What extra books should I get for my first year of law school?

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Especially during your 1L year, just reading the cases assigned by your professors is not enough. Many professors claim that it is, but they are wrong. It is true that if you master all of the content in every case, you will have enough knowledge to answer every question on the exam well, but that is only half the battle, if that much. You also need to learn how to take exams and neither the casebooks nor class will prepare you for that at all. Moreover, it is easier to learn the material in the casebooks if you read multiple sources that go over the same material in slightly different ways. Law school teaches you a long series of complicated concepts, full of nuance, and nobody can fully internalize those kinds of concepts just by reading them one time, or seeing them framed in only one way. Your goal in law school should be to deal with each concept in several different ways before each exam so that you can fully digest it, and additional materials make that much easier to achieve. The list below has the materials I would most strongly recommend for each 1L course.

You need to buy both of the "General" 1L books below and then, for each course you have, you need to buy the Examples and Explanations ("E&E") for that course. Those things aren't really negotiable. The E&E's contain a brief summary of each topic the course covers and a series of questions that give you a pretty good idea of the types of things that your professor will ask on the exam. The way law professors approach testing your knowledge on exams is very different than any other test you've ever taken and you absolutely need to get used to it well before you first exam. The E&E's are the best way to do that. My goal, for each course, was to read the cases, read the E&E, and read one additional source, before I made my outline.

Outlining is an important part of the process of digesting the material. The general idea is that before your exams, you should create an "outline" of what you think you will need to remember for the exam. Different people structure them differently. I would recommend making multiple outlines- one that summarizes all of the substantive points you learned, and then "answer outlines" laying out the structure of the topics you would use for exam questions on various topics. Do not buy or copy anybody else's outline. There is very little point in doing that. In many exams, you may not even actually pull out your outline. It is more about going through the process of structuring your thoughts on each topic, and practicing thinking about how you would answer different types of questions. If you just buy or copy somebody else's outline, you aren't doing that. At most, you might want to look at some publicly available outlines after you have drafted your own to see if there are things you missed.

Also, you need to take as many practice exams as you can tolerate. The best ones to take are any that your professor provides. But if they only provide one or two, you may want to save those until last, as they will be the more representative of what your exam will be like. Ideally, you want to complete more practice exams than that. You can find some in the E&Es. I compiled a big collection of publicly available practice exams from various schools here.

Then, for each course, I list off a couple/few additional books you might consider buying. A "Nutshell" is a brief summary of the law. It is similar to the summary in the E&Es, but it can be useful to go over the material from a different perspective. The Questions and Answers books are multiple choice. Those are essential if your exam will have multiple choice questions, but I actually found them to be useful for all courses and they're a nice easy way to study when you don't have the time to get into a whole thing. Treatises or Hornbooks are generally not neccessary. They are usually thousand page tomes that go into way more detail than you need. I don't recommend buying them. I suggest using the copies in the library if you need to fill in a gap that isn't covered in your casebook, the E&E or the Nutshell. However, I do list a few of the most commonly recommended ones below in case you really want to go scorched earth, or in case you're not sure which one to check out from the library.

Your professors may tell you that you shouldn't have to read anything other than the casebook or even that you don't need to take practice exams. They are wrong. They mean well, but they don't fully understand how weird the way law students need to think when taking exams really is. To them, lots of things seem like obvious, common sense that to the uninitiated are anything but that.

You can find more detailed advice regarding strategies for using study aids here.

Note that if one of your courses is not listed below, you should check the 2L & 3L page to see if it is there.


1. Mandatory: The Bluebook OR The ALWD Guide to Legal Citation.

You will almost certainly be required to buy either the Bluebook or the ALWD Guide. If, for some bizarre reason, your law school doesn't technically require either, you still need one. These are manuals for drafting legal citations. Every law student and most lawyers have one of them sitting on their desk. As dull as they are, you can't really get by without them. Some schools prefer one or the other. You should confirm which one your school uses before buying it. If your school has no preference, the Blue Book is probably the more widely used option, so I would recommend using that.

2. Mandatory: Getting to Maybe.

This is the classic book on how to approach law school exams. It tops everybody's list of recommendations for law students and for good reason. It is so ubiquitous, and has such sound advice for law students, that you would really be at a bit of a disadvantage if you didn't read it.

Civil Procedure

1.Mandatory: Civil Procedure (Examples & Explanations)
2.Optional: Civil Procedure in a Nutshell
3.Optional: Questions & Answers: Civil Procedure
4.Optional: Glannon Guide to Civil Procedure
5.Hornbook: Introduction to Civil Procedure (Aspen)

Constitutional Law

1.Mandatory: Examples & Explanations: Constitutional Law: Individual Rights, Sixth Edition
2.Mandatory: Examples and Explanations: Constitutional Law: National Power and Federalism, Sixth Edition
3.Optional: Constitutional Law in a Nutshell, 9th
4.Optional: Glannon Guide to Constitutional Law
5.Hornbook: Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies (Aspen)


1.Mandatory: Examples & Explanations: Contracts
2.Optional: Contracts in a Nutshell, 8th
3.Optional: Questions & Answers: Contracts
4.Hornbook: Chirelstein's Concepts and Case Analysis in the Law of Contracts, 7th

Criminal Law

1.Mandatory: Examples & Explanations: Criminal Law
2.Optional: Loewy's Criminal Law in a Nutshell, 5th
3.Optional: Questions and Answers: Criminal Law
4.Hornbook: Understanding Criminal Law


1.Mandatory: Examples & Explanations: Property, Fifth Edition
2.Optional: Real Property in a Nutshell, Seventh Edition
3.Optional: Questions & Answers: Property
4.Hornbook: Understanding Property Law


1.Mandatory: The Law of Torts: Examples & Explanations, 5th Edition
2.Optional: Torts in a Nutshell, 6th
3.Optional: Questions & Answers: Torts
4.Optional: Glannon Guide to Torts

Updated November 2019