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TDot’s Mailbag v11.0: A reintroduction for the 1Ls

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 25, 2014 in Mail

Today marks the first day of classes over at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

This photo is on the wall next to my desk in the office. Every single one of them has graduated now.

This photo is on the wall next to my desk in the office. Every single one of them has graduated now.

It’s also the first time since I started way back in 20091 that I haven’t attended class with a single person there: the last batch of 1Ls I tutored for Prof CrimLaw are now waiting for their bar results :crack:

Unable to accept the reality of being so far removed from being enrolled at an educational institution, naturally I had to drop in on Orientation last Wednesday to mingle as part of the law school’s annual professionalism series for 1Ls.

One of the young ladies I met mentioned that she had read parts of the blog before starting school.2 Then throughout the night I got a few more questions of a 1L-esque nature, so I thought I’d use them as an excuse to create a new Mailbag entry. :)

***

Q: What is [this blog]?

Apparently people think it’s weird that anyone from NCCU Law has a blog, because this was/is probably the most frequently asked question in the past however many weeks between PBAP, Orientation, and classes starting.

Guess long-form blogs are passé these days when we all have Twitter… :roll:

I started this website back during my 1L year because frankly I needed something to do. At the time I thought most of my classmates were clinically insane gunners, and the time devoted to running UNCASG only kept me out of trouble but so many days in a month.

Then I discovered people were actually reading what was getting written, so I tried to make some of it at least marginally useful for folks who came after me. ;)

***

Q: What does “law:/dev/null” mean?

I’d tell you, but I already did! Check the first question of my first Mailbag entry :)

***

Q: I heard I can get outlines and old tests somewhere on here?”

Hopefully you’ll read this website for more than just the outlines! :P

But go to this entry on outlines for the URL.

***

Q: blah blah blah grades blah blah blah

It’s entirely too soon to care about your 1L grades. Trust me. Please.

But if you’re one of those hardcore Type A types who’ve already spent at least one day of this past weekend at the law school studying, go to this grades entry for links to the key points.3

***

Q: Will you be my mentor??

Sure :D

I have an open “mentor anyone” policy — just realize I’ve gotta make money first, so my availability will depend on my caseload ;)

***

Q: What’s the one thing you know now that you most wish you knew back when you were a 1L?

Honestly?

That there were already outlines out there :beatup:

I didn’t discover the contents of the 1L Stuff folder until the first day of final exams during the Spring semester of my 1L year. Rico was reading through a very slick 1-page summary of key issues in criminal law, I asked him how long it took him to make it — because the one I made for myself took forever and wasn’t nearly as nice — and I discovered that he got it from someone else. :crack:

It was at that point I started asking for outlines and stockpiling as many as I could… then posted every last one on this blog so the information was democratized. Some of my classmates flipped sh*t because I was “making it harder to beat the curve,” but I didn’t want future 1Ls ending up like me with absolutely no clue that the info was out there.

So scroll back up to the outlines question, click the link to the outlines entry, and enjoy the next 3 years of your life :)

***

*GOOD LUCK* to each of you with the year ahead, and don’t hesitate to send us a message if you’ve got questions! You can find the email address at the bottom of our About page or you can use the Contact form at the TGD Law website :D

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v11.0: A reintroduction for the 1Ls (08/25/14) [this post] –
    • What is [this blog]?
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • I heard I can get outlines and old tests somewhere on here?
    • blah blah blah grades blah blah blah
    • Will you be my mentor??
    • What’s the 1 thing you most wish you knew as a 1L?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v10.0: First-Year Finance Figures Follow-up Edition (11/27/13) –
    • What are you doing?
    • How are you defining your terminology?
    • How did you survive financially?
    • Have you done any advertising?
    • What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
    • What 3 things would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v9.0: “So why did you go solo?” Edition (01/18/13) –
    • Why did you become a solo practitioner?
    • What was your “Plan B” job-wise?
    • What helped you the most 3L year in preparing for post-grad life?
    • If you had to do 3L year over again, what would you differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition (08/11/12) –
    • What materials did you use for bar prep?
    • Are you bailing on law:/dev/null for Twitter?
    • What are your plans for law:/dev/null post-graduation?
    • Where do things stand with NC SPICE?
    • How does it feel being done with everything?
    • What’s your secret to not being stressed about the bar exam?
    • Do you have any bar exam study materials?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition (06/22/11) –
    • You made Dean’s List… but grades don’t matter?
    • Why is NCCU Law’s curve so low?
    • What is the rationale for NCCU Law’s dismissal policy?
    • How does the dismissal policy work?
    • What are NCCU Law’s GPA cutoffs for Dean’s List and academic honors?
    • Do you get notified if you made Dean’s List?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition (08/23/10) –
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like (04/14/10) –
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0 (01/21/10) –
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0 (10/04/09) –
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0 (09/07/09) –
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0 (08/20/09) –
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Yes, that means law:/dev/null has been online for half a decade now! The first post was back on August 11th 2009. :D []
  2. Easiest way to over-inflate my already over-inflated ego is telling me you’ve read something I’ve written :beatup: []
  3. And to convince you I never hid the ball on any of my grades-related entries, you can read my final law school transcript via this entry’s footnote. []

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TDot’s Mailbag v10.0: First-Year Finance Figures Follow-up Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 27, 2013 in Mail

Greetings from Virginia Beach y’all :)

In what you all know is a familiar refrain at this point, “I really meant to write this awhile ago” blah blah blah. :beatup: This post has been tumbling around in the nether regions of my brain since just a day or two after posting my first-year finance figures last month, in part because the (occasionally vitriolic) responses I got started giving me flashbacks to posting my grades 1L year.

Then out of the blue I started getting tagged in a bunch of tweets mentioning the post:

Needless to say I was (1) flummoxed, (2) flattered, and (3) proud of what’s likely the closest we’ll ever get here at law:/dev/null to a viral post :D

And it also reminded me how long it’s been since I wrote the last entry :beatup:

So now that I’m out of town visiting my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I’ve got some free time to respond to the handful of questions I got sent — that can be reprinted on a family-friendly blog like this one — in response to my first-year finance figures…

***

Q:1 Dude what are you doing!! 2

A: I’m assuming this was intended as a question, so I’ll answer it as one: I’m doing the same thing I did when I posted my transcripts from both law school and undergrad.3

Like law students and their grades, people seem to be very protective of their financial info; I searched for this kind of stuff for weeks before getting started and never found anything useful. The most-common finance comment I found was along the lines of “You’ll lose money the first year, make less than what you’d make as a first-year associate your second year, and exceed what you’d make as a third-year associate in your third year.”4

I just don’t care that much ;) And if it would provide any useful data to someone else thinking about going solo, all the better.

***

Q: How are you defining [the terminology at the bottom of the graphic]?

A: These may or may not line up with “normal” usage of the same terminology, but here’s how I came up with the numbers I did:

  • Gross Revenue: Every single penny that ever crossed into the firm’s operating account, regardless of the reason for it (e.g. there’s no differentiation between someone paying me versus me merely being reimbursed for advancing expenses for a client). If you were to take the “Deposits” line from all my bank statements and add them up, this is the number you’d get.
  • Gross Income: This is the total amount I earned in fees doing stuff for people. If you were to take the Gross Revenue category and subtract out all the entries where I was just getting reimbursed, this is the number you’d get.
  • Net Income: This is the amount that actually went into my pocket for personal expenses. Take the Gross Income category, then take out everything I’ve spent on the business — office rent, the office phone line, office supplies, etc etc etc — and this is what you’d get. Meaning I spent a smidge over $30K in business-related items during the first year.
  • Median Invoice: At the time I created that graphic, I’d sent out 142 invoices. This number was the median.5
  • Average Invoice: The average of those same 142 invoices.6
  • Worst Case: On a per-client basis, after factoring in all the case-specific expenses (filing fees, printing, mileage, and so on), this was the amount I lost on the worst single case.
  • Best Case: Same as above, except the single best case instead (a business litigation case that, in light of the magnitude of the victory, I drastically undercharged :beatup: ).

***

Q: There’s no way you survived an entire year on $1700. How did you eat?

A: True, I didn’t survive on the net income alone; remember that business meals are partially tax-deductible :angel:

If you factor out the business meals for the year (as well as a dozen-ish charitable contributions I impetuously made at the end of 2012 when things were going surprisingly well), the net income number would jump up a bit to $7,405.36 — a smidge over $615 a month. To cover the rest of my personal bills, initially I was using personal credit cards7 and since then have had to repeatedly hit up my grandparents for loans until things turn the corner.8

It’s a miracle the doors are still open at this point, so I just keep trying to get smarter about expenses and keep winning cases on the figuring that everything will build on itself. We’ll see.

***

Q: Have you done any advertising?

A: It depends on how one defines “advertising.” If you’re talking about taking a bunch of money, throwing it into a pile on the floor, then setting it ablaze, yes I’ve done some of that :beatup:

After inviting all my Facebook friends to the TGD Law Facebook page, I started doing some modest Facebook advertising. I experimented with the Facebook sidebar ads before realizing they were a near-total waste of money, then switched over to the News Feed ads that got much better results. I still haven’t gotten a significant case from Facebook myself, but I’ve been messaged by a number of folks I had to refer out to other lawyers so hopefully social media engagement will lead to something.

I also started trying direct mail back in May, which was breaking even initially but has now hit a point where I’m likely to cancel it. The direct mail side of the legal industry is very cost-competitive — some lawyers in the Raleigh-Durham area are handling things like traffic tickets for as little as $25 a case — and I’m simply not willing to be a bargain basement lawyer charging dirt-cheap rates in the hopes of getting 20-30 cases a day.

And then a few months ago I started experimenting with ads in the monthly brochure of a well-trafficked local business. The most I’ve gotten out of that one so far has been a single tweet from someone who happened to see it and thought it was interesting — and who already knew me from NCCU Law. :beatup:

All told I’ve spent $4,260.90 on advertising over the year, and in terms of concrete results have only made back $1,379.96 of that amount. Needless to say there will be changes made in 2014.

***

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned financially from Year 1 that you’d give as advice to a new solo?

A: Track everything.

When I first started out, I took a number of cases in far-flung areas like Greensboro and Smithfield just because I needed the money. While those cases were certainly more lucrative than me sitting at the office making nothing at all, after I factored in case-specific costs (office supplies, mileage, and so on) I realized they weren’t nearly as lucrative as I thought.

And tracking everything also taught me how profoundly expensive even local cases can be if you don’t get paid in full and up-front. As an example, the “Worst Case” from the graphic was a simple criminal defense issue in Wake County (adjacent to my home territory in Durham), but required so many trips back and forth to Raleigh trying to get the guy the best possible result that I burned a ton of gas in the process… and never got paid a dime :beatup:

***

Q: If you could start over, what 3 things would you do differently?

A: That’s easy –

  1. Invest in my website: I didn’t even put a page up at tgdlaw.com until last Thanksgiving — and now it’s almost a full Thanksgiving later and there’s still nothing there but the firm bio and a contact page. There’s no telling how many potential clients I’ve missed because I don’t show up on most Google searches and have no meaningful info there when people type in the URL from my business card.
  2. Get paid up front: When I read Jay Foonberg’s How to Start & Build a Law Practice, I was underwhelmed. It had plenty of good info but it simply didn’t match the hype,9 and several times felt painfully anachronistic (especially the tech stuff). But he’s 110% right on the money — pun intended — when it comes to what he calls Foonberg’s Rule: get paid in cash, and get it up front. I “played nice” with a number of clients, including some who were classmates and old friends, and got burned on more than a couple occasions. Rack up a few of those and you start freaking out over how to pay bills in addition to being annoyed that folks decide not to pay for a service you provided. It’s better for everyone involved if you go ahead and get paid in advance and then just work hard to deliver a quality result.
  3. Charge more: A couple weeks before I got my bar results, I saw a blog entry that recommended lawyers “work for full price or for free, but never for cheap.” Being (relatively) young and naïve, I completely disregarded that concept entirely — I started out charging just $75 an hour, did flat rate appearances for what ended up being even less, and even got a $420,000+ judgment wiped out for a nonprofit I only charged $2,500.10 After all, my whole premise underlying NC SPICE was that legal supply and demand were just mismatched because of pricing, and enabling new lawyers to keep their overhead low would in turn enable them to charge lower rates and lead to a flurry of business. But the problem with “working for cheap” is that you have to bring in a ton of clients to make ends meet, even at low overhead. And then you either end up with either (a) dissatisfied clients you can’t keep adequately up-to-date, or (b) working yourself like crazy trying to keep all the plates spinning. It seems counterintuitive, but you’ll be a better and happier lawyer — providing better service to a now-happier client — if you charge a healthy sum and provide a corresponding level of service.

***

So that’s my $.02 follow-up on the money stuff :) I hope all of you get to have an amazing Thanksgiving with family / friends / loved ones!

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v10.0: First-Year Finance Figures Follow-up Edition (11/27/13) [this entry] –
    • What are you doing?
    • How are you defining your terminology?
    • How did you survive financially?
    • Have you done any advertising?
    • What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
    • What 3 things would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v9.0: “So why did you go solo?” Edition (01/18/13) –
    • Why did you become a solo practitioner?
    • What was your “Plan B” job-wise?
    • What helped you the most 3L year in preparing for post-grad life?
    • If you had to do 3L year over again, what would you differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition (08/11/12) –
    • What materials did you use for bar prep?
    • Are you bailing on law:/dev/null for Twitter?
    • What are your plans for law:/dev/null post-graduation?
    • Where do things stand with NC SPICE?
    • How does it feel being done with everything?
    • What’s your secret to not being stressed about the bar exam?
    • Do you have any bar exam study materials?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition (06/22/11) –
    • You made Dean’s List… but grades don’t matter?
    • Why is NCCU Law’s curve so low?
    • What is the rationale for NCCU Law’s dismissal policy?
    • How does the dismissal policy work?
    • What are NCCU Law’s GPA cutoffs for Dean’s List and academic honors?
    • Do you get notified if you made Dean’s List?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition (08/23/10) –
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like (04/14/10) –
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0 (01/21/10) –
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0 (10/04/09) –
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0 (09/07/09) –
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0 (08/20/09) –
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Starting with the last mail entry, I’ve given up on trying to anonymize all the names by just eliminating the names entirely. So now if you send me something, don’t worry about you potentially being listed as the person who sent the question :) []
  2. Totally unrelated: I really have an adverse reaction to two exclamation points. I’m fine with one (!), or three (!!!), or an exorbitant number not worth counting (!!!!!!), but two just strikes me as… off. Unless it’s l33t-ized as in “!!1″. []
  3. Mostly unrelated: last winter several of you asked if I’d have the cajones to post my final law school transcript, since the one in that earlier entry was only through 2L year. Well here you go. :P []
  4. I’d need more than two hands to count the number of times I ran across that comment too. You’d think people just copy/pasted it without offering their own perspective… []
  5. I know lawyers aren’t renowned for the mathematical talents, so in case you’re not familiar with medians basically I sorted the invoices by dollar amount, and then took the amount from the middle invoice. []
  6. Adding up the dollar amounts of all the invoices, then dividing that sum by 142. []
  7. A horribly bad idea in retrospect. I know it’s commonplace and the only option a lot of entrepreneurs have, but avoid wrapping your personal life into your business as much as possible. []
  8. There are few things in life more emasculating than being a man in his early-30s with two degrees asking your retired non-degree-holding grandparents both in their mid-70s for a slice of their Social Security checks :( []
  9. Some attorneys commented that they slept with the book next to their bed, so they could read it over and over across the years. I question the sanity of those attorneys. :crack: []
  10. Let me tell you, they appreciated the return they got on that investment! []

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TDot’s Mailbag v9.0: “So why did you go solo?” Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 18, 2013 in Mail

I just want to start out this post by noting it’s the first time I’ve had two pieces done in a 7-day period since… August1 :surprised:

Back on Wednesday, EIC and I went out to lunch with a former classmate who’s now a soon-to-graduate 3L. He wanted to make sure he does everything he needs to do in his final semester of law school to set him up for success after graduation, and asked us both about how we got where we are, the things we did that helped, what we would do differently, and so on.

It was a fun conversation, not least of which because it fed into my pre-existing love of dispensing (rarely sought) advice :beatup:

Plus it made a great topic for a blog entry, so voilà! 2nd post in 7 days ;)

Here are some of the questions that got asked, along with my thoughts…

***

Q: So why did you decide to go solo?

A: I had forgotten I wrote a pair of blog entries on the prospect of going solo way back in November 2011 (here and here). After re-reading through those while writing up this entry, I’d say I was pretty spot-on with my assessment — the priorities just changed a little bit.

I’d say my top 3 reasons for becoming a solo practitioner were:

  1. Freedom: By the time I got near graduation, I had long-since made up my mind that I was going to try running my own business one way or the other (my attention was focused on NC SPICE at the time). The mere thought of getting up in the morning to go work for someone else was enough to put me in a salty mood, and long-time law:/dev/null readers know being a subordinate doesn’t really mesh with my personality anyway :angel:  So now I set my own hours, take or reject cases as I see fit, and can do things like take a soon-to-graduate 3L to lunch or randomly show up to mid-day events without having to clear it with a supervisor first. It’s low-paying at the moment but I wouldn’t trade that freedom for anything.
  2. Friends: I’ve been beyond blessed to meet thousands of amazing people over the 14.5 years I’ve been in North Carolina, from classmates during my first time at NC State, coworkers during my years as a college dropout, folks I met my second time in school through student media, Student Senate, UNCASG, NCCU Law‘s Student Bar Association and trial teams — the list goes on and on. I’m still connected to 1,900 of those folks on Facebook, and 1,200 of them on LinkedIn. That’s a huge pool of folks I can ask for advice, hire for projects, send clients who I can’t help, or represent if they need me.
  3. Fear: Even though it’s been 12 years at this point, the whole “homeless college dropout” phase of my life still haunts me pretty regularly; I’m reminded of it every time I go against a lawyer who’s been practicing the same length of time as me, but is in his mid-20s while I’m a couple months away from hitting 32 (and bald :mad: ). I remember having job applications denied because I didn’t have a college degree, and times I got laid off because the people I worked for couldn’t make payroll. Being at the mercy of others sucks — but I also know from experience that a steady paycheck is a powerful impediment to making overdue life changes. There was simply no better time for me to do my own thing than now, and I was afraid if I started working for someone else I’d become complacent with that.

There are a whole flotilla of other reasons for going solo and odds are high yours will be completely different than mine. The key point is that, if you feel something in your gut urging you to try venturing out on your own, do it now while you still have the flexibility to change your mind if you decide you don’t like it ;)

***

Q: What was your backup plan if things didn’t work out?

A: Going solo :beatup:

I knew I was going to start my own business, but the glaring need for affordable office support and mentorship services for solo practitioners prompted me to invest a lot more energy and money than I should have into getting NC SPICE launched. I just knew I’d have everything operational and in place before the bar exam, so once the exam was over I could get to work helping other folks while I waited on my exam results.

Needless to say that was more than a smidge naïve on my part. I’d have been better off conserving the cash and putting the time toward business development for the law firm.

***

Q: What helped you the most your 3L year in terms of preparing for life after graduation?

A: Talking to as many folks as I could. By an order of magnitude.

Out of those 2,500ish folks I’m connected to on social media, there’s maybe 100 or so I talk to weekly.2 But I’ve got a fairly good memory when it comes to remembering bits and pieces about most of those other 2,400 in terms of what they do, where they’re at, and what experiences they’ve had.

That makes it easier for me to connect folks who have complementary interests, whether it’s something simple like helping a friend get better rates on their auto insurance (NC Farm Bureau Insurance if you’re in North Carolina) or combing through my NCSU contact list to help someone find someone else who knew someone else who raised a certain breed of horse (seriously!).

That keeps me in more-frequent contact with folks I wouldn’t get to talk to that often otherwise, and it’s a great way for meeting even more people I’ve never met before. Ultimately that’s how I ended up in my current office and also how I got my very first client.

The law is a people-centric profession. If you want to excel at it, you need to meet people, take an interest in their lives as people (rather than walking dollar signs), and respect them accordingly :)

***

Q: If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?

A: Focus ;)

More than a few of my classmates were pissed when I graduated from NCCU Law with honors and they didn’t. The prevailing assumption (continuing to this day) is that I got all sorts of special privileges because I was SBA President, and that I would have been honors-less alongside them had I just been treated like everyone else.3 The most-cited example has been my ConLaw II class and how I didn’t turn in the final paper — 80% of the final grade — by the deadline.

The nasty byproduct of a lack of focus: a 2.333 GPA

The nasty byproduct of a lack of focus: a 2.333 GPA

Few (if any) of those folks realize I got an F in that class as a result,4 so whatever “special privileges” I supposedly got certainly weren’t much help.

The 2.333 GPA I had during my 3L Fall semester was my very worst in all of law school, and because of it I had to spend more time than I wanted focusing on academics during 3L Spring. When I could have been creating my future law firm’s website, or designing my business cards or letterhead, or attending local CLEs for free as a student, or any of a million other business development activities I could have done while I was still in school, I was instead cutting out my social life and studying non-stop to get the 3.630 GPA I needed to counteract that 2.333.5

And of course those small snippets of free time I had toward the end of the semester got plowed into the NC SPICE business plan, articles, bylaws, 501(c)(3) app, etc etc etc :beatup:

If there’s something in particular you want to do after graduation, be it going solo or working for a firm or something else entirely, focus on it with every spare ounce of time and energy you have. Don’t split your time if you can help it because your ability to excel at any one thing is going to drop as you add on more of those “one things” to your plate. Trust me.

***

So those are my thoughts on going solo. But it’s just my $.02, and I could be wrong :)

Have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v9.0: “So why did you go solo?” Edition (01/18/13) [this entry] –
    • Why did you become a solo practitioner?
    • What was your “Plan B” job-wise?
    • What helped you the most 3L year in preparing for post-grad life?
    • If you had to do 3L year over again, what would you differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition (08/11/12) –
    • What materials did you use for bar prep?
    • Are you bailing on law:/dev/null for Twitter?
    • What are your plans for law:/dev/null post-graduation?
    • Where do things stand with NC SPICE?
    • How does it feel being done with everything?
    • What’s your secret to not being stressed about the bar exam?
    • Do you have any bar exam study materials?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition (06/22/11) –
    • You made Dean’s List… but grades don’t matter?
    • Why is NCCU Law’s curve so low?
    • What is the rationale for NCCU Law’s dismissal policy?
    • How does the dismissal policy work?
    • What are NCCU Law’s GPA cutoffs for Dean’s List and academic honors?
    • Do you get notified if you made Dean’s List?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition (08/23/10) –
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like (04/14/10) –
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0 (01/21/10) –
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0 (10/04/09) –
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0 (09/07/09) –
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0 (08/20/09) –
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Hopefully you’re less surprised than I am. Maybe? No? Yyyeeeaaahhh I didn’t think so… :beatup: []
  2. I wish it was more, but until there’s more money in the bank Facebook is a luxury I can only use sparingly :( []
  3. I’ve never really understood the compulsion of wishing ill on someone else when things don’t go your way, but that’s a topic for another blog post. :roll: []
  4. Knocking me below a 3.0 and blocking me from finishing the law school’s concentration in Civil Rights & Constitutional Law :cry: []
  5. Waiting on those last grades to post… biggest. nailbiter. ever. But I yelped out loud when I finally saw them all. :D []

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-

TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 11, 2012 in Mail

Good evening y’all :)

We’re just shy of the 3-week mark since I took the North Carolina bar exam, and one of the things on my disturbingly long to-do list1 has been re-engaging with all the social media outlets I let wither over the past couple months. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and of course law:/dev/null updates have finally been getting some long-overdue attention.

As I started easing back into the blogging routine, I also realized I haven’t done a TDot’s Mailbag entry in over a year :crack:

So I figured it’s a good time to knock out some of the questions I’ve gotten asked since the bar exam a couple weeks back…

***

Q: Olivia2 asks:

When preparing for the bar did you actually use materials from school? I think I’ve managed to keep every paper from every class thinking that I will need to look at it again one day. Now I’m running out of room and I’m trying to throw things out but I’m afraid lol. What were the things you needed? Any advice would be great!

A: Don’t hate me for saying this, but… I didn’t consult a single paper from law school in prepping for the bar exam :surprised:

In terms of what you’ll need, whatever bar prep company you choose will send you oodles of stuff to get you through the exam. You’ll likely get around a dozen textbooks, access to an online database with thousands (!) of sample multiple choice questions, and a string of video lectures re-teaching you the core snippets of law in all the subjects that can be tested.

Many law schools also have supplemental programs of their own, such as NCCU Law‘s Invest in Success program that focuses on the essay portion of the exam.

And honestly, you’ll probably also be surprised / a little weirded out at how much law you’ve remembered over the years. Even though I won’t know if I actually passed the bar exam for another couple weeks, I never had writer’s block while taking it like I worried I would — I read the prompt, realized the area of law getting tested, and could spit out at least something vaguely resembling a coherent rule without much second-guessing.

Now even though your papers might not be any use to you, I’m one of the (apparently few) folks who have kept all my textbooks and found myself referring to several of them during different internships: specifically my Contracts book (bluelining), my CrimLaw and Evidence books (larceny and hearsay respectively), my Employment Discrimination book (Title VII), and my ConLaw book (time/place/manner restrictions on speech).

You could probably find all of the same info in a Google search, but having read through the material in class once already I have a mental image in my mind of where what I’m looking for can be found. Your mileage may vary on that one, but I hope it helps :)

***

Q: Savannah asks (after I blew up her Twitter timeline participating in the recent #1LTools tweet-up hosted by the Law School Toolbox):

So is twitter the new gig? I’ve been scouring your blog for info about your 2L classes and profs!

A: Yyyeeeaaahhh that’s not Twitter’s fault, I just did a bad job with blog updates most of 2L/3L year :beatup:

There are a few entries on here under our 2L tag, and for the list of classes I took you can check out this entry on Fall 2010 and this one on Spring 2011.3 Beyond that feel free to send me an email or message over Twitter/Facebook with questions until I get more material posted!

***

Q: Tim asks:

Now that you’re no longer a law student (and hopefully an attorney soon), what’s your plan for the blog? Are you going to keep it? Change the title? Change the focus?

A: We’ll see / Yes / No / Maybe.

I’m definitely planning to keep law:/dev/null live and updated, if for no other reason than it gives me an opportunity to help spread the word about my law school. I know at least a dozen people who applied to NCCU Law because of what they’ve read here — the “Why NCCU Law?” page is still one of the most-visited on the blog — and even though a dozen is a drop in the bucket of what they get each year, every little bit of publicity helps.

Plus it’s kinda cool being on the first page of Google results when people search for the school ;)

The name will also probably stay as it is; even though I’ll hopefully be licensed by the end of the month, we don’t stop being students of the law just because we’ve graduated from law school right?4

As for the plan and focus of the blog, we’ll see what happens. I’ve still got a lengthy backlog of law school-related topics to go through — not just the May and June entries that are half-written, but posts I never got around to writing in the first place (like my 2L/3L grades) — and will probably continue offering my $.02 on law school-related developments in the news. Then there’s the whole wide world of law-outside-of-law-school to comment on, with the occasional update on my dog Samson5 and NC SPICE and various other projects thrown in.

The key, of course, will be whether I find the time to actually keep things up to date :beatup:  But stay tuned!

***

Q: Patrick asks:

Where do things stand with SPICE?

A: NC SPICE is still in its start-up phase, so we’re doing a bunch of things simultaneously as we work to get off the ground.

Our first Board of Directors meeting was the Friday before the bar exam where we adopted our bylaws, mission, product matrix, and related items. I’ve fired off grant requests to a couple foundations with more in progress. The NC SPICE Facebook page got fleshed out a bit, I’ve started working on the NC SPICE Twitter account,6 I added a LinkedIn company page, and at some point this coming week I’ll get to work on the main website itself.

One question mark looming over the group is what relationship (if any) we’ll have with NCCU Law. Our new Dean talked about building a traditional incubator “in house” during her search committee interview — which was my original idea for NC SPICE before the Chief told me there was no money to make it happen — so if the administration sees us as competitors it’ll be difficult to build a collaborative partnership. I’m still holding out hope for a consortium-style approach modeled after the Center for Child and Family Health, where you have an independent entity that multiple schools help support. We’ll see what happens on that end in the months ahead.

But until then, I’m still going full steam ahead! :D  Once we’ve got funding we’ll get our first SPICE Center open, and once the website is operational we’ll get the SPICE Rack in place.7

If you or someone you know might be interested in the services that NC SPICE offers, feel free to send an email to info [at] ncspice.org! :)

***

Q: Vanessa asks:

So how does it feel being DONE??

A: Weird. :beatup:

The first few days after the exam, I still kept waking up at the crack of dawn and falling asleep early like I had in the week leading up to the test. Then during the day I spent a lot of time reading the news, Facebook-stalking people, cleaning and re-cleaning the apartment, working out, basically anything that didn’t involve thinking in any capacity. There were a couple times where I almost felt inclined to do some practice multiples just so I’d have something intellectually stimulating. Most of my classmates had left town to relax, my 2L-turned-3L friends typically had summer internships or summer school, and folks from undergrad were like “Oh, you’re finally done? Welcome to the real world I entered 3 years ago”  :roll:

The only real structure to my days are breakfast, lunch, dinner, and taking the dog out at various times in between. The rest of the time gets spent working on NC SPICE, surfing the web, and trying not to think about the bar exam. It’s a very useless feeling that I’ll look forward to ending one way or the other in a couple weeks.

***

Q: Alex asks:

T. Greg, you didn’t seem stressed at all during bar prep, and you certainly don’t seem stressed now. What’s your secret?

A: Faking it well ;)  (Kidding!)

A year and a half ago Kaplan asked me to write a piece for their Beyond Hearsay blog, and my first entry was on my experience as a college dropout and subsequently learning that fearing failure stalls success. It’s a personal mantra I force myself to remember whenever I get stressed out.

Now I still had occasional moments where I felt sick from nervousness, especially after some of my initial essay grades during NCCU Law‘s Invest in Success program. And I still made sure to put in the work needed to pass, including sitting through every single mind-numbingly slow lecture and running through well over 1,000+ practice questions.

But if you know you’ve put in the time and effort, what more can you do? Worrying about it just throws you off your game right at the very moment when you need to be focused the most.

That was all pre-exam. Post-exam, there’s really no point in stressing out because you can’t go back and change the test results! Pass or fail, my outcome was predetermined the minute I turned in my papers and there’s nothing else I can do about it. So I’ve turned my attention to doing something useful with my life — which is a great stress reliever in itself :)

***

Q: Natalie asks:

You knew I was going to ask this lol: do you have any bar exam study materials?

A: Yes ma’am — I’ll upload them at some point in the next few weeks and we’ll post them alongside the 1L and 2L/3L Outline files  :P

***

That’s it for this entry y’all :) Thanks again to all of you for your continued support of law:/dev/null, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an email to tdot [at] lawdevnull.com! :D

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition [this post] –
    • What materials did you use for bar prep?
    • Are you bailing on law:/dev/null for Twitter?
    • What are your plans for law:/dev/null post-graduation?
    • Where do things stand with NC SPICE?
    • How does it feel being done with everything?
    • What’s your secret to not being stressed about the bar exam?
    • Do you have any bar exam study materials?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition –
    • You made Dean’s List… but grades don’t matter?
    • Why is NCCU Law’s curve so low?
    • What is the rationale for NCCU Law’s dismissal policy?
    • How does the dismissal policy work?
    • What are NCCU Law’s GPA cutoffs for Dean’s List and academic honors?
    • Do you get notified if you made Dean’s List?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition –
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like –
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0 –
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0 –
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0 –
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0 –
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Trying to figure out how to make a living is a lot more involved than studying for law school! :beatup: []
  2. As a FYI for any new folks who’ve found us over the past year, I keep the names on these submissions anonymous (picked at random from the Social Security Administration’s Popular Names database) so feel free to send me an email if you’ve got a question but don’t want to risk having your name in print :) []
  3. The only changes from that class list: I dropped App Ad and re-enrolled 3L Fall, and I ended up with Judge TP as my Trial Practice professor. []
  4. Yes, I realize that’s probably a cheesy explanation. For an alternative reason, I’m just stubborn and don’t want to change the title :P []
  5. I got him a year ago as of this week! :eek: []
  6. Though I fumbled by committing a classic error: following a couple hundred people all at once. To most folks NC SPICE now looks like a spam account, with a disproportionate following:follower ratio and a low tweet count :beatup: []
  7. SPICE Centers are what we’re calling our physical offices in each county, and the SPICE Rack will be an online clearinghouse for attorneys with unused office space for lease/sale — giving new graduates instant access to counties across North Carolina until we’re able to expand out to those areas! :D []

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4

TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 22, 2011 in Mail

I know y’all, it’s been well over a week since my last entry where I said I’d have this entry ready to roll  “on Monday or Tuesday this coming week” — I’d give you an excuse, but you can probably already guess what it is.1 :beatup:

So can we all just pretend that when I said “this coming week” I meant the week after the week that was actually coming at the time? Yes? Great. :*

Although I’ve gotten a smattering of questions from current and prospective students in the 10 months since I last put one of these entries together, the bulk of them were so über-fact-specific that they weren’t really suitable candidates for including on the blawg. But with end-of-1L grades getting released and folks experiencing the same shellshocked reactions I saw firsthand last year, there’s been renewed interest in how NCCU Law handles grading, curving, dismissal and so on.

So, without further ado, here are your questions — answered.

***

Q: William2 asks:

Just read your entry on making Dean’s List again. But grades don’t matter right? :P

A: If you read that Dean’s List entry, then hopefully it meant you also read this footnote written in anticipation of an email just like the one you sent  :angel:

Needless to say, I stand by my earlier commentary. Most grades at most law schools get determined by a single final exam, or a combination of a final preceded by a midterm.  These aren’t like grades in undergrad or high school or even how you’d be “graded” on a job, where you’re given multiple assignments over a given timeframe and tested on things like time management and ingenuity in addition to raw knowledge.

Now I realize there are few absolutes in life — in some cases good grades are genuinely a sign that someone’s a legal genius who will make a phenomenal attorney, and in some cases bad grades are genuinely a sign that someone just doesn’t “get it” and would end up as a Joseph Rakofsky-grade incompetent if they were given a law license.

But for the overwhelming majority of the however-many-thousands of people graduating law school every year, including here at NCCU Law, a string of subjectively-scored 1-time 3-hour exams is a meaningless measurement of someone’s skill and potential as a lawyer.

That rule applies to me too. My excitement over making Dean’s List this past Fall and again in the Spring had nothing at all to do with some misplaced belief that I’ll make an amazing litigator as a result. I just derive great joy from getting to disabuse people of their mistaken beliefs, including the higher-ranked classmates, friends at other schools, and occasional professors who all made the mistake of concluding I was an inept buffoon because I spent my 1L year saving students millions of dollars instead of worrying about my classes ;)

***

The answers to the next two questions are rooted in the same background, so I’m pairing them together –

Q: Danielle asks:

Why is our curve so ridiculously low? And we don’t have A+’s?

Q: And Kevin asks:

What’s the rationale on the dismissal policy?

A: NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve and its 2.0-or-out dismissal policy are both byproducts of being what the administration labels “a school of opportunity.”

Remember that NCCU Law was created by the N.C. General Assembly way back in 1939, an era when de jure segregation was the reality across the country.3 The politicians created the law school specifically so that aspiring black attorneys could get a “separate but equal” legal education without trying to attend a white law school.4

The only other public law school in the state, UNCCH Law, wouldn’t accept black students until forced to do so by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a 1951 lawsuit challenging its admissions practices.5 Private Duke Law and WFU Law wouldn’t desegregate until the 1960s. Campbell Law, Elon Law, and Charlotte Law didn’t exist. And even if a black student managed to graduate and pass the bar exam, they were still categorically denied admission to influential industry groups like the N.C. Bar Association.

This second-class status for black attorneys and black law students was reflected in the Legislature’s second-hand funding for “the Negros’ law school,” as NCCU Law grappled with an inadequate building, a minimal law library, few faculty and related problems. As an example, for a good chunk of the law school’s history its law library was stocked with the out-of-date books discarded by the neighboring law schools at UNCCH and Duke.  :surprised:

The point of noting all that background is to highlight that NCCU Law was created to educate students that other schools wouldn’t take; it’s part of our law school’s DNA. That legacy is reflected in the admissions data: even today our GPA and LSAT scores of admitted students are among the very lowest in the country (we’re functionally tied at the bottom with 2 other HBCUs, FAMU Law and Southern Law). The law school views its job as providing an opportunity to people who are willing to take advantage of it, regardless of how they “measure up” on paper.

Which finally brings me around to the questions at hand :beatup:  From a philosophical perspective, the strict-C curve exists because the faculty believe (and I agree) that it’s the best way to gauge student performance. And from a practical perspective, law schools bumping their curves use the Lake Wobegon defense6 as a smokescreen — something that can’t credibly be done with our mission and legacy.  The curve ensures students have earned the grades they get.

Working in tandem with the curve but serving a slightly different purpose, the law school’s policy of dismissing students if they fall below a 2.0 at the end of any year is designed to “separate the chaff from the wheat” as the Biblical saying goes.  Since it’s statistically possible for every student to make a 2.0 or above, and the school is taking what it considers a “calculated risk” by admitting students whose quantitative credentials wouldn’t get them in elsewhere, the assumption is that someone who doesn’t hit a 2.0 (and hasn’t already withdrawn before Spring final exams) must not be taking their educational opportunity seriously enough to continue. So those folks get a letter telling them they’ve been dismissed and then have to wait at least a year before they can petition to return.

***

Q: Nina asks:

How exactly does the dismissal policy work, as far as coming back goes?

A: The dismissal policy and petition process can both be found in the Student Handbook distributed to 1Ls each year (in the 2010-11 edition it’s in §1.09).  Basically only 1Ls who have between 1.8-1.999 are eligible to petition for readmission; if a student’s GPA is below 1.8, their only option is to reapply as a completely brand new student at least 2 or more years after their dismissal.

For eligible students, they get 1 chance to submit a petition to the Standards Committee for readmission the year after they are dismissed. To quote from the policy, the petition must “demonstrate that extraordinary circumstances resulted in his/her substandard academic performance.  Extraordinary circumstances are those that do not ordinarily occur.  Financial concerns, employment obligations, family illness or commuting distances normally involve no element of extraordinary circumstances.  The petitioner must demonstrate that the extraordinary circumstances have been resolved and that, if re-admitted, he or she will be able to successfully handle the rigors of legal education.”

Following review of the petition and an optional presentation by the petitioner in person, the members of the Committee vote on whether or not the student should be reinstated the following Fall semester. Decisions on reinstatement are usually released in mid-June.

***

Q: Susan asks:

What are the GPA cutoffs for honors? Dean’s List? Do we get notified?

A: You can find the listings for academic honors on this page of the NCCU Law website.  Cum laude requires a GPA of 3.000 to 3.299, magna cum laude is from 3.300 to 3.499, and summa cum laude is 3.500 and above. All of those are of course based on your GPA at the time of graduation.

The Dean’s List is compiled on a per-semester basis, and includes all students who earn a 3.0 and above. Students on Dean’s List can get a certificate from the Registrar’s Office upon request, a lapel pin from the NCCU main campus in the week before Convocation, and will have their name included on the massive posters created by main campus listing everyone at the entire University who made Dean’s List each semester.

And it’s up to each student to know whether or not they made Dean’s List on their own; there is no individualized “Hey btw you made Dean’s List!” emails or anything like that :P

***

That’s it for this entry y’all :) Thanks again to all of you for your continued support of law:/dev/null, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an email to tdot [at] lawdevnull.com! :D

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with “fool.” Totally coincidental. :beatup: []
  2. For the new folks, I keep the names on these submissions anonymous (picked at random from the Social Security Administration’s Popular Names database) so feel free to send me an email if you’ve got a question but don’t want to risk having your name in print :) []
  3. A point politely ignored by nearly every law school nationwide even as they dole out admission to legacy applicants of alums who benefited from segregationist admission policies. []
  4. As otherwise would have been required by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938), which held that states providing education for white students either needed to admit blacks or provide a “separate but equal” education for them. []
  5. McKissick v. Carmichael, 187 F.2d 949 (4th Cir. 1951), reversing Epps v. Carmichael, 93 F.Supp. 327 (M.D.N.C. 1950). And even then UNCCH only accepted students who had already completed their first 2 years at NCCU. Admitting blacks as incoming 1Ls wouldn’t occur until later, and the rest of campus wouldn’t be desegregated until a post-Brown decision handed down in Frasier v. Board of Trustees of Univ. of N.C., 134 F.Supp. 589 (M.D.N.C. 1955).  []
  6. They admit students with higher GPAs/LSATs, and therefore “all of our students are above average.” Even though we all know the main motivation behind bumping curves is to artificially make graduates appear more competitive in the job market. :roll: []

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2

TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 23, 2010 in Mail

Good evening y’all! :)

Sorry for the multi-day hiatus here at law:/dev/null. There’s been some personal stuff going on behind the scenes that has really sapped my motivation to be productive,1 and unfortunately that included writing an entry for the blog.

But I missed y’all, so I’m making sure I put something together for tonight ;)

Back during 1L Orientation a couple weeks ago, the NCCU Law Student Bar Association put together a student panel where the 1Ls could ask us any questions they wanted. The 2012 class president and I represented the 2Ls, while the SBA President, Vice President and Parliamentarian offered the 3L perspective.

We got uniformly positive feedback from the 1Ls afterwards, but based on some of the faces I saw while the Q&A was going on I have to wonder if we were really just boring the f*ck out of them :beatup:

The Q&A was capped at an hour, so I’ve gotten a few questions since then that I threw together into this entry. Just remember that my perspective is a bit different from other folks — not always in a good way — so take this with the requisite grains (translation: barrels) of salt…

***

Q: David2 asks:

One of your colleagues on the panel said she studied 60 hours a week to get her grades. Do we really need to study that much?

A: It depends :)

Don’t focus as much on the exact number of hours she quoted as on what she said afterwards: you have to know yourself. No one can gauge your own strengths and weaknesses, your own study habits, your goals, and so on better than you. That’s going to be a huge determinant in how much you study.

For example, I didn’t study anywhere near 60 hours a week during my 1L year. After spending over a decade working in the legal arena, a lot of the terminology and reasoning came naturally to me — so I maybe studied 2 hours a day at most, and most of that was just doing the required readings.

But the difference between my colleague and I? She’s one of the top-ranked students in the class, while I barely made the top half :beatup:

If you have legal experience or naturally “get” this stuff, you may be able to study less; conversely, if the material is difficult for you to digest you’ll need to study more. If you’re content with barely passing, you can have a great time screwing around your 1L year3 and won’t need to study nearly as much as my colleague… but if you want to have a high GPA to get a decent internship or otherwise do something productive with your life, you’ll probably want to work a little (translation: a lot) harder than I did ;)

***

Q: Ethan writes in with a similar question:

So some of my study partners have been in the library since at least 12pm and stay until the building closes. Am I missing something? I’m worried I’m messing up already…

A: See above — it depends ;)

Some of your classmates will genuinely need to study that much, based on their study habits or their scholastic objectives or other issues; we certainly had folks like that in my classes last year. But you’re not going to get anywhere comparing yourself to them.

Remember: law school is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you want to gauge whether or not you’re “messing up already” before midterms, reflect on how well you’re able to understand the material and follow along in class. If you’re totally lost, go see your professor. If you see you’re professor and you’re still totally lost, then think about studying a bit harder or checking the law library for a hornbook or other useful supplement.

Putting in all the study time in the world isn’t going to benefit you at all if you’re not getting anything useful out of the time you’re studying ;)

***

Q: Felicia’s thinking about skipping law review too:

How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative or some of these other clubs? Do you think I’ll have time to do that and study?

A: Not to give everyone the same lawyer-esque response, but you’ve probably guessed by now — it depends :beatup:

All of the SBA Representatives will need to participate in the normal SBA meetings, including when we hear requests for funding from all the student groups which historically takes about 6-7 hours. SBA Reps are also required to have office hours (good study time) and help with planning/implementing any SBA events that get held.

If this were the entire equation, I’d say “Of course you’ll have time”… but only you will know what grades you’re aiming for and how much you’ll need to study to get there.

I’d encourage you to run regardless — if nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to get out and meet your fellow 1Ls — but whether you’ll have time for it is a judgment call you’ll have to make for yourself.

***

Q: Gabriel also has studying on his mind:

I’m having trouble deciding whether or not to do my case briefing based on the outlines the 2Ls gave me, the stuff I find on random case briefing websites, or just do the reading and brief it all on my own? A combination of the two or three?

A: Definitely do the briefing all on your own, at least for the first few weeks. The stuff 2Ls pass down to 1Ls is designed to serve as a template since you’ll have no clue what to look for when you first start out. The whole point to briefing on your own is to train your mind to recognize the important stuff in a case.

After you’ve been at it for a month or two, odds are good you’ll be in the habit of briefing the case in your mind as you read — this is the precursor to the common “book briefing” you’ll see other students using, where stuff like “Issue” and “Rule” get scrawled in the margins of the textbook. At that point folks will start using the 2L briefs to save time, because by that point in the semester you’ll be focusing more on outlining than you will on case briefs.

***

Q: Henry is looking ahead to next year:

Is law school really just a big head game? What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?

A: To the first question, I’d say yes.

You’ll hear folks repeat the law school aphorism “Your first year they scare you to death, your second year they work you to death, and your third year they bore you to death.” But if you know you want to be a lawyer and you’re determined to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal — or, conversely, you have a backup plan and don’t really care if you fail out — there’s nothing to really scare you in the first year.

And, at least in my opinion, a lack of fear goes a long way to maintaining your composure under pressure and mastering the 1L crucible.

As for the second question, the biggest difference I’ve noticed between 1L and 2L years so far is how relaxed everyone seems. There’s no discernible terror over being called on in class. People understand the material. Folks don’t seem to study as much as last year — hell even a slacker like me was actually two days ahead on the class readings :crack:

We’re only a week into the semester though, so I’m fairly sure things will change from here :)

***

Q: And we’ll finish with a question from Isabella about my own motivations for law school:

What made you pursue law after having done computer science?

A: As bizarre as I’m sure it sounds, I’ve actually wanted to do law since I was a kid :beatup:

Some time around the 10th grade I really got hooked on civics, public service, and related stuff — read Supreme Court decisions for fun and so on.4 I decided I wanted to be a constitutional law professor at some point, and wanted to be Virginia’s Attorney General when I got older (before I moved to North Carolina and fell in love with this state :spin: ).

But I also grew up in a family that most folks would consider “poor” financially, so my college focus was on what was going to make me the most $$$ when I graduated. I had a talent for computers and I started at N.C. State right as the dot-com boom was hitting its stride. I was going to become a computer engineer and make six figures starting after graduation.

That was the plan at least. I dropped out of N.C. State two years later because I couldn’t afford tuition and ended up $16K in debt to the University :beatup:

During the five years I was a dropout, I worked in the legal arena the whole time since I could make a decent wage without a college degree. Getting hired for computing-related jobs, by contrast, typically required various certifications that I couldn’t afford to get. So when I finally came back to N.C. State in August 2005, I knew law school was definitively where I was going once undergrad was done.

But I was also determined to get my Bachelor’s degree in some kind of computer-related field because I felt like switching into something else would be like admitting defeat, like I wasn’t intelligent enough to hack it in a “hard science” engineering discipline. I briefly entertained the thought of switching to Communications or Political Science or Economics before coming back to that conclusion every time. Not the most rational thought pattern in the world, I admit… but I damn sure have a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science adorning the wall of my bedroom ;)

So that was a ridiculously long answer where a fairly short one would suffice: I’ve known I wanted to do this for years, I just didn’t do it sooner because I was stubborn as hell :)

—===—

That’s it from me for the night folks! I hope all of you have an amazing week!! :D

  1. For example, dealing with people who treat you with a level of respect generally reserved for household insects… until they need tech support. And then don’t show up after asking you to be available at a certain time to provide said tech support. And then act incredulous when you no longer have the patience to continue dealing with them gratis or otherwise. []
  2. In case you’re new to these mailbag entries, all the names are anonymous — picked at random from the Social Security Administration’s Popular Names database. Feel free to send me an email if you’ve got a question for a mail entry! :D []
  3. For posterity’s sake, my “screwing around” was actually doing advocacy work with UNCASG. I’m bad but I’m not that bad. ;)   []
  4. Yes, I was odd. Don’t judge me. :P []

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7

TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 14, 2010 in Mail

This was originally a TDot’s Tips entry titled “Tips for the Pre-L’s” — until I started writing it Monday afternoon, when Delta the 2L sat down next to me in the Fishbowl and wanted to know what I would be doing at 7:00pm that night.

I’ve learned the only acceptable answer when she asks me that question is “What would you like me to be doing Delta?” :beatup:

Turns out the Pre-Law Students Association at my alma mater was holding a panel discussion titled “What is Law School Really Like?” and she wanted a partner from the N.C. Central University School of Law to help rep for the Legal Eagles.

Since I came at law from a non-traditional angle I had to say yes. Besides, y’all know how I am about competition :angel:

There were about 30 undergrads in the audience, and the panel turned out to be a solid mix of folks with 3 students from Campbell Law, 3 from UNCCH Law, 2 from Duke Law, an alum from Wake Forest Law, and of course Delta and I from NCCU Law.1 I think 6-7 of us were 1Ls, but the 2Ls/3Ls/post-Ls were represented by at least 1 person apiece.

The questions covered a wide range of topics that you’d expect from aspiring law students: workload, types of classes, “gunners” and competition, and so on. But some panel members did tend to commandeer the discussion and recognize new questioners before folks had a chance to answer the previous question, and yesterday one of the sophomores in attendance shot me a message.

Rather than do the usual Q&A format for past mail entries, I figured I’d post what he sent me and offer my $.02 from there.  Here’s what I got:

Overall, I enjoyed listening to the panel and attending the event. I do wish the the questions/answers had been more organized so that each student from each law school could have given a more direct answer and that every student could have been given the chance to answer each question.

I would have liked to have learned more about the admissions process from the students also. I believe the bar exam was only mentioned once or twice in the whole forum; from what I have heard the bar exam is one of the top things that law students are trying to make sure they pass, that was one dimension that was almost forgotten about….and I’m not quite sure why?

It seemed like the whole time all of the students were all up tight and bashing the amount of work load and la la la the whole time. I was like okay I get the point that law school is a lot of work, I’m aware of that now, I am more than willing to put in the time and effort, enough with the talks about how much work it is, tell me more about WHAT LAW SCHOOL IS REALLY LIKE – tell me about the professors, tell me about the elective courses you can take, tell me about the mock trials you can participate in, etc etc.

I fully understand, and *commend* every single law student out there for the amount of work they have to put into law school; but this forum was not meant to whine about the work load if you get my gist.

Let me preface my thoughts by pointing out I’M NOT NORMAL. You hopefully figured this out at some point amid (i) Student Government being my preferred hobby, (ii) picking a T4 as my first-choice law school despite higher-ranked options, or (iii) deciding to go the law route at all after getting a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I’m strange, I’m upbeat about my own law school experience, and I’m even optimistic about the future prospects for the legal industry.

I’m also apparently one of the very, very, very few who feel that way :beatup:

So before reading on, I’d encourage you to check the other bloggers in the list at the right of this page. Dennis Jansen in particular has a ton of advice well worth reading — I read it myself before starting law:/dev/null, that’s how legit it is.

Now back to that email…

Admissions
Admissions was actually something I studied quite a bit as a side project when I was an undergrad.2 I’m not an expert by any means, but here’s some of what I’ve learned both in NC and nationwide:

  • The admissions process is going to vary by school of course, but pretty much everyone uses some form of indexing in their decisions.  Essentially take your undergraduate GPA and multiply it by a given fraction, take your LSAT score and multiply it by a different fraction, take whatever “special” factors your chosen school considers (e.g. legacy status, socioeconomic status, etc), add all those numbers up and you get your Academic Index score. Students above a certain number get in automatically, below a certain number get rejected automatically, and the folks in the middle get a closer look at your actual application to decide if you should be accepted, rejected, or waitlisted.
  • Any school that tells you they read all the applications is lying to you. There are simply too many applications for every school, and your typical admissions committee is roughly 3-5 people — usually 1 or 2 administrators, and the rest senior faculty. In other words they’re all busy people, and are simply not going to read 1,000+ essays or more per person. Period.
  • Apply early! Most schools also use “rolling admission,” which means they start accepting students throughout the application cycle — including those folks with the high Academic Index scores.  Typically that means by the time the advertised “deadline” approaches for a given school, all of the seats have admitted students filling them and you’re competing for spots that only open up when the accepted folks go somewhere else. The odds already are not in your favor; they get precipitously worse by the deadline.
  • Consider applying at public law schools in your state (if they’d be a good fit for you of course). Most state-supported institutions have caps on out-of-state students, making it comparably easier to get in if you’re in-state. For example, UNCCH Law limits out-of-state students to 25-30% of the student body even though out-of-staters typically make up 75%ish of the applications received. Private Duke Law, by contrast, had over 80%+ of its Class of 2012 coming from outside North Carolina.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I call this the “nontraditional” approach to admissions: if you know someone who’s an alum from your school, or back when you were a kid you used to mow the lawn for one of the professors, or one of your parent’s coworkers knows a friend of a friend who plays golf with the Dean, see if they have any advice they can offer to help you be as competitive as possible. The era of a well-placed phone call to the right person securing your acceptance has largely died off, but there are always “intangibles” in every process and there’s no harm in trying to line up as many as you can in your favor.

Bar Exam
At most undergraduate universities, when you finish all your required courses you’re usually entitled to graduate, get your degree, and start working in whatever field you studied.

Not so with law.

After you graduate, you’ll sit and take a bar exam for the jurisdiction where you want to practice. This is essentially a 2-3 day affair featuring multiple choice questions, essays, and similar tests on a variety of subjects to verify your competence to become a lawyer. Pass the bar, and you get to jump through the next set of assorted hoops to get your law license (“character and fitness” reviews, etc). Fail, and you get to wait 3-4 months to try again while desperately trying in the interim to find some way to pay your bills.

Training you to pass the bar, enabling you to become a competent attorney, is the #1 job of a law school. It’s also not easy — so make sure you pay attention in your law classes, because that info will be coming back in a few years.

The Work
There’s not much I can say here that will be useful to any of you, since I honestly don’t think the work in law school is that hard.

Why? Because I was horrible at my undergraduate major :beatup:

As a result I was/am already accustomed to sitting in one place in perpetuity (e.g. at a desk) doing the same thing for hours non-stop (e.g. debugging code) and giving up certain necessities of life (e.g. sleep and a social life) to get projects done on time. Law school has been a cakewalk by comparison, since the only “project” is generally a midterm and final exam — and reading case law for a few hours is infinitely easier than tracing Java code looking for an elusive bug.

Trust me ;)

Law school is a sizable volume of work, for certain. You’ll want to read all the cases you’re assigned so you’re able to understand the discussion taking place in class, which in turn will make it easier to digest the material and study for finals.

But law school is also a huge mind game. If you go in knowing you’re going to have a large volume of work and you take a disciplined approach to getting that work done, you’ll be fine — and should even have time for sleep and a social life :D

Professors
They’re all different, and it shows. MDG and Professor CrimLaw both have witty and disarming personalities — and are merciless graders who force you to know your material. Professor Torts takes a more disciplinarian approach. Professor Ks represents the “new school” and is more laid back than the others, while The Traveling Professor holds it down for the “old school” with her regal demeanor.

One unifying characteristic of the professors is that they’re all smart people. And the vast majority are friendly, approachable, and go out of their way to help students succeed at learning the law. After all, even these folks were 1Ls once upon a time.

The key is to not let yourself get intimidated — as your legal elders they’re entitled to a certain level of deference, but not to the point where you’re afraid to talk to them.

Electives
I’m not really qualified to say much here, simply because for almost all law schools your 1L year will be set in stone for you and cover “core” classes like Property, Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law and Constitutional Law.

If you want to browse around, NCCU Law has most of its electives posted online. Typically law schools will have electives on a huge range of topics (intellectual property, bioethics, veterans law, etc) and offer law clinics for students to experience first-hand different areas of the law where they might be interested in practicing.

But given the breadth of offerings and the differences between each law school, the best I can recommend here is to check out the individual offerings for every school you’re interested in.

Extracurriculars
This is another area where the philosophies of law schools tend to differ,3 but at many schools 1Ls get to participate in most of the exact same stuff as their upper-level colleagues.

Speaking for myself here at NCCU Law, I took part in 3 different mock trial competitions just for 1Ls, signed up for the 1L Moot Court competition (before realizing it conflicted with a UNCASG meeting), participated in an ABA-sponsored client counseling competition, played on the 1L basketball team in the annual Law Week tournament, attended several events for the Black Law Students Association, and got elected Treasurer of the Student Bar Association.

And there are literally dozens of other groups and activities that I could have done if I had other interests (or more time).

Most law schools will have class councils that throw parties, hold forums, host speakers, and so on. You’ve got legal fraternities like Phi Alpha Delta and Phi Delta Phi. You’ve got BLSA and HLSA and undoubtedly other LSAs I don’t know about. You’ve got liberal orgs promoting things like workers’ rights, conservative ones promoting things like constitutional originalism, and everything in between.

So as far as extracurriculars go — at least in my admittedly limited experience — law school is as much a full-spectrum experience as college.

“What would you do differently?”
If I could change one single thing about my experience here at NCCU Law, I wouldn’t be as nervous.

Those of you who are long-time readers at law:/dev/null might recall the comedy of unforced errors that was my orientation experience. I’ve taken my Socratic beatings too. But you know what I found out over the course of the semester?

Everybody experiences the same thing at some point.

All the 1Ls are going through the same trials and tribulations. Some folks are more adept at it than others, but there isn’t a single person out of the 50ish in my section who haven’t been flummoxed by a professor. Rather than the “gunner”-filled atmosphere you read about, most of your classmates will be on Facebook or Gchat or “whispering” hints at a slightly-above-whisper level,4 all trying to help you succeed — because they’ve either (i) been there too or (ii) will be soon.

So don’t be nervous. Go in confident, know you’re going to slip up at some point, and take it all in stride. It’ll make your law school experience far more enjoyable ;)

—===—

That’s my $.02 on what law school is really like, at least on those few topics :) Feel free to hit me up if you have any other questions!

Until then, have a great night everybody! :D

  1. The other 2 law schools in North Carolina are fairly new and only provisionally accredited: Elon Law and Charlotte Law. []
  2. Particularly the relative weights given to racial minorities (which are routinely criticized or banned) and “legacy” children of alumni (which are routinely not criticized or banned) and the effect of those weights among institutions of the 17-campus University of North Carolina… most of which were segregated until 50 years ago, giving a de facto race-based advantage to the white children of white alumni. []
  3. For example, the Campbell Law panelist said they don’t allow 1Ls to participate in extracurricular activities so they can focus on their studies. []
  4. The folks MDG fondly calls “the drunk whisperers” []

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-

TDot’s Mailbag v4.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 21, 2010 in Mail

After Torts today I let myself get convinced by Rico to stick with my exercise routine for the New Year and go for a run outside… even though it’s only around 37ºF and raining. I couldn’t feel my fingers after the first mile :beatup: They’re still defrosting, so I figure today’s as good a day as any to answer some mail since there’s plenty of point-click-copy-paste involved ;)

And yes I know it’s literally been months since I answered reader mail here at law:/dev/null… but that’s mostly due to the fact it’s literally been months since I got any reader mail :P

A few of the recent entries must have triggered some latent inquisitiveness from a handful of folks though, because the inbox got e-bombed over the last week :) I figured I need to answer them before folks lose faith in my responsiveness ;)

So here are your questions… well… answered :D

***

Q: Liz asks in response to a post I linked off the Kilpatrick-Stockton update, where I mentioned disliking BigLaw:

What really made you dislike BigLaw? You seem to be a workaholic, so the workload argument seems like an excuse.

A: It’s no excuse, I promise you that :)  Am I a workaholic? Maybe. But there’s 1 key difference between when I was a BigLaw paralegal and what I do now: I actually enjoy it ;)

Law school has been an adventure and I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people, and running UNCASG gives me an opportunity to improve the lives of 215K+ students here in North Carolina. Compare that to law firm life, which consisted mostly of attorneys giving me things a couple hours/days before deadline or the partner I worked for deciding he needed yet another weeklong vacation and wanted me chained to my desk in case anything happened in his absence.

With law school and ASG, working during a holiday is something I do by choice; with BigLaw, it was a mandated part of my job. I’ll take the former over the latter 7 days a week :D

***

Q: Clarence wants insight into the Kilpatrick-Stockton post itself:

I thought it was interesting 2 of the top 4 K-S finalists were T4 schools. Any theories on that?

A: I’ve got plenty of theories, I just can’t guarantee any of them are valid ;)

The first thing that comes to mind is the fact it’s a North Carolina-based competition, and a majority of the state’s law schools are in the lower ranks.  In the latest edition of the US News rankings, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest are all now in Tier 1; Campbell and NCCU Law are both Tier 4; while Elon and Charlotte both only have provisional accreditation and can therefore functionally be treated as Tier 4. So even though the bulk of teams came from UNCCH and Duke, the natural odds of the 4 finalists including a pair of T4 schools are non-trivial.

There’s probably a cultural aspect to it as well. At least here in North Carolina, NCCU Law and Campbell Law both have well-earned reputations for producing high-quality trial attorneys and judges, and that legacy is worked into things like the aggressiveness of the Socratic method in 1L classes. The T1s by contrast have a reputation geared more toward BigLaw, international affairs, research and teaching; anecdotal evidence from friends at those neighboring schools is that classes are a challenge, but not intensely so.

Running with the cultural theme — and at the risk of getting shot by my T1 colleagues — I wouldn’t be surprised if the curve plays an impact too. Both Duke’s median and UNCCH’s median are set at 3.33 (B+), while Wake Forest sets theirs at 3.00 (B).  The T4 schools set their medians far lower, with Campbell’s median around 75 (C+) on their numeric system, and NCCU Law standing by its strict-C curve at 2.00 (and capping a course grade at A versus A+ elsewhere).

Most employers know that curves are set all over the place at different schools, which is why class rank is so important to landing a job rather than GPA. But for the chronic overachievers who go to law school, there is a fundamental shock to the psyche when a “good” semester is full of B-‘s or B’s compared to your fellow 1Ls at neighboring schools banking straight A’s.

Combine those latter two points — reputation and curves — and what you get are 1Ls who feel like underdogs compared to their peers, with a hunger to “show up and show out.”  That’s basically what happened at the Kilpatrick-Stockton competition this year IMO (at least I know that’s what we did :D )

***

Q: Courtney expresses faux concern over the lack of structure we’ve had here since 1L Fall came to an end:

What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by??

A: The lack of structure that comes with winter break :P

Not sure what the future of Tweet-sized Tuesdays will be.  They were created last semester because the schedule for my section looked like a camel hump, with 5 classes on Wednesdays — that meant Tuesday nights spent studying instead of blogging.  This semester has the pain spread throughout the week. I’ll have a better idea as we get closer to midterms if I need to curtail the time spent writing here and bring Tweet-sized Tuesdays back ;)

As for the Friday Drive-by, that’ll be resuming at some point here in the next few weeks :)

***

Q: Michelle wants the rest of this story:

How did that CivPro exam turn out?

A: There was a 22-point curve, so even though I almost failed I didn’t do too badly :)  I’ll post a full rundown of my 1L Fall grades at some point over the next couple days.

—===—

That’s it for this edition :) If you have a question you want me to answer, send an email to tdot [at] lawdevnull.com or hit me up on Facebook!

Have a great night everybody! :D

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7

TDot’s Mailbag v3.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 4, 2009 in Mail

I check the server logs here at law:/dev/null at least twice a day, primarily to keep a check on the source IPs and the search queries that lead folks here — most of them are innocuous enough,1) but if I notice an otherwise-arbitrary uptick in visits from the law school’s network I try to preemptively think of responses to anything a professor or classmate might inquire about.

And in going through the end-of-month log for September, I noticed I’ve totally been neglecting email :surprised: My apologies, dear readers! (all dozen of you :* )

For those of you who are new visitors to my little snippet of virtual real estate on teh intarwebs, every now and then I take the questions I’ve gotten via email / Facebook message / text / etc and throw them into a blog entry — usually when I’m either lacking 1) time or 2) content to write something better ;) I’m making an exception today because a couple of these questions are a bit old :beatup:

***

Q: Mike, another 1L blawger who’s written in previously, sent in a non-question that needs “answering”:

You don’t have your email address posted anywhere on your blog. May want to fix that if you expect folks to write in ;)

A: Touché. When law:/dev/null got started it was basically just for close friends and family who already had my contact info on Facebook — I never expected people from other cities / states / countries to become regular readers! (P.S. thank you said unexpected readers :spin: )

If any of you want to send me an email, just take my name on this blog (TDot), throw in the @ symbol, and tack on the URL of the blog sans the ‘www’. Or just Facebook me :)

***

Q: Rebecca recently found us through a Facebook post and asks:

Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month??

A: Yep. It all started when I got elected Student Senate President at N.C. State back in April 2007.  I used to have a 12-button Motorola E815 — which had an über-hackable OS that I didn’t want to give up — and a “500 messages per month” data plan.  By the time school started in August, I had sent/received 854 messages… which led to a $35 overage charge on my phone bill.

Somehow the next month that had climbed to 1,959 messages, which prompted a visit to my local Verizon Wireless store and an almost-free upgrade to a BlackBerry 8830 with unlimited text messaging — a much better deal than the ~$150 overage I would have had to pay otherwise.

Then things just went crazy from there.

TDot's text messages over time

TDot's text messages over time. Each vertical hash is 1100 texts.

The following March I was reelected to a 2nd term as Student Senate President and a few weeks after that elected President of the statewide UNC Association of Student Governments, becoming the 1st person (so far as we know) to hold both the ASG Presidency and a major institutional office at the same time — and bringing a corresponding text message frequency with it.  I peaked at 10,821 messages in January, and have settled around the 7K mark for the past few months.

Back when I first switched to the BlackBerry, one of my Computer Science professors asked me to put a graph together showing my text message usage over time.  I’ve been keeping it up just for the giggles and post it here for you amusement :)

***

Q: Gwen asks about the HBCU experience:

How are you adjusting to a historically black university like N.C. Central coming from a predominantly white school like N.C. State? Has it been difficult?

A: It hasn’t taken much adjustment at all, at least for me. The black community at N.C. State was one of the three core groups who put me into office along with CALS students and teh Netr00tz, if that offers any insight to my background.

The only significant change between N.C. State University and the N.C. Central University School of Law has been the technology.

The Computer Science Department at NC State is very *nix-heavy, so technology is platform-neutral and Linux + Mac users fit right in. By contrast NCCU Law, like most law schools, is a mostly-Microsoft shop. The tech support folks aren’t well-versed at all in anything beyond Windows, so I’ve played the role of “hey you, computer guy” on more than a few occasions.

And the wifi reception is spotty in the areas most conducive to studying. It drives me bonkers… :mad:

Other than those few technology annoyances, I have no complaints :)

***

Q: Rebecca, in response to my recent commentary on TRPLS, is apparently crushed by my own political leanings:

omg please don’t tell me you’re one of the *them*. seriously? like, *seriously?*

A: Seriously :) I’ve been a conservative since high school and a registered Republican since I was eligible to vote.

My political views aren’t exactly orthodox though.

As an example, I believe in limited government, supply-side economics, firearms, a strong military and an interventionist foreign policy; my time being homeless left me with little sympathy for the poor; and I think most strident liberals are ideologically incoherent and hate America.

But I also have no problems with premarital sex, weed, illegal immigrants, or non-Christians; I’ve dated more black women than white ones; I have more close friends who are gay than are straight; and I recycle ;)

The net result is a guy who got himself elected as the youngest Vice Chairman in Wake County GOP history some years ago, got thrown out of the party entirely just 2 years later for being “too liberal”, then spent most of the years since working with politicians from both parties.

No need to worry though: the odds of someone like me getting elected to anything outside of college are pretty slim, and my political views won’t affect the quality of my legal representation if you ever need a lawyer ;)

And one final note on the impeccable timing of this question — check out today’s first entry on PostSecret :D

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That’s all I’ve got for this entry folks — have a great night! :D

  1. From yesterday: “what is the plain meaning rule? do you think that people would actually fight over the plain meaning of a statute?” If your client is paying you, yes ; []

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2

TDot’s Mailbag v2.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 7, 2009 in Mail

Before diving in, I just want to note I ran out of nails while finally building those bookshelves today. Nails.  Shiny 7/8″ nails.

I didn’t even know that was possible.  Nails are like the pennies of the carpentry business: they’re generally worthless individually, you inadvertently amass hundreds of them in a fairly short amount of time from totally different projects, and if you ever need one but can’t find any in the usual locations all you typically have to do is go poking around the house.  But there I was in the middle of shelf building, about to nail in a base board to a drawer, I reach for another nail, and… nothing.  I go to the toolbox, and… nothing.  I look around the apartment, in the kitchen, in the closet, in the storage unit, and… nothing.

My mind was blown as I had to go on a building hiatus to trek up the street to Lowe’s and buy a 1lb box of new ones.  Should be another few years before I run out again though :)

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Anyhow, moving on:  for those of you who have been supporting this blog since the beginning, or new folks who happened to trudge through the archives, every now and then I take the questions I’ve gotten via email / Facebook message / text / etc and throw them into a blog entry — usually when I’m either lacking 1) time or 2) content to write something better ;)  I actually got 2 LSAT-related questions in the same day yesterday, so I’m combining it with 2 earlier questions for a second installment of TDot’s Mailbag:

***

Q: Ginger1 asks:

So did you, like, you know, have a bunch of study materials and stuff for the LSAT?  When did you start studying before taking it?

A: The only thing I had for preparation was the TestPrep book or whatever it’s called that you can get from LSAC. I ordered it when I ordered my LSAT admission ticket.

The book still sits unopened on my bookshelf though because I never actually studied for the LSAT.  The lack of studying wasn’t intentional, and I don’t recommend it — at all.  But in my case I had an academic backup plan in place (if I didn’t make it into any law schools I’d stay at N.C. State and start a Ph.D. in Economics), so the urge to prepare tended to evaporate if I was stressed about other stuff.  My plan was to take the test just to experience it, then re-take it this past June and start law school in Fall 2010.

For the folks I worked with at N.C. State who are going the law route, I’d give yourself at least a month or two to prepare — and the best preparation is taking an old test under the same type of rigid time constraints you’ll have during the test itself.  I’m fairly certain my score took a hit since I had to guess on the last half-dozen questions in the logic games section, all because I did a poor job managing my time.  You’ll want to get a feel for the time you’ll have to work with before going in to the test.  And make sure not to stress :)

***

Q: Michael, a fellow blawger, writes:

How well did you do on the LSAT?

A: Well enough to have options.  I don’t really tell folks my LSAT score because it was an unexpected blessing I owe more to good fortune than to preparation.  That and it’s a bit priggish — it’s kind of like winning the lottery and constantly going around telling your friends “oh, by the way, did I mention to you I won a million dollars yesterday?”

And coincidentally the LSAT has no bearing on the traits that make the best lawyers ;)

***

Q: Jennifer sent an email wanting a political update:

How did you do on your election for 1L SBA representative?

A: I’m 99.9% sure I lost.  None of the classmates I’ve asked have been able to find a listing of all the results, but at least one candidate wrote on her Facebook that she got elected so I’m assuming the SBA folks just emailed the winners.

I was lucky to meet some some cool people during campaigning though, so I’m more than satisfied :)

***

Q: We’ll close with one of the Legal Eagles of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, Robert, who happened to find the blog on his Facebook wall and asks:

You keep mentioning this Gang of Eight. How’d you come up with this group? And who’s in it?

A: I didn’t really come up with it intentionally, we all just happened to sit in the same vicinity and realized none of us were uptight gunner types.  There were only 7 of us that originally talked during classes, but given the varying political ideologies in the group I was determined to tie in a reference to this Gang of Eight, so we adopted Pimp Daddy.  Their company definitely helps me get through the day :)

Here are the nicknames and a little background for the group members (listed alphabetically):

  1. DMoff:  mountain man who loves baseball, was Student Body President at his alma mater, and the only person I knew well going in as a 1L with me at NCCU after working together in the UNC Association of Student Governments
  2. Karl(a):  I had a different nickname originally for this young lady, but in our very first discussion about something other than law the first thing she says to me is “I’m actually a big fan of Karl Marx”… I almost had a heart attack, but enjoyed the ensuing debate :)
  3. Monica:  Love & Basketball reference for the ball players out there; her personality reminds me of the main character
  4. MP:  profoundly unoriginal nickname choice on my part — a Military Policeman in one of the Armed Services; big sports fan and graduate of UNC Wilmington (but loves UNC Chapel Hill athletics)
  5. Pimp Daddy:  fairly quiet guy, business-like and definitely “old school” (e.g. takes all his notes by hand); picked that particular name because he looks similar to an actual pimp I met once when I worked for the Wake County court system
  6. Rico:  reference to the 1991 hit song Rico Suave; a very chill guy who several of my classmates are secretly swooning over
  7. Rockstar:  an independent musician (cool) who knows an insane amount of stuff about various topics like sports (also cool)… but is a graduate and admirer of UNC Chapel Hill (fail)
  8. TDot:  yours truly of course :D

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That’s everything I’ve got for tonight.  Have a great evening folks! :D

  1. Remember these are all pseudonyms, picked at random from a website that lists common American names.  Don’t be shy about writing in! :) []

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