During the build-up to Christmas, it can be incredibly easy to get lost in the whirlwind of decorations, gifts and (for those of us still climbing the university mountain) exams. It is certainly important to set time aside for revision, research and those glamorous post-webinar LinkedIn posts. However, I think it is equally crucial to reap the unquantifiable benefits of taking breaks. One of the ways I try to relax is by picking up a book (by choice!) and finding a cosy corner to curl up in with a cuppa. What better way to spend your valuable time than to discover the law in a way that is relevant yet relaxed? In this piece, I will review recent and popular legal literature, and highlight their usefulness and relevance in terms of learning about a career in the law.
In Your Defence – Sarah Langford’s case-by-case gallery
At a time when I was deeply conflicted over the future and whether to pursue journalism or law, I was gifted In Your Defence by Sarah Langford. This book showed me one inside woman's view of the justice system and I realised that my love for writing and my curiosity in the law could merge. Like me, Langford started her early adult life at university, reading English, “knowing that, when it was over, I had to find a job I thought worthwhile, unpredictable, interesting and, most of all, where words were loved.” In her impressive and heartening recollection of 11 pivotal cases that have defined her career so far, Langford describes what it is like to work in the criminal and family courts as a defence lawyer.
Langford’s (true) short stories create a totally immersive environment, (beware: your tea may just go cold when you can’t put this one down!) Each chapter cleverly grips the reader in a way that is relatable, informative, and inspiring.
“I nearly left my second interview with chambers before it started… I fidgeted with the buttons of my H&M suit and wondered what I was doing there. But I stayed and got through it, and then they offered me a pupillage.”
From her time in the classroom to her experiences at court, Langford effortlessly connects with the reader at whatever stage they are at, reminiscing on her time at law school and pinpointing important moments and memories in her spectacularly varied career in a wig.
After each chapter on the life-cycle of a different case draws to a close, Langford makes a series of reflective statements that remark on the effectiveness of the justice system, or what her role as a lawyer truly means. She evaluates her successes and failures, embracing what can often be a raw and emotional experience to defend criminals, children or simply those who have nothing but, “ruptured dreams and biting shame”. It is important to note that this is not a collection of case-files, but stories of real people and Langford’s response to their cries for help. Undoubtedly one of the most uplifting and memorable books I have ever encountered, and definitely a must-read for aspiring lawyers.
The Art of The Loophole: Making the law work for you – Nick Freeman reveals the secret to success in the courtroom
In what first appears to be a step-by-step guide to becoming a legal superstar, Nick Freeman divulges his methods and secrets, gathered over years of experience in and out of the courtroom, in a way that is engaging, and at times, genuinely entertaining. What I found most surprising about this handbook to greatness was the way that Freeman maintained a humbleness and brutal honesty with his readers. Being a good lawyer, he says, is not just about winning cases (and doing so with style) but knowing how to deal with failure, fault and frustration with unfulfillment within. While the world views ‘Mr Loophole’ as a ruthless and highly-skilled courtroom ringmaster, the writer ‘Nick Freeman’ has pulled back the curtain to show what really goes on behind the cameras.
Celebrity clients’ fun (but confidential, of course) dinner-time stories come with the expectation to perform in a certain way, with heavy consequences that might intimidate the average attorney. Freeman is no exception. Consistently faced with tough decisions and moral ambiguities, his ‘story’ is driven by the theme of road traffic law, which draws close attention to the detail of post-accident procedure. Freeman highlights how the mechanics of each persons’ role in an unfortunate sequence of events on the road can be crucial to making or (Freeman hopes) breaking the claimant’s case. As someone from a non-law background, I found this, and Freeman’s overall approach to casework, fascinating. Making the law work for you is certainly an apt title, as according to Freeman’s track record, your personal skills and experiences have a pivotal part to play in the success of a case and, crucially, your confidence in your ability to succeed.
If you are looking for something to dip in and out of at leisure, this book is a perfectly satisfying perusal. Freeman opens a window into every aspect of his journey to (unintentional) fame in this light-hearted yet empowering 288-page biography.
In the event that you are not a book-lover yourself, these might just be the perfect Secret Santa gift for a fellow law student or colleague this Christmas!
Speaking of which, I might switch out that cuppa for a nice warm glass of mulled wine...