The 10 Best Pre-Law Textbooks

video play icon 10 Best Pre-Law Textbooks

This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in July of 2018. Students interested in becoming lawyers may be surprised to learn that pre-law is not a common major and, in fact, many top colleges don’t offer it as such. However, you can still prepare yourself to pursue a J.D. with the right kind of reading and by taking associated courses. Our selection of textbooks and law-related works will help to get you started on the right foot. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. The Study of Law

2. Law 101

3. 1L of a Ride

Editor's Notes

May 27, 2020:

Deciding to enter a pre-law program takes careful consideration on the student's part, as some professionals suggest applicants instead pursue an undergraduate degree that develops writing and critical thinking skills. However, there is no one size fits all path to law school, and some students find pre-law courses to be of extreme benefit to their studies and future prospects. Whatever you decide to do in the end, it should be no question that you still devour a plethora of books that can help prepare you for the field before you decide to go all in. We selected the books on this list with students of a handful of majors in mind, from philosophy to English, and chose each title because it will serve an aspiring lawyer well in a relevant and useful way.

For example, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? was written by a professor of philosophy who presents all sorts of ethical dilemmas to get readers thinking as a lawyer should. Then, there are volumes that focus on writing, like Legal Writing in Plain English, which is indispensable regardless of the branch of law you choose to study. Discourse and debate are of course paramount to success, which is where books like A Rulebook for Arguments will help immensely. We also felt it prudent to include options that you would find in an introductory law school class, like Law 101 and The Study of Law. These law textbooks touch on the foundational knowledge needed and offer a solid head start to serious learners.

Finally, some students find they need preparation for navigating school itself, which is where Law School Confidential and the newly-added 1L of a Ride come in. The latter replaced One L, an account written by a Harvard student. While this option is very informative, it skews whiny at times and can be hard for non-ivy leaguers to relate to. 1L of a Ride touches on what any student would want to know, no matter the educational institution, and is presented in an accessible way by a professor who knows how to impart the vital information first-year students need.

We also brought on Making Your Case to replace Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, a thrilling bestseller that, nonetheless, we felt wasn't quite actionable enough to merit a spot on this list. Written by two legal scholars, one of them a former Supreme Court Associate Justice, Making Your Case provides sound advice on how to craft arguments, what to include and omit, and ways to get to the point quickly so that judges understand you clearly.

Special Honors

Carnegie Mellon Pre-Law Handbook A renowned educational institution, Carnegie Mellon University offers a pre-law program for students and alumni considering going to law school. Any potential learner can access their website, which features tons of information on what pre-law involves, frequently asked questions, and a handy PDF called the Pre-Law Handbook. This extensive document touches on everything from which extracurricular activities to pursue to programs offered by other universities to the LSAT and the lawyering experience.

4. A Rulebook for Arguments

5. Getting to Maybe

6. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

7. Law School Confidential

9. Thinking Like a Lawyer

10. Making Your Case

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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