Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 31, 2010 in Randomness
I don’t know how old I was when I found out that Memorial Day honored those who gave their lives while serving in our military, but I distinctly remember thinking how odd it was watching folks in the neighborhood celebrate by cooking out or going to the beach.
Now that I’ve grown up a bit1 I realize folks love their 3-day weekends and any excuse to break out the grill I’m not one to look down on festivities, so carry on
But, as you enjoy relaxing today, please take at least a minute or two to remember the reason for the holiday. Growing up in a Navy family in a military-heavy city, I’ve seen folks work hard at often-thankless jobs despite playing a vital role in our national defense. They deserve our respect, particularly the ladies and gentlemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 29, 2010 in TDot's Tips
Judging by some of the search queries bringing folks here to law:/dev/null, those of you accepted into the Class of 2013 are scurrying around online looking for law school advice before orientation starts in a couple months.
First, CONGRATULATIONS! I was just in your shoes not too long ago, I remember what it was like, and I’m excited for you!
Second, chill out See this post from Law School Ninja — use this summer to relax, not to try and prepare for law school. Preparation is not gonna make a lick of difference, I assure you
Third, assuming you’re going to ignore that previous paragraph, use the summer to learn how to manage your finances. I’ve met a lot of law students from a lot of law schools who barely know how to balance their checkbooks.1 Law school is stressful enough without being worried about money.
Here are a few tips I’ve put together that might be able to help you in your first year:
1) CREATE A BUDGET
A simple sample budget
This one probably seems like common sense, but it’s probably the most important thing you can do financially — make sure you’ve got a decent idea of how much money you’ve got coming in, and how much you’ll have going out.
I’ve seen simple budgets sketched out on a piece of notebook paper; I’ve seen needlessly complex budgets using crazy functions in Microsoft Excel that I didn’t even know existed
No matter what level of complexity you use, the important thing is to try and stick to the budget whenever possible.
To the right is a sample budget I put together for this blog entry, which I’ll probably end up using for the upcoming year. The main thing is to have an easy-to-reference sheet where you can see your major expenses and income sources.
2) SET ASIDE $$ IN SAVINGS
You might notice in that sample budget that I’ve included “Deposit to Savings Account” as an expense.
One of the weird things about 1L life is that you’re strongly stronglystrongly discouraged from having any outside employment at all.2 That means if something unexpected happens, you don’t have the option of working overtime or extra shifts to make the $$ for it.
So if you’re living off student loans like most of us, your financial aid refund is all you get for the entire semester. Set aside a chunk of it early (I’d suggest 10%) into a savings account or some other safe spot, before you get tempted to spend it.
That way if something unexpected does happen, you’re covered. And if not, you’ll have extra money to use on whatever you want later on
And put it explicit in the budget so you actually remember to set it aside, rather than forgetting it’s supposed to be saved and then inadvertently spending it on something. Like highlighters
3) RENT THE LEAST EXPENSIVE PLACE YOU’RE COMFORTABLE LIVING IN
Most of the expenses you’ll have in a given month will be in the sub-$100 range, and a good chunk of them (e.g. cable TV, fast food, etc) can be given up if you get into a real financial bind mid-semester.
That’s not the case with the rent
As you’re searching around your new city for an apartment, make sure to do a comprehensive comparison among your options — then pick the least expensive place you’re still comfortable living in.
I’ve got a classmate who I’ll leave nameless, but who definitely isn’t stupid. When he signed his lease back in August, he picked a newer apartment complex up the road from me with all kinds of fancy amenities — gated entrance, nice pool, nicer gym, detached garage, etc etc. A really swank place, about $75/mo more than mine.
Then when late November got here, he was running short on his funding and was stressed out trying to figure out how to cover his December bills… right as he had to start studying for final exams Luckily for him everything worked itself out, but you don’t need that pointless stress.
For that $375 he paid more than me over the 5 months of Fall semester, he used the nice pool all of 0 times, went to the nice gym just the first month before studying took up his free time, and spent a good chunk of his life at the law school while his detached garage was empty. Plus his summer internship is in another town so he’s trying to find someone willing to sublease for just a couple months (thus far no takers).
Now if a potential apartment just screams to you “LIVE HERE!“, then by all means go with it. Preferably after getting psychiatric help for thinking your apartment is screaming to you But if you can handle a smaller pool or gym, or forgo the entrance gate, consider giving up those amenities for the $$ you’ll save over the course of the year.
4) USE YOUR REFUND TO PAY DOWN YOUR CREDIT CARDS
By the time folks reach law school, odds are good they have at least one credit card. An April 2009 study found graduating students on average have 4.6 cards carrying $4,100 in debt.
Despite the high interest rates many credit cards charge, they can provide an invaluable level of financial flexibility. I’ve had to use mine on more than one occasion for textbooks or tuition when financial aid didn’t stretch far enough.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t trim the amount of interest you’re paying for that flexibility
If you get a financial aid refund, throw it all at your highest interest rate credit card(s). You’ll end up using your cards throughout the semester for basic purchases and paying bills, but you’ll be paying less in daily interest than if you kept the $$ in your checking account while making minimum payments on the credit card(s).
5) “YOU’RE A LAW STUDENT, NOT A LAWYER”
No matter how you handle your finances, or whether you follow any other money-related tips you come across, remember: you’re a law student, not a lawyer
The mansion, home theater, luxury car, yacht and all the other accoutrements of being an attorney will come to you in due time. But that time isn’t going to be the 3 years while you’re in law school3
Live like a lawyer now and you’ll end up like my friend, stressing over cash flow when you need to be studying for Contracts. Live frugally and you’ll still have the resources to still enjoy yourself
That’s all I’ve got for this post — hopefully you’ll find at least one of these tips useful!
Good luck to all of you, and congratulations again on your acceptance! If you have any questions on anything, let me know!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 26, 2010 in The 2L Life
So I’ve been talking with y’all aboutmy summerclasses, but just realized I never got around to actually telling y’all what they were
The Summer Class Schedule -- Nights and Weekends
This is the first time I’ve taken night classes at the NCCU School of Law, and it’s also the first time I’ve had regular classes on the weekend. Both of them require some mental adjustment — reminding myself to get work done during the day Tuesday-Thursday that I’d normally save for the weekend — but being able to squeeze all this into just 5 weeks is worth it.
The Superior Court Mediation class isn’t pictured because it’s already done That was a 5-day, 40-hour beast that seemed ridiculously long at the time but taught me quite a bit of info.
The ADR Clinic tied in with the Mediation class will continue all summer long, where I’ll be in court on Mondays helping to mediate cases in District Criminal Court and on Fridays get to observe other ADR programs like Wake County’s Drug Treatment Court.
I’m also taking a course titled ADR Processes and Practice, which covers the same basic types of Alternative Dispute Resolution methods but focused specifically on the role of the attorney (as opposed to the mediator). After having these 3 courses knocked out, I’m now thinking about going ahead and getting the law school’s Certificate in Dispute Resolution — but we’ll have to see what happens over the next few semesters first
Then the last class I’m taking is Race and the Law, which essentially looks at how American jurisprudence has developed vis-à-vis the various ethnic groups in the country (e.g. things like property law and American Indians, or the entire legal apparatus developed to sustain slavery and later segregation). The professor has a reputation as an excellent instructor that extends well beyond NCCU Law, and the topic itself is fascinating — especially compared to the watered-down history we learn in K-12, coupled with folks’ general aversion to talking about race at all.
But that’s something for a later post It should be a fun semester
That’s it for tonight — hope all of you have a great evening!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 25, 2010 in Randomness
Even before I decided to go to law school, I enjoyed reading about the latest opinions issued by the Supreme Court. It’s something I still enjoy — particularly now that I have at least a vague understanding of what’s going on
Earlier today I saw this story in the Washington Post about the Court’s opinion yesterday in Lewis v. Chicago, shared on several friends’ Facebook profiles with various commentary relating to then-Judge Sotomayor’s opinion (along with the rest of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals) in Ricci v. DeStefano. The headline: “Justices say employers may not use discriminatory testing practices”.
It seemed a little strange to me that the Supreme Court would issue a unanimous opinion on job-related testing less than a year after another opinion on job-related testing was decided in a 5-4 split. So I decided to read the opinion for myself…
…and unless I’m misunderstanding the case, it had nothing to do with equal protection / disparate impact issues
From my reading of it, the City of Chicago’s test for prospective firefighters was found to have a disparate negative impact on minority applicants. The City conceded the point on appeal. The case at the time it reached the Supreme Court seems to be just a basic civil procedure issue: for statute of limitations purposes, did the minority firefighters’ cause of action accrue (i) when the testing policy was announced, (ii) until the policy was repealed (e.g. as though it were a single-but-ongoing discriminatory act), or (iii) each time the discriminatory results were used?
To the 3Ls and attorneys out there, am I missing something?
If I’m right in my understanding of the case, it’s less of a surprise (to me at least) that the Court issued a unanimous ruling. Deciding a separate cause of action accrued with each use of the results makes sense and doesn’t even seem all that controversial.
Any insight from folks with more legal training is appreciated, just so I know for sure whether or not I’m clueless here1 Until then, have a great night y’all!
And if I’m not clueless, is the media usually this bad at trying to report on the nature of these Court decisions? [↩]
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 24, 2010 in The 2L Life
Sorry for not posting yesterday y’all, I actually fell asleep accidentally while reading for today’s classes1
The upside is that I was awake hours ahead of when I needed to leave for the Courthouse and my first day observing cases in mediation. I got through observing 1… then ended up having to actually mediate myself
Yep, you read that correctly
The dispute was between two middle-aged women who had gotten into an altercation at work, and when the regular mediator and I first started talking to the parties it seemed like the case wasn’t the type that we could resolve through mediation. The complainant said she was determined to have the criminal charges against the defendant heard in court and wouldn’t dismiss the case (which of course happens when a negotiated settlement takes place).
For reasons unknown to me, the complaining witness in the case didn’t like the regular mediator — at all. I noticed about 2 minutes into the mediation session that she started directing all of her comments and questions to me, even when I made it clear I was just a not-quite-2L who didn’t know the answers to many of her questions. About 15 minutes in (when we’ve essentially been conducting a mediation) she formally agrees to mediation, the mediator notices she doesn’t like him a couple minutes after that, then looks at me and says “You’ve got the training. Have at it.”
The sudden and unexpected pressure of having to perform for srs was intense. I really wanted to and apparently my face went pale for a couple minutes before I snapped out of it.
But about 2ish loooooong hours later, we had an agreement in the case that both parties liked so it was officially a success!
Not sure I could replicate that with many other cases but it’s good to start on a high note. We’ll see what the rest of the Clinic work holds this summer.
Heading to bed so I can sleep in tomorrow morning Have a great night y’all!
Which reminds me at some point I need to write an entry for TDot’s Tips #6: sleep! [↩]
Professor CrimLaw was one of the mediation observers at Day 4 of mediation training today, and I figured I’d exploit the opportunity to figure out when I’ll officially know if I’m a 2L.
Turns out June 7 is the deadline for professors to turn in Spring 2010 grades for 1Ls, so I’ve got a couple more weeks to go
But only one more day of mediation class, from 8am-5pm tomorrow. Having these things on weekends has completely upended my awareness of the day of the week — I told a classmate I’d take her to the bank at our 1pm lunch break, totally forgetting most banks close at 12pm on Saturdays
But we’re almost done with this particular course, so I guess I can’t complain
One last law-related side note: of the almost-a-dozen multi-person mock trials / mock mediations I’ve participated in my 1L year, I’ve either been the witness or the mediator. Today was the first time I got a role as an attorney, facing off against an actual attorney taking the class for CLE credit. It was a blast
Last but not least, I finally got around to tweaking the blog to add Twitter, Facebook, and RSS buttons to the sidebar — feel free to use them
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 21, 2010 in The 2L Life
That’s what I had for this whole mediating thing, great expectations.
Then I actually did it
Today was Day 3 of Superior Court Mediation training, and my first in the “hot seat” mediating a mock dispute. The plaintiff was a contractor who built a brick patio and gazebo for a client, who then refused to pay. The contractor had selected the wrong color brick at the outset… but the client approved it. Then when the project was done, the client complained about the color and insisted it be fixed. The contractor agreed to replace the facade for an additional $8K or so, to which the client agreed, and then the client refused to pay when the second set of work was actually done.
Both sides were adamant in not wanting to budge much to narrow what was essentially a $12K gap between their respective demands. The clients in particular were the combative / argumentative types who didn’t like the idea of thinking about things from the other’s shoes or listening to the advice of their respective attorneys.
We ran out of time 1.5 hours later without reaching a resolution, though we were 15-20ish minutes away from reaching a settlement. In the post-exercise debriefing session, I found out that I was very balanced overall…
…because both parties thought I had taken the other’s side1
The whole experience was odd because it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, even though my background in lobbying and politics was going to make it comparably easier (so I thought) because of the experience forging compromise among people with different personalities and moods. Naïveté FTL.
Maybe it’s just because this wasn’t a “real life” case, but damn that was rough. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
Have a great night y’all!
For the non-lawyers: basically the exact opposite of the perception they were supposed to have [↩]
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 20, 2010 in The 2L Life
I suspect most of us would agree with the proposition that law school centers around a quasi-caste system.
The 3Ls, only a few classes and a Bar exam away from becoming The Anointed, are at the top. They know the professors, they’ve taken the classes, they run the student organizations. 2Ls seek them out for advice and mentorship; 1Ls hang on their every word.
At the bottom of the law school hierarchy are the 1Ls, still fresh and doe-eyed and excited about everything that lies ahead of them. They’re the serfs of the system, providing volunteer labor or dues $$ (or both) to the groups they join, along with an endless stream of amusing stories and questions for their more-experienced law school colleagues
Then in the middle are the 2Ls. They hold leadership positions throughout the school, but usually in lower roles like Vice Presidents or Secretaries or Treasurers. They still have questions for their 3L mentors, but now they provide answers to their 1L mentees — unless a 3L is around for the 1L to get a second opinion. They’re basically sowing the ground preparing for the next year’s harvest.
That system seems fairly stable and pervasive… but my (admittedly limited and unscientific) observation suggests that social wall separating the classes seems to disappear when we’re all in an academic setting together
Tonight was my first elective class at NCCU Law, titled “Race and the Law”. I’ll get into the course details and why I’m taking it in another entry, but the thing that struck me was the balanced mix of freshly-minted 2Ls and 3Ls in the course. The balanced demographics also yielded balanced participation, with the attendant (but balanced!) cluelessness and even sparring between opposing viewpoints.
It’s like those [#]L divisions just melted away for a few hours and we were all the same lump of proto-attorneys analyzing American jurisprudence. Not sure if this is a common occurrence in other electives or other law schools, but I thought it was pretty cool… and a reminder that we’re all getting professional training in a professional institution to become fellow professionals, not mere schooling in a university to become college graduates.
Looking forward to what this class will be like over the next 5 weeks
Oh and Lobbying for Lawyers is 40% done! Heading to bed now so I can get up early for Day 3 — good night y’all!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 19, 2010 in The 2L Life
That’s the course title I’ve had in my mind all day for my Superior Court Mediation class that began today: “Lobbying for Lawyers.”
It’s not technically accurate of course, since mediators aren’t really lobbying for a specific objective beyond helping the parties resolve their dispute. But as we were going over the intro materials and getting an overview of the next 4 days,1 I kept thinking in my head of a quote by the fictitious lobbyist in Thank You for Smoking: “I’m a mediator between two sects of society that are trying to reach an accommodation”
Overall I enjoyed the first day of class… we’ll see if that spirit continues after 4 more days of 8am-5pm
Speaking of that schedule, the next 4 days are going to be certifiably insane. I got up at 6am this morning, went to class, came home by 530pm, and have quite literally been (i) reading for my other summer school class, or (ii) doing homework for the mediation class ever since I’ve been back. I didn’t even study this consistently during finals! I’m not done with the work for either class, but it’s late and I need to go to bed
Two not-quite-random “About TDot” side notes:
As part of the mediation course, we had to take a survey on how we deal with conflict. Of the 5 conflict responses, my breakdown is 30% competing, 26% collaborating, 26% compromising, 9% accommodating and 9% avoiding. So basically I prefer dealing with conflict and would really prefer getting my way, but if that doesn’t happen I’m equally willing to collaborate and/or compromise to find a mutually agreeable solution… just don’t expect me to budge much Not sure if that’s suitable mediator material or not
We also took the full Myers-Briggs / Keirsey Temperament Sorter test. This is the 5th time I’ve taken the full test since I moved to North Carolina… and the 5th time I’ve gotten a different result:
* INFP (“The Healer“) when I first took the test my freshman year in Fall 1998;
* ENFP (“The Champion“) when I took the test again for a class in Spring 2000;
* INTJ (“The Mastermind“) when I took it for the Wake County Clerk’s Office in mid-2003;
* INTP (“The Architect“) by Spring 2006 when I was back at NCSU; and,
* ENTJ (“The Fieldmarshal“) as of today.2
None of those results really surprise me I guess, but it seems to be a common occurrence for folks’ results to change frequently — and how useful is a personality survey like this if the results fluctuate regularly? Do our personalities really change that much over time?
That’s all I’ve got for tonight’s entry. I’ll leave you, dear readers, with a random YouTube video I stumbled across today on perceptiveness:
Enjoy! Have a great night y’all!!
It’s a 5-day, 8-hours-a-day class that doubles as CLE for practicing attorneys. Perk of taking classes that double as CLE: free food for breakfast and lunch [↩]