Good Articles or Books on Legal Careers

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I'm putting together a series of panels for 1Ls on what options they'll have for real-world practice, and I'd love to have some good (and, preferably, short) readings on various kinds of lawyering—some on big-firm practice, some on medium-firm, some on solo practice, some on government work, some on nonprofit, some on in-house, and so on.

I'm not looking either for puff pieces or for jeremiads (or for that matter satires, however funny); nor am I looking for practice tips or substantive legal analysis. Rather, I want something that will honestly and thoughtfully discuss for would-be lawyers the pluses and minuses—financial, intellectual, emotional, spiritual—of a particular kind of job. Any suggestions? Many thanks!

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  1. When I was a 1L, I found “Damages” by Barry Werth and “A Civil Action” by Jonathan Harr (yes, later made into a movie starring John Travolta) to be detailed–yet vivid and interesting–accounts of big-firm life, complete with depositions, pre-trial civil litigation motions and filings, etc. “Damages” is med-mal, while “A Civil Action” is more toxic tort/environmental law. In both books, I thought the author did an excellent job of taking the reader through the lengthy litigation process while keeping it interesting and relatable.

  2. Double Billing by Cameron Stracher isn’t a bad tale of the life of a new associate in Big Law. It’s not nearly as salacious as the subtitle suggests.

  3. I wish I had more insights into in-house practice as a law student (probably my fault for not seeking out the resources while I was at UCLA). Now that I’m at Amazon, I’ve come to appreciate how important risk calibration is in advice to the business. There’s a great interview with Amazon’s GC on how we look at risk: https://m.acc.com/docket/articles/q-a-with-eic-global-risks-amazon-gc-david-zapolsky.cfm

  4. IANAL, but HOW TO READ A LEGAL OPINION
    A GUIDE FOR NEW LAW STUDENTS
    Orin S. Kerr
    looks to be a good place to start.

  5. Be sure to point out that a significant portion of people with JD degrees do work that isn’t lawyering.

  6. The YouTube channel Legal Eagle started out making a lot of videos about law school. Easiest way to find these videos is instead of going to the channel’s “videos” page, go to the “playlists” page. Not sure if any are precisely what you’re looking for, though.

    Reason I thought to mention it is because earlier today I watched the video about real lawyer reviews Suits (the TV show, most videos he makes now are on the topic “Real lawyer reviews [movie or TV show]”). In it he criticized how inaccurate some of the actions of the lawyers were but praised how accurate the portrayals of recruiting for big firms was. Since he’s in the LA area maybe you could contact him and ask if any videos are really on topic (rather that try to watch many of them).

  7. I’d be the last person to give advice on careers or careens, but I remember reading the authorized Cravath history at a coffeehouse one day during 1L. Your students shouldn’t do that.

  8. How about professional blawger and contributor to Vox Insta-Symposiums?

  9. My recommendation to all law students everywhere is to change your major to something useful. The world has too many lawyers and too few useful people.

  10. I haven’t read this, but noodling around Amazon reveals: “24 Hours with 24 Lawyers: Profiles of Traditional and Non-Traditional Careers” by Jasper Kim, which seems to do what you’re asking.

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