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One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School
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One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  6,332 ratings  ·  489 reviews
Newsweek calls him "an extraordinarily canny and empathetic observer." In bestseller after bestseller, Turow uses his background as a lawyer to create suspense fiction so authentic it reads with the hammering impact of fact. But before he became a worldwide sensation, Scott Turow wrote a book that is entirely true, the account of his own searing indoctrination into the fie ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Warner Books (NY) (first published January 1st 1977)
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Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane by: Jeffrey Toobin
This was a fascinating look at what law school is really like. Sure, I've seen the movies "Legally Blonde", "The Paper Chase" and even "Soul Man," but this wasn't a goofy Hollywood movie -- Scott Turow actually lived it.

Turow started at Harvard Law School in September 1975. He took good notes and kept a journal of his experiences as a law student, which he later turned into this insightful memoir. I really enjoyed the stories of his professors, his classes, his fellow students, and how much read
Aug 30, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: wouldgiveaway
bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bi ...more
Jan 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Turow paints a largely accurate picture of the life of a first year student at a top American law school. He describes his gifted, high-achieving, and insufferably competitive peers and professors to a T. Those who have survived the ordeal will immediately recall their own struggles to comprehend the first few cases they read and briefed, the hours, the jargon, and generally navigating unknown waters. (Should I buy a hornbook or stick with the thousands of pages of assigned casebook reading? Is ...more
Apr 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone anyone anyone but law students
Recommended to Aaron by: A bad lawyer
This book is fine, except how people keep insisting it has anything to do with the actual common experience of law school. A good read for anyone who does not want to go to law school, who has already gone to law school and wants to read a book that does not correspond in any way with their own experiences, those lawyers who persist in thinking that law is "really hard" and not just a terminal degree for the aimlessly clever, or those who will find confirmation of their existing prejudices about ...more
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone thinking about law school
Not that I was ever considering going to law school, but Scott Turow's account of his time as a "One L" at Harvard Law School in 1976 squashed that inkling of mine that it might be fun to try.

It's a well-written book, though, and certainly a must for anyone headed down that path. Turow doesn't sugarcoat any of it -- the unyielding professors, the cattiness between students. And just because the story itself is 30 years old doesn't mean it isn't valid: Very few law schools have changed dramatical
Sean Sullivan
Aug 18, 2007 rated it liked it

Before I started law school, I was repeatedly told to buy best selling author Turow’s version of his first year at Harvard “if for no other reason than everyone else there will have read it”.

Well, I’m one week into law school, and no one has mentioned it, thanks. Still, it wasn’t a totally waste of time. Reading how horrific Turow’s professors were to him steeled me for my first day of class. I was totally ready for someone to cry. No one did. I was almost disappointed at how nice all my profess
Rebekah O'Dell
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Dear Dad,

Thanks for giving me One L to read! You rarely impress upon me the need to read any one book in particular, so when you put this book in my hands I actually put down the book I had recently started and instantly began devouring Turow’s memoir about his first year of law school. I don’t do that often. It stresses me out to put a book aside unfinished in favor of another book (which is also ironic considering the content of One L — it’s all about stress!). One L was also a little unusual
Chris Wolak
I never, ever had a desire to go to law school, but for some reason this book called me to it. I heard it mentioned somewhere and then kept running into it at the store where I work. It was on sale for $3.99, so that was another bonus. I haven't read any of Turow's legal thrillers, yet, but I may now. One L is the story of Turow's first year at Harvard Law School in 1977. He covers the emotional ups and downs of that first year and how and why he and his peers changed for the better and how some ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: law-school
Not really a fan. Problems:

- I thought Turow, in protecting the identities of many students and professors, distilled them all into way less interesting, one-note caricatures. The urbane, wealthy aristocrat who makes a diligent but unremarkable student. The nervous basket case who constantly sandbags himself yet gets great grades every time. The scrappy Italian kid from Jersey who balks at authority and likes to make his own way. The pretty blonde with crying outbursts whose frequency serves as
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Now, granted, I didn't go to Harvard Law, but I DID attend a fairly high ranked law school and, from my experience, Turow protests FAR too much. It makes for a good story, but oh, the drama! I only wish that William and Mary had been that exciting and filled with academic intrigue!
Jonathan Maas
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great bit of non-fiction from Scott Turow. I had just read Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penaltyand was looking for more non-fiction from him, so I went with his classic.

Great book.

In short, here are my observations:

• What can get you through law school? 1) A love of the law, like Mr. Turow. 2) A prodigious amount of talent, like some of his classmates. 3) A near-sociopathic study habit, like one of his classmates who didn’t talk to anyone while he was st
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: legal-drama
The traumatic experiences of Scott Turow at Harvard veneered in not-so subtle fiction. Read it years ago and loved it. My brother, who went to Harvard Law School says it's very true to reality. I was reminded or it by a scene from The Abbey in which Detective Sergeant Ashraf Rashid's cell phone goes off during law class. The professor in The Abbey, who bears a likeness to One L's Professor Perini/Kingsfield admonishes

Scene from The Abbey: “ 'And I’m sorry we allowed a clearly unqualified applic
The one thing that I got form this book is that I'm very glad that I'm not a lawyer or ever contemplated law school. Even though this book is decades old, the systems still sound similar, the environment doesn't seem like one that is conductive to learning. I really hated how by the end it seemed like everyone was happy when someone else failed. Not sure how that could possibly build an environment where you have a good support system when you need one the most.
I'm hesitant about writing a review of this before completing my own 1L. I think the most I can say is that you have to respect how unvarnished and detailed it is, but I didn't necessarily enjoy reading it.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who are considering going to law school.
Definately an accurate portrayal of that harrowing first year of law school. Read it BEFORE you decide to go!
Apr 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: careers
Whiney recounting of Turow's first year at Harvard Law School.
David Fulmer
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scott Turow has written an illuminating account of his first year at Harvard Law School and, considering how little legal education has changed since its origins in the late nineteenth century, it is an account which is and will continue to be, for the foreseeable future, timely, relevant, and accurate.

In view of the prestige and elitism of the institution where he got his legal education, certain tendencies present in many educational institutions are likely to have been exaggerated in Turow’s
Cam Waller
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Who knew a book about studying would ever have me so enthralled...
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm a fan of Scott Turow's writing and have been aware of this book that he wrote about his first year at Harvard Law School, but didn't give much thought to reading it until someone donated the audio book to our library's used book store. I don't normally listen to audio books because I can't concentrate on a book if I am doing other things, but I listened to this one in my car while I was driving around town so it took me several days to finish. I would have been able to read the actual book m ...more
Apr 07, 2009 rated it liked it
The single most read book by people contemplating law school. There are clear pros and cons to this. On the pro side, Turow is a good writer who structures even this supposed transcript of his memoir with a fair amount of novelistic suspense. Our hero must confront good and evil personified by his various professors (seriously, there are times when you'd think you were reading Harry Potter). Ultimately, as in a good modern novel, he must face the true nemesis that lies within (his capacity to cr ...more
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
For lawyers, it's a fond look back to a wonderful, occasionally harrowing time. For prospective law school students this book is a wake-up call as to what the study of law will demand of you. If you're entering law school at a time when you're married, have a family, or even a set of very close friends - reading this book will help them understand why you've suddenly disappeared and, on the rare times you do see them, are unable to discuss current events or popular culture.

It submerges you into
Sep 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Scott Turow tells his experience as a first-year student at Harvard Law School where freshmen are dubbed One Ls. I first heard about this book when it was recommended by one of our speakers during our orientation as first year law students in a premier university. But I was only able to read it when I was already in third year, or after I got kicked out and transferred to another school. Still, it was not a totally waste of time. I came to understand where I failed or what I lacked in my freshma ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Aspiring law school students
Shelves: 2013-reads
I really enjoyed reading this first-hand account of Turrow's life as a Harvard Law School 1L. It terrified as well as invigorated me in my yearning to attend law school in the fall. I doubt that this account will be close to my own experiences (though perhaps maybe I'll be inclined to comment on the subject further once I finish my time as a 1L), but I enjoyed taking the journey with him.

I have to make a few comments however on how outdated some of this is, most notably the monetary figures inc
Charlotte Clymer
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have often heard that any student interested in a legal career should read this book, and although I cannot be an authority on that account, I will say that as someone who is considering law school, "One L" is an engrossing read, marking the ups and down, triumphs and tragedies, and complex psychology of a student's first year at Harvard Law School, considered one of the most demanding academic programs in existence.

This is not at all a boring read. Turow gives enormous life to his experiences
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(4.0) Actually made law school sound cool (yes, hard, painful, miserable but cool)

Didn't realize before picking this up that he wrote it in the 70s...and had a vague notion that Turow was an 'actual author' (though I haven't read any of his fiction), but didn't really put it all together. Anyway, definitely enjoyed this one, more so than The Paper Chase by John Jay Osborn, Jr. Pretty gritty, honest account of what it was like to trudge through the first year at Harvard Law in 1975. It was much b
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit
Must disagree with the jacket/ GoodReads blurb, "entirely true." NOT according to one of his undergrad professors, Theodore Baird, who wondered how Turow could present himself as such a blank slate upon arriving at Harvard Law, when he had endured the undergrad assault of Baird's Amherst College. But of course, it makes a better story about only the Law School if the naive youth arrives so unprepared for the Big Leagues.
But he'd been in the Big Leagues for four years prior: the League that pro
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read this the summer before starting law school, and thought pretty highly of it, probably because I thought it represented most students' experiences (and it scared me). Reread it this summer, and my opinion totally changed. Turow is a good writer, but this was extremely whiny and not at all representative of most law schools (according to my own experience + the experiences of friends at schools like Harvard and U of T, all of which are pretty competitive). I know I'm not finished my degree, ...more
Jan 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: law
An exciting yet nerve-wracking (for an entering One L) account of the first year of law school. Although the harrowing pedagogical methods described by Turow have fallen out of common use in law schools, this is a valuable introduction to how the One L year is structured as well as some of the basic legal concepts discussed. It does not deal much with the substance of the field of law, but is nevertheless valuable for law students, if for no other reason than to know that you are not alone in th ...more
Aug 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a second read for me. I just found it on Kindle, and I had to pick it up. I this would be a great book for anyone that is entering Law School, no matter what school they attend. I enjoyed this book just as much this time around. It is very inspiring, and I find that I read through the Con Law book that I still have from my 1978 course.
08/28/2017: It looks as though I read this book in August. I just finished Paper Chase and was not all that impressed with it, compared to this book. I rea
Mary JL
Mar 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with interest in the law
Recommended to Mary JL by: Familiar with Turow's work
Shelves: non-fiction
Since I have often read legal thrillers, I was interested in how the lawyers are trained. Scott Turow's book about his firt year at Harvard Law School I found very, very interesting.

Some of the technical data may have changed--prices for lawyers; people use laptops now not typewriters and so on. But human nature changes slowly if at all. The pressure, stress and competitiveness that Turow describes no doubt still fairly accurate even after all these years.

I recommended it for any interested in l
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Scott Turow is the author of ten bestselling works of fiction, including IDENTICAL, INNOCENT, PRESUMED INNOCENT, and THE BURDEN OF PROOF, and two nonfiction books, including ONE L, about his experience as a law student. His books have been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and have been adapted into movies and television projects. He has fre ...more
“The fundamental tension of the profession is the struggle between bold advocacy of the client's interests and the need to establish and hold to limits that prevent advocacy from leading to irrational and inequitable results; and thus the lawyer's job in practice is to be on one hand the impassioned representative of his client to the world, and on the other the wise representative to his client of the legal system, and the society, explaining and upholding the demands and restrictions which that system places on them both. ” 4 likes
“I was willing to do it. was determined to do it. By the end of the day, that had become my reaction to all of the signs of hard things ahead - a new purposefulness, hardy resolve. Everything I'd encountered so far - the law, my classmates, the great piece of discovery - had left me in deep thrall and I was bent on making sure that continued. I would have the best of it, I decided, whatever the obstacles.” 3 likes
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