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Life Comes at You Fast (Part III)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 28, 2015 in The After-3L Life

One of the other factors in my lengthy hiatus was seasonal: the annual ritual of trial advocacy competitions! :D

Some of you might remember back in February of last year I penned this bittersweet entry celebrating the accomplishments of some students I coached in the TYLA National Trial Competition, but sharing my disappointment that my talents were being used to benefit UNCCH Law rather than my own alma mater.

Well this year was… interesting.

The folks at UNCCH Law plan ahead, and had contacted me at the beginning of last August to ask if I’d come back for the 2015 competition. And me, being the naïve person I am, told them to give me some time so I could check with NCCU Law — just in case the whole “us kicking NCCU’s rears” would prompt them to let me come home.

(cue the “LOL!”s)

I hit up my old coach to ask for his advice. We met over lunch to talk that week, and he told me to hold off with the acceptance; he was going to step down as coach, and wanted to recommend me as his replacement. All I’d need to do is contact the advisor for the Trial Advocacy Board and let her know.

So I do. And get her voicemail.

A week goes by without a response. I call again. Voicemail.

A few more days go by, and I stop by the school in person. She’s teaching a class so I leave a note.

Another week goes by without a response.

It was around the third week in August when I learn that Prof CrimLaw had now been made the new Dean of our clinical programs (which also has responsibility for our competition teams), so I reached out to him. He suggested I contact a different professor who is now in charge of overseeing competition programs for everybody across both the Trial Advocacy Board and the Moot Court Board — and that, whatever she says, not to feel any shame or regret for working for a different law school. “That’s what we do as lawyers.”

So I call the other professor. She actually answers the phone ( :eek: ) and asks me to give her until that Friday. Then actually calls me back when she said she would!

Just to tell me that the first professor told her my old coach was coming back for another year…

(cue the “#dafuq?”s)

Now this call to me happened around 3pm-ish. Keep that in mind.

I email UNCCH my acceptance that afternoon and resign myself to going another year without helping my own alma mater.

The following Monday I text my old coach and say “Guess I’ll be seeing y’all in Charleston” — and almost immediately get a text back, even though it’s during work hours and he’s rarely that quick with a response. “Call me after lunch.”

We connect later that afternoon, and he’s just as confused as I am. Turns out no one from NCCU Law had contacted him until after they had told me he was coming back. But he hadn’t changed his mind: he still wasn’t coming back, so he asked if I still wanted to coach NCCU (duh). I’d already emailed my acceptance to UNCCH though and couldn’t break my commitment to them.

(cue the sad trombones)

Well fast forward to the end of January. I survive the car drama and make it down to Charleston. Both TYLA teams do admirably well under the circumstances but neither advance. I drive back feeling like I failed.

Then about two weeks later I get a call from NCCU. :crack:

Turns out the AAJ coaches had quit unexpectedly, and no one seemed to notice until a month after the problem packet had been released. The second professor asked if I’d be willing to step in (duh again). Given the short timing I bring in EIC as a co-coach, we get started about a month after everyone else…

NCCU Law's 2015 AAJ trial team. From left: me, Petal Munroe, Shelvia Dancy, Joshua Palmer, Jaimee Bullock, and EIC

NCCU Law’s 2015 AAJ trial team. From left: me, Petal Munroe, Shelvia Dancy, Joshua Palmer, Jaimee Bullock, and EIC

…and make it to the Regional Finals for the first time since 1998.

(cue the victory trumpets)

At various points during the month of February, EIC and I both had our doubts. Really right up until competition (the last practice did not go well at all).

But then when the first round happened, she and I were both totally blown away. So much so that we both did a look at each other like “Where did this come from??”

And then did it again in the 2nd round. And again in the 3rd. And again in the semifinals.1 When it was all said and done, a new plaque was getting added to the trophy case at the law school.

There’s a lot getting glossed over here simply because this entry is pushing 1,000 words and I realize many of you won’t actually read that far. But trust me when I say it was a busy-but-interesting Spring semester :)

So after two years of coaching, of two law schools, in two different competitions, I’ve had the privilege of helping a batch of proto-lawyers make the regional finals both years. I’m going to count that as a 100% success rate.

Now we’ll just see if NCCU Law finally lets me come back for 2016…

Good night y’all! :D

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From the law:/dev/null competition-related archives:

  1. We eventually lost to Wake Forest Law in the final round, whose team was actually quite good. []

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2

A Mercenary’s Lament

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 10, 2014 in NotFail

mer•ce•nar•y (pl. mercenaries) – noun. a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.

Today’s my first day “back in the real world” after spending the past weekend at the annual TYLA NTC Regionals.1 And where I coached my very first TYLA trial team, comprised of two 2Ls and a 3L.

A team that ended the competition as finalists :surprised:

In turn making them the best trial team in both North Carolina and South Carolina.2 Not to mention going further in that competition than I ever made it myself.

From… the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

That’s not a typo. It’s the same institution I’ve ridiculed on this very website as The University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven. The one whose students meme’d me in my NC State hat. The one with its very own “#gthc” tag here at law:/dev/null.3

And I was their coach :beatup:

So how did a guy with an eagle carving on his dining room table plus another on a bookshelf and a third on my bedroom wall — alongside a wolf painting, a wolf carving, even the comforter on my bed — end up in the finals of my favorite mock trial competition helping the one institution that happens to be a rival of both my undergrad and professional school alma maters?4

My team, from L to R: Jonathan Williams '15 (Defense), Michelle Markham '14 (Swing), Dave Fitzgerald '15 (Plaintiff), Eli Sevcik-Timberg '14 (Student Coach)

My team, from L to R: Jonathan Williams ’15 (Defense), Michelle Markham ’14 (Swing), Dave Fitzgerald ’15 (Plaintiff), Eli Sevcik-Timberg ’14 (Student Coach)

Well first we had an amazing team. I was a little nervous at the start because only one student was a 3L; the other two were 2Ls who’d never competed in anything before, and the 3L student coach assigned to work with me had experience but not in TYLA.

I also got the impression at a few points in practice that our goal was just to not embarrass ourselves — I don’t think anyone (admittedly, myself included) thought we had any shot at going anywhere.

But let me tell you: when it counted, they competed. All three of them turned in solid performances to nab the #6 seed after the first three rounds, setting up a semifinal match against the University of South Carolina for Sunday morning. They promptly slaughtered USC and pushed us on to the finals.5

“But TDot! But TDot!” I hear you saying, “WHY were you working for them?”

Aaanndd… that’s where the title for the blog post comes in. ;)

Last winter my 2L/3L TYLA coach6 and I had talked about the future of NCCU Law‘s team and whether there’d be a spot for me anywhere as an assistant coach. Nothing ever happened with it, so in the Spring I volunteered to be one of the guest judges for the TYLA Regionals when they were hosted by Campbell Law down in Raleigh.

For my round I watched an absolutely superb performance by a team from WFU Law — a team that ended up getting functionally disqualified when a meritless protest was filed over WFU’s cross-examination of the other side’s expert, and the “protest committee” voted to give them -0- points for the cross.7 I felt bad for them. And I also decided that I hated the idea of “just” being a judge if our ballots could be summarily disregarded by a 5-member committee of other competing coaches.

Fast forward to early October. The Monday before the 2L/3L trial team tryouts to be exact. I still stop by the NCCU Law building on a fairly regular basis, so during one of those trips while I’m down in our clinic area I make some inquiries about the process to become a trial team coach.

Now in retrospect I don’t know what response I expected. I figured, at the very least, it would be something along the lines of “All the coach spots are filled for every team at the moment, but when something opens up we’ll let you know.”8 Instead the response I got was as clear as it was unambiguous: “Coaches have to have 5 years of practice experience. That’s the rule.”

I was a smidge annoyed. But rules are rules, right?

So a couple days later, when I’m down in Wake County for a traffic case, I talked with one of my 2L AAJ trial coaches (a District Court Judge down there) about how he got involved. Apparently someone just called and asked him to do it. But he went on to tell me no one even asked him to return as a coach my 3L year or the year after. That in turn led me to express my frustration over how I felt the law school treated our competitions as afterthoughts, and how I really wanted to run one of these teams to show what could be done.

Well even though he’s an NCCU Law alum, he’s also a dyed-in-the-wool Tar Heel as well. He had heard the UNCCH trial team advisor was out for the semester due to a medical issue and suggested I consider looking there.

I then texted a friend of mine from my NC State days who had just graduated from UNCCH Law the prior year. She confirmed the story on the advisor and said it would be “awesome if [I] potentially think about maybe” being their coach (after confessing surprise that I like trial team :crack: ). And if I wanted her to make a call the spot would be mine.

Unpaid, but a shot nonetheless.

Not quite ready to go calling in favors, I had lunch with my other 2L TYLA coach the next week to get his advice on basically squaring off against my own school. And he said to go for it. I’m paraphrasing here, but his argument was something along the lines of “Think about what it says for Central if you do well, what it says if your alma mater’s graduates do a better job at this than their own.”

Still not fully comfortable with the thought of switching sides, I sent a text message to my 2L/3L TYLA coach to get his thoughts since he was still in charge. When he saw me at the Alumni Association meeting that Saturday, he said to take the spot as well.

So I did.

I Facebook-messaged a UNCCH 2L I knew from UNCASG, who in turn put me in touch with the Trial Advocacy Board chairman over there, who in turn connected me with the TYLA squad and a 3L student coach to assist. And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

“But TDot! But TDot!” you interrupt again, “WHHYYY??”

Well… because my alma mater didn’t want me :(

Look, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who loves NCCU Law more than I do (or NC State for that matter). You’ll be equally hard pressed to find anyone who takes quite as much glee in disparaging UNC Chapel Hill as I do. The students on the NCCU teams that didn’t make it were real people, including two of my mentees

And I can’t even articulate for you in words how awkward it felt when I actually typed “#goheelsgoamerica” into my phone for a Facebook status. :beatup:

But the fact is it didn’t make a d*mn lick of sense for me to sit on the sidelines getting rusty for another year waiting on my alma mater to let me help. And it most definitely didn’t make a d*mn lick of sense for me to do that for 4 more years until I’d reach some arbitrary quantum of real world experience.

UNCCH needed someone. They offered me that opportunity. The folks I met turned out to be really cool people. And, having made a commitment to them, I wasn’t going to let them down.

So I didn’t. :)

Now the only issue at this point is really what other folks’ decide will happen next year. Because now that I know the finals are attainable, I’m not going away until nationals…

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From the law:/dev/null competition-related archives:

  1. I know I’m behind schedule on the “blog more” resolution, but it’s still early in the year and anything can happen :P []
  2. The regional winners were the University of Georgia — the same school that knocked out EIC, Shutterbug, and I back in Memphis two years ago :mad: — and Georgia State University. []
  3. “GTHC” means “Go to Hell, Carolina!” for the uninitiated ;) []
  4. No comments from UNCCH homers on “omg you’re not our rival!” I’ve enjoyed enough hostility while wearing my NCSU paraphernalia to sporting events and NCCU paraphernalia to law events to know better :* []
  5. Frankly I don’t fully understand how we lost the final round, and got the impression the judges were scoring based on the merits of the case rather than the advocacy. But I’m also biased. []
  6. Don’t have nicknames for most of the folks in this entry, so I’m going to titles. []
  7. The ruling was improper, and it was sufficiently improper that TYLA amended their Rules for this year’s competition to prevent situations like that from happening again. []
  8. It’s not like I swept both 3L competitions and was on the #1-seeded team in the 2012 TYLA Regional semis while serving as SBA President and graduating with honors and two concentrations or anything… :beatup: []

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3

Eagle Pride… Amplified :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 7, 2010 in Technology

It’s no secret that I think pretty highly of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, a point I made clear in one of my first entries here at law:/dev/null.1)

So when the Executive Board of our Alumni Association met yesterday and asked for tech-savvy current students to come up with ways to improve interaction between alums and plebes (including possible changes to its anemic web presence), my inner Eagle and inner Comp Sci geek both jumped at the opportunity :)

It was an interesting and enlightening way to spend a Saturday morning.

On the extremes, among the alumni in attendance was an ADA from the Class of ’08, relatively fresh out the law school door and still fairly “hip” to current trends in technology; then there was at least one immigration attorney who graduated in the mid-’80s, trained to Shepardize cases exclusively by hand since the Internet hadn’t even been invented when she earned her J.D. And of course there were a half-dozen or so folks in between, along with an equally wide spread of current students of varying technology backgrounds.

Discussing tech options is hard enough among tech-savvy folks. It’s even harder among an eclectic mix of people spanning years and comfort levels:

  • Some folks didn’t like email listservs since they already got enough email from clients; others (including me) think they’re indispensable since they’re more “in your face,” forcing you to pay at least fleeting attention to them.2
  • Some folks (including me) didn’t like the idea of using Twitter3; others thought it was a useful tool we already deploy, and leveraging it helps us reach into more nooks and niches of the alumni pool.
  • Some folks (including me) liked Facebook pages; others (also including me :beatup: ) realized it was both tacky and counter-productive forcing people to register for an unrelated service in order to access alumni information.

About the only thing we all agreed on was that WordPress is pretty nifty. I briefly showed them the law:/dev/null Dashboard, realizing a few seconds after I volunteered that doing so was probably a bad idea in light of the inevitable spam comments and general lack of redaction polish to the blog.

Fortunately Lotta was the only commenter showing up on the screen, and the breadth of the Plugins directory helped hide the fact I only use a few of them.4 :D

Not sure where things go from here, but whatever the results I’m looking forward to it. Some amped up school pride never killed anyone. I think. :angel:

Have a great night everybody!

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  1. An entry I made sure to link on the “About” page just in case there’s ever any doubt ; []
  2. Unless you set up a filter to route them to a folder that you never check. I confess to being guilty of that on more than one occasion :beatup: []
  3. Supporting Iranian protestors notwithstanding, I think it’s an innovative technology whose utility is inversely proportional to its userbase. See cnet or Slate for similar critiques. []
  4. Akismet, Custom Smilies, Feedsmith, and WP-Footnotes :D []

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