Seattle U. Law School legal-writing director Anne Enquist studied a sample of second-year law students, comparing the highly successful legal writers to the so-so, to find out what the successful ones did to set themselves apart. She describes her study and its results in a paper you can download here. The study suggests (not surprisingly) that a systematic, organized approach is the key:
[T]he study reveals not only the results of working harder but the specifics of working smarter. The secrets to working smarter included note-taking and note-reviewing strategies; how to divide one’s time between researching, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading; how to research and read cases efficiently; strategies for efficient time management; techniques for organizing one’s research and staying organized while writing; and accessing the professor as a primary resource. Pitfalls to avoid included procrastination, poor management of distractions, and scapegoating.