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Getting into competition mode

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 30, 2009 in The 1L Life

Over the Christmas weekend the NCCU Law 1L trial team got a PDF containing the information for the Kilpatrick Stockton 1L mock trial competition taking place in a couple weeks.

Basically a criminal defense lawyer is sleeping with at least 2 women (in addition to being married), one of them ends up dead, and he gets indicted for her murder when his drug addict brother gets busted on possession charges and bargains with police for a reduced sentence, claiming he dumped the body in the Gulf of Mexico on the lawyer brother’s behalf.

Meanwhile the Detective investigating the case provides a receipt as evidence that he saw the defendant and the dead woman in a restaurant, but the receipt shows him downing $50 worth of wine that night. The drug addict brother was once mentally incompetent. And the “other woman” testified at trial that she killed the chick in self defense because both women ended up in the lawyer’s house at the same time when the lawyer wasn’t there.

There’s a bunch more crazy facts to the case, but you get the idea.

I know these scenarios are contrived for teaching purposes, but reading this stuff makes me want to be a litigator. It doesn’t take much time at all to think of the scathing questions to ask if I were prosecuting the case. Or how mercilessly I could destroy the credibility of the state’s witnesses if I were on defense. Etc.

Just 2.5 more years to go… :)

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Enjoying a slow roll down NC186

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 27, 2009 in The 1L Life

My first car was actually a truck, a Wolfpack red 1987 Madza pickup that my father gave me after my freshman year at N.C. State.

Now I love my family, but they don’t know how to maintain technology for the life of ’em — mobile phones, computers, cars, etc — so by the time I got the truck in 1999 it was a beat up mess. But when your previous method of transportation was either on foot or pleading for a ride, you’re thankful for what you can get ;)

The truck radio didn’t work and it didn’t have air conditioning, so driving was a strictly utilitarian pursuit. I got into the habit of speeding to get from Point A to Point B (racking up more than a couple citations in the process) since the driving experience wasn’t terribly enjoyable. Even when I got my current car back in 2002, the idea of driving just for the sake of driving was a relatively foreign concept.

Fast forward to last year, when I took over as President of the UNC Association of Student Governments. One of the goals on my campaign platform was to personally visit all 17 UNC institutions at least 2x apiece during the year, so naturally that meant spending a few dozen hours driving around North Carolina.

And at some point along the way I started to really enjoy it.

Where I once cringed at sitting in silence with a non-functioning radio, I’d actually cut off the CD player and listen to the wind wrap around the car. Where I used to speed to get somewhere, I’d instead set the cruise control at the speed limit and take in the view along the way (unless I was late :beatup:).

That’s particularly true when it comes to visiting my grandparents back in Virginia Beach. Once upon a time I stuck to the Interstate as much as possible since it was the fastest way to get there. Then one day Pops pulled out a map and showed me a path down NC186 that shaved off about 50 miles — it was a little bit slower, but saved gas $$ :)

Satellite image of NC186

The path less traveled: NC186 from Garysburg to Gumberry to Seaboard to Boykins

I use it as my regular route now, and I have to say it’s one of the highlights of traveling home.

In most respects there’s nothing unusual about it at all, it’s very “North Carolina”-esque as far as countrysides go. There are miles of farmland that in parts stretch as far as the eye can see — mostly cotton, but some corn, soybeans, and wheat plots too — broken up by towns with only a few hundred residents. There’s an occasional visual oddity or two, like the lumber mill near the Virginia border or the fire station that doubles as a town hall. Gas stations are rare, and the ones that exist are more likely to accept paper checks than credit or debit cards.

The whole area makes me want to cut off the radio and drive through a few miles under the speed limit.

Even though both Nan and Pops had parents who lived on farms (in Pennsylvania and New York, respectively) I’ve always been a “city boy” who grew up in Virginia Beach and then came to Raleigh. That label got reinforced even more when I majored in Computer Science and then decided I wanted to become a lawyer.

I don’t regret it, because Lord knows I get cranky when I don’t have my internet. But there’s something to be said for the simpler things in life (über-cliché I know. sorry.). Seeing folks who have almost nothing beyond a rundown truck and a trailer putting up wreaths and garlands and celebrating Christmas with family reminds me of when I was a kid, when the internet didn’t exist and my idea of recreation was playing with Legos or running around in the yard. And I’ll be honest: with text messages and Facebook and tweets, I kinda miss going “off the grid” every now and then.

Anyhow, sorry for the rambling. Just got back into Durham today and thought I’d share :) Hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and are preparing accordingly for New Year’s Eve! :D

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Merry Christmas from law:/dev/null! :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 24, 2009 in Randomness

We’ve got a fairly multicultural audience here at law:/dev/null, undoubtedly owing to the multicultural nature of the country, the internet, law school, and so on.

And since I’ve been wished both a happy Eid and a happy Hannukah in the months since I started blogging — and know next to nothing about either holiday — I figured it’s finally my turn to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! :D

As everyone gets ready for tomorrow’s festivities, church services (Midnight Mass for us Catholics), delicious food, or just having the day off, I hope all of you have a safe and happy holiday with friends and loved ones :)

And although most times I assiduously refrain from religious references, in light of the holiday I’ll leave you with what is probably the most quoted passage of the Bible, the Gospel according to John, Chapter 3, line 16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

Merry Christmas everybody :D

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1

A Quantitative Look at 1L Fall

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 22, 2009 in The 1L Life

I shamelessly borrowed the concept for today’s post from this entry by Miss Julie Anne Ines (aka the Blawgirl), so if you haven’t checked out her segment of the intarwebs yet, please do so now because it’s Good Stuff™ :)

As my fellow Legal Eagles and I enjoy the agonizing wait for our grades — one section got their Contracts grades back; that section was not mine :mad: — it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve gone down the road to lawyerhood (attorneydom? JDness?).

So to illustrate the point, here’s a quantitative look at the semester :D

—===—

Number of pages read in Civil Procedure with MDG:
~238

—===—

Number of pages read in Torts with Professor Torts:
~360

—===—

Number of pages read in Contracts with Professor Ks:
~439

—===—

Number of pages read in Property with the Traveling Professor:
~187

—===—

Number of useless writing assignments in Legal Reasoning & Analysis:
11

—===—

Number of supplements consulted:
4 (an Emanuel’s for each class)

—===—

Number of visits to the law library since orientation:
-0- (see next item)

—===—

Number of searches on Lexis-Nexis:
212+

—===—

Number of Lexis-Nexis Points earned:
2,630

—===—

Number of times overheard swearing in class at WestLaw/TWEN’s poor website coding:
7+

—===—

Number of days waiting for grades:
12, and counting…

—===—

Imagine where we’ll be 5 more semesters from now :)

Have a great night folks!! :D

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The Waiting Game (Law School Edition)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 20, 2009 in The 1L Life

It’s Sunday. I’m fairly certain no one is working at the law school. And several of my fellow 1Ls (see Really? Law? or Catatonic Storm Clouds) still have exams looming.

And yet I can’t resist the occasional impulse to log in and see if my grades have been posted :beatup:

I know there’s nothing there. Delta the 2L even forewarned me that we probably wouldn’t get grades back until mid-January.

But it’s driving me batshit crazy not knowing how the first semester turned out.  If things went well, I want to know so I can celebrate accordingly (e.g. by getting thoroughly plastered with friends). If things went not-so-well, I want to know so I can wallow in my own self-pity (e.g. by getting thoroughly plastered by myself).

Either way, I see -0- benefit in having to wait until well after the new year. If you were a professor, wouldn’t you want to get the grading knocked out so you could enjoy the next 2-3 weeks without any obligations hanging over your head? And how on Earth do they manage to process grades in only a few days when it comes to notifying graduates that they’ll get to participate in Commencement?

Dear NCCU law faculty: we’ve been done for almost two weeks now. I want my grades plzkkthxu :P

Grrr…

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Snow! Or not…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 19, 2009 in Randomness

From the “I really hate North Carolina’s schizophrenic weather” files, pretty much everyone in the state got real snow over the past couple days… except me :(

My apartment is the tiny sliver of "no snow" white in between the two bands of blue...

My apartment is the tiny sliver of "no snow" white in between the two bands of blue...

It started out looking like a veritable blizzard, huge flakes falling fast like a snowy thunderstorm. But none of it stuck to the ground before changing over about an hour later to sleet and freezing rain. And then the sun was shining here while points west were still trying to unbury themselves.

So I got to “enjoy” the ridiculously @#$%ing cold weather with absolutely no fluffy precipitation to make it worthwhile :mad:

Even the accumulation maps show the snow assiduously avoiding my apartment — taking a look at the pic and you’ll notice my place is in the tiny sliver of “no snow” white in between two bands of “two inches of snow or more” blue.

As if sensing my annoyance, Mother Nature decided to let a few pity flakes fall around lunchtime :beatup:

I’m slightly embittered by this whole situation…

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TDot’s Tips: Final Exam Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 16, 2009 in TDot's Tips

Sorry for the extended break, I was enjoying the whole “class is over and I don’t have anything to do”-ness of winter break.  But today was mostly spent at the law school, meaning it was time to finally get around to resuming the blog posts here at law:/dev/null :)

Today itself was… interesting.  I was fortunate enough to make the 1L trial advocacy team for a competition next month, but the preliminary interview for the Client Counseling Competition was an unmitigated disaster. I’m lucky Madame Prosecutor didn’t wring my neck in the middle of the interview room because I clearly don’t know the first thing about interviewing potential clients :beatup:

Fortunately I’m getting the experience now so I’ll be in better shape a few weeks from now.

Speaking of getting experience: exams! Wow. That was an experience.

My classmates and I had a little heads up on how everything was going to happen since the N.C. Central University School of Law is one of apparently few law schools that provide midterm exams. But in the words of MDG: “The difference between midterms and finals is like the difference between a chihuahua and a great dane.”

He wasn’t lying.

The multiple choice questions in all of the classes were almost absurdly nitpicky (hat tip to Jansen for the word choice ;)). It was one of those situations where I could tell what specific topic the professor was trying to test, but the particulars were sufficiently complex that I couldn’t say with any degree of certainty whether or not I chose the right answer. And of course nearly every question had “D. All of the above. E. None of the above.” as the last two answer choices.

I’m taking solace in the fact I finished all of the essays, which was a switch from midterms.

Anyhow, now that exams are over I figured I’d share some of my own tips on exam prep. I stipulate that some of this reiterates advice other blawgers have already given — see FTS and FO and idswj — but I figured I’d tell you what worked for me so you have another perspective to add when considering different techniques ;)

  1. DON’T STRESS! If you ignore every other bullet point in this entry, remember this. One of the awkward moments of final exams was spent trying to console a friend who was having a mental breakdown, even though she’s one of maybe 4 people in our section who I’d bet actual cash on knowing the material backwards and forwards. Yes, grades are important — but they’re not the end of the world. Stressing out to the point of melting down just makes you less competitive when you take the actual test.
  2. Rehearse if it helps. No matter how many times folks read that earlier bullet, some of them are still going to freak out over exams. One way to help deal with that nervousness is to practice under as-close-to-real-life conditions as you can get. Find practice exams and force yourself to take them under strict time conditions; use a stopwatch to time you if necessary. If you can only find 1 or 2 practice exams, re-take them until you’re comfortable. Remember the objective with these practice exams isn’t necessarily to get the material down cold, but instead to help you stay calm in the actual test.
  3. Study however works best for you. It may sound strange, but I’ve become a firm believer in Dr. Psych’s comments on learning styles. I’m overwhelmingly a kinesthetic/”tactile” learner — I learn by doing. For me that means writing out index cards (CivPro) or taking practice exams (Property). If you’re a visual learner, you’ll probably benefit from reading and re-reading your outline several times. And if you’re an aural learner, try saying your outline aloud so you hear it. Matching your study habits with your study style helps burn the information deep into your mind for finals :)
  4. Sleep. Adequate rest is important to remembering the information you absorbed studying, and it will help you stay focused on the exam itself. Trying to go off 2-3 hours of sleep because you pulled an all-nighter is counterproductive. You should have learned that in undergrad :P
  5. Do the multiple choice questions first. Unless you’re *very* disciplined with your test-taking skills, knock out the multiple choice questions before moving to the essays. A handful of my colleagues tried to reverse what they tackled first since several folks ran out of time on the midterms, and a few never made it to the multiples at all on the final as a result. Essays are free-form, so we naturally spend more time writing, tweaking, editing, adding, etc. They’re a huge time sink, and if you don’t grab the easy points first (the multiples) you risk missing them entirely.
  6. Remember the Rules of Fight Club. Mariel said it best, so I’ll defer to her ;)
  7. Smile (when it’s over). You’ve survived. Pat yourself on the back for a semester’s worth of hard work, and know you’re that much closer to the end of the road and the J.D. waiting there for you :D
  8. For those of you who are finally done with your final exams, congratulations! :) And to those of you still slogging through the trenches on the way to the end of the semester — GOOD LUCK! :D

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And… that’s a wrap!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 10, 2009 in The 1L Life

It’s over!

After pummeling that Torts exam like it stole my baby brother’s lunch money, 15.91% of my law school career — also known as the 1L fall semester — is officially done! :D :D :D

I’m off to enjoy a needlessly excessive celebratory dinner (with the requisite intoxicating beverages), finally get around to putting up the Christmas tree, and then… well… I don’t have to think that far ahead from now until January 11th ;)

Have a great night folks, and GOOD LUCK to all the 1Ls who still have exams left!! :)

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Distractions

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 9, 2009 in The 1L Life

I can’t study :beatup:

You’d think being less than 24 hours away from the last exam of the semester (Torts) would have a way of narrowing one’s mental faculties, but I just can’t seem to focus.

The weather’s no help: it’s currently gorgeous outside, about 70º with the sun shining after we’ve spent most of the past week at near-Arctic temperatures accompanied by chronic rain. We’ll be back to that overcast frigidity tomorrow, but for now Mother Nature decided to bless/torment me with a nice day.

But the bigger issue? I’m actually excited about the semester ending :)

You’d have to go all the way back to my sophomore year at N.C. State — December 1999 — to find me in a similarly jovial mood. After I dropped out there was no “Christmas break” from work outside of the couple days around the holiday itself, and when I got back to college in 2005 I spent literally every one of my last few breaks in undergrad stressing out trying to finish a Computer Science project of some fashion or another that I didn’t complete during the semester itself (the professors who read law:/dev/null are currently nodding their heads :beatup: ).

My law school experience was a fresh start, and the clean slate prompted me to work harder so there’s no unfinished academic business. I’ve still got stuff to do over the holiday break, including the ABA Client Counseling Competition and 1L oral argument competition (plus I may take Jansen’s advice and work on the blog design — thoughts?).

But the important thing is that it’s all voluntary stuff I’m doing because I enjoy it, and once it’s over… I basically can occupy my time with whatever I want from then until classes start again on January 11th :D

So yeah, I’m a little excited/distracted as a result.

I’m going to head back to the books and try to focus for another hour or so, then probably take another break :beatup: Have a great day everybody! :D

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Things TDot Likes: Persona Non Obscura

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 8, 2009 in Things TDot Likes

I just got thoroughly, thoroughly mauled by my Ks final a couple hours ago.

Thoroughly.

And on top of it, the post-exam mood among my classmates was almost ebullient compared to the CivPro final on Saturday — meaning the curve will probably not be working to my advantage this time around :beatup:

So rather than pen an entry griping about my total inability to internalize basic contractual issues (again), I figured I’d just start studying for Thursday’s Torts exam and copy/paste a Facebook note I threw together for some of my 1L colleagues the other day:

Logo for Persona Non Obscura

I know a handful of you were/are irritated with me for sending you a Page suggestion a few hours ago — we all get a few dozen Page / group / event invites a day, and I just contributed to the volume. It was thoroughly hypocritical of me considering how much I grouse about all the notifications from Facebook, right?

Let me explain :P

As of last Tuesday, my fellow 1Ls started sending out applications to law firms for summer 2010 internships. On top of that, I know a handful of NCSU alums who are either still looking for their first post-collegiate work or are stuck working somewhere they’d prefer to leave.

And if you’re looking for a job, you need a website.

I know it seems excessive, maybe even a little ridiculous. But you want to have control over your online image, because Googling job applicants is all the rage nowadays. I didn’t believe it until just before the Fall semester started, when I was talking with a lawyer and randomly started getting questions about GOP politics — turns out a foundation’s web entry for a scholarship I got a few years back has me listed among the “Top 100 conservative students” in a Google search.

That’s where Persona Non Obscura comes in. It’s a company run by a friend of mine who I met just under a decade ago when we both worked for Apple Computer, and she provides an inexpensive option for students and recent grads who want to get started with a crisp website for job hunting.

You control what’s on your own personal site, which means you shape the narrative about yourself. In my case, I may be a conservative Republican but I work with Democrats and liberals too — higher education and students are what I care about, regardless of party affiliations.

And in case you’re worried I’d lead you astray, it’s a service I use myself — she created the website for my Student Senate President campaign back in 2007, and tgregdoucette.com will be online shortly too ;)

I’ve tagged Ming-Hwi in this Facebook note if you want to get in touch with her for more information. Check out Persona Non Obscura online at http://nonobscura.com/ or become a fan of the Facebook page @ http://facebook.com/nonobscura/ :)

Check it out if you get bored, and spread the word as well :)

Have a great day folks! :D

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