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Old habits die hard…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 21, 2014 in The After-3L Life

To the extent not doing something can be considered habit-forming, I slipped back into my old habit of not updating law:/dev/null on a regular basis — I wrote a “stub” for a handful of entries, never actually finished them, and now they’re just not nearly as interesting as I thought they were at the time. :beatup:

So rather than an in-depth entry this go-round, I’m gonna go with one of those bullet-point updates I use in situations where I’ve been gone awhile:1

  • A couple weeks ago I agreed to join a classmate at the veterinarian for moral support as she had one of her dogs put to sleep. :( This particular pooch was in horrible shape — cataracts, tumors, seizures, unable to eat, tremendous weight loss — so euthanasia “made sense.” But it still ranks among the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Ever. Over the past 33 years I’ve lost pets, I’ve lost friends, I’ve been to funerals; the pain from those losses is real, but totally unrivaled compared to being inches away watching as a living thing takes its last breath. In her case I was horrible as moral support because I’m pretty sure I cried more than she did (and it wasn’t even my dog). Not an experience I want to repeat.
  • That same afternoon I came back to the TGD Law headquarters to resume work, and met my first bona fide batsh*t crazy prospective client. He was referred to me by another lawyer,2 said he had an issue that fell squarely within my realm of expertise, and had $5,000.00 in-hand ready to pay me — until I started asking him questions, his responses threw up red flags, I asked more questions, and got more nonsense. Essentially what he wanted me to do was get myself disbarred trying to use the legal system to pursue a foreclosure-related scam, with nearly a dozen different justifications already debunked in North Carolina appellate law that he heard at some seminar he paid to attend in Florida. It was a horribly awkward consultation, and he was mystified when I told him I couldn’t take his money and then sent him on his way.3 After nearly 2 years in practice I hadn’t met anyone with a truly outlandish claim; he is now officially at the top of the list.
  • Speaking of TGD Law: I convinced two of my NCCU Law classmates to come work for the firm starting this past Monday :eek: Shutterbug is now on board helping with the business law side of the practice, as well as the Class of 2013 President Miss ርእሰብሔር helping with the higher education / criminal defense side.4 It’s slightly nerve-wracking knowing I’ve now got a team of people to look after. We’ve all got complementary strengths, though, so I’m hoping it will lead to greater success for all of us :)
  • That same day, I was walking back to my car after lunch with one of my good friends from my UNCASG days (the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel reporter assigned to cover ASG at the time). As we get near the parking deck we happen to pass two uniformed officers with the Durham Police Department. I say hello as we pass, one of the officers mentions he likes the NCCU Law baseball cap I’m wearing,5 and after a few more paces I hear the same officer shout “Doucette, right?” For an ever-so-brief instant, my mind raced to figure out what I could possibly have done to merit me getting arrested.6 :beatup: Turns out he’s a third-year student in the law school’s evening program who had visited law:/dev/null on occasion and wanted to let me know. Felt pretty cool after the fact but I was definitely nervous beforehand!
  • Even though I’m in my mid-30s, in my mind I’m still somewhere in my mid-20s. Then Q.T. sent me a text earlier tonight to let me know she’s the new Student Government advisor at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics and wants me to do my training program for them in the Fall. And I realized: Son of TDot is now the same age as most NCSSMers :crack: I’ll be training kids who are quite literally young enough to be my own children…
  • I also spent the afternoon helping conduct the character and fitness interviews for the 14th Judicial District Bar :) I don’t think I ever finished the post I meant to write way back in 2012 about my own experience, but it was marginally terrifying at the time — so I thought I’d volunteer in the hopes of making it not terrifying for this year’s batch of applicants. It was a fun experience, plus I got to serve with another lawyer I met for the first time who handles an area of law I will never touch if I can help it (ZombieLaw). I’m looking forward to doing it again next year if they need me.
  • I’ve also got an incredibly important brief due Monday that I haven’t started yet :beatup: So time to close this entry out so I can get to bed and start tomorrow!

That’s the extent of what’s been new and exciting in my life. I hope all of you are doing well, and enjoy the rest of your weekend! :D

  1. Though I’ll note for the record that “gone awhile” this time around was only 2 weeks, which is much better than my average absence last year ;) []
  2. Who I already called an *sshole for sending him to me… []
  3. I’ll admit, my bank account was mystified too :beatup: []
  4. There’s a better-than-half chance I’ve butchered this as a nickname. She’s an Ethiopian-American — even writes a blog on her experiences — so I tried to find the Amharic word for “president” and use that. Hopefully I got it right, but if not someone can correct me :) []
  5. The only downside to summertime for me: potential sunburn on my bald scalp requiring the near-constant wearing of a hat… no matter the temperature. []
  6. My Facebook page tends to have quite a few anti-government posts on it, which inevitably includes a string of anti-police posts as well. []

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Speaking of QuickBooks…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 2, 2014 in The After-3L Life

…self-employment taxes suck.

Even after tracking every single penny spent by the business, every mile driven, every conceivable deduction — and not even making that much to begin with — I still somehow owe $1,300 in taxes to the federal government :crack:

(North Carolina, by contrast, is giving me a $12 refund.)

I see why small business owners learn to hate the government…

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Getting intimate (with QuickBooks)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 31, 2014 in The After-3L Life

I hit a point a couple months ago where I had more work at TGD Law than I could handle on my own. Like cleaning out flagged email from my inbox, I had a sense of accomplishment when my active caseload shrunk from 100+ down to a more manageable 75ish.1

More work than I can handle also meant money-making cases were sitting idle, so I started making plans to bring in more personnel. That in turn prompted me to look at things like my firm’s balance sheet statement and my profit & loss statement — things I knew existed from my 2L Business Associations class, but that I never had much actual reason to review while I was busy chasing new clients.

And that, in turn, led me to spend the past 4 hours dabbling in QuickBooks as I discovered I’d done a few things totally wrong since I started 20 months ago :beatup:

I’ve been a QuickBooks user since 2005 when I was hired to be a lobbyist for a small firm in downtown Raleigh.2 While my boss originally hired me for my political acumen (and the ability to break bread with the then-minority Republicans as he schmoozed the Democrats), I offered to also use my financial skills on the company’s behalf in exchange for an early pay raise. QuickBooks became my go-to app for managing my own checkbook from there.

So when I started TGD Law, naturally QB was the only accounting software I considered. And having already run one company with it, getting things set up for the law firm was straightforward. But since I had requested an extension on my 2013 tax returns, and didn’t have that much activity to go through for my 2012 taxes last year, I never noticed before now that my books weren’t quite as clean as they should be :(

For example: an accountant told me that when I use my personal funds on behalf of the law firm, I should record it in QuickBooks as a loan to the firm — but subsequent accountants have told me that’s a no-no, and should instead be recorded as a capital contribution to the firm (to which I discovered I’ve somehow contributed $36K over not-quite-two years :surprised: ).

Conversely, when I’d pay myself I would mark it down as a payroll expense; the same subsequent accountants tell me that too is a no-no, and that as a single-member LLC I should instead mark them down as capital distributions.

Then there were my insurance expenses (malpractice insurance and health insurance are treated differently for tax purposes) and a handful of other small items.

Hence spending what was going to be a productive Saturday instead cleaning up several dozen accounting entries :beatup:

There’s no real overarching “moral of the story” to this post (except maybe to hire a competent accountant early in your practice). Just consider yourself forewarned if you decide to go the solo/small practice route that you’ll want to get your accounting stuff squared away sooner rather than later :)

Have a great night y’all! :D

  1. It took awhile to sink into my brain that 1 civil litigation case is (typically) more involved than 1 criminal case. I’d been benchmarking myself against classmates routinely handling 200+ cases at a time, before discovering most of them were traffic tickets :beatup: []
  2. Where they apparently still haven’t removed me from the “About Us” section of their website 8 years later… :crack: []

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Greetings from Alabama!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 25, 2014 in Randomness

I never got around to doing an update of my first-ever visit to Chicago last summer,1 but I was there (really!), so it finally got shaded in on the map of TDot’s Travels.

While pulling up the map in Photoshop, I also noticed that for several years now Alabama remained the only state in the Southeast I still hadn’t visited.

Alabama is covered! Next: the Ohio River Valley

Alabama is covered! Next: the Ohio River Valley

Well I’ve now driven across it twice this weekend — so it gets shaded too! :D

One of 雅雅’s friends from optometry school was getting married in New Orleans this weekend, and after just flying to Memphis two weeks ago for her graduation2 I was/am too poor to afford another plane ticket so soon.

So we’re currently driving back from New Orleans after driving down there two days ago, and stopped here in Auburn at a Firehouse Subs for lunch :)

The downside of course is that we’ll have both been stuck in the car for roughly 26 hours over a 72-hour period — the equivalent of three whole workdays :beatup:but it provided a low-cost chance to go back to New Orleans, catch up with one of my closest friends and political allies from undergrad (currently a 2L at Tulane), see the southern edge of Mississippi, and travel through Auburn / Montgomery / Mobile in Alabama :spin:

We’ve gotta get back on the road so that’s it for now, I’m off to resume enjoying this sub and gearing up to drive the next leg of the trip to/through Atlanta. Y’all have a great rest of the Memorial Day weekend!

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From the law:/dev/null travel-related archives:

  1. Which included being quizzed by TSA for having a few thumb drives in my briefcase, my first airplane being attacked by its onboard toilet (necessitating a flight change) and then the next being plagued by a malfunctioning battery (necessitating another flight change), a 30-minute conversation with a taxi driver who was almost better versed in the law than I was, and all sorts of other craziness :crack: []
  2. That’s the main reason I started the series on my interviews with the NCSU Libraries — it made posting entries easier while I was away from the Bull City ;) []

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Mastering the Art of Embarrassing Myself

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 19, 2014 in Fail

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Superior Court for a solo who’s only been licensed for about a year and 9 months now. While most of that has been on the civil side of the courthouse, it encompasses a handful or two of criminal cases as well.1

But in one of those weird coincidences of life, all of those clients have had last names falling in the first few letters of the alphabet — all “A”s and “C”s before today.

So I’m down in Wake County for Superior Court calendar call today, on behalf of three folks convicted as part of the misguided prosecutions of last year’s Moral Monday protestors.

One of them has a last name starting with H, so about thirty minutes or so into calendar call I note my appearance on his behalf and get a new court date.

Another hour or so goes by, and we’re only to L. I look at my watch and realize I need to go add time to the parking meter so I don’t end up with yet another parking ticket.2 My next client’s last name is Smith, so I figure I’ve got time.

I go downstairs, throw a couple more quarters in the meter, come back to the courtroom… and see everyone streaming out :surprised:

Panicked that I just missed calendar call for two of my clients, I rush up to the ADA and apologize and quickly explain that I had to go add time to the meter…

…before thinking that maybe there was still more to calendar call to go. Sure enough, she replies “oh that was just the first half. We’ve got a 10-minute break before we do N through Z.” :beatup:

Some days I truly question whether I have the competence to do this for a living…

  1. Including one of the “boneheaded decisions” I wrote about during my Year 1 Recap. []
  2. I still get them with annoying frequency, just like when I was in undergrad :mad: []

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Litigating against Goliath PLLC

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 15, 2014 in The After-3L Life

Samson and I get a lot of law-related magazines each month at the TDot Household.

From the American Bar Association there’s the ABA Journal, GPSolo, and The Young Lawyer (now restyled “tyl”). The Federal Bar Association sends me The Federal Lawyer. With the NC Bar Association there’s the quarterly NC Lawyer and the NCBA YLD’s The Advocate. The State Bar itself sends the quarterly State Bar Journal. Then of course there’s the must-read NC Lawyers Weekly that comes every Monday.

(And that’s just the stuff that arrives in the mailbox. There are a half-dozen more e-newsletters I get in my inbox, whether I’ve signed up for them or not :beatup: )

So with all that stuff to read — stuff that takes time away from reading case law and client-focused things — it’s not unusual for me to be a few days/weeks/months behind. Then one day over breakfast or lunch or dinner I’ll randomly decide I’m actually going to try and read something from the backlog.

Yesterday was one of those days. I’m eating a sausage biscuit for breakfast, open up the latest copy of the ABA Journal, get to the Letters to the Editor section, and notice one of the letters is about an attorney “Hunoval” touting Lean Six Sigma as a way to run a law firm.

He just happened to share the last name of a firm I’ve got a case against in US District Court for the Middle District of NC.1 And, given how uncommon the name is, I say aloud to myself “I wonder if this is the same firm?”, go digging for my March edition of the ABA Journal,2 and find this multi-page firm profile confirming it’s the same firm and going into detail on their process.

Now there’s nothing I can really say about the Hunoval Law Firm itself that wouldn’t get misconstrued.3 So this post isn’t about them per se, but rather about the ABA Journal’s fawning coverage of using Lean Six Sigma in a litigation-heavy law firm.

Is this really the recipe we want for running future firms, especially ones who regularly use the courts?

The thing about statistical processing is that, by definition, it ignores the individual in favor of the group. Cases get transformed from individual people with individual problems to cookie cutter file batches subjected to cookie cutter solutions.

And while I have -0- doubt that certainly does improve speed and efficiency, I’m not convinced it necessarily also yields quality or ethical litigation.

Take my client’s case as an example. Without getting into too much detail about the merits, it’s self-evident from the exhibits attached to our injunction request (and our reply to the Defendants’ response to that request) that something is very clearly “off” with the mortgagee’s accounting. The same mortgagee likely handles hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts; this one account happens to have a problem.

In a situation like that, one would hope an individual person could recognize the individual account has an individual problem and then tailor an individual solution.

Instead — no doubt from using the same principles of statistics-driven efficiency touted by the ABA Journal’s fluff piece — the mortgagee still can’t get things right years later, the account has been the subject of litigation since 2010 across multiple state and federal courts,4 and it will continue at least until we get to trial in April 2015.

The individual has been lost in the shuffle, even though “the individual” is ultimately what any given lawsuit revolves around.

Look, I’m all for saving my clients money and being more efficient.

But I’m also in favor of being an excellent lawyer. And that comes first on my hierarchy of career-related aspirations.

  1. If you’ve got a PACER account, take a look when you get bored — the case name is Annette M. Hayes v. Self-Help Credit Union, RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation, Five Brothers Mortgage Company Services and Securing Inc, and Douglas Allan Stuart a/k/a “D.A. Stuart”. The file number is 1:13-cv-880 (MDNC). []
  2. Which at that point I still hadn’t read :beatup: []
  3. Praise them and I’m just buttering them up to settle; criticize them and I’m just sharing sour grapes over them not settling. Either way we lose. []
  4. A foreclosure case in Wilson County Superior Court, a federal bankruptcy filing in EDNC, our tort suit in Durham County Superior Court removed to MDNC, and a new foreclosure case in Wilson County Superior Court (filed to pressure us to settle). There’s no telling how many trees have died over just this one account… :crack: []

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“First, let me take a selfie”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 13, 2014 in Randomness
Best pic of the TGD Law mascot evah

Best pic of the TGD Law mascot evah

I’ve been swamped with work so I don’t have enough time to write anything insightful just yet.

(yes yes I know, that’s become the standard start to more than a handful of blog entries here :beatup: )

But I did make a trip to the TGD Law banking institution, and while waiting in line for the ATM decided to take a “selfie”…1

…and Samson happened to turn right to the camera and smile :D

I have the most awesome dog :spin:

  1. Easily one of the most obnoxious words invented in the past decade… []

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 9 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 11, 2014 in Background

I’ve learned after writing this blog for almost 5 years now that I have -0- clue what the future is going to hold.

See, e.g., me thinking I might make it to Marine Corps OCS (nope), or me thinking I might become a prosecutor (negative), or my in-retrospect-absurdly-ambitious plans for NC SPICE (LOL).

So I made sure to eschew making any predictions when I got asked the inevitable question of what I looked forward to in my undergraduate alma mater’s future.1 :beatup:

Here’s the last snippet from the interview, followed by some stuff on my history with traffic tickets:2

Questions in this Clip:

00:00 – What do you look forward to for the future at NC State?

01:46 – Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

03:03 – Outtake: Traffic Tickets

And that’s it! Hopefully over these past 9 entries you’ve got a slightly more detailed view of the man-behind-the-blog.3 :)

Back to law-related stuff in the weeks ahead :D Hope all of you have had a great weekend, and enjoy the upcoming week!

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From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

  1. Though I did make one small quip about our football team around the 1:31 mark… :angel: []
  2. Mentioned after inadvertently learning the camera hadn’t been cut off yet :beatup: []
  3. Also, I’ve now officially knocked out a third of my New Year’s resolutions ;) []

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 8 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 10, 2014 in Background

Many years ago, back during the days-you-couldn’t-pay-me-to-relive when I was a 1L, I wrote this entry on LRA mentioning how my computer science background helped me with studying law (and also how I hated LRA :mad: ).

That was the main topic in the penultimate snippet from my interview with the NCSU Libraries as part of their Student Leadership Initiative — not just how computer science prepared me for law school, but how my NC State education in general factored in.

Before we get to that though, you get to witness me being stumped by a question because the thing I thought was the highlight of my career in Student Senate was dead by the time I had the interview :beatup:

Questions in this Clip:

00:00 – What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a student leader at NC State?

02:11 – Do you think your time at NC State has prepared you so far for law school?

06:07 – Could you talk a little bit about how your time at State has influenced your life more broadly?

Only one more video left, then I’ll get back to law-related stuff :) Good night y’all!

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From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 7 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 9, 2014 in Background

Long-time readers of law:/dev/null1 have likely already come across at least one of the several dozen entries I’ve posted over the years on the UNC Association of Student Governments under our UNCASG tag and the Student Government category :beatup:

If my time leading the Student Senate2 was best characterized as a hobby, UNCASG quickly developed into an obsession.

The group had grown so wholly and completely dysfunctional that it was practically begging for unconventional leadership, and I truly felt called to step up and fix it. So I eventually teamed up with the Pickle Princess to burn everything to the ground and start over — with N.C. State as my template.

But first there was the whole issue of running for reelection for the purpose of vanquishing a certain villain

Questions in this Clip:

00:00 – So what factors influenced your decision to run for reelection?

07:27 – How did you handle both responsibilities as Student Senate President and ASG President?

Hope all of you have had a great week, and enjoy your weekend! :D

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From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

  1. **THANK YOU**! :* []
  2. The single most-distinguished student deliberative assembly ever conceived in the State of North Carolina :spin: []

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