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Six books for budding lawyers [reading list]

In celebration of National Read a Book Day 2020 today, here are a list books for anyone working in, or interested in, the legal world. Studying for a law exam, or just looking for a court-based drama? Take a glimpse of the titles below and select one for yourself.

  1. My Brief Career: The Trials of a Young Lawyer by Harry Mount
    This is a book that I have come back to many times. Funny, well-written, and enlightening, Mount recounts his own personal experiences of pupillage in a barrister’s chambers. Far from reflecting the charm and magic that the Inns of Court have always tended to evoke, however, Mount’s story is one that involves a difficult relationship with a pupilmaster, noisy disturbances from workers on an adjacent site and competition with a fellow pupil who ultimately pips Mount to tenancy. A good book for readers seeking a light-hearted but very real account of the challenges of training at the bar in the United Kingdom.
  2. In Your Defence by Sarah Langford
    This book is about eleven different cases in which Langford as served as defence counsel. Through these accounts, Langford offers a thought-provoking insight into the troubles and challenges of everyday people faced with the traumas of legal action. Cases range from those involving criminal charges of sexual activity in a public lavatory to family cases exploring questions surrounding the welfare of children.
  3.  Lions under the Throne by Stephen Sedley
    A somewhat more academic text than others on this list, this book, written by a retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir Stephen Sedley, provides a valuable history of English public law. Public law underpins the entire fabric of a country’s legal system, comprising principles and values that provide the foundation for law-making, government, due process and relations between citizens and the state. This is a great book to dip into for discussion of a broad range of issues and topics; I particularly like the way Sedley explains the development of public law in the context of broader British history. Budding lawyers must tackle public law during their studies. This book offers a perfect account of the subject and its historic underpinnings.
  4. The Innocent Man by John Grisham
    Though Grisham is better known for his crime thrillers, The Innocent Man is Grisham’s first non-fiction book, telling the true story of Ron Williamson. Williamson was wrongly accused of murdering a waitress and, despite no substantial evidence, he was convicted and sentenced to death. After constant efforts to prove his innocence, and at one point getting as close as five days from a scheduled execution, Williamson’s innocence was eventually determined by DNA evidence. He was released from prison after 11 years on death row. Miscarriages of justice are a very real danger in legal systems across the world. Those dangers become more pressing where imposition of a death penalty is involved.
  5. My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    Ginsburg was sworn in as an associate justice of the US Supreme Court in August 1993, appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton. This book comprises various selected writings including speeches, academic papers, lectures and judgments. The attraction of this book lies in the incredible mark that Ginsburg has made on the legal world. Though she has set out many an important judgment, particularly those offering more liberal perspectives, it is her role as a leading woman in the law that is most notable. When Ginsburg started out at Harvard Law School, less than 3% of the US legal profession was female. Through her incredible career this is an inequality that Ginsburg has relentlessly fought to address, becoming a bastion of gender equality and the role of women in the law.
  6.  Lives of the Law by Tom Bingham.
    Tom Bingham was a senior law lord in the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords until 2008, when the UK Supreme Court was created. Bingham was one of the most prominent judges of his generation and a leading figure in the field of public law, sitting in the highest UK court during some of the most important constitutional reforms of the last century. This book is a collection of Bingham’s speeches and essays during the first decade of the 21st century, not only offering insight into some of the thornier issues prevalent in the modern UK constitutional and governmental system, but eloquent discussion of some of the key figures that underpin and share those debates.

These books provide a very diverse selection of text to read to understand and discuss various aspects of the legal profession. While no doubt the average law student is rather seriously occupied when studying for examinations, there’s always time for a little outside reading.

Feature Image Credit: by Giammarco Boscaro via Unsplash

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