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Law 101: Everything You Need to Know about the American Legal System
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Law 101: Everything You Need to Know about the American Legal System

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  915 ratings  ·  62 reviews
The best-selling first edition of Law 101 provided readers with a vividly written and indispensable portrait of our nation's legal system. Now, in this revised edition, Jay M. Feinman offers an updated survey of American law, spiced with new anecdotes and cases, and incorporating fresh material on topics ranging from the President's war powers, to intellectual property, st ...more
Hardcover, 363 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published March 30th 2000)
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Nov 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
As an introductory text to the American justice system, Feinman’s 2000 book has no equal – at least this far into my preliminary research as I gear myself up for law school in less than two years’ time. Not only is he judicious in his explanations, but he also doesn’t shy away from the more complicated theoretical matters upon which our fundamental rights are based. For example, when he discusses the nuances of how our First Amendment rights have been interpreted over the course of two centuries ...more
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Law 101, by Jay Feinman, is a practical and indispensable guide for general readers. The book enables citizens who are not lawyers to understand the basics of U.S. federal and state Constitutional law, our criminal and civil justice system, and other aspects of our judicial system that impact our lives, directly and indirectly. By providing the historical context for the U.S. legislative, executive, and judicial system, the author helps readers understand the increasingly complex and controversi ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have read parts of this book, picking and choosing the topics several times over the years. I finally read it through. I am very interested in Constitutional, tort and contract law. I often skip over Property and Criminal law. My interests haven't changed, but I do feel that I have a bit more of a broader view than before. It is a very brief summary of most of the areas of the law, at least areas that are taught in law school, I believe (I have never attended Law School, only wished I had). I ...more
Aug 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I should go to law school.

This book read like a page turner, which either means the author did a good job, or that it's a subject I love. In this case, definitely both. Feinman structures this book to be a good one volume intro to law, covering the major topics that a 1st year law student would tackle. His explanations and good historical examples make law less some abstract, technical, unfeeling entity, and reveal its imperfect humanness, beauty and warts and in between.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-in-audio
Very interesting introduction to topics one would encounter in the first yeah of law school.
Jacob Kuckkahn
Personal Response: I really wanted to read an exciting book about law ,and it's enforcement; However, I found this book relatively boring. It consistently used and reused subjects that the book has already listed to create more content in a book that should really be a textbook for law schools. However, as much as it is boring, it does have a bit of humor and sarcasm that is easily identifiable; As far as my understanding goes that makes Law 101 a lot more enjoyable than reading a sectioned book ...more
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
I finished reading this book last month and it was a very compelling read, if a bit dry. Understanding the U.S. legal system is increasingly important as we look at what new policies our state and federal governments are enacting, and to avoid responding out of rhetoric instead of a factual knowledge about the law.

While this book will certainly not make anyone a lawyer, it does provide a fairly solid foundation of the various components of law and it's application. As such, it makes for an educa
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: made-me-think
This book shouldn't have taken me a month to read. It was engaging, interesting and insightful. However, I was so intent on absorbing every piece of information and memorising every legal term (I failed utterly) that I would put the book down whenever my concentration slipped a bit (which was almost all the time). On the whole, this book's catch is that it makes the subject of law really, really the opposite of boring. And that's a really big deal.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives a systematic, basic review of American law. It covers Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Tort Law...and cites relevant cases and concepts. If you are thinking about the field of law as a career, or just want to understand some of what is going on around you in the realm of law, this is a good place to start.

It may take some patience and a quiet place to read. Don't read it fast either. You'll get more out of it if you read it as if a grade depended on it. In fact I would say it is
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish this was recommended as summer reading before I started law school. The book lays out what certain areas of the law are (civ pro) and why they are necessary (which would help me understand why first years have to study them. The book goes a long way to demystifying THE LAW but don't think you can read and represent yourself.
Jason Walz
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Immensely readable and easily understood basic introduction to the American legal system. The book was logical and methodological and well structured but still read as a friendly narrative rather than a textbook. I do wish there were footnotes that would delve deeply into the cited cases. But, failing that, there us an extensive index of cases at the end of the book.
Allyson Vasilopulos
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This took me a lot longer than I would care to admit, partially because I only read it when I could find the time, but also because I wanted to truly learn the concepts in this book. While it's not my favorite thing I've ever read, it was an excellent summary of many of the topics that I will encounter in my first year of law school.
Collin Clibon
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book covers basic material covered early in law school in a straightforward and entertaining way. I am applying to law school this year, so I can't speak to this book's effectiveness for previewing 1L material, but I will endorse it as a good book for the enthusiastic legal novice.
Shea Griffin
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I hoped it would be better.
Vikas Erraballi
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delivers what it promises
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The dilemma of reading reference book is it's enjoyable but not very useful.
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually enjoyable to read despite the topic
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is it illegal to read a book that relies far too heavily on strings of rhetorical questions? Does the book answer this important question? Wouldn’t you like to know?
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law
Definitely will help me through my learnings
Enrica Garzilli
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Useful and kind of funny also for people who know nothing about American law.
Paul Bulger
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Only for those interested in getting a more solid understanding about how law affects their lives, and good foundation if you're looking at going to law school. If you're already in law school, however, there probably won't be much here for you.
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: law
Not bad. I'm more interested in business law, so the Great Courses talks on contracts and business law were better, but I thought this would've been a better introduction before diving into the specialties
Timothy Johnson
Starts off by saying Law shouldn't be complicated to the point that it's misunderstood by average citizens, and then does nothing to try and clear up that complication. If you can understand it, it's a good read.
Stuart Woolf
Feb 05, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

I've only read about two-thirds of this book, specifically the chapters on constitutional law, contract law, torts, and property law. I may go back to read the chapters on civic and criminal procedure, but they do not interest me to the same degree.

What can I say? If you know little to nothing about law, this book has a plenty to teach you, and I would recommend it as a general reference text. It doesn't go too deeply into details, but given the subject matter, this is probably a good
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book because it provides a good overview of the law. The author does a good job in explaining the different areas of the law. It is important to know that there are different opinions on some of the subjects in the book such as constitutional interpretation and tort law. The author outlines the different opinions but clearly he has his own biases so it is important to think after each chapter about these issues and formulate opinion about them. One example is how much freedom should ...more
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Good as a review or a preview before going to law school. Will give you insight regarding laws and procedures. If you don't know anything about the world of law, this book may be confusing. Good if you sit down and read it, and try to understand what the author is saying (who is clearly very knowledgeable of the nuances of law; he is a law professor). This book will only teach you the theories behind (basic) laws, criminal, civil, contract, business. Doesn't go over the real fundamentals of law, ...more
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, law
This book was written as an introduction to the American legal system with ample references to the historical origins of many features we see today. I learned a lot about various aspects of the law from consitutional law to property & contract law to criminal law. This would probably be a good read for anyone considering entering the legal profession or for anyone who wants to gain a broader understanding of how the legal system works. ...more
Chris Burd
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
I honestly had few expectations of this book, purchasing the audio book when it was part of a sale at

It was an enjoyable listen - and I came away with a stronger foundation of knowledge of key concepts and key terms. I'm a bit of a geek, so I'm not sure that it is a particularly "fun and engaging" book for a typical person, but if you are interested in a general basis in law, it's worth the time.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great introductory book on the basics of the American legal system, including constitutional law, torts, contracts, property, civil procedure, criminal law, and criminal procedure. The legal system in the United States is incredibly complex, being a combination of precedents, common law, statutes, and constitutions at both federal and state levels, yet this book manages to do a coherent summary at a reasonable length.
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent overview of American law, with a particular emphasis on Constitutional Law/citizenship. I went to law school and am an attorney, so I was familiar with the topics; however, there were many subjects I haven't looked at since then, so this was a good review. I think it would be a good starter for 1Ls; this goes over everything in the first year curriculum, with the exception of writing and research.
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