Law school textbooks are some of the most intimidating items on a student's shopping list. Not only are they physically large, but knowing they contain the law that you must memorize to pass the Bar is enough to set anyone over the edge. However, they are not as bad as they seem. They can be extremely helpful, and often act as a "tutor."
How do I know which textbooks to get?
Most law schools have a webpage where they post the required course materials. Simply Google your law school name and a phrase like "textbook list" and let Google's SEO do all of the work. If you find that it is getting close to the beginning of the semester and your professors or school have not posted anything, regarding textbooks, DO NOT PANIC. They will post the books eventually. Worst case scenario: post in your university's Facebook class page and see if maybe you just missed it.
To purchase or not to purchase?
This is entirely your decision. I personally do not think there is a wrong way to go about this.
I prefer to rent all of mine. I typically rent from places like Amazon, Chegg, and Barrister Books. This not only forces me to take thorough notes, but it also helps me to save money. I normally spend about half of the amount of money that my friends pay either renting from the school bookstore or buying their books.
It is important to note that renting your books may lead you to have heavily annotated books. If you are someone who prefers to make notes in the margin and highlight in your book, then I would suggest not renting. I do still highlight and will occasionally write in my books, but I handwrite all of my notes, so my system of note taking is a bit different.
Once again, this is entirely up to you. I prefer to get a feel for a class and then buy or rent my supplements. Some supplements I will definitely recommend are the Glannon Guides. Those are super helpful with not only ensuring you understand the subject matter, but that you also know how to answer multiple choice questions on the subject. I really enjoyed using the Civil Procedure Glannon Guide.
The Redbook and the Bluebook
The Redbook is the grammar Bible of law school, and The Bluebook is the citation Bible of law school. These two books are incredibly useful for developing your writing skills, so I would recommend purchasing both.
Black's Law Dictionary is FREE if your school uses Westlaw.
Go to Westlaw
Under Browse, go to All Content Section, then click Secondary Sources
Look to the right for a tab titled, "Tools & Resources"
Click on the first link--Black's Law Dictionary
Bookmark this page to your browser
Now you have a free legal dictionary!
*I also really like NOLO (another legal dictionary), which has a free app on Apple's App Store.*
*Another handy website to bookmark is https://www.law.cornell.edu/.
I used to use this site in undergrad, and I still use it in law school. It even has the Universal Commercial Code (UCC), which you will likely review in Contracts.
I mentioned earlier that textbooks in law school can act as tutors. Your tutors exist in the form of the authors of your casebooks. Authors typically write footnotes and have practice questions/summaries at the end of each section. Do not skip these. You may believe you can get by with just reading the cases, and maybe you can, but I prefer to read these extra parts to ensure I am understanding the material well enough so that if a professor calls on me, then I can give an answer with confidence.