One L

by Scott Turow

Hardcover, 1977




New York : Putnam, 1977.


Thirty years after Scott Turow entered law school comes an all new unabridged production of this classic with a special introduction by and interview with the author. One L, Scott Turow's journal of his first year at law school and a bestseller when it was first published in 1977, has gone on to become a virtual bible for prospective law students. Not only does it introduce with remarkable clarity the ideas and issues that are the stuff of legal education; it also brings alive the anxiety and competitiveness-with others and, even more, with oneself-that set the tone in this crucible of character building. Each September, a new crop of students enter Harvard Law School to begin an intense, often grueling, sometimes harrowing year of introduction to the law. Will the One L's survive? Will they excel? Will they make the Law Review, the outward and visible sign of success in this ultra-competitive microcosm. With remarkable insight into both his fellow students and himself, Turow leads us through the ups and downs, the small triumphs and tragedies of the year, in an absorbing and thought-provoking narrative that teaches the listener not only about law school and the law but also about the human beings who make them what they are.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member glade1
I read this one over the weekend. It was interesting and a fast read. Despite the fact that this book is over 30 years old, it feels very contemporary. It's interesting to see how individuals in a closed society like the law school become so focused on their small world; it's easy to sit outside
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and say they are blowing things out of proportion, but I imagine most of us have been in similar situations, where our performance, and that of a few others in a particular subject or skill, is all that matters to us.

Turow keeps a fine balance of showing the school and his experience realistically, "warts and all," without being bitter or failing to see the good side of things. I couldn't resist doing a web search to see where his life led after Harvard. I knew he was a novelist but wasn't sure if or how much he practiced law. It turns out he has practiced most of his life and continues to do so, although it appears he took some time off to become a bestselling novelist too. So apparently he survived years two and three at Harvard and benefited from the prestigious degree. He did not write further about his experience there but has written one other nonfiction book containing his experience with and thoughts on the death penalty. I might have to check that one out.

Turow is a compelling writer. I remember enjoying Presumed Innocent when I read it many years ago. I'd recommend One L to anyone interested in the law, Harvard, or just a new perspective on education.
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LibraryThing member skinglist
I really enjoyed this book, one of several I've read about law school recently. While I have no interest in attending law school, I find reading about others' experience fascinating. While some things about law school seem to have changed in 30 years, others don't seem to have changed much based on
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more recent accounts that I've read. Like a Stanford MBA book I read, it 's also interesting to see how top tier is vs. other schools, though I've also read another Ivy law school in [Ivy League Briefs]. A good read, whether or not you're considering law school, it doesn't really show its age in terms of relevance.
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LibraryThing member blueandgreen
At one time I wanted to attend law school, this book didn't deter me from attending... just found other plans. I loved, loved, loved this memoir of Scott Turow's time at Harvard Law. It is thoroughly interesting and entertaining to see him grow throughout that time.
LibraryThing member jonesjohnson
Advice if you are considering law school:

1. Don't do it.
2. Read this book.
Number one and number two are completely unrelated.
LibraryThing member cee2
Turow recounts his first year in Harvard Law School showing the roller coaster effect on his academic achievement and personal relationships. The intensity of the course of study's first year takes its toll but also leads to a real sense of accomplishment as he and his fellow One-L's learn to think
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like lawyers.
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LibraryThing member dono421846
If you attended law school, this book will revive memories you probably suppressed in order to preserve your sanity; if you didn't go to law school, this book shows you exactly what you missed. In the details it is definitely a period piece -- the author complains about paying the exorbitant price
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of $15 for a casebook (it not uncommon to pay almost $200 today), and bemoans the extravagant $3k/year he pays in Harvard tuition. I won't even try to find out what the current rates are.

The Socratic method so much at the center of his account is presently employed rarely, perhaps because professors no longer understand how it actually works. The fruits of the technique can be seen in the satisfying discoveries the students find in Torts; the underside, of course, arises in the "Incident" in Contracts.

Despite the painfulness of the process, I couldn't help but envy the complete immersion and challenge the students experienced in something they willingly chose -- no one is forced to study law, much less at Harvard. If the process had been more like an undergraduate course, I believe it would have been equally unsatisfying, if for different reasons. Yes, it is hazing, but as a whole the year by design breaks down the layman and rebuilds in its place a lawyer.
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LibraryThing member juliannekim
everybody at least has heard about the gruesome life of 1Ls. and now you can read all about it.
LibraryThing member junebedell
This was my introduction to Scott Turow. Loved it!
LibraryThing member JenniferRobb
Literature professor and published author, Scott Turow, decides that he liked the research for his book so much that he will attend law school. He chooses the venerated Harvard Law School and chronicles his first year as a law student there where they are called 1Ls.

Parts of the book were
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interesting and parts dragged. It seems law school, like most professional schools, tries to weed out students during the first year. This book makes me wish I'd kept a journal of my first year of dental school and published a book about
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LibraryThing member TerriBooks
I read this because it's the "Duke Reads" book this month. Otherwise, it really didn't interest me. I found the author and his fellow students to be self-absorbed and not very interesting. I understand that his purpose in writing the book was to expose and question the style of teaching lawyers -
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and he's probably right that it doesn't make a lot of sense. The description of the favored Socratic method was enough to convince me that I'd never want to be there, and the idea that the entire grade for a year-long class rests on a single final exam is just nuts. But he didn't convince me to care, either. I guess because I'm not a lawyer. The glimpse into a different kind of education was worth the read, but that's about all.
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LibraryThing member Pferdina
I was interested in this book because I'm not ever going to law school and the first-person perspective is the closest-thing I'll have. I am interested in different methods of instruction, so this brief look at the Socratic method (in 1977 from the student's perspective) was enlightening. The rest
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of the book was sort of heavy going, as Turow complains about everything that happened. He's honest about his bad behavior, though.
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LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Book on CD read by Holter Graham

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

Turow wrote this memoir just after his first year of law school, and it was published before he had graduated. It has, apparently, become a “must-read” for those contemplating going to
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law school, and Turow gets many letters each year from readers who strongly identify with the incidents he relates.

I was very interested in the psychology of his experience. The stress – both external and self-imposed – was palpable. Turow and his fellow students found themselves in a completely different setting. All high-achievers when they arrived they were thrown into a competitive atmosphere where they felt pitted against one another, with the result that many of them began to seriously doubt themselves and became suspicious of their colleagues.

Holter Graham does a fine job of the audiobook, which was produced in 2005, some 28 years after the original book came out. This anniversary edition included additional material from Turow, which he read himself. Also, there was a bonus interview with the author that was quite interesting.
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LibraryThing member sriddell
I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this memoir - but I guess a great writer like Scott Turow can turn even dry material like "my life at law school" into a true story with plot twists and tension.

I listened to the audio and really enjoyed this book
LibraryThing member Castlelass
Scott Turow’s engrossing account of his first year at Harvard Law School. It is told in chronological order from first class to finals. There is a lot of drama in the competitiveness of the students - both the desire to support each other but also deal with pressure of grades, and the potential
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ramifications (Law Review, hiring decisions, etc.) Turow went to Harvard in the mid-1970s, so there have likely been changes since then, but he definitely has opinions on areas for improvement and the lack of effectiveness of the Socratic method. I am impressed by the author’s ability to work his magic on what could have been dry material. It is far from it. I flew through this book. I wish Turow would write more non-fiction. He has a knack for it. I enjoyed this even more than his fiction.
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LibraryThing member AlanWPowers
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.
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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 produced Robert Fagles, Richard Wilbur, James Merrill, William Pritchard, the League started by Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.
Perhaps the Bildungsroman like this requires mental rags to riches. It does read well, as if "entirely true." But isn't that the role of Fiction? I always told my classes that if a film claimed to be based on a True Story, it was far from it, because if it really was such, it would claim the Opposite: "None of the characters are based on real people…" in order to avoid lawsuits.
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LibraryThing member rachelv
As someone who's never been to law school, I thought this book was just ok. Pretty interesting in an, "oh, that what it's like to go to law school" kind of way, but not that engaging. I feel like people who are interested in law or who have been to law school would love it.
LibraryThing member 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
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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 became jaded. Turow had a contract to write the book before he started his first year and kept a journal in which he wrote several times a week throughout the year. This is not a how to make it through law school book. Its more about the emotional roller coaster ride that one goes through when being initiated into a new system (for me, it read like a mash up between my experience of Marine Corps boot camp and graduate school in literature). Although the book doesn't seem dated in any outward sense, other than Turow's use of an electric typewriter when writing exams, it does seem a little dated in that I think first year law students--first year anythings--are better prepared now than people were in the 1970s and earlier. Why? Because people talk more about their experiences and there are many more resources out there to consult, particularly the internet. My sister and I have been struck by the difference in approach from how we thought about college and went about applying to college and how her eldest child is being groomed by teachers for college as a sophomore in high school. I couldn't help think of this difference while reading One L and thinking that people entering Harvard Law cannot possibly be as naive as Turow and his group were. Still, I think what keeps this book fresh is its emphasis on the emotional experience of going through such an intense initiation into a new language, a new way of thinking, and a new profession with the added stress of being at THE law school, Harvard. I image that even if today's One L aren't as naive, they still experience the same mind fuck that comes with indoctrination into a highly competitive and relatively closed society.
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Local notes

Noted author's first book
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