One L

Published by Penguin, December, 2010
Paperback, 304 pages, ISBN: 9780143119029

ONE L, Scott Turow's journal of his first year at law school and a best-seller 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 brings alive the anxiety and competitiveness—with others and, even more, with oneself—that set the tone in this crucible of character building. Turow's multidimensional delving into his protagonists' psyches and his marvelous gift for suspense prefigure the achievements of his celebrated first novel, PRESUMED INNOCENT, one of the best-selling and most talked about books of 1987.

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. Turow's group of One Ls are fresh, bright, ambitious, and more than a little daunting. Even more impressive are the faculty: Perini, the dazzling, combative professor of contracts, who presents himself as the students' antagonist in their struggle to master his subject; Zechman, the reserved professor of torts who seems so indecisive the students fear he cannot teach; and Nicky Morris, a young, appealing man who stresses the humanistic aspects of law.

In the new afterword for this edition of ONE L, the author looks back on law school from the perspective of ten years' work as a lawyer and offers some suggestions for reforming legal education.

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Reviews and Praise

A sensitive, dramatically paced account of the author's first 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

ONE L is compelling and even suspenseful reading… Turow evokes the tone and substance of one of the finest professional schools in the world. In so doing, he raises larger questions about the nature of law and legal practices that a general public might well ponder.

Business Week

ONE L is a compelling and important book. It is compelling in its vivid portrayal of the high-tension competitiveness of Harvard Law School and of the group madness it seems to induce in the student body. It is important because it offers an inside look at what law students do and don't learn and who they are and are not equipped to represent when they graduate.

Philip M. Stern

The New York Times Book Review

For those who have not been to law school, Turow makes the experience breathe; for those who have, he recalls it vividly. His book is an important document, albeit a personal one, because it raises disturbing questions about the means and ends of legal education.

Michael Wheeler

Chronicle of Higher Education Review

The most accurate, complete, and balanced description yet of a century-old rite of passage in America.

Bruce Bortz

Baltimore Sun

An elegant report from the graduate school battlefield and from the heart.

Boston Sunday Globe

Absorbing… for the layman as well as lawyers, ONE L is compelling and even suspenseful reading.

Business Week

A fascinating account.

Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Gripping… candid and straightforward.

Sunday Oregonian

An important documen… for those who have not been to law school, Turow makes the experience breathe; for those who have, he recalls it vividly.

Chronicle of Higher Education Review

A sensitive, dramatically paced account.

New York Times


Kansas City Star