The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Seeing Randy Barnett's posting reminded me of a recommendation that I often make when asked by rising 1Ls what they should be reading over the summer to get ready for law school in the fall. The summer before I started law school I read Charles Rembar's "The Law of the Land: The Evolution of our Legal System," and I remember thinking to myself many, many times during my law school years how grateful I was that I had done so.
A lot of very difficult stuff gets thrown at you during the first year, and it is made more difficult by the fact that (a) the entire legal system (and its jargon) are so unfamiliar—what's the difference between "legal" actions and "equitable" actions? how is a subpoena different from a court order? a "judgment" from an "order" from an "opinion"? what kind of precedent "counts" and what doesn't? which questions are "questions of law' and which are 'questions of fact'? and a million more like them; and (b) law school pedagogy has this most annoying habit of forcing you to make sense of texts written 75, 100, or 200 years ago—sometimes from courts in England, for crying out loud—when that system, and that jargon, was even more peculiar than it is today.
Rembar's book gives you a structure within which to make sense of much of that, and I found it absolutely indispensable for figuring out what was going on in the Casebooks. Though it was a finalist for several prestigious awards (including the National Book Award in History), it appears to be out of print (though it's available from lots of 2d-hand dealers, and as an e-book). Most highly recommended.