives, thought-provoking questions, and epilogues that bring family law to life, Weisberg shares notes on family issues around race, gender, sexuality, and class. This casebook is a full picture of family law as it relates to the diverse forms of the modern family.
Real estate law books
Real estate laws regulate the processes involved in the acquisition, enjoyment, and transfer of landed properties. Equip yourself to be a trusted lawyer to property owners with the following books.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS: FROM CONTRACT TO CLOSING by Gregory M. Stein, Morton P. Fisher Jr., and Michael D. Goodwin
This book will help you make sure commercial real estate deals are handled correctly, from the negotiations up to the closings. With a detailed analysis of how to approach each stage of the real estate deal process, the book identifies common issues and presents different approaches for lawyers to consider when handling those issues. You’ll find a breakdown of established real estate laws as well as tips to streamline the deal process.
REAL ESTATE LAW by Elliot Klayman
Klayman’s comprehensive guide on real estate law includes a solid mix of case studies as well as discussion questions designed to help you apply your new knowledge. He also does an expert job of covering contemporary real estate issues, including green development, stigmatized properties, and fracking.
International law books
Learn to navigate the rules and principles governing dealings and relations between nations, states, and international organizations with these books.
BOUNDARIES OF THE INTERNATIONAL: LAW AND EMPIRE by Jennifer Pitts
The University of Chicago’s Jennifer Pitts takes readers on a journey to learn the origins and evolution of international law. Pitts argues that the international legal system was built on the premise of European domination and walks readers through poignant examples of the impact of that legacy.
THE NARROW CORRIDOR: STATES, SOCIETIES, AND THE FATE OF LIBERTY by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
The Narrow Corridor is a thought-provoking book on international law and the politics and economics that surround it. MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and the University of Chicago’s James Robinson talk about the effects of inclusive and exclusive international law policies on a country and the right way to create policies for nations. They take the reader on a tour through the laws of many nations and civilizations, from ancient Uruk and the Tiv of rural Nigeria to modern Lebanon and even the Roman Empire, to demonstrate how these laws have affected these civilizations.
Tax law books
These books break down the complexities of the US income tax code in an easy-to-understand (yes, really) manner.
INCOME TAX FUNDAMENTALS 2021 (WITH INTUIT PROCONNECT TAX ONLINE) by Gerald E. Whittenburg and Steven Gill
In this concise and practical tax law book, Whittenburg and Gill share step-by-step teachings on tax preparation using actual tax forms. At the end of each chapter, you’ll find problems that encourage you to practice what you’ve learned using documents that resemble those of real clients.
FEDERAL INCOME TAX (EXAMPLES & EXPLANATIONS) by Katherine Pratt, Thomas D Griffith, and Joseph Bankman
This book is particularly helpful for students preparing for their Federal Tax exam. The clear, conversational examples and explanations shared in this book make it easy to understand the concepts in a tax law casebook.
Immigration law books
Looking for expert publications on the various areas of immigration law? These immigration law books are valuable for both new and experienced practitioners.
IMMIGRATION LAW AND PROCEDURE IN A NUTSHELL by David Weissbrodt, Laura Danielson, and Howard Myers
This book is an overview of immigration law and a rundown of its history to help lawyers understand the basics of immigration law. The authors do a good job of covering all the areas of immigration law and also share their views on how politics influences immigration.
MAKING FOREIGNERS: IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP LAW IN AMERICA, 1600-2000 by Kunal M. Parker
In his fascinating analysis of 400 years of U.S. immigration and citizenship law, Parker invites readers to think critically about the concept of being a “foreigner,” drawing historical parallels between the subordination of immigrants and other populations such as Native Americans, women, and those living in poverty.
ONE MIGHTY AND IRRESISTIBLE TIDE: THE EPIC STRUGGLE OVER AMERICAN IMMIGRATION 1924-1965 by Jia Lynn Yang
Written by New York Times national editor Jia Lynn Yang, this award-winning read focuses on the movement to abolish the 1924 ethnic quotas enacted by Congress, eventually resulting in the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. It’s a powerful and informative novel, with Lynn Yang connecting the national struggle back to her immigrant family’s personal challenges.
Business law books
The significance of trusted corporate counsel cannot be overemphasized. Get insights to protect your clients’ best interests with the following business reads.
BUSINESS LAW (BARRON’S BUSINESS REVIEW) by Robert W. Emerson J.D.
This book focuses on legal theory in the context of the business world. Emerson explains everything, from theories around tort responsibility, government regulations, environmental law, and consumer protection to contracts, product liability, and international law, in detail. He also simplifies special topics like property, intellectual property, and business crimes in this interesting book.
BUSINESS LAW by Henry Cheeseman
Written by USC Marshall’s Henry Cheeseman, this legal book covers both American and international business law. There’s a great range of case studies to learn from, including environmental and ethical business matters.
Best books about the Supreme Court
Some of the most impactful court battles take place in the Supreme Court, and the following titles offer insights into the complex inner workings of this judicial body.
THE AMERICAN SUPREME COURT by Robert G. McCloskey and Sanford Levinson
This foundational legal text from political historian Robert McCloskey has been guiding readers for over 50 years. Sanford Levinson, a former student of McCloskey’s, has continued to update the text after McCloskey’s passing. The most recent edition includes in-depth analyses of Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act, gay marriage, and the Affordable Care Act.
DISSENT AND THE SUPREME COURT: ITS ROLE IN THE COURT’S HISTORY AND THE NATION’S CONSTITUTIONAL DIALOGUE by Melvin I. Urofsky
Melvin Urofsky received critical acclaim from publications such as The Washington Post and the American Journal of Legal History for his thoughtful analysis of dissent in the Supreme Court. He argues that dissent is necessary to uphold Constitutional law and Amer
Legal writing books
From interviewing clients to writing briefs and memorandums, these titles will help you improve your legal writing skills.
THE LITTLE BOOK ON LEGAL WRITING by Alan L. Dworsky
In this entertaining and instructive book, Dworsky shares advice on how to write everything, from contracts and pleadings to briefs and memorandums. You’ll walk away feeling confident in your ability to write in a clear, concise manner.
LEGAL WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH by Bryan Garner
Renowned attorney and legal lexicographer Bryan Garner first published this book in 2001, and it’s become a go-to text for avoiding complex legal jargon in legal writing. Garner offers exercises from beginner to advanced and draws upon real-world writing examples that he gathered over his teaching career.
POINT MADE: HOW TO WRITE LIKE THE NATION’S TOP ADVOCATES by Ross Guberman
The American Bar Association described this book by Legal Writing Pro president Ross Guberman as containing “sound advice supported by the practice of the best in the business.” Filled with writing examples from the country’s top attorneys, Guberman does an excellent job of breaking each piece down into actionable techniques that readers can use to boost their own writing.
While these books may not fit into one of the specific legal categories we covered, they’re still excellent reads that offer insightful, nuanced takes on the legal industry.
TRYING LEVIATHAN: THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY NEW YORK COURT CASE THAT PUT A WHALE ON TRIAL AND CHALLENGED THE ORDER OF NATURE by D. Graham Burnett
This captivating, award-winning legal drama centers on Maurice v. Judd, an 1818 NYC trial that looked at whether whale oil was considered fish oil and could be inspected by the state. While it sounds mundane, the case caused a sensation, with those supporting taxonomy clashing with individuals who staunchly defended the biblical assertion that whales were considered fish. We’d love to see this one turned into a Netflix movie.
CREATED EQUAL: CLARENCE THOMAS IN HIS OWN WORDS by Michael Pack and Mark Paoletta
Drawing from direct interviews with Justice Clarence Thomas, his wife, and close friends, this biography captures Thomas’ struggles with racism and poverty in the segregated south through his rise to the highest court in the country. The book was created as a complement to the documentary of the same name.
MY OWN WORDS by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This New York Times bestseller takes readers into the mind of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who shared her perspectives on everything from being Jewish to gender equality and interpreting the U.S. Constitution. The novel also includes classic RBG quotes and chapter introductions by Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, her authorized biographers and professors at Georgetown Law, that give additional context to each section.
THE ADDICTED LAWYER: TALES OF THE BAR, BOOZE, BLOW, AND REDEMPTION by Brian Cuban
With substance abuse rampant among attorneys, Brian Cuban sheds light on the issue in his raw, engaging memoir chronicling his struggle with addiction and the road to recovery. It’s highly readable, breaks down the stigma around mental health issues and substance use disorders, and serves as a powerful reminder that there’s no shame in asking for help.
THE ANXIOUS LAWYER: AN 8-WEEK GUIDE TO A HAPPIER, SANER LAW PRACTICE USING MEDITATION by Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford
Written by two practicing attorneys, this is a phenomenal pick for anyone who could benefit from less stress in and outside the office (aka, you). Cho and Gifford directly tie the benefits of meditation to their work in the legal profession and offer a straightforward approach to incorporating more mindfulness in your days.
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This article has been updated to reflect new information and industry trends from the original article, published on May 21, 2020, and updated on September 13, 2021.