Books Every Trial Lawyer Should Read

The August  ABA Journal features Books Every Lawyer Should Read. Below are my suggestions for trial lawyers:

Red Badge of Courage. Stephen Crane’s classic short novel about a young Yankee Soldier in the Civil War is a lesson in overcoming fear. Young and old trial lawyers have at least some fear of trial because of the unknown. As trial lawyers we must like Henry Fleming overcome fear and go to war.

Catcher in the Rye. In trial pretense is death. No one knows a “phony” better then Holden Caulfield.  J.D. Salinger’s best novel  reminds us of the importance of staying true to ourself and the good and bad of the case.

On the Road. Here we meet Dean Moriarty and here we learn the importance of appreciating the uniqueness of each client. Dean is up and Dean is down. Dean stands for adventure. Dean reminds us each case is an adventure with our client.

To Kill a Mockingbird. The one hit wonder of Harper Lee reminds us to stand tall against overwhelming odds. We prepare for trial, we believe in our case, we accept the possibility of defeat, we give our best effort, and we never quit on ourself. The movie version of the book with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is a bonus where we see how a trial lawyer carries and conducts himself.

The Last Trials of Clarence Darrow. Donald McRae’s 2009 book covering Clarence Darrow’s last big cases gives us insight on how the greatest trial lawyer in American history prepared for and tried his cases. Immerse yourself in the case, memorize poems and theme lines,  throw away your notes, and try the case from the heart.

Honor Killing. Clarence Darrow is in the second trial covered in this non- fiction historical piece. The hereo is not Darrow. The hero is the State of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Bar Association. Honor killing will make you proud to be a trial lawyer standing for justice despite what the press, and those outside (who usually know little of the truth) may print and vocalize.

Seabiscuit. A wonderful sports book about a horse. Seabiscuit teaches us to accept who we are, do the best with what we have, and that may be lights out good. The saying you can’t judge a book by it’s cover applies to horses and lawyers.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Trial lawyers stand for justice. Trial lawyers represent the little guy against big corporations. Trial lawyers care about protecting the rights of those who need protection. When we read how American Indians were treated by our ancestors, in this non-fiction work by Dee Brown written from the American Indian perspective, we are reminded how important it is to advocate for the less powerful.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. All trial lawyers, especially young trial lawyers, will gain perspective on the 1960s and race in America from The Autobiography. This book impacted me years ago and it will impact you today.

Seven Story Mountain. Trial lawyers should have a spiritual life. A spiritual life makes a lawyer a deeper person and a better lawyer. Thomas Merton’s biography takes us on his spiritual journey where we learn how the greatest Christian mystic of the 20th century evolved.  Like William James, Merton has little use for and is far beyond fundamentalism and institutional religion. Spiritual life is found by the individual and it is usually not found in church doctrine.

    4 Responses to “Books Every Trial Lawyer Should Read”

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    2. Lenny Rider says:

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