Best law books: the ultimate reading list for legal professionals

Lauren Jennings | September 13, 2021 | Articles

Looking for the best law books to fill out your law library? Whether you’re a legal ops professional, prospective law student, or anyone working in the legal industry, you’re sure to find something on this list!

We’ve broken up our recommended reading into the following categories:

  1. Books to read before law school
  2. Best law books for law students
  3. Legal project management books
  4. Corporate law books
  5. Best law books for improving time management
  6. Intellectual property books
  7. Best law books about landmark rulings
  8. Criminal law books
  9. Family law books
  10. Real estate law books
  11. International law books
  12. Tax law books
  13. Immigration law books
  14. Business law books
  15. Best books about the Supreme Court
  16. Legal writing books
  17. Bonus books

Books to read before law school

If you’re looking for the best books to read before law school, these books share advice that will help you navigate law school and thrive from your first year on.

LETTERS TO A LAW STUDENT: A GUIDE TO STUDYING LAW AT UNIVERSITY by Nicholas J. McBride

As one of the top-voted books to read before law school, Letters to a Law Student is a great choice for anyone feeling nervous about beginning a JD program. In this book, you’ll find advice on taking exams, coping with stress, and even tips for finding your place in the legal industry once you earn your degree.

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 you in with its clever title and keeps you reading by providing step-by-step guidance for crushing your first year of law school both emotionally and academically. The author, Andrew J. McClurg, uses his years of experience as a law school professor to provide actionable advice for new law school students. He also includes comments from actual students, so the reader can benefit from both a professor’s and students’ perspectives.

Best law books for law students

If you feel ambitious enough to read additional law books outside of class, these titles will enlighten you with new perspectives about law and the legal profession.

THE LEGAL ANALYST: A TOOLKIT FOR THINKING ABOUT THE LAW by Ward Farnsworth

Books for law students sometimes focus too heavily on the letter of the law and leave out the equally important practice of thinking about how laws are written and interpreted. If you’re interested in diving into the gray areas of legal work, The Legal Analyst will take you through a variety of examples that will make you examine law from a new perspective.

LAW SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL by Robert H. Miller

Author Robert H. 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.

Legal project management books

The legal industry tends to move slowly when it comes to adapting to new technology and processes. However, with the right project management strategy and setup, legal professionals can make their lives (and departments) a lot less stressful.

YOUR DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO SWITCHING FROM LEGACY LEGAL TECHNOLOGY by SimpleLegal

We may be a bit biased, but we believe our white paper is a great quick-start guide for migrating your legal tech and modernizing your legal project management. In this paper, we address common objections and obstacles to new legal tech and share examples of how we’ve helped legal ops team address them. If you feel frustrated and locked into your current system, this short guide will help you feel empowered and motivated to upgrade.

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 legal professionals that they’ve actually been trying to implement some form of project management for years. If you’ve been trying to control costs, set more accurate deadlines, and work cross-functionally with other departments, you’ve been searching for a legal project management solution. Levy shares his experiences and gives his advice on how to manage a legal department effectively.

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. In this handbook, you’ll find straightforward definitions and practical guidance for implementing a legal project management process. Plus, 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 is aimed at law students, this is one of the best law books for navigating corporate law. This book covers state and federal corporate law in a style that’s very reader-friendly. If you need to interpret laws in a business or financial context, this is a great text to keep on your bookshelf.

THE ANATOMY OF CORPORATE LAW: A COMPARATIVE AND FUNCTIONAL APPROACH by various authors

With six 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 U.S. and include more global economies, including Brazil, India, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK. Regardless of whether you are new to practicing law or an experienced attorney, this book is an excellent reference.

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 true stories that detail the dark role that connections and money play in corporate courtrooms. Stories of commercial bribery and how they influenced judicial opinions in the U.S. and around the world provide engaging 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 not known for their time management skills or ability to maintain 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.

IT’S TIME YOUR LEGAL DEPARTMENT EVOLVES by Onit

In this ebook, you’ll discover how to make your department more efficient with the right tools. Many legal professionals stubbornly hold onto outdated systems, like email and spreadsheets, when more evolved tools could help them get the job done better and faster. This ebook shows you how to streamline your work by leveraging business process applications.

HAPPY LAWYER: THE ART OF HAVING IT ALL WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND by Beverly Davidek

Davidek wrote this book for lawyers who feel trapped by the constant deadlines and the drive that fuels these deadlines. In this book, you’ll find practical tips along with stories that make work-life balance, prioritizing health, as well as prioritizing relationships seem attainable.

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. Key to IP 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 to have 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 comprehensive 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 the 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 the history of the U.S.

THE COLOR OF LAW: A FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF HOW OUR GOVERNMENT SEGREGATED AMERICA by Richard Rothstein

This detailed account of the U.S.’s 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 seeped into state and federal laws.

NEW YORK TIMES V. SULLIVAN: CIVIL RIGHTS, LIBEL LAW, AND THE FREE PRESS by Kermit L. Hall and Melvin I. Urofsky

In this book, you’ll learn the details behind the 1964 case that further strengthened the U.S.’s protection of freedom of the press. This short but insightful read discusses the facts of the case while also telling the larger story of how the ruling influenced the civil rights movement and the political environment in the southern U.S.

Criminal law books

These books will help you better understand criminal law, discussing crime, accomplicity, and punishment.

UNDERSTANDING CRIMINAL LAW by Joshua Dressler

Dressler, a Professor Emeritus at Moritz College of Law, breaks down the concepts of substantive criminal law. Law students will find it helpful in their criminal law class to understand the Model Penal Code (MPC), as well as theories of punishment, legality, and proportionality. The latest edition covers topics about accomplice liability, as well as newer laws on sexual assault and self-defense.

FEDERAL RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE by Michigan Legal Publishing

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure shares rules and guidelines for everything you need to know, from the arrest warrant and summons stage up to the ruling and post-conviction stage. Use it for guidance on 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 students 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 book

Real estate laws regulate the processes involved in the acquisition, enjoyment, and transfer of landed properties. That’s why property owners seek guidance from trusted lawyers. Equip yourself to be a trusted lawyer 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 detailed analysis on how to approach each stage of a 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.

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

Pitts takes readers on a journey to learn the origins and evolution of international law. Much of Pitts’ point of view, as expressed in the book, is that international law was built on the premise of European domination and that those legacies still exist today. It’s a good read for anyone looking for a new perspective on international law.

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. Acemoglu and 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 United States income tax code so that anyone can understand tax law.

INCOME TAX FUNDAMENTALS 2021 (WITH INTUIT PROCONNECT TAX ONLINE) by Gerald E. Whittenburg, Martha Altus-Buller, and Steven Gill

In this concise and practical tax law book, Whittenburg, Altus-Buller, 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 your tax law casebook.

Immigration law books

Looking for expert publications on the various areas of immigration law? These immigration law books provide expert tips for 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. Weissbrodt and co-authors do a good job of covering all the areas of immigration law and even share views on how politics affects immigration.

UNDERSTANDING IMMIGRATION LAW AND PRACTICE (ASPEN PARALEGAL SERIES) by Ayodele Gansallo and Judith Bernstein-Baker

Gansallo and Baker provide useful information on immigration court practice, professionalism, and office practice. Their book focuses on the laws and regulations that protect refugees, among other immigration matters, and offers exercises and examples to help you better understand immigration law.

Business law book

The significance of trusted counsels in the world of business cannot be overemphasized. Get insights to protect your clients’ best interests with the following business law book.

BUSINESS LAW (BARRON’S BUSINESS REVIEW) by Robert W. Emerson J.D.

This book focuses on legal theory and its importance in 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.

Best book about the Supreme Court

Some of the biggest court battles take place in the Supreme Court, and the following title offers insights into complex Supreme Court rulings.

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 the legal history of the U.S.

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 to pleadings, briefs, and memorandums. Dworsky will teach you processes that allow you to write in a clear and concise manner.

LEGAL WRITING: A JUDGE’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE SCIENCE AND RHETORIC OF THE WRITTEN WORD by Robert E Bacharach

Judge Bacharach engages readers with rhetoric and psycholinguistics in this interesting book on writing. The advice is as practical as it’s entertaining, with countless examples from top lawyers and judges and specific suggestions to help make your writing better. You’ll particularly appreciate Bacharach’s insights into language and the way it can determine the response you get.

Bonus books

While these books may not fit into a specific legal niche, they cover law either directly or tangentially with engaging storytelling. Some of them are even bestsellers.

A CIVIL ACTION by Jonathan Harr

A Civil Action is a true story of a courtroom battle involving two large corporations accused of water contamination, but the writing style and drama make it read like a riveting legal thriller. The reader is taken through the heartbreaking story of two children who died as a result of water contamination and their parents’ fight for justice.

BECOMING MS. BURTON: FROM PRISON TO RECOVERY TO LEADING THE FIGHT FOR INCARCERATED WOMEN by Susan Burton

After more than 15 years of going in and out of prison, battling addiction, and struggling to survive the long-lasting impact of incarceration, Susan Burton shares her story in this powerful book. Becoming Ms. Burton forces the reader to take a hard look at how prison, drugs, and lack of mental health services keep women in a cycle of addiction and incarceration. Burton also discusses what needs to change to give formerly incarcerated women a chance to recover and thrive.

THE STORY OF MY LIFE by Clarence Darrow

If you are looking for books about being a lawyer, you’ll want to read this one. With 50 years of corporate, labor, and criminal law practice experience, Clarence Darrow had plenty of insights to share in his book, The Story of My Life. This autobiography covers important cases that established union workers’ right to strike, teachers’ right to include evolution theories in their lessons, and many more influential cases.

WHITE BY LAW: THE LEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE by Ian Haney López

In this widely cited and celebrated book, author Ian Haney López explores the disturbing role race law has played in perpetuating inequality in the U.S. In his 10th anniversary update, López argues that white racial privilege affects how racism is defined in legal terms.

LAWYER INTERRUPTED: SUCCESSFULLY TRANSITIONING FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW — AND BACK AGAIN by Amy Impellizzeri

Former litigator Amy Impellizzeri discusses the logistical and ethical aspects of taking a break from practicing law. She provides advice for planning ahead and includes stories and insights from a variety of lawyers who chose to explore careers outside of the legal industry. If you’ve ever considered hitting pause on your legal career and wondered if you’d be able to pick up where you left off, this book is worth a read.

SISTERS IN LAW: HOW SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR AND RUTH BADER GINSBURG WENT TO THE SUPREME COURT AND CHANGED THE WORLD by Linda Hirshman

This dual biography of O’Connor and Ginsburg, the first two female Supreme Court justices, tells of the revolutionary battles that were fought and won in the Supreme Court. You’ll find true stories about legal fights for equality written in an engaging manner, along with Hirshman’s own detailed legal analysis of the topics.

Add SimpleLegal to your reading list

We hope you’re excited to check out a few of these law books! While you’re updating your reading list, be sure to subscribe to the SimpleLegal blog to keep up with news and updates on all things related to legal operations and technology.

This article has been updated to reflect new information and industry trends from the original article, published on May 21, 2020.