Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 21, 2014 in The After-3L Life
Happy Monday y’all
It’s become a bit of a habit with these posts to note it’s been ages since I last wrote one, I’m not keeping up with my New Year’s resolution to write more, “zomg life is soooo busy!” and so on.
The underlying premise, of course, being that I really really really want to write something but I just haven’t had the time.
That’s still true — there’s been a bunch of cool stuff going on in life over the past 2 months that I wanted to write about — but a big chunk of the reason for my absence is that life overall has… well… kinda sucked
If you’re one of our long-time law:/dev/null readers, you might remember how I’d stress out as we got near the end of the semester, building up to the don’t-sleep-for-a-few-days exam week followed by a reprieve for a few weeks before things started all over again.
6.5 calls per business day: good! Turning cases away: not so much
Well running your own law firm is a bit like that. Except you never really get the reprieve (unless you’re slowly going out of business).
Things at TGD Law have been beyond busy; we’ve been averaging 6-7 calls every single day each month, there are over 1,300+ fans of the TGD Law Facebook page, and a growing number of those incoming phone calls / emails / etc have been from folks who’ve heard I kick @ss in a courtroom.
But I’ve also got more work than I can handle, and I’ve been turning away cases left and right because I refuse to let my work product slip for the folks who have already hired me.
The catch to turning away cases, of course, is that there’s very little money coming in. That, in turn, means no staff. Which in turn means I’m stuck spending time on menial work that I’d really like to farm out to a paralegal or file clerk. Which in turn means no matter how much I work, I feel like nothing gets done.
The sense of complete and utter futility I’ve had the past few weeks is actually pretty well encapsulated in a graph of my weight loss efforts: past progress has been undone, and now I’m treading water until I can out-think my problems.
That 27lb drop? Bar prep
It’s led to me sleeping an awful lot, watching TV when I’d probably be better off working or blogging, and finding it beyond difficult to focus on things instead of my usual unproductively-trying-to-multitask-across-a-dozen-things-at-once.
So rather than blog about being blah, I figured I’d spare y’all the bellyaching until I got my sh*t together
I can’t guarantee that’s happened yet of course, but fingers are firmly crossed! This past Easter weekend I brought some work home with me when I went up to visit my grandparents, and made some headway on several cases. I’ve started doing a list of a few high-priority items a day that simply must get done, and that’s helped me wrap my mind around things a smidge better.
Anyhow, I don’t have much more to write about at the moment — just wanted to let y’all know I’m not dead and I haven’t forgotten about you!
More blog posts sooner than later (certainly in less than 60 days).
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 20, 2013 in NotFail
No offense intended to Matt Hollowell, but this officially trumps getting an @mention by LexisNexis…
In the latest print edition of the ABA Law Student Division‘s Student Lawyer magazine, law:/dev/null got plugged in the “In Brief” section!
If you don’t get the magazine anymore, you can also access it online here (though in my case I politely hounded a 2L for her copy).
The snippet talks about this TDot’s Tips entry on bootstrapping your first law office, and specifically the Department of Education program on financing a computer purchase.
And I’m also pretty sure it’s the first time my name has ever appeared in a print magazine for something other than donating money somewhere. Which is just plain cool
Just had to share Good night y’all!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 3, 2012 in The 3L Life
This is the first Saturday I’ve been home since January 28th and, aside from Samson seeming confused about why I’m still around, it’s actually felt great being able to sit around the apartment and catch up on the mundane parts of life like laundry and homework and such
It has also let me shift gears into “soon to be graduated” mode — just 70 days until graduation day! — and start wrapping up the last few projects I’ve got left before I have to venture back into the real world.
For better or worse, that includes winding down one of the most successful SBA terms in law school history. Our elections interest meetings happened on Thursday and filing for office is open now, but before the new folks take over we’ve still got a second Speed Networking event coming up at the end of the month, a completely new format for our annual Law Week Banquet, the last two meetings of the Presidents’ Roundtable group we created back in August, and of course prepping for the actual transition itself.
Jillian Mack '12 and Travis Ellis '13 with NCCU Law's 2nd consecutive Bronze Key Award
Speaking of SBA, one thing I wanted to mention a couple weeks ago but didn’t have a chance: apparently NCCU Law has the most ABA members of any law school in the ABA-LSD’s Fourth Circuit
Yes, you read that correctly. Not the “biggest percent increase in membership” like we got last year in Williamsburg but the largest number of members overall.
Now under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t make a big deal about it…
…but we’re one of the smaller law schools in the Fourth Circuit.
Consider as an example: Charlotte Law, home of the ABA-LSD’s Fourth Circuit Governor, has a 1L class that alone is bigger than all of NCCU Law. And yet somehow we have more people in the ABA than they do.
It blows my mind. For srs.
This is also now the third time EIC has been recognized for her work as our ABA Representative! She was first highlighted as one of the ABA’s Top 9 reps nationwide back in August, and then recognized indirectly in the December 2011 issue of Student Lawyer magazine for the awesome Speed Networking event she envisioned and spearheaded.
Snippet from Student Lawyer magazine on NCCU Law's EIC-created Speed Networking event
Now she’s racked up another honor just two months later. With colleagues like that, no one should wonder why I love my job
I also have to recognize our 2L SBA rep (who I don’t have a nickname for yet) for his willingness to drive to Charlotte for the meeting while EIC and I were both tied up with TYLA obligations. I remember what it was like heading to the Williamsburg meeting last year, and being willing to give up a weekend for this stuff is a much-appreciated sacrifice.
It’s also the first time in NCCU Law history that we’ve had people at every single ABA meeting for an entire year: the Fourth Circuit meeting in Williamsburg under last year’s SBA, the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto, the ABA-LSD “Super Circuit” meeting down in Charleston, the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, and now this year’s Fourth Circuit meeting in Charlotte.
And keep in mind all of this year’s successes — not just the Bronze Key, but the Speed Networking event, the standing-room-only Access to Justice / Civil Gideon panel, the packed judicial clerkship forum, the record-setting mentor/mentee program our Vice President reorganized, the list goes on and on — all of it has been done despite a -40% cut to the SBA budget back at the very start of the fiscal year.
To get all this stuff done in a year is groundbreaking in its own right, but to do it on a shoestring budget where we had the least amount of SBA funding since George H.W. Bush was President?
There’s a reason I consider us the best SBA in the country.
Anyhow, enough of me crowing about my colleagues and all the successes they’ve achieved on behalf of the law school I’m working on the second edition of this S.P.I.C.E. proposal and heading to bed soon thereafter.
Thanks for enduring this entry, and have a great night!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 3, 2012 in The 3L Life
This is a lot different from the ABA’s annual shindig…
First, neither EIC nor I have found a single law student here From the agenda it looks like the only thing the Law Student Division has going on is the National Negotiation Competition — so we stopped by to see who we could see, and didn’t see a soul. A huge disappointment in my opinion, and a highlight of why it’s difficult increasing participation in the ABA-LSD.
There are also fewer attorneys here overall, which means fewer CLEs and more meetings for the leadership of the ABA’s multitude of Divisions, Sections, Committees, and so on. It looks like that’s the purpose for why the midyear meetings were created in the first place; it’s just difficult for a law student to break the ice when you walk in a room and you’re not part of the “in” crowd on that committee.
We did swing through several events though. This morning we sat in on a CLE discussing the trends in cybercrime heading into 2012. It was an interesting discussion, though one where I felt my inner computer scientist and political libertarian creeping out. For example, the CLE began with a discussion of Anonymous and LulzSec… labeled as terrorist organizations I have a hard time accepting the notion that hacktivists are of the same mold as Al Qaeda or Los Zetas. A few minutes later a panelist with the Secret Service commented on the Jones SCOTUS decision and how GPS “tracked your phone number” so a vendor could text you when you were in the vicinity of their store — except GPS only tracks the GPS receiver in your phone, and any text messages you got based on that data would be the result of you sharing your phone number with a vendor a priori, and not because of some innate danger to GPS itself.
View of the Mississippi River from the hotel's 41st floor (Panorama via AutoStitch iPhone app)
Afterwards we stopped by a roundtable discussion on election laws going into the 2012 election cycle, where we happened to cross paths (again) with former NC Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye. The roundtable itself featured an at-length discussion of Voter ID laws in Louisiana, similar to those that were vetoed in North Carolina, and how the law was implemented. With North Carolina shaping up to be an electoral battleground next year it was an interesting conversation.
Following the election panel we headed over to a CLE on qui tam lawsuits, easily among the Top 3 most lively debates I’ve ever seen at a CLE. I confess to knowing almost nothing about qui tam suits beyond what I learned in Employment Discrimination last semester, or how many of them (if any) there are here in North Carolina, but I spoke with the panelists for a bit afterwards and if this turns out to be something our alumni do I’m hoping to bring them down to NCCU Law for a panel discussion some time in the future.
CLEs aside, New Orleans is very cool We took some time to go explore, eat some po’boys and other Louisana staples, shop a bit, and otherwise wander around. And we ate some beignets from Cafe du Monde that tasted delicious. The whole area is an interesting blend of really really really old mixed with the modern and tourist-y stuff. It also reminds me of Disney’s The Princess & the Frog (courtesy of EIC’s voice impressions) and a smidge of Q.T., who has a very Tiana-like persona.
Once the exploring was done I came back here to the hotel to crash and do some work. Things resume early tomorrow morning and frankly I need my beauty sleep too
If you haven’t been to New Orleans before, definitely add it to your life’s to-do list! From what I’ve seen so far it’s pretty amazing.
Until then, have a great night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 16, 2011 in Student Government
Now that I’ve recovered from driving 10 hours in 2 days, I’m not entirely sure what to think about the ABA-LSD “Super Circuit” meeting for the 4th / 5th / 6th Circuits that happened down at Charleston Law this weekend. The meeting was more informative than I anticipated; the turnout, on the other hand, seemed downright spartan for such a large geographic area.
It was hard to tell when attendance hit its peak. When the day started there were a bunch of CSoL students present which inflated the numbers, but as they started trickling out just after lunch other law schools (like FAMU Law) had started trickling in. I’d estimate there were around 40 or so people present over the course of the day.
By the time the clock hit around 2pm, though, there was barely anyone left
The abrupt disappearance of so many attendees was reflected in the agenda: rather than have the planned sessions for roundtable-like discussions with other delegates (the main reason I went), the meeting was adjourned nearly 2 hours ahead of schedule
Sure it left time for a more-scenic drive back to North Carolina, but it makes me wonder if sending people to these meetings is a project on which I want the NCCU Law SBA investing our students’ money…
When the people in charge asked what could be done to fix the horrible turnout, naturally people targeted the symptoms rather than the cause — requests for the dissolution of combined circuit meetings outright and other various solutions-that-don’t-solve-things-but-make-you-sound-intelligent were plentiful. In case anyone from the ABA-LSD happens to read this small piece of internet real estate, here are my 3 suggestions:
- Embrace the 36 Hour Rule: I’ve literally been to dozens of weekend meetings in my life, and I’ve never seen a well-attended one that lasted less than 36 hours. As a group starts cutting back the amount of time designated to business to lure more attendees, the relative opportunity cost for attending actually goes up — people who might drive 10 hours round-trip for a full-weekend event simply aren’t going to commit that same travel time for a mere 6-or-less hours of business. When you spend more time traveling to a meeting than you do actually meeting, attendance drops. This was the exact same situation UNCASG faced before the Pickle Princess and I ran for office, and one shared by many other groups. You fix it by offering more for the attendees instead of less: some business and a social event on Friday night to encourage on-time arrival, substantive business all day on Saturday, a party of some kind on Saturday night as a reward, and some closing minor business over breakfast Sunday morning to discourage early departures. Attendance will always be lighter on Friday and Sunday, but having those days as the ones dedicated to travel gives you a greater volume of people present on Saturday; those same people then interact with the others, building friendships, and creating a reinforced incentive for people to participate and show up to future meetings.
- Lead from the front: Back during the Spring’s ABA-LSD 4th Circuit meeting when I served as a proxy for our SBA President, I “ran” for Circuit Governor in protest since no one had filed for the position; two other candidates were nominated from the floor and talked about how much they wanted the job, and my commentary was along the lines of “If you cared so much you’d have filled out the paperwork on time. Wtf is wrong with this Circuit?” I think the eventual winner (Mallory Duley-Willink of Charlotte Law) has been leery of me ever since, but at least as far as this Charleston meeting goes she was the only one to actually do her job throughout. By the time we hit that 2:00pm-ish mark — with 3 hours of material left to go on the agenda — both the 5th Circuit and 6th Circuit Governors had bailed to head home That sets a horribly bad example for the other delegates, who will rise or fall to the standards set by the leadership. If the people reaping the networking and financial benefits of these jobs aren’t sticking around, the “little people” will follow suit. The group leader should be the first to arrive, the last to leave, and should be putting more effort into the group than anyone else.
- Live the mission: I don’t actually know if the ABA-LSD has a mission separate and distinct from the greater ABA, but whatever it is or would be the leadership should reflect some passion in trying to carry it out! All the communications I’d gotten for the meeting were the slick automated emails sent through whatever program the ABA folks use, with no real information in them beyond the same form email listing the date/time/location. When we got there, the officer reports were lukewarm. The new Representative to the ABA Board of Governors had no idea what I was talking about when I asked a question about an initiative discussed by his predecessor; then he offered a lengthy politician’s explanation instead of simply saying “I don’t know anything about it but I’ll find out.” Then just before the remaining leadership announced the meeting would be cut 2 hours short, they asked for suggestions on how to improve the meetings… with not a single recommendation being written down by anyone An organization’s leadership serves as its biggest cheerleaders; their principal role is being physical embodiments of the group’s ideals. If you can’t live the mission, you should probably go lead something else.
I doubt any of the ABA’s decision-makers will read this (much less take it seriously) but that’s my $.02 on how to improve ABA-LSD participation, at least in this part of the country. People respond to expectations, regardless of where they’re set — so set them higher
Have a good night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null 2011 ABA-LSD “Super Circuit” Meeting-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 15, 2011 in The 3L Life
…South Carolina’s barbecue was about what I expected: average and forgettable.
Sorry y’all, North Carolina ‘cue still reigns
Back in the Bull City from the ABA-LSD Fall meeting at CSoL. More to come tomorrow, good night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null 2011 ABA-LSD “Super Circuit” Meeting-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 14, 2011 in The 3L Life
Good evening folks!
EIC and I are both currently down in South Carolina for the ABA Law Student Division‘s Fall “Super Circuit” meeting for the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Circuits, scheduled to take place tomorrow at the Charleston School of Law.
It’s pretty much been a whirlwind of a day since I woke up — I somehow managed to fall asleep in the middle of working on my Employment Discrimination complaint and client letter, and also managed to successfully navigate the multiple steps necessary to disable the alarm I set just in case I fell asleep
So rather than spend yesterday cleaning up the apartment and packing, I went to class and then spent until a couple hours before midnight getting the client letter finished, then picked up 雅雅 from the airport just after midnight for her coming in to visit. This morning was then spent getting the house in order for the dogsitter, packing up, then making the 5 hour drive south.
Since getting here, I have to say Charleston has been rehabilitating my opinion of South Carolina My only other time in the state involved burning hours of time to go a few miles on the interstate. Couple that with some natural North-South rivalry that comes from me living in North Carolina since 1998, and let’s just say I’ve had a dim view of this state
But we got here, went exploring the French Quarter, found a decent place to eat, and checked out the City Market. So far it seems pretty cool, and knowing some of this stuff has been here since the Revolutionary War just really blows my mind.
Heading to bed so I can get up for the meeting in the morning Have a great night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null travel-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 12, 2011 in The 3L Life
A complaint alleging discriminatory employment practices (racially motivated firing) and a client letter explaining it are all that stand between yours truly and a 1.5-day quasi-vacation in Charleston SC for the ABA-LSD’s Fall “Super Circuit” meeting.
The problem? The first one’s nowhere near done, and the second one isn’t even started
MDG wanted us to have drafts to him days ago so he could at least give us pointers on what to include. As you can probably guess (see here and here) I definitely never got around to that. ::facepalm::
It’s gonna be a loooooong night…
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 6, 2011 in Unsolicited Commentary
Good evening folks!
Day 3 of the ABA’s 2011 Annual Meeting features the “Assembly” portion of the ABA Law Student Division, where representatives from all the law schools in attendance convene legislature-style to debate and vote on various resolutions, along with the usual end-of-year awards and speeches as old officers retire and new officers begin their terms.
If memory serves me correctly, there were 174 delegates in attendance representing just 99 law schools — an unfortunate reminder of how many of the 199 law schools nationwide had -0- presence at this meeting.
While other resolutions certainly had more contentious debate — a proposal asking law schools to elicit more information from students claiming Native American heritage was adopted in a heavily-split vote — the item that bothered me was known as Resolution 111B, adopted by the ABA Young Lawyers Division in February and dubbed its “Truth in Law School Education” resolution.
You can read some of the details about the TILSE document in this February piece at the ABA Journal. Essentially the resolution demands that law school’s provide greater disclosure of the employment survey data they collect from recent graduates, so prospective students will have a more accurate gauge of their employment prospects before taking on six-figures’ worth of loan debt to get a law degree. The YLD then handed the resolution to the LSD to ask for the students’ endorsement.
Generally, good stuff…
…but it was readily apparent this particular agenda item was less about its content than it was about good ol’ fashioned logrolling. When the YLD representative gave his report on the topic, his first words weren’t about the resolution — he instead made sure to note that YLD was “standing behind you” on an unrelated resolution seeking to get voting power for the LSD representative to the ABA’s Board of Governors. One of the LSD delegates even tried various linguistic twists (contortions rivaling the very best yoga practitioners) to insist the resolution “doesn’t add any additional burdens on law schools” because “we can’t make demands, we can only make recommendations.”
Which is just as well, because the resolution’s contents as-written are woefully insufficient.
In typical American fashion, the YLD has taken a two-part equation and expended untold hours and vast sums of energy focusing on only one side of it: the Big Bad Law Schools and the games we all know those schools play with their employment statistics.
But a key contributor that enables law schools to play those games with statistics are the less-than-100% response rates from their newly minted (and likely newly licensed) law school graduates, who are often too busy to waste time with filling out a form they have -0- incentive to complete. When someone doesn’t return a survey, do they count as employed? Unemployed? Excluded from the dataset entirely? The methodologies relating to those questions are among the core issues underlying the skewed stats.
That problem is also compounded for HBCUs and other law schools where the bulk of students go into public interest professions. When following your passion barely lets you pay the bills, you can’t exactly take even more unpaid time from your daily schedule to fill out even more paperwork.
So in typical T. fashion, as an advocate for my law school I decided to raise an issue no one else seemed interested in bringing up. I submitted a page-long form to speak that contained the following innocuous statement:
The American Bar Association Law Students Division (ABA-LSD) embraces a “full spectrum” approach to improving Truth in Law School Education, including both greater data disclosure and more comprehensive data collection. To promote that objective, the ABA-LSD encourages the American Bar Association to petition state bars (or equivalent licensing agencies) to grant some form of Continuing Legal Education credit to graduates who complete and return post-graduation employment surveys.
CLE credit: a simple and easy solution.
Using North Carolina as an example, even a single Professional Responsibility credit would incentivize new lawyers to reply by letting them meet 1/12 of their annual CLE obligations, all at no cost beyond the time spent completing it.
Yet like every other group that frowns upon people rocking the boat, actually considering ideas that weren’t pre-vetted by the folks in charge was verboten — my attempted amendment was somehow ruled out of order by the presiding officer by citing some illusory “protocol” that decreed “we cannot amend another group’s resolution.” The unamended resolution was then passed by voice vote with only token opposition.
Regardless of the LSD’s take on the issue, however, the fact remains that the YLD is raising this great hue and cry over law school employment statistics without making a comprehensive effort to fix it. The ABA’s full House of Delegates will be taking this document up over the next few days, and will likely adopt it in its unaltered form — and we’ll all get to listen over the next few years as these new “reforms” still fail to fully address the problem.
Here’s hoping someone over there has the cajones to at least propose a full spectrum solution…
From the law:/dev/null ABA Annual Meeting-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 5, 2011 in The 3L Life
Today was Day 2 of the ABA’s 2011 Annual Meeting in Toronto Canada, and in the ABA Law Student Division that meant an opportunity to hear from candidates for a handful of LSD offices about their plans for the future and their responses to questions from us.
One of the things I teach organizations as part of my T.I.D.E.S. leadership development presentations is that questions are usually the most potent weapon in any leader’s arsenal. So I came prepared with a pair of my own: (1) asking what, specifically, these folks will do to address the embarrassingly low volume of students seeking ABA leadership positions; and (2) with the ABA again considering an increase in the minimum bar-passage rates required for reaccreditation of law schools, how would they ensure those reforms don’t disproportionately harm the country’s 6 HBCU-based institutions?
A couple things stuck out to me in asking that second question: apparently I was the only one interested in bringing it up, and almost no one knew anything at all about it.
If you’re not familiar with what the ABA is considering, take a look at this story on Law.com. Here’s a snippet:
ABA Faces Diversity Dilemma With Proposed Change to Law School Standards
The ABA is trying to reconcile the legal profession’s need for greater diversity with its desire to push law schools to better prepare students to pass the bar. For the second time in four years, it is considering raising the minimum bar-passage-rate requirement for law school accreditation.
By Karen Sloan (07-22-2011)
Nearly 70 percent of the entering class at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law was black in 1998. A decade later, that figure hovered at around 30 percent — the lowest percentage among the country’s six historically black law schools.
The catalyst for that shift was a 1999 letter from the American Bar Association urging the school to examine its admissions standards and low first-time bar-passage rates. The school responded by accepting students with higher credentials, but the percentage of black students began to decline as the average Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores rose.
That experience highlights the dilemma now confronting the ABA. The organization is trying to reconcile the legal profession’s need for greater diversity with its desire to push law schools to better prepare students to pass the bar. For the second time in four years, it is considering raising the minimum bar-passage-rate requirement as part of a comprehensive review of law school accreditation standards.
Definitely take some time to read the full article, there’s a lot more in there.
Three initial points I want to make on this:
- I totally agree with some form of a “bright line” cutoff with bar passage rates and accreditation. While many of those advocating for the cutoff seem to hope it will lead to fewer accredited law schools and (theoretically) fewer new attorneys as a result, I’m of the more-economics-oriented belief that the simple existence of the cutoff will incentivize law schools to better serve their students. People respond to incentives, it’s as simple as that.
- I also agree with The Chief’s quote in that article about other schools having a harder time complying with a heightened cutoff before HBCUs. NCCU Law in particular has enjoyed passage rates well above the state average for most of the past decade, even while joining FAMU Law and SULC in taking in the broadest array of students in the nation. The schools facing the biggest challenge will be those whose business model is based on being a diploma-mill, bringing in thousands of students a year just to get as much federal student aid $$$ as possible.
- But, while it’s true other non-HBCU law schools will have a steeper hill to climb, HBCUs will still face an acute challenge because of the timing of this proposal. It comes at a time that could be considered a “perfect” storm” for them: industry complaints of all law schools churning out too many incompetent students with JDs, prompting industry-wide reforms, while the economy has basically imploded with no hope of an immediate recovery. The publicly-funded HBCUs are facing substantial budget cuts and an inability to raise tuition at whim, while both public and private HBCUs face a steep drop in the alumni and corporate donations that enable institutions to improve things like their academic support services. Couple that with fewer paying jobs available for their students to raise $$ for bar prep courses while in school — prep courses apparently being the primary method for learning bar material at high-performing law schools — and you’ve got all the ingredients for a cow pie of a proposal.
I’ve gotta head to bed so I can get up for an SBA “Roundtable and Idea-Raiser” in the morning, but wanted to put that issue on the radar for my HBCU-attending colleagues who didn’t know what was coming down the pike.
Have a great night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null ABA Annual Meeting-related archives: