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One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School Paperback – September 1, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 278 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Actor Paul Rudd deftly narrates this fascinating story of author Turow's experience as a first-year Harvard Law School student. Moreover, Rudd's voice sounds remarkably like Turow's, who provides an introduction. Personal narratives written by successful, famous persons should have to pass a humility test in which all references to entrance exam scores, grade point averages, and collegial or professional honors are stricken from the text, and editors' jobs should depend on how well they apply that test. The editor of this production would receive a solid A-. Even though we know he goes on to fabulous success as both a lawyer and a writer, Turow's initial ego is beautifully subdued by the end of his year as a "One L."?Mark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The most accurate, complete, and balanced description yet of a century-old rite of passage in America."--Bruce Bortz, Baltimore Sun

"A sensitive, dramatically paced account of the author's fist year at Harvard Law School...I read the book as if it were the most absorbing of thrillers, losing track of the time I spent with it, and resenting the hours I had to be away from it...It should be read by anyone who has ever contemplated going to law school. or anyone who has ever worried about being human."--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1st Trade Prn Sep 1997 edition (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446673781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446673785
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (278 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #626,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Even though this memoir was first published almost 25 years ago, it is still the best depiction of what law school is *really* like. When I went to Harvard Law School (starting in 1995, exactly 20 years after Turow), everyone told me "It's not like One-L anymore." That's only half true -- One-L is overly dramatic, but the basic events and emotions he depicts rang true again and again. Of course, as the other reviews show, some law students are able to blow off the intensity, others (like Turow) become consumed by it, and the rest (like me) swing back and forth between panic and enjoyment. All in all, this is an excellent peek at the law school experience. Just don't use this as your only basis for deciding whether to go to law school and/or to Harvard.
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Format: Hardcover
I originally read ONE L, I think, because I was a big fan of The Paper Chase. This version includes an afterward, written after PRESUMED INNOCENT was published.

As a first-year law student, Turow had to study the law of Contracts, Torts, and Property, Criminal Law, and Civil Procedure. A lot of this reminded me of the Paper Chase with professors using the Socratic method in which students are interrogated at length on selected court cases from which they are expected to deduce legal principles.

Rudolph Perini, Turow's Contracts professor, will definitely remind you of Professor Kingsfield. "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the mornings we have Contracts . . . I'm nearly sick to my stomach. . . . I can't believe it, but I think about that class and I get ill," Turow complains.

Another Paper Chase element is the study group. A small number of students, usually between four and eight, would meet regularly to discuss common concerns. Turow valued his group for its therapeutic function. At first Turow and his cohorts in the study group disdained grades, but that gradually changed as Midterms drew closer. The top five or six people in each 1L section would be elected to The Law Review the next summer. Those elected would glean faculty contacts, the opportunity to teach at a law school, and the possibility of a Supreme Court clerkship.

Some parts of ONE L are rather funny. For instance, students often retaliated against a professor by hissing, "a piece of student weaponry frequently used when a professor dismissed a student's comments unfairly or said something hardhearted". Another instance would be the night before Midterms when Turow took a sleeping pill, and a Valium, but still couldn't get to sleep.
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Format: Paperback
One of my classmates told me about this book about six weeks into my first semester of law school. I read it and it scared me to death; I'm glad I didn't read this book BEFORE I submitted my application to law school.
As an academic prima donna in college who really never had to WORK to get good grades, the tenor of this book was something of a shock. Looking back, I found it to be pretty accurate. It also helped me to understand that I wasn't the only one who felt out of my league. Turow's descriptions of the mood of his first year class in those innocent, early weeks to the shell-shocked dread he describes just before finals is really close to what I saw in my first year. Unlike the other reviewers, I saw some of my classmates crumble. I heard about the panic attacks first hand. I saw marriages disintegrate, nice people become really weird and pedigreed academics like me get cut way down to size. Finally I watched as the attrition rate kick in, and I knew it for what it was. This book helped me understand what it was I had gotten myself into. Turow doesn't hold any punches. I, for one, appreciated his candor. It was something to hold onto during those sleepless nights.
My advise to anyone who is thinking about trying for law school: Look before you leap and find out as much as you can about what you are getting into. Law school is nothing like college. And Turow illustrates that pretty clearly in this book. That having been said, don't let Turow scare you. Your first year is going to be ugly, but once you make it through, and you will, you're a completely different person.
Dan Lobnitz - University of Denver College of Law (2L)
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Format: Paperback
I thought this book was an interesting portrayal of an Ivy League law school - I read it the summer before I began law school at a Jesuit law school on the West Coast.
Many of the 1L experiences will be the same no matter where one attends - the stress from competition, for example - I liked to characterize it as "the thrill of victory" (to get a cherished A) or the "agony of defeat" (to make an idiot out of yourself in class, which, I am sorry to say, I did on more than one occasion!)
My advice to prospective (and current) law students would be to buy the book, and read it with a grain of salt. I believe that each person has the ability to create their own destiny, and there's a hell of a lot more to learning the law, and succeeding in your chosen profession, than being in the top 5% and on law review - make friends, have fun, and most of all, use your knowledge to help more less fortunate than you, no matter if you went to Harvard or number #176 on U.S. News's list of 177 law schools. That's the key to success as an attorney, and in life, for that matter. Just my $.02!
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