Sorry guys, I've been on vacation the last couple of days and haven't been monitoring the thread.
What were your study methods/habits?
How much luck was involved in getting top grades?
How confident were you before and after the exams?
During 1L I took the approach that no one was going to outwork me. During the weekend I would do the reading for all of my substantive classes and highlight all the relevant parts of the cases that were going to be discussed the following week. I would then get to the law school at 7am Monday-Thursday and read all of the highlighted parts of the case as a refresher for my 8:30 class and then I would do the same in the period between my first and second classes. During the week I devoted by evenings to my legal writing class which consumed almost as much time as my substantive classes combined. Once legal writing was over (it ended at the end of November), I would spend the time that I had spent on that class to reading as many multiple choice questions that I could get a hold of (BarBri, Law in a Flash, Q&A, etc.). I found that this helped for both essays and m/c exams because it helped me refresh the black letter law and see some of the situations that the rule could be applied in outside of the case that we read in class. When finals came, I would just read the notes that I took in class and the highlighted parts of my casebook (I would not recommend memorizing the facts of the cases but having a handle of how that rule of law could play out in a case can help as some prof's use a derivative of the case as a question on the exam). I never used an outline, I would just read my notes (usually between 80-100 pages for the semester) as many times are possible in the 4 or so weeks leading up to the exam. This was the approach I took in undergrad (just reading my class notes to prep for an exam) and I saw no need to reinvent the wheel and create outlines for all of my classes.
There is definitely a "luck factor" when it comes to getting the top grades. I think that anyone in the Top 10 numerically could have been #1 based on their aptitude and work ethic. First year is a little less "luck dependent" because there were 80 kids in my section and with the curve allowing for roughly 20% A's I knew that there would be about 15 A's handed out. Upper division gets tricky. Our curve allowed profs to give out slightly more A's (25%) but that can get tricky when there are only 20 students in a class. I tried to take as many classes where there would be 50+ students in the class to maximize the number of A's given out. This limited the probability to book the class (I only had 4 book awards) but it made getting A's easier since more were given out in larger classes.
Since I thought that I was outworking everyone and felt like that I had mastered the material I always felt somewhat confident before exams. There is a lot of nervous energy but I always felt that I had put in enough work to be successful. After the exam I would always question myself and reply questions in my head days after the exam. I would have to consciously tell myself to stop thinking about the exam and try to enjoy the time between exams and the posting of grades. Since all the classes are on a curve there is no way of knowing how you truly did. However, there were 2-3 exams out of the 20 some that I took where I really felt that I knew everything asked and found all the issues.
0L prep... did ya do it? Did it help?
Contrary to some of the stuff posted on this site I did a lot of 0L prep. I read Getting to Maybe and all of the E&Es for my Fall classes (Crim Law, Torts, Civ Pro, and Contracts). Although I didn't understand a lot of the concepts, the ability to build a basic vocabulary and get a grasp on the terminology really gave me confidence heading into 1L. I definitely would not say that it made the difference in getting good grades, but it didn't hurt either. My game plan for 0L summer was to read one of those books for 2 hours and then chillax and enjoy the last free summer of my life.
How many practice tests did you take?
None of my professors released practice tests. Like I discussed earlier in this response I tried to get my hands on as many multiple choice questions as possible (Law in a Flash isn't really m/c but I found it to be the best supplement).
Can you dunk?
What was your living arrangement like, and do you think it made a difference? (e.g., short commute, long commute, alone, with significant other, etc)
I lived with my brother (teacher at a nearby school) about 1.5 miles from the law school. We were both really busy (he has a lot of after school responsibilities) so we hardly ever saw each other. I went to a school that has a big undergrad population so I wanted some distance from the party-scene but didn't want to have a super-long commute either. Since parking on campus costs a fortune, I would drive about a mile and park on a residential street and walk a half-mile to school. It was a good way to get a little exercise and breathe some fresh air before embarking on a long day at school. I think that my living situation was great and definitely played a positive role on my law school success.
How much, if at all, were you involved in your school's social life?
During 1L year I devoted all of my "law school time" to trying to get the best grades possible. I didn't join any clubs or orgs. I made some good friends in my section and would usually go out on a Friday or Saturday night to the bar but that was the extent of it. I looked at it as mortgaging my social life for a year for the opportunity to get the grades that I needed to be successfully later in life. I was on Law Review 2L and 3L year and met some great people. Since the pressure is not as high during 2L and 3L I was able to take more time away from my law school studies. Also, I'm a big sports fan and caught all of the home football games during my law school career and saw at least a couple of basketball games as well (not to mention watching the rest on TV).
How did you compare to your classmates before attending law school? (i.e., were you in the top 75th percentile of GPA/LSAT? Did you "feel" on par with them, smarter, less smart?)
You never really know where you stand until the grades come out. I was in top 75th percentile in GPA/LSAT but I was almost always impressed with the discussions in class and never really knew who the top students would be. With that said, after meeting more people through the course of my law school career I found that there were a fair amount of students that treated 1L year like a 5th year of undergrad or a frat party. I would venture to guess that at TTs there are a fair mix of people that want to be successful and know what they need to do to get there and people that have never heard of sites like TLS, that don't honestly know what the job market is like, and are just trying to live it up for another 3 years. I think that if you work hard and apply yourself at a TT you can be at the median if not much better due to students like this.
6'3" of course.
Can you dunk?
Highly relevant. I could dunk with ease entering law school but after living a pretty sedentary lifestyle during law school I type with regret saying that I can only dunk a tennis/softball
Feel free to keep asking questions. Sorry about not getting back to you guys sooner!