Every paralegal should have a library of resources, either on a bookshelf at work or as part of the paralegal home office. Figuring out which books to include in that resource can be time-consuming, however, and we all know time is not something you have much of as a paralegal. So we’ve compiled this short list of 10 must-have books for you.
So you can quickly find the resources most applicable to your current career situation, we’ve grouped the books into three categories: one that’s career oriented, one that’s focused on the actual litigation part of being a paralegal, and a category on reference books to help you become a better writer as a paralegal or legal assistant.
All of these are available on Amazon, and many as used editions which is helpful because some of these books are pricey and might otherwise be unaffordable for paralegals just getting started in the field.
Paralegal career advice
The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success by Charlsye Smith Diaz.
This is more than just a beginner’s guide to the paralegal career. This book will guide you along the way as you start and then build that career. You’ll learn about working in the legal environment, the importance of professional development, strategies for working with those in your law office, and more to marketable paralegal skills now and in the future.
Whether you’re new to the field or a seasoned professional, you can learn from this book. With practical and proven tips from some of the most successful paralegals in the business, this book can help you improve your skills, productivity and career potential.
Surviving and Thriving in the Law Office by Richard L. Hughes.
This books teaches you what law firms really want from their paralegal staff. Written by a former attorney who is now a paralegal educator, this book describes real life law-office situations and how to handle them. The advice comes from the author as well as from practicing paralegals, and the emphasis is on making lessons stick, with teaching and retention tools, as well as listings for additional resources.
Would you like to work on your own rather than as part of a law office? This book is for you. You’ll learn from prominent paralegals who are already successful in the field as you get both legal and business advice for launching your own independent paralegal career.
Paralegal litigation advice
Once you’re working as a paralegal and you have a clear course for your career, the books in this category will help you to improve about the actual litigation part of your job.
Fundamentals of Litigation for Paralegals by Marlene A. Maerowitz and Thomas A. Mauet.
Although this is a textbook used in classrooms, it’s worth a look for your own self edification. The textbook walks you through the complete process of litigation, and includes examples and case scenarios as well as actual documents for you to learn from.
Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner.
You’d think a book co-written by a Supreme Court Justice would be a good resource for how to persuade judges, and this one is! Among other lessons, you’ll learn how to craft an argument with legal reasoning. The authors also examine the art of brief writing, and how to succeed in an oral argument.
Gerry Spence has never lost a criminal case, either as a prosecutor or defense attorney, as of 2014. He has not lost a civil case since 1969. Obviously, he can teach you a thing or two about winning an argument!
Paralegal writing advice
The reference books in this category might intrigue you less than the ones listed above, and they’re not the kind of books you sit down and read cover to cover, but they should be on your office bookshelf so you can turn to them when needed…
The Elements of Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner.
Make your writing clearer, more precise, more persuasive, and above all more stylish with this book as a resource.
The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner.
This book covers punctuation, capitalization, grammar, prose style, and clarity in general.
Black’s Law Dictionary by Bryan A. Garner.
The most widely cited law book in the world, this is an authoritative, comprehensive law dictionary. You can find an online version of this law dictionary here, where you can also download a mobile version for your phone.
Building your paralegal resource library is not something you have to do overnight (nor can you afford to!), so keep this list handy and set a goal to add a book per month or every couple of months. Then read or at least scan each book as it joins your collection so you’re familiar with what it offers you as you advance in your career.