How can I be a good law student?

Although I don't disagree with the previous answers, my advice is inconsistent with some of them. There's more than one way to skin a cat. I'd say the key concept is to work smarter, not harder. I think most law students work needlessly hard. You see them in the library, peeking out under a small stack of books and a large stack of highlighters, notecards, etc. They try to capture everything. They read the book, then they read the commercial outline(s), then they get the secret copy of that one person's notes from three years ago who graduated top in the class, then they show up to class and take their own notes, then go back to the library and re-work those notes, then distill the re-worked notes into an outline, etc. When they're not working on some part of that, they're obsessively thinking about it. (READ MORE: Charles S., 2016, former mathematician, current patent lawyer. How can I be a good law student? wrong, IMO. I claim that successful students under that rubric are successful in spite of their efforts, not because of them.

Before I describe what I did, I'll admit up front that it might be a little extreme in the opposite direction. But it worked for me. (I forget my graduation rank, but it was top-single-digit percent.) Whether it works for you is as much a factor of your mentality and personality than anything else. Nevertheless, I'll describe it just to expose you to a diversity of options, so that you can intelligently cobble together something that feels right for you.

I didn't buy law school textbooks. I didn't buy commercial outlines. With a very small number of exceptions, I didn't do any reading before class. I didn't take notes in class. I didn't borrow others' notes, nor did I make any tangible outline at any point for any class. So, WTF did I do? Two things:

First, I showed up to class and listened to the lecture. Intently. I didn't half-listen while I screwed around online. I didn't bring a computer to class and I kept my phone in my pocket. I was engaged.

Second, after I had a sense of what was going on, I would (possibly) do the assigned reading. I always at least skimmed (and sometimes closely read) the cases in preparation for an exam, but sometimes I would do some reading if I had some free time or energy, or if I felt like the material was getting away from me. On the other hand, if I felt like I had a solid understanding of the material from just listening to the lecture, I wouldn't dedicate much time to reading. (If I didn't buy books, how did I read? I used copies of the books on reserve at the library.)

The main advantage of doing it this way is that, when you know (at least vaguely) what a case is about, you can read it much faster, and your comprehension is much better. So you get that at-least-vague understanding from class, and then fill gaps (if any) from the text itself.

As true as this is with a particular case, it's even moreso when you starting having to integrate multiple cases. That's a legitimate challenge in many law school classes: figuring out how the famous A v. B case relates to the equally famous X v. Y case. If you see that integration play out in class and then go back and read the cases, you're sensitive to things you couldn't possibly have been sensitive to in the first reading. For example, just showing up to class you'll learn that X v. Y is all about a curious conclusion in the A v. B case. So when reading A v. B, you start to pay close attention when that conclusion starts to develop.

There are secondary advantages of going about things this way: it frees up your schedule! I don't say this flippantly. It's important to get a good night's sleep. It's important to maintain some kind of a social life. These are not luxuries that one should deprive themselves of in the name of being a good law student... instead, these are (in my opinion) necessities that make you a good law student. Maybe they're not as important as eating or breathing, but it's the same idea: in order to perform at your best when you're in "law student mode," you need to have your fundamental human needs met. (READ MORE: Charles S., 2016, former mathematician, current patent lawyer. How can I be a good law student?