1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Because you can’t make a list of books for law students without including it.
2. The Trial by Franz Kafka
An important read for law students. A man gets arrested and receives no information about his charges. A legal drama with some relatable truths about life and bureaucracy.
3. The Firm by John Grisham
The novel that made Grisham famous, The Firm follows the story of a young lawyer who receives a job offer to good to be true at a seemingly reputable law firm and the fascinating events that follow. Bonus! There is also a 90s film adaptation.
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Remember learning about that little thing called “Rule of Law”? No man is above it, etc, etc? Well, the main character in this book reckons he is. He thinks that he can get away with murder.
5. Death on a High Floor by Charles Rosenberg
A much-despised partner at a law firm is found murdered and the fellow partner that finds him is the prime suspect.
6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
There’s nothing quite like a good constitutional overthrow. A very astute work of speculative fiction, almost like a modernized Virginia Wolf.
7. Rumpole of the Bailey series by John Mortimer
A TV series turned into funny short stories about an aging London barrister and his clients.
8. The Good Lawyer: A Novel by Thomas Benigno
A Bronx Legal Aid Attorney finds himself challenging his principles when faced with danger.
9. A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
This play is a dramatized version of the life of Sir Thomas More, and it’s worth reading simply for More’s lines about his belief in the law and his role as a lawyer.
10. Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Bored at law school or at your legal job in general? Bartleby is your man. Bonus: it’s super short. You’ll probably read it in under two hours.
11. Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver
Inspired by an actual case, this novel was penned by an American Supreme Court Justice and it’s a courtroom thriller if ever there was one. If you’re thinking that the law is getting a bit dry for you, then give this a go.
12. The Paper Chase by John Osborn
Dreaming of Harvard Law School? Yes, even us Aussie kids are allowed to dream a little. Sick of professors demanding your souls? We’ve all been there.
13. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
This book follows criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller, who runs his practice out of the back of his car. (Bonus: attractive actors in film version).
14. Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman
A fictional hiring partner who harasses interns and hates holidays starts a blog about what life is really like in a major US law firm. Anonymous Lawyer makes even Louis Litt look tame!
15. The Pinstriped Prison by Lisa Pryor
Pryor asks why high-achievers end up studying law and then end up in jobs they hate. Even if you love the law this is a good reality check and makes you think about your career.
16. A Private Life: Fragments, memories, friends by Michael Kirby
This book is a collection of experiences from Kirby’s life that have shaped who he is and what he believes. It’s a great read for any Kirby J fan, and a good book to pick up if you’re feeling a bit disillusioned with your law degree.
17. How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence
This could be categorized as a self-help book, but if you don’t mind a bit of literary assistance, it’s a good read. It gives you the secrets to becoming a great communicator, which as a future lawyer, is obviously pretty important. Even if you don’t want to be a lawyer, communication is a life skill you probably want to brush up on now and again.
18. Presumed Guilty by Jose Baez
For all the criminal lawyers out there, this book is a must. It reads like a John Grishham novel, except it’s all true. This is the story of a defense lawyer, and his representation of Casey Anthony in her murder trial. Although it is an American case, it’s still a great read if you are looking to get an idea of just what is involved in working on these high profile cases.
19. The Justice Game by Geoffrey Robertson
Did you ever watch Bridget Jones’s Diary and think, “Man, I want to be a human rights lawyer”? In this autobiography Robertson discusses many of the high profile cases he’s worked on. An incredibly talented and interesting man that any budding human rights lawyer should familiarize themself with.
20. Madame Prosecutor by Carla del Ponte
Carla Del Ponte is the toughest, most determined and awe-inspiring prosecutor of our time. As the former chief prosecutor for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, she was responsible for ensuring that those responsible for the genocides were held accountable. If you are looking for a book that gives you hope that international law can be enforced, or that the law can be used to help people, then this book is for you.