Back to the Blog
Apologies for not posting for the last, um, week. At first it was just blog block and then it was blog weariness. I have been getting strange comments and emails lately, decrying me as being either a commie pinko leftist whore or a "statist control phreak pretending to be a liberal." These criticisms baffle me, since they can't both really be true. Also, I wonder about the spelling/grammar abilities of my detractors. But nevermind. I don't have it as bad as this guy (i.e., no rape/death threats). I do not mind having reasoned, principled disagreements with others, and generally do not not shy away from debate. But having little experience with the blogger phenomena of trolls of sorrow, it's a little off-putting. For a few days. And it gave me time to catch up on some non-digital reading, like Orhan Pamuk's Snow and a stack of law review articles. Still, back to the blog. No reason not to.
First in a flurry of blog posts today and for the next few days, I begin with yet another public service to aspiring law students. Here is the "Optional Summer Reading List" as suggested by my Liberal College Town Law School:
Optional Summer Reading
Summer Reading Suggestions for Entering Law Students: Law students sometimes ask if there is anything they should read in advance of enrolling at Liberal College Town Law School. To answer that question, the Liberal College Town Law School faculty compiled the following bibliography to occupy your insouciant summer hours. The books rangefrom the serious to the entertaining. They are not required.
I. The American Legal System: Fundamentals
Lawrence Meir Friedman, American Law: An Introduction
Lawrence Friedman's revised and updated edition of this accessible and comprehensive work offers a user-friendly road map through the bewildering complexity of the American legal system. Rich in anecdote and historical detail, it explains how laws—from the Constitution to decisions of local zoning boards—are made and administered by courts and administrative agencies. It also surveys the wide variety of law—antitrust, criminal justice, family law, torts, consumer protection and commercial law—and explores the relationship between law and society.
Ellen Greenberg, The Supreme Court Explained
Ellen Greenberg explains how the Supreme Court works, and how cases (such as those you will spend hundreds of hours reading) work their way up through the legal system. The book includes a helpful list of all present and past Supreme Court justices, indicating the president who appointed them, the party in the Senate majority when they were confirmed, and the relationship between court personnel and many of the court's most important cases.
Robert A. Katzmann, Courts and Congress (1997)
Cutting through the all-too-familiar political rhetoric, Katzmann's book explores the tensions between the federal courts and Congress. Covered terrain includes the troubling rise in the federal caseload, resource constraints, the accelerating federalization of the law, concerns about the judicial confirmation process and controversies regarding statutory interpretation.
Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordos Seclorum (1986)
This lively volume presents the Constitution from the perspective of those who believe it means what it says. Do not be afraid of the title, you will not have to learn Latin in law school. According to the New York Times Book Review the book is "a witty and energetic study of the ideas and passions of the Framers." It is still in print in paperback.
II. Basic Legal Methods
Edward Levi, Introduction to Legal Reasoning (1962)
Another classic, widely recommended for beginning law students. It helps give substance to the mysterious phrase, "thinking like a lawyer." This one is old but still a thing of beauty.
Berring and Edinger, The Legal Research Survival Manual (2002)
This book is written to prepare the first-year law student for the first semester. It is short, flip and written by a Boalt professor and a Boalt reference librarian. It is no substitute for a course in legal research, but if you are coming to law school without any legal background, it is designed for you.
Bryan A. Garner, The Red Book (2002)
Bryan Garner has become the king of legal writing. He is already the editor of Black's Law Dictionary, the standard work. He also teaches legal writing skills to lawyers all over the country. Now he has tried to create a Strunk and White for legal writing.
III. Legal Fiction and Legal Realities
Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action (1998)
A riveting portrait of a tort case stemming from the dumping of toxic chemicals by W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods into the water supply in Woburn, Massachusetts. Everything here is complex. See what you think of the Jerome Facher character. Seeing the movie is not nearly the same.
Mellisa Fay Greene, Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction
Praying for Sheetrock tells the story of how an African-American union shop steward turned county commissioner, with the help of a group of legal services lawyers, worked profound social change in McIntosh County, Georgia. The book, written like a novel, has been described as a tale of how "large and important things happen in a very little place." Widely recommended.
Paula Sharp, Crows Over a Wheatfield (1998)
This is a beautifully written account of a woman judge who faces the challenge of overcoming her own past. This book explores issues of domestic violence, mental health, criminal law and the human spirit. Some truly memorable characters are there along the way. This is a great read.
Barry Werth, Damages: One Family's Legal Struggles in the World of Medicine (1998)
Damages tells the story of one family's experience with the world of medicalmalpractice litigation. This is what the New York Times book review had tosay about it: "Damages deserves to be read and thought about and discussed bypeople on all sides of the complex and often ugly collisions of law and medicine..."It comes highly recommended by torts and legal ethics teachers alike.
Gerald M. Stern, The Buffalo Creek Disaster (1977)
This book, used by many first-year civil procedure teachers, tells the story of how one coal mining town, devastated by a flood caused when a coal company dam failed, sued the company and won. It is an engaging and utterly painless way of getting a sense of how a complex tort case proceeds through the civil litigation process. Best read in conjunction with Kai Erikson's book, described immediately below.
Kai Erickson, Everything in Its Path (1978)
This book also deals with the Buffalo Creek disaster, but deals less with the litigation and more with the effect of the disaster on the victims' everyday lives. If you read the two books together, you will have an opportunity to see what part of lived experience can be reflected in and addressed by civil litigation, and what part can not. This discontinuity between legal relevance and lived relevance lies at the center of much current legal scholarship on the lawyering process. These two books, read together, would provide a good introduction to many of these issues.
Anthony Lewis, Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment (1977)
Make No Law follows the progress of a 1960 libel suit against the New York
Times, filed by a Montgomery, Alabama, city official. A great read for anyone even vaguely interested in the First Amendment. Still available in paperback.
Peter Schuck, Agent Orange on Trial (1987)
A beautifully written treatment of complex tort litigation, this book tells the story of the Agent Orange litigation against Dow Chemical Company (and others) brought by Vietnam veterans who claimed injury for exposure to the herbicide. Highly, widely recommended.
David Lebedoff, Cleaning Up: The Story Behind the Biggest Legal Bonanza of Our Time (1997)
This book tells the story of the litigation surrounding the Exxon Valdez spill. Responsibly reported, the story is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how a relatively large firm in Minnesota became involved in mass tort litigation. The author describes the firm's trepidations as well as its somewhat awkward relationship with small firms and solo practitioners specializing in representing tort victims. The book also discusses the media coverage of the case and the jury deliberations about liability and damages. A complex story, and a slightly more difficult read than some other selections on this list, the book provides insight into how tort law works and why it is controversial in business and industrial circles.
Richard Kluger, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality (1986)
This long (823 pages) but fascinating book details the legal strategy painstakingly designed and implemented by Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall and others, culminating in the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It is an inspiring and beautifully crafted retelling, reminding us that while law can be mobilized as an instrument of social change, the process is neither easy, linear, nor quick. This book is a classic.
Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark, Thurgood Marshall: Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench (1994)
Davis and Clark's biography of the Supreme Court's first African-American justice, described as "affectionate and engaging" by Kirkus Reviews, tells the story of Marshall's remarkable legal career. After graduating from Howard Law School in 1935, Marshall argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including Shelly v. Allwright (voting rights), Shelly v. Kraemer (racially restrictive real estate covenants) and Brown v. Board of Education. He won 29 of the 32, before being appointed as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights (1992)
Patricia Williams, an African-American law professor, wrote this largely autobiographical book that describes her experiences in the legal academy and in American society at large. In the process, she provides a powerful argument for continued struggle in achieving the still-illusive goal of racial justice in American society.
Ed Cray, Chief Justice: A Biography of Earl Warren (1997)
This book chronicles the career of Earl Warren, one of Boalt Hall's graduates. It begins with his childhood in Bakersfield and continues through his career as a district attorney, attorney general for California, governor of California and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. There are references to some Boalt faculty (Max Radin, Adrian Kragen, Arthur Sherry) as well as other famous Californians. At over 500 pages, the book is long, but it's still a page turner.
V. Legal Theory, Critical Race Theory and Feminist Jurisprudence
Grant Gilmore, Ages of American Law (1979)
Gilmore was one of the major figures in 20th Century legal thinking and this short, readable book is a gem. It will explain much of what is going on beneath the surface of law school. It is a great introduction to legal theory.
Robin West, Caring for Justice (1997)
In this book, West synthesizes her various earlier works on feminist jurisprudence. Students in Professor Krieger's sex discrimination class frequently described this book as a kind of scholarly "sigh of relief," helping them articulate what they found missing in traditional approaches to law and lawyering, but couldn't quite get into words.
Richard Delgado, et al., eds., Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge(1995)
This is the compendium of critical race scholarship. Topical sections include: Essentialism and Anti-essentialism; Race, Sex, Class, and Their Intersections; Legal Institutions, Critical Pedagogy, Minorities in the Law; Critical Race Feminism; Critical White Studies; and Storytelling, Counter-storytelling, and Naming One's Own Reality, to mention a few.
D. Kelly Weisberg, ed., Feminist Legal Theory: Foundations (1993)
In this book, Weisberg has collected the foundational works in feminist legal theory. Topical categories include: Theories of Law; Equality and Difference; Elements of Feminist Legal Theory; Essentialism; and Feminist Legal Methods.
Daniel A. Farber & Suzanna Sherry, Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law (1992)
This book represents the "anti-critical studies" perspective. Boalt Professor Dan Farber and Suzanna Sherry critique critical race and critical gender theory with relative restraint and patience, arguing that the critical legal studies assault on liberal legal models and methods is unproductive at best, dangerous at worst.
Henry Louis Gates, et al., Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (1995)
Another counterpoint to critical race/critical gender theory, this one focusing on hate speech and First Amendment issues. The various constituent essays cover race theory and the First Amendment, the regulation of hate speech on campus, the hate speech debate from a lesbian and gay perspective, and more.
VI. Law School Guides and the Law School Experience
Lani Guinier, Michelle Fine, & Jane Balin, Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law School & Institutional Change (1997)
A radically different take on the subject of legal education, this book describes and reflects upon a study of female law students at the University of Pennsylvania between 1987 and 1992. Guinier and her co-authors consider the effect of law school's emphasis on emotional detachment, the cultivation of verbal aggressiveness and legal pedagogical methods on the mental health and academic achievement of female law students.
Steven J. Frank, Learning the Law: Success in Law School and Beyond (1997)
This guide goes into detail on the nature and function of different legal institutions, reading cases and statutes, understanding the relationship between cases and statues, and, more generally, how to approach the study of law.
Stephen Gillers, Looking at Law School: A Student Guide from the Society of American Law School Teachers (1990)
This collection of essays by New York University legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers represents an alternative approach to the law school how-to genre. Written from a slightly more ideological perspective, this book includes essays on such subjects as: the classroom climate; issues of special concern to law students of color; issues of special concern to women and parents; and advice for lesbians and gay men. The book also includes selections on each of the common first-year courses, including torts, contracts, property, criminal law, constitutional law and legal writing. Law and economics, jurisprudence, and clinical legal education are also covered.
Boy, you can certainly tell which way a law school swings when half of its reading list is populated by CRT authors and the suggested biographies are of members of the Warren Court. I certainly don't have any disagreements with that, although I do vehemently disagree with their pick for a compendium of Critical Race Theory. I hate that Delgado book. In the interest of breadth (the "to mention a few" bit), the book consists of heavily redacted articles. As in, 3-5 pages of the introduction. If anyone has ever stayed up till 3 am editing cases and law review articles for a class (I have had this privilege, as well as the privilege of writing a syllabus, which takes about 2 weeks), they know this is not "editing." It is cutting and pasting. And the whole "cutting edge" bit--the book is about 10 years old, so it's not so cutting edge anymore. I would get it for the table of contents and then track down the original article. But I would not rely on that book. I would suggest reading the original Kimberle Crenshaw et al. book Critical Race Theory: the Key Writings That Formd The Movement, as well as Francisco Valdes et. al. Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory.
But otherwise, the list is pretty good. I think you need to read about the judicial/political system if you don't know anything about it (not that rare since law school has no prerequisites and not everyone can name the amendments in the Bill of Rights). Political Science majors are a dime a dozen in law school, but it's kind of surprising (and appalling) how some get by without having taken sufficient constitutional law, jurisprudence, or political theory classes. So if you're an English or Drama major whose family (like mine) asked "what are you going to do with that?" and decided to do law school, read up on those intro texts! Just so that you won't be going "huh?" when your con law professor starts talking about "checks and balances." And I would encourage everyone to read up on legal methods--I didn't, and no amount of poli sci knowledge really prepares you for how different law school is from college.
Also, my perspective on legal themed fiction is that it's best to wait for the movie version with Robert Deniro or Denzel Washington. Save your reading time for Phillip Roth or Ian McEwan. There's a frustrated creative writer or sell-out fine arts major lurking within many a lawyer. But I don't think these are the ones who write the bestsellers. I find legal themed fiction, like that of Dan Brown's, to be entirely too plot driven and fantastic--you know, fun airport reading, but it's not really necessary to read it for nuances of theme or characterization. I like the clever plot twists, but the writing is generally clunky--most paragraphs are 3-5 sentences, like some high school essay. If you watch the eventual movie version, it'll be all there, and probably more enjoyable. Then again, I am speaking only of the Grisham books I've flipped through--I haven't yet read Kermit Washington's novel In The Shadow of the Law. Kermit, besides having the best name ever, is a law prof at U Penn whose work I greatly admire--so maybe his foray into fiction will be just as good.
Generally, though, this list is pretty good--I particularly like the suggestions for Patricia Williams, Robin West, Steven Gillers, and Lani Guinier. Those are must reads for any law student, but should be of particular interest to female law students. It won't be your women's studies class--but it need not necessarily be hell either. I think the best way to prepare yourself for the change is to just learn about the ways in which it will be different.
But I offer my own little mini list of recommendations to complement this list of suggested summer reading. I spent my own "insouciant summer hours" between graduation in mid-June and orientation in mid-August sleeping, reading "fun" books and packing, but if you are an eager beaver then you can add these to your list:
- Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing (if you want to get on law review, or just write a student note or seminar paper, read this!)
- Dorothy A. Brown, Critical Race Theory: Cases, Materials, and Problems (a sort of 1L mini casebook for those who have to wait until their second year to take electives)
- Gerald Gunther, Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge (sadly out of print)
- G. Edward White, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self (fascinating!)
- David O'Brien, Storm Center (it's like The Brethren, but more academic)
- William Rubenstein, Cases and Materials in Sexual Orientation and the Law (pretty much out of date since Lawrence v. Texas, but still very useful and interesting and there are online updates)
I won't bother recommending H.L.A. Hart or Joseph Raz, since they are rarely taught even in law school!