I posted this on my blog
, and thought people here might be interested too.
Upon hearing I was about to start law school, someone gave me a copy of Law School Without Fear
by Helene and Marshall Shapo. Turns out, this is not a very useful book for someone about to start law school.
The book has two main goals: (1) Outline the basics of the American legal system, and (2) Explain what the first year of law school is like and how to succeed at it. So a chapter on how to brief a case might be followed by a chapter on broad vs. narrow holdings in a case.
The main problem with the book is that it's way too basic. I felt constantly like the authors were talking down to me. I already knew almost all the information presented in the book. In fact, I would say that if you don't know at least 50% of the information in this book, you aren't even equipped to decide whether you want to go to law school. Because of that, I might recommend Law School Without Fear
to a high school student or college freshman who is thinking about going to law school several years down the line.
If you've read a few Supreme Court cases in your time, or taken any kind of government / political science class that covers the American legal system, you will find the Shapos' summaries of legal concepts to be hopelessly inadequate. Everything is incredibly oversimplified. Each concept they address would probably be covered in the first 10 minutes of any class on the subject, and the professor would then move on to more interesting or in-depth analysis.
As for the chapters about success strategies for the first year of law school, there are much better books available. For instance, check out Eugene Volokh's book on Academic Legal Writing
, and for a great strategy for law school exams, Getting to Maybe
by Fischl and Paul. (Okay, I haven't read either of those yet, but they come highly recommended and are on my reading list.)
So in sum: Law School Without Fear
- don't waste your time.