UPDATED: September 6, 2017. Originally published March 8, 2017
Ever wonder what books will help you run the best legal practice possible? There are a million-and-one books out there on business, law, and the business of law, so how do you know you’re reading the most effective books for lawyers?
One place to start is to check out what your peers are reading.
We’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best books for lawyers, including classic picks, recommendations from Clio’s lawyer in residence Joshua Lenon, and recommendations from Clio’s Advocates community. It includes a few old favorites, as well as interesting picks you may not have heard of from those in the legal sector.
Check out our list of the best books for lawyers below, complete with quotes from the legal professionals who recommended them. Happy reading!
Navigate by topic
Like we said, this list is comprehensive. We’ve split it up into sections, so that you can skip ahead to what you’re looking for:
- Books for starting (and running) a law firm
- Books for productivity and time management
- Books on business
- Books on mental health
- Classic books for lawyers
- Inspirational books
- Books on writing for lawyers
Books for starting (and running) a law firm
1. The E-Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About It
By: Michael Gerber
Learn to get your business up and running as quick as possible, with the tools and strategies needed for 21st century law firms. This was the most recommended book by our lawyer community. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
“It is the standard for business owners in terms of how to grow your business by working on it and not in it!” -Bertha B.
“It’s a great book that gets you thinking about how to make your practice relevant and forward thinking.” -Alicia I.
“This book really hammers home the importance of fully systemizing your practice.” – Matthew T.
2. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
By: Michael Gerber
While The E-Myth Attorney was popular, one lawyer recommended a different Michael Gerber book instead—The E-Myth Revisited—which focuses on the broader context of starting a small business, not just a law firm:
“This book really helps you understand the importance of compartmentalizing your duties as a business owner, such as running the business itself vs performing the actual work that the business sells. It’s a staple … The E-Myth Revisited, while directed at business owners in general, is an easy read and relates well to attorneys anyways.” -Jeremy N.
3. How to Start & Build a Law Practice
By: Jay Foonburg
Part of the career series from the American Bar Association, this book offers a guide to planning, launching, and growing a successful practice.
“Although some of the advice is outdated, others are quintessential. His idea to keep photos of your loved ones or things you really want (vacation home, sailboat, vacation to Paris) on the wall behind potential clients is so effective. You can look at the potential client juxtaposed against the loved ones or things you desire while determining if the client who balks at the quoted rate is more loved than your children, pets, spouse, cottage, etc.
It causes one to consider whether you would rather spend unpaid time working on this person’s case or playing with your dog.” -Jennifer S.
Want more tips on starting a law firm without breaking the bank? Download our free guide, How to Start Your Own Law Firm.
4. Attorney and Law Firm Guide to the Business of Law: Planning and Operating for Survival and Growth, Third Edition
By: Edward Poll
Want to get the fundamentals of running a law firm in one clear, concise guide? Clio’s lawyer in residence, Joshua Lenon, recommends this guide.
5. Alternative Fees for Litigators and Their Clients
By: Patrick J. Lamb
Are you prepared for the death of the billable hour? If not, read this book.
6. Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be
By: Carolyn Elefant
The heart wants what the heart wants. If you’re thinking of going solo, but you’re hesitant to take the leap, read this book and gather your courage!
7. The Marble and the Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice
By: Keith Lee
You’re straight out of law school—how do you succeed? Keith Lee shares his advice in the form of a “clear no-nonsense path from law school to lawyering.”
8. Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos
By: Heidi Gardner
9. Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent It for a Complex Global Economy
By: Gillian Hadfield
The world is getting increasingly complex, and lawyers need to be prepared. This book explores why humans invented the law, and how to reinvent it in our present, complex, global economy.
10. Law Is a Buyer’s Market: Building A Client-First Law Firm
By: Jordan Furlong
Law is Buyer’s Market is a new book that is focused on designing a customer centric law firm. It paints the customer (the in-house firm) as the the champion of driving change and innovation in the legal services market.
Books for productivity and time management
11. First Things First
By: Stephen Covey and Roger Merrill
Lawyers and other legal professionals are high performers by nature, but this book will help you focus on achieving a healthy work-life balance.
“[Read this book] to help figure out how to prioritize things properly and to remind [yourself] that [your] client’s emergency may not really be an emergency.” -Todd V.
12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
By: Stephen Covey
A business bestseller for over two decades, this book takes readers through a change in perception regarding productivity, time management, positive thinking, and more. It’s a must-read for any business professional, lawyers included.
“Although it’s older, I still use the principles to keep me on track. I would recommend the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for those who have not read it. If you read it some time ago, maybe read it again. Staying in Quadrant 2 is a major stress-prevention technique that works.” -Marc J.
13. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
By: John Medina
Want to be more efficient in running your practice? Start with a view into how your brain works.
“Should be mandatory for all law school entrants, and is still a huge boon to lawyers.” -John G.
14. Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
By: Spencer Johnson
If you’re looking at a big change like switching practice areas or starting your own law firm, this book could help prepare you.
“A very simple, but wise, little book literally changed the way I looked at my career and life … I know, eyes are probably rolling, but when I left my large law firm after 16 years, and in my 40s, to start a new firm with a group of lawyers and co-workers, this book confirmed I was making the right decision. Two items in particular—‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ and ‘If you do not change, you may become extinct.’” -Rhonda O.
15. Letting Go of Your Bananas
By: Daniel Drubin
In the legal profession, you often risk taking on too much. This book will remind you that sometimes, less is more.
“A book on how to become more successful by getting rid of everything rotten in your life. Very short easy read and I think it is a good ‘check-up’ book to read every now and then.” -Heather M.
16. How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line
Written specifically for busy lawyers, this book helps you focus on the most important activities to be more productive.
“Great tools to make your practice more efficient!” -Alicia I.
Books on business
17. Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
By: Eric Ries
Want to thrive in an ever-changing legal market? Start by reading this book.
“Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, should be mandatory for all of us. Like it or not, we all operate ‘startups,’ which Ries defines as human institutions operating in times of extreme uncertainty. The legal market—and future of our profession—makes Lean Startup tools critical.” -Greg McLawsen, 2016 Clio Cloud Conference speaker
18. Unleash the Warrior Within: Develop the Focus, Discipline, Confidence, and Courage You Need to Achieve Unlimited Goals
By: Richard Machowicz
Another business book for those lawyers considering striking out on their own.
“Starting and running a business is not an easy venture and I appreciated his thoughts on focus, concentration, targeting goals, and not accepting failure as an option.” -Jodi W.
19. Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing
By: Harry Beckwith
At times, it can be difficult to communicate the value of your legal services to clients. Selling the Invisible can help.
“An easy read, and the author’s other books dedicated to service providers are worth your time as well.” -Jeremy N.
20. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
By: Seth Godin
Want to set yourself apart from the competition? Purple Cow gives you the tips you need to get started.
“This book explores the importance of standing out in a sea of others who sell the same thing as you. Godin has written many other books on marketing (Permission Marketing, Tribes, etc.) , and you can find excellent takeaways from each.” -Jeremy N.
Want to learn more about marketing? Check out The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing Your Firm Online, free from Clio.
21. The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure
By: Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy
Building strong client relationships can go a long way towards building a successful practice.
“Great book that anyone in a service industry should read to remember how to treat people, give back and be successful without being ugly.” -Elizabeth T.
22. Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game
By: Chris Matthews
Politics play a role in every aspect of our lives—whether in the firm or out in the world. Hardball gives insight to how it’s played at it’s highest level.
“He weaves general political theory with anecdotes from the days of LBJ on how people handle problems and advocate for their causes to the general public. It is extremely helpful regarding the politics of being a lawyer more so than the practice.” -Walter D.
23. The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea
By: Bob Burg
If you’re anxious about reaching out to potential clients, this book is for you.
“This helped me to better understand clients, be more patient, be a better referral partner, and be less cautious or afraid of ‘selling’ or reaching out to people generally. People who have never been in sales tend to be very tentative about reaching out to folks or don’t want to seem ‘pushy.’” -Shreya L.
24. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
By: Peter Thiel
If you want your firm to be a cut above the rest, you’ve got to be different. This book shows you how to start.
“A good read with practical thoughts on how to run/organize a business. We sometimes forget that while we are a profession, we are running businesses as well, and we need to make sure that we stay current with things so we do not become irrelevant.” -Todd V.
25. How to Win Friends & Influence People
By: Dale Carnegie
Another classic, this book will help you build relationships with clients, lawyers, and others in the legal community.
“It’s got great basic principles about dealing with people and establishing business relationships.” -Mike B.
26. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
By: Maria Konnikova
Wouldn’t it be handy to be able to think like Sherlock Holmes when sifting through evidence? This book just might help you get there.
“How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by the amazing Maria Konnikova is a must read about the way our minds work and the way our minds should work. She explores and elaborates on a lot of what is in Thinking, Fast and Slow by comparing the ‘Watson brain’ and the ‘Sherlock brain.’ Amazingly engaging author and very useful book.” -Jordan C.
26. How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients
By: Jeffrey J. Fox
For lawyers that simply want to be the best, this book promises to “help readers rise above the competition in any company in any field.”
“If we are talking professional books, I think How to be a Rainmaker is extraordinary.” -Barbara L.
28. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
By: Daniel H. Pink
A big part of any business is sales, including the business of running a law firm. This book offers a surprising look at the art and science of selling.
“I’d recommend just about anything he writes.” -Jeff M.
29. Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
By: Mike Michalowicz
Authored by the founder of two multi-million dollar companies, this book flips the traditional profit formula on its head—making expenses dependent on sales and profits.
30. What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
By: Richard N. Bolles
Thinking of switching practice areas? Read this timeless classic on choosing a career path to help inform your decision.
31. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
By: Tim Ferriss
Love the law, but want to leave long days at the office behind? This book may have a few ideas that, combined with the latest legal tech and knowledge of a constantly shifting legal industry, could help you get the best of both worlds.
32. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
By: Atul Gawande
The Checklist Manifesto is a book written by a surgeon on the importance of, well, checklists. It really fits the narrative of get things done and delegate effectively for a professional.
33. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business
By: Gino Wickman
Starting a law firm is one thing, but setting up your day-to-day processes is a whole different challenge. This book takes you through the practical side of running a business, and gives you the tools to put systems in place that will help you succeed.
34. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t
By: Jim Collins
What makes or breaks a business? Jim Collins did intensive research to find out, studying a set of companies that achieved great results and sustained those results for at least 15 years. His findings may be helpful for those aiming to grow their law firms.
35. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
By: Simon Sinek
“‘People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.’ This is the single most impactful phrase from that book for my business.” – Michelle N. Ogborne, Ogborne Law PLC
36. The Trusted Advisor
By: David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford
“I read this when I was a traveling software implementation consultant but this book can (and maybe should) be read by anyone in a business role to learn how to best serve their client base/constituency/team. Because regardless of whether you’re the business owner or a secretary, each person has some customer base that they either answer to or are trying to assist.” – Margaret Cullen, Accounting Manager at Wood IP LLC
By: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
“[This book is] essential for firm owners and lawyers seeking to become unique business owners and striving to create unique approaches in this long-standing profession.” – Devika Carr, Owner, D. Carr Law
Books on mental health
38. The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation
By: Jeena Cho
The legal profession is inherently stressful, but it doesn’t have to harm your health. Learn how meditation and mindfulness can lead to a more satisfying practice.
39. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
By: Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius
Learn how your thoughts can change your brain. You’ll set yourself up for success in life and in your practice.
“Being an attorney is stressful and we need to learn to balance our lives and be more positive and productive.” -Dana J.
40. The Power of Positive Thinking
By: Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
Depending on your practice area, you likely help your clients through some of the most difficult times in their lives. Positive thinking can make a big difference. Read about how it can help in this book.
41. Awaken the Giant Within
By: Tony Robbins
Trying to get motivated, but need just one more push? Pick up this book, give it a read, and you’ll be primed to get started.
“It will motivate you to change everything, your relationships, your work habits, your finances and your life.” -John S.
Classic books for lawyers
42. To Kill a Mockingbird
By: Harper Lee
A list of the best books for lawyers would not be complete without this classic work of American literature. The book’s main character, Atticus Finch, has become a role model for many lawyers—there’s even a monument in his honor at a courthouse in Monroeville, Alabama.
43. Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates
By: Ross Guberman
Want all of your briefs and motions to shine? The author of this book has carefully analyzed arguments from distinguished lawyers, and has distilled his findings into tips to help you write like them.
44. How to Argue & Win Every Time: At Home, At Work, In Court, Everywhere, Everyday
By: Garry Spence
45. Storytelling for Lawyers
By: Philip Meyer
Similar to Point Made, this book is full of advice on how to construct a compelling narrative based on (sometimes) dry facts.
46. Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges
By: Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner
This book covers the essentials of sound legal reasoning, and discusses how to develop effective arguments, whether spoken or written.
47. One Hundred Days Before Trial: A Family Lawyer’s Guide to Preparation and Strategy
By: Steven Nathan Peskind
Learn how to start early and stay disciplined when it comes to trial preparation.
48. Lawyers as Changemakers: The Global Integrative Law Movement
By: J. Kim Wright
“This offers great insights into all the powerful, creative ways lawyers get out there and truly help people and society.” – Nancy Retsinas, Nancy Retsinas PC
49. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
By: Bryan Stevenson
“This is one of the most powerful books I’ve read, and shows just how badly the scales of justice are tipped against criminal defendants, especially particular segments of society. I’d recommend it to every lawyer, not just defense attorneys.” – Ericka McFee, Attorney, McFee Law Offices PC
Books on writing for lawyers
50. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
By: Lynne Truss
A misplaced comma can make all the difference in a contract or argument. Read this book to reignite your love of proper punctuation.
51. The Elements of Legal Style
By: Bryan A. Garner
A legal-specific version of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, this book covers everything lawyers should know about word choice, grammar, mechanics, and more.
Did we miss your favorite read? Tell us your best book for lawyers in the comments below.