10 Books Every Law Student Should Read

30 Jan, 2024 | Blog Articles, Get the Edge, Humanities Articles, Law Articles

You’ll often be told that you have to read around your subject in order to prepare for your university applications – but how do you find out what to read? Law is notoriously complicated and inaccessible, so it’s hard to know where to start. For that reason, we’ve drawn up a list of the ten books we believe every prospective Law student should read.

10 Books Every Law Student Should Read

We think it’s really important to keep it simple and interesting when you’re beginning to explore a subject, so we’ve kept away from dry, dense and convoluted texts. In fact, a lot of the titles suggested below are fiction books.

These books are selected to give you a clear picture of what Law is truly about, in a way that’s easy to grasp. After reading them, you should have a solid understanding of Law, setting a strong foundation for further studies, such as our Oxford Summer School in Law.

So, on to number one!

1. “About Law” by Tony Honoré

This is the first book I read when I decided I wanted to study Law. It’s also the only one I put on my personal statement when applying to Oxford. I think it’s sometimes better to read and enjoy a small number of high-quality books than to try to discuss hundreds of things you don’t fully understand.

About Law is probably the most basic introduction to the legal sector you can get. Tony Honoré is a well-renowned legal academic, who has managed to condense his knowledge into an introduction to the law that is both simple and interesting. He discusses all kinds of topics, including the purpose of law, how it works (in simple terms), as well as a basic introduction to the English legal system.

It’s strongly suggested that you read this book – even if you read nothing else on this list. It’s a short book, but by the time you’ve finished it, you’ll know far more than when you started.

2. “Landmarks in the Law” by Lord Denning

Another fairly fundamental book, Lord Denning’s Landmarks in the Law is a fascinating run-through of some of the biggest events in English law. Both legally and historically, it’s extremely valuable.

Another reason for recommending this book is the skill and prestige of its author. Lord Denning was arguably one of the most influential judges there has ever been. He focused on making the law accessible to normal people, and he did it with exceptional talent. His judgments are unparalleled, but if you can’t access them directly, this book is the next best thing.

3. “Letters to a Law Student” by Nicholas McBride

This is a collection of “letters” to a fictional student about what it’s like to study Law, providing a basic explanation of the legal system.

The main focus is on telling you how to study effectively, and McBride gives all kinds of sensible and useful advice, from general topics like how much work you should be doing, to more specific things like how to make notes on a case.

Although the student referenced in this book is fictional, the letters are really written to all prospective Law students, making it perfectly suited to a position on this list.

4. “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens

Reading should be interesting as well as useful, so here’s the first fiction book on the list!

Dickens was arguably one of the greatest storytellers to have lived, and Bleak House is often cited as his very best work. The story revolves around a court case concerning a number of wills, and most of it takes place in the legal areas of London.

Not only is it one of the greatest books ever written, but it has particular relevance to Law students because it gives an insight into the character and tradition of the legal profession.

Oxford Scholastica students in the Oxford Courts

5. “Learning the Law” by Glanville Williams

Similar to About Law at number one, this book is a slightly more detailed explanation of the English legal system.

It was first published in 2002, so it’s important to note that some of the passages are a little out of date now. That said, we’ve still included it on the list as it covers lots of legal fundamentals clearly and in a good level of detail.

6. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

A second fiction book, Lee’s novel is about racism and society in 1930s America. Like Bleak House, it’s a classic in its own right. The specific relevance to Law students is that its main character, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer tasked with defending a man shunned by everyone else.

Finch represents the legal ideals of justice and equality, and the book is a great source of inspiration for those wondering why law is important, and why rights must be protected. Legal heroes – even fictional ones! – remind us why we’re studying the law.

7. “Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories” by Thomas Grant

From a fictional hero to a real one, this is a recent book about the numerous, thrilling cases that criminal barrister Jeremy Hutchinson has been involved in. From drug smuggling to the “Profumo affair”, Hutchinson represented some of the most notorious characters to have appeared in the courts in the last century.

His techniques and his level of success in court are incredibly impressive. I recommend you read this for a taste of the thrill and importance of life as an advocate.

8. “Winning Arguments” by Jay Heinrichs

Keeping with the theme of advocacy, you might like to read Jay Heinrichs’ Winning Arguments. The theme of the book needs little explanation but has particular relevance to Law students. Much of the work you will do, both as a student and a lawyer, will involve coming up with arguments that appear to be correct (even if they aren’t), to give both sides fair representation.

Heinrichs’ book is full of good advice on how to structure your ideas and use clever rhetorical techniques. It’s also light-hearted and fun to read!

Oxford Scholastica Academy students visiting law courts as part of the Law summer school.

9. “Lord Denning, A Life” by Iris Freeman

Linking back to some of the earlier books on the list, this biography is worth a read as inspiration for any aspiring lawyers. I’ve already given a brief insight into the importance of Lord Denning and the uniqueness of his writings, so I thought I’d include his biography in case you’d like to find out more.

As well as being a great judge, Lord Denning is an important figure because he rose to such a lofty position from a very poor family, with no prior links to the law at all. While many English judges have been wealthy or even aristocratic, Lord Denning worked his way from humble beginnings to the position of Master of the Rolls (the second-highest judge in the land) and the Master of the Court of Appeal. Nor did he forget his past when he reached these heights, as his approach to the law proves.

I recommend this book because it shows that you can become a great lawyer no matter where you come from.

Jurisprudence: A Choice of Three

My last recommendation is not actually one book, but a choice of three.

Jurisprudence is the study of the philosophy of law (or why and how it exists), and Ronald Dworkin, Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart and John Stuart Mill were some of the pre-eminent thinkers in this subject.

10 (i). “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mill believed that the most important thing in society was the liberty of the individual. He said that the only justification for law was to prevent harm to others. 

10 (ii). “The Concept of Law” by Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart

Hart thought that law was simply a collection of man-made rules, which we create and then choose whether we’re going to follow or ignore. 

10 (iii). “Law’s Empire” by Ronald Dworkin

Dworkin, meanwhile, felt that law was a product of morality, and that law cannot exist without it. His ideas are therefore directly opposed to those of Hart, and the two authors argued about this for many years (the question remains unresolved). 

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