I am sometimes asked by new lawyers or law students if there are any books I would recommend that they read as part of developing their career in the legal profession. The specific books I recommend may vary according to the particular interests of the person, but there are four books that I think should be on every lawyer’s bookshelf. These are not state-specific law books, but are books that will be useful to lawyers in every jurisdiction.
- How to Argue & Win Every Time: At Home, At Work, In Court, Everywhere, Everyday - by Gerry Spence. How to Argue and Win Every Time is a masterpiece on argumentation by one of America’s most successful trial lawyers. Gerry Spence is a masterful storyteller with a mesmerizing voice, which is why I recommend both reading the printed book as well as listening to him read it as an audiobook. This a book that will truly inspire young lawyers to go into the courtroom with confidence.
- MacCarthy on Cross Examination - by Terence MacCarthy. While there are many cross-examination styles and systems being taught to lawyers today, my recommendation is that new lawyers start with Terence MacCarthy’s short book on how to do a cross-examination of any witness. I first learned MacCarthy’s system by attending one of his seminars years ago when I was a new lawyer myself (long before he ever wrote this book), and the techniques he taught were both simple and effective. This book is a distillation of the techniques taught in his seminars into a highly readable format that is easy to learn in a short period of time. It is perfect for new lawyers who are getting ready for their first trial, as well as for experienced lawyers who have never developed an effective system of cross-examination.
- The Elements of Legal Style - by Bryan Garner. With a title inspired by Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, Bryan Garner’s book The Elements of Legal Style is a practical guide to better legal writing. It will assist new lawyers with avoiding the legalese that is used by many attorneys, and will teach them important writing fundamentals such as word choice, sentence structure, and the proper use of rhetoric. Bryan Garner is the leading expert on legal writing in the United States, and once you read this book you will understand why. While the subject matter may not sound exciting, this is one of the most useful books a young lawyer will ever read. This book is important for any lawyer who wants to focus his or her practice on handling appeals, but also will be useful for any lawyer who regularly writes briefs, motions, or other forms of legal writing. I also recommend attending one of Garner’s seminars for more in-depth training.
- Typography for Lawyers - by Matthew Butterick. This may seem like an odd choice for inclusion in this list, but Typography for Lawyers is a fantastic book for any lawyer who wants to improve the visual appearance and impact of his court pleadings, letters, briefs, and other written documents. Matthew Butterick is both a lawyer and a professional typographer, and his advice in this book is excellent. While my appellate brief writing is controlled by the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure that require the use of an ugly outdated font and other unattractive formatting rules, for everything else I now turn to Butterick’s book for inspiration. The appearance of my trial court motions, letters, and other non-appellate writings greatly improved after reading this book.
If you are looking for a gift for a lawyer or law student, or if you are embarking on a legal career and need some good advice on getting started, my recommendation is that you start with these four books. If you have other questions, please call us toll free at (800) 737-3702 Extension 1, or fill out our Contact form to submit an online inquiry.
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