(And that’s just the stuff that arrives in the mailbox. There are a half-dozen more e-newsletters I get in my inbox, whether I’ve signed up for them or not )
So with all that stuff to read — stuff that takes time away from reading case law and client-focused things — it’s not unusual for me to be a few days/weeks/months behind. Then one day over breakfast or lunch or dinner I’ll randomly decide I’m actually going to try and read something from the backlog.
He just happened to share the last name of a firm I’ve got a case against in US District Court for the Middle District of NC.1 And, given how uncommon the name is, I say aloud to myself “I wonder if this is the same firm?”, go digging for my March edition of the ABA Journal,2 and find this multi-page firm profile confirming it’s the same firm and going into detail on their process.
Now there’s nothing I can really say about the Hunoval Law Firm itself that wouldn’t get misconstrued.3 So this post isn’t about them per se, but rather about the ABA Journal’s fawning coverage of using Lean Six Sigma in a litigation-heavy law firm.
Is this really the recipe we want for running future firms, especially ones who regularly use the courts?
The thing about statistical processing is that, by definition, it ignores the individual in favor of the group. Cases get transformed from individual people with individual problems to cookie cutter file batches subjected to cookie cutter solutions.
And while I have -0- doubt that certainly does improve speed and efficiency, I’m not convinced it necessarily also yields quality or ethical litigation.
Take my client’s case as an example. Without getting into too much detail about the merits, it’s self-evident from the exhibits attached to our injunction request (and our reply to the Defendants’ response to that request) that something is very clearly “off” with the mortgagee’s accounting. The same mortgagee likely handles hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts; this one account happens to have a problem.
In a situation like that, one would hope an individual person could recognize the individual account has an individual problem and then tailor an individual solution.
Instead — no doubt from using the same principles of statistics-driven efficiency touted by the ABA Journal’s fluff piece — the mortgagee still can’t get things right years later, the account has been the subject of litigation since 2010 across multiple state and federal courts,4 and it will continue at least until we get to trial in April 2015.
The individual has been lost in the shuffle, even though “the individual” is ultimately what any given lawsuit revolves around.
Look, I’m all for saving my clients money and being more efficient.
But I’m also in favor of being an excellent lawyer. And that comes first on my hierarchy of career-related aspirations.
Praise them and I’m just buttering them up to settle; criticize them and I’m just sharing sour grapes over them not settling. Either way we lose. [↩]
A foreclosure case in Wilson County Superior Court, a federal bankruptcy filing in EDNC, our tort suit in Durham County Superior Court removed to MDNC, and a new foreclosure case in Wilson County Superior Court (filed to pressure us to settle). There’s no telling how many trees have died over just this one account… [↩]
Coincidentally, I ended up spending the day “celebrating” something I didn’t even know existed — I spent the afternoon traipsing around the Triangle area getting more stuff lined up for the North Carolina Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment: we now officially have our federal Employer Identification Number, and I went ahead and filed Assumed Name Forms (enabling us to conduct business under the acronym NC SPICE) with the Registrars of Deeds in Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties
There’s still a lot more I have to knock out before graduation so I can focus on bar prep, but things are slowly falling into place!
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 such1
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.2
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 Williamsburg3 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.
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.
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,4 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!
Earlier tonight I crossed paths with Prof. Sales during a break in TYLA trial team practice, and he noted there hasn’t been much to read here on law:/dev/null lately. So I let him know I’d actually gotten a few entries written over the past week about the 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting…
…which prompted him to ask if I was going to be as distracted during the bar prep summer months as I seem to be during the semester
He had a point about the blog though, so I decided to cobble another one of these entries together. Here are the posts since I returned from my hiatus in chronological order:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 5, 2012 in The 3L Life
EIC and I missed the Super Bowl, our 2nd flight back was spent right behind a smelly drunk,1 and we didn’t touch down in RDU until just now minutes before midnight — but it’s been a great trip, and even more great being back in North Carolina
Heading to pick up my luggage, drop off EIC, take out Samson, then head to bed and pray I don’t oversleep and miss Moot Court practice tomorrow morning
Have a great week y’all!
From the law:/dev/null 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 4, 2012 in The 3L Life
I talked to Antonin Scalia!
Well, “talked to” as in “asked a question that he answered” — but that’s close enough for this 3L
I was hoping to snap a better shot, but right as I took this they announced no pictures or recording devices were allowed... :|
Today was Day 2 for EIC and I at the ABA’s Midyear Meeting 2012. Neither of us found any other law students in the morning (again), so we hit two different CLEs1 and then headed to an afternoon Q&A session where Justice Scalia was the featured guest.
We got there über-early, so we got prime seats on the 3rd row along the center aisle. It’s the first time I’ve actually seen a Supreme Court Justice live in-person so I wanted a decent view
Regardless of one’s opinion on his opinions, Scalia was/is hilarious and had the audience laughing on a fairly regular basis — even more impressive when you consider that these were law-oriented jokes and not your typical comedy fare. He had a number of anecdotes interwoven into his substantive commentary to keep things interesting.
After talking for not-quite-an-hour on the state of the courts, how the Supreme Court works, his past opinions and such, the floor was opened for audience questions. So I decided to raise my hand and got to be one of the five questions he answered.2
It was a pretty snazzy experience
A Pat O'Brien's Hurricane: highly recommended for a reason
Once the Scalia talk wrapped it was dinner time, so we headed over to Pat O’Brien’s for food and drinks. Their Cajun Shephard’s Pie was great, incredibly delicious. We each also tried one of their Hurricanes (at the request of, literally, almost a dozen friends) and now understand why they were so highly recommended.3
I feel lame for being back in the room by 8pm on a Saturday night in New Orleans, but I’m doggone tired
Hope all of you have an amazing weekend! I’m getting up early again tomorrow so I can start packing up for the trip home. It’s been a great time in NOLA but I’m looking forward to being back in the Bull City
Have a good night!
From the law:/dev/null 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting-related archives:
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.1 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 Jan 31, 2012 in The 3L Life
In a case of déjà vu all over again, I went ahead and stepped down from my internship with the Durham County District Attorney’s Office earlier this afternoon
I really enjoyed the job — especially after winning my first “real” trial — but after praying about things this weekend and talking things out with MDG earlier today, I realized I’d kick myself for a good long while if I graduated a hair’s breadth under a 3.0 and didn’t at least try to make it above.1 The staff was very understanding during our conversation about my decision; my hope is they’ll have me back at some point down the road if I end up heading in that direction professionally.
In the meantime, I plan on using my newly-recovered free time to put some real effort into my classes and flesh out this proposal for the Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment idea. I’ve been marinating on it over the past couple weeks and really think I could turn it into something awesome Fingers crossed.
That’s it for now, lots going on this week then heading to New Orleans this weekend for the ABA Midyear Meeting. More soon!
Can any of you imagine 1L version of me ever saying that? [↩]
I’ve posted our Twitter convo on the right so you’ve got an idea of where this entry is going
Now let me preface the rest of my commentary by saying I don’t disagree with anything David has tweeted.1 He’s right about the reasonableness of these students’ reliance on Cooley’s stats being a key issue in the case. I suspect/hope he’s also right about law schools being less inclined to screw with their numbers as a result of this lawsuit. And I agree that the court will be considering the circumstances as they existed at the time these students first enrolled, not as they exist today.2
Let me also say here (just so I don’t have to repeat it later) that the response from Cooley Law’s general counsel Jim Thelen to blame the ABA is also shamelessly disingenuous. There’s nothing at all preventing any law school from collecting and releasing far more granular employment data on its graduates — they simply choose not to do so for fear of looking bad from the results.
But with those two caveats out of the way, this is another case of only focusing on the Big Bad Law Schools. I stand by the implication of my admittedly rhetorical question to David on Twitter: can any law school student who enrolled after the proliferation of Google really claim they reasonably relied on a law school’s employment statistics?
Ignore the fact that you can probably count on one hand the number of law students you know who actually based their decision to go to law school in any part on a given school’s stated employment statistics; even though I’ve never met one, I’m assuming arguendo that they do in fact exist. I’m also assuming, simply because they claimed it in the complaint they filed (h/t to Above the Law for this entry on the lawsuit), that the named plaintiffs in McDonald v. Cooley are among them.
Look at when these folks graduated though: 2 of the 4 graduated in 2010, meaning they began enrollment in either 2007 (if full-time) or 2006 (if part-time); the 3rd graduated in 2008, meaning enrollment in 2005 or 2004; and the 4th graduated in 2006, meaning she enrolled in 2003 or 2002.
And if through some miracle this well-educated class of plaintiffs3 had never heard of Google, they still could have used search engines on Yahoo!, or MSN, or AOL, or Lycos, or AltaVista, or Ask Jeeves, or…
…you get the point
It’s pretty safe to say the concept of internet search was already a widespread and well-ingrained phenomenon before any of these students enrolled, particularly among the well-educated, and has grown even more widespread and even more well-ingrained the later in time that enrollment choice was made.4
“But TDot!” you exclaim, “Just because search engines were available doesn’t mean these students would have found anything of concern!”
Which brings me to the 2nd prong of this analysis: people have known law schools were juicing their employment statistics for most of the past decade.
Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers Growth of Legal Sector Lags Broader Economy; Law Schools Proliferate
SEPTEMBER 24, 2007
By AMIR EFRATI
…Evidence of a squeezed market among the majority of private lawyers in the U.S., who work as sole practitioners or at small firms, is growing. A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in the 2005 book “Urban Lawyers” found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners, generally big-firm lawyers, grew by 22% — while income for the other 75% actually dropped.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, the inflation-adjusted average income of sole practitioners has been flat since the mid-1980s. A recent survey showed that out of nearly 600 lawyers at firms of 10 lawyers or fewer in Indiana, wages for the majority only kept pace with inflation or dropped in real terms over the past five years.
The news isn’t any better for the 14% of new lawyers who go into government or join public-interest firms. Inflation-adjusted starting salaries for graduates who go to work for public-interest firms or the government rose 4% and 8.6%, respectively, between 1994 and 2006, according to the National Association for Law Placement, which aggregates graduate surveys from law schools. That compares with at least an 11% jump in the median family income during the same period, according to the Census Bureau…
Sure this piece only talks about solos and government/public-interest attorneys. But I also found that in under 30 seconds earlier today. Just 30 seconds, despite 4 years’ worth of new websites and blogs and other data Google has indexed clogging up my 2011 search results.
In other words, had any of these students done a same or similar search in 2007 (or earlier), they could have found the exact same IRS / BLS / NALP data indicating a difficult legal job environment in the exact same amount of time (or less!) with a much better signal:noise ratio than I’m getting now.
And that’s not even getting into the “common sense” factor here: you know there’s a stagnant legal market if for no other reason than living in an economy barely recovering from the September 11th attacks (and ensuing diversion of resources to improve homeland security), and yet you really believe your law school had a 90%+ employment rate? While nearly every other law school in the country claimed 90%+ employment over the exact same time?
Now I’m not the type to categorically trash all graduates from a law school, so I have to assume this “I really didn’t know! I really did reasonably rely on this data even though contradictory information from more reputable sources was literally right at my fingertips! Really!” mentality is atypical of Cooley Law graduates.
Have a great Friday night and an amazing weekend everybody!
As a random aside, have any of you noticed how double negatives are not only commonplace but widely accepted in law? Once upon a time I was taught that a double negative was bad grammar and now I use them regularly [↩]
I tried to convey that last point by the “2004+” reference, but I think my inapt inclusion of the word “now” gave a wrong impression of my meaning [↩]
Remember, a baccalaureate degree is now required for law school admission. Meaning anyone enrolling at Cooley Law or any other law school is already among the top 10% of the US population in terms of educational attainment. [↩]
Translation: no sympathy at all for the 2010 Cooley Law grads now crying foul. [↩]
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 10, 2011 in Randomness
I need your help plz
Each year, the ABA Journal compiles its annual Blawg 100 — a pretty cool categorized listing of the top 100 legal blogs on the web. As part of that process they developed a “Blawg 100 Amici” form where folks can submit recommendations of blawgs the ABA Journal folks should check out.
I filled out one form last year (nominating Dennis Jansen) and plan to submit more this year…
…but with my chronic disappearances over the past semester I don’t really know as much as I should about the law student portion of the blawgosphere anymore
So I’m turning to you for info: which law student blawgs should I be looking at that I’m not? is there anyone new out there who isn’t included in the law:/dev/null blogroll? and which folks merit me (and others) turning in amici forms?
Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email
And, just because I’ve been on a Samson kick these past 36 hours,1 here’s a clip from my camera phone of him playing with one of his new toys earlier today:
Have a great night everybody!
Albeit a tired Samson kick, since the dog woke me up at 3:30am… then again at 5am… then again at 6:30am… [↩]