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.

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. Also, you need to take as many practice exams as you can tolerate. Some E&E's have them and also, your professor might share some and the Internet has tons for 1L courses. The more of those you take, the better.

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. There are many things that you need to learn this year that your professors forgot that they ever didn't know.

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, 7th Edition (Examples & Explanations)
2.Optional: Civil Procedure in a Nutshell, 7th
3.Optional: Questions & Answers: Civil Procedure
4.Hornbook: Introduction to Civil Procedure, Third Edition

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.Hornbook: Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies


1.Mandatory: Examples & Explanations: Contracts, Sixth Edition
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, Sixth Edition
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

Updated December 2015