Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 13, 2017 in The After-3L Life
If any of my older readers are still checking this blog occasionally, (1) I love you but (2) you probably need to seek therapy 😉
It’s been over a year since I wrote anything here at law:/dev/null. Officially the longest hiatus from blogging I’d had since I started way back in the halcyon days of my 1L year.
A metric f*ckload of life has happened since then. I ran for office (and got blown out). One of my criminal defense cases went viral. And then it went viral again, and again, and again, and again.
My Twitter followers over time, a 1,599% increase since my last post
So basically Twitter became my home instead of the blogging world 😂
We also did a lot of philanthropy work, raising money for the American Heart Association, SHIFT NC, Crayons2Calculators, and two separate “foodraisers” for the kids at a local elementary school (that looks like it will be an annual thing!).
The intern I hired as my paralegal back in March 2015 passed the July 2015 bar exam and started working for me as an attorney in October 2015, so she’s now been with the firm for more than a year. The attorney in Charlotte I brought on board back in August 2015 still works with us too.
Not everything has been lollipops and rainbows, of course. The catch to being a candidate is that running the campaign nearly bankrupted the law firm. 😞 You might remember from this old post that we opened a Charlotte office in September 2015; well we decided to close it in August 2016 due to the costs, and in the months since I’ve been scrambling to get the law firm back on the upward trajectory it was on before I foolishly opted to jump into the ring.
Oh and I nearly died of pneumonia back in December 2015. But I’m still here!
Getting back into blogging was one of my 3 New Year’s Resolutions this year, so I figured it was time to log back in to the WordPress Dashboard and see how many e-cobwebs had built up in my absence. I’ll clean out the blogroll some time soon, and may or may not change the theme to something more modern — we’ll see.
Until then, thanks for checking in!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 2, 2014 in Randomness
Way back in October last year, I threw caution to the wind and posted this entry detailing my first-year revenues and expenses for the law firm, with a follow-up entry answering some of the questions I got.
Now I would never claim to be a trend-setter or anything ( ), but I stumbled across a post from a solo practitioner down in Florida who posted his own revenue/expense figures — and he gives law:/dev/null a shout as the motivation for it!
Here’s a snippet from the initial entry, “No Navigator, No Parachute, No Problem: An In-Depth Look at Flying Solo” authored under the nom de plume Florida Esq:
As part of my preparation, I started combing the Internet for any and all information I could find about starting a firm. I was looking for hard data: what are the costs involved in starting a firm, how much do new solos bring in, what works and what doesn’t when you’re starting out, and so on. Unfortunately, there was almost nothing like that. Instead, nearly everything I found fell into one of two very unhelpful categories: One was the “LAW SCHOOL IS A SCAM! BURN YOUR J.D.! YOU’LL NEVER MAKE IT!” crowd which has taken over many popular law blogs and message boards. The other was very basic, generalized stuff like “Network, do good work and if you make it through your first year, you’ll probably be okay.” Neither was much help.
One exception to this came from Greg Doucette, a North Carolina attorney whose blog I stumbled across one day. Greg did something I hadn’t seen any other attorney, new or established do: he put up a one year “postmortem” of his new firm with hard numbers, showing exactly what he made and spent, along with examples of what he did wrong (and right!) that first year and the changes he planned to make going forward. This information was just what I was looking for, and was much more helpful than pretty much anything I had found before.
Then a few days later he posted a follow-up detailing his first quarter revenue as a solo, with “No Navigator, No Parachute, No Problem: First Quarter of Flying Solo.”
Here’s a snippet from that one:
In summary, my first quarter led to approx. $22,575 of income and $8,114 of expenses, netting me approx. $14,461. I’ve taken $6,000 of that as paychecks, leaving my firm with nearly $8,500 in the bank. I know that might not seem like much to a lot of you, but after all the doom and gloom I read before starting out, I’m actually ahead of where I thought I would be at the moment. I’m still networking my tail off to increase my exposure and I know I need to be withholding more money to pay my taxes, but I think things have gone okay so far.
I’ll ignore his comment that $22.5K in a quarter “might not seem like much” or the fact he’s averaging over $1K-per-client — I’d (almost) kill for that kind of success — and instead just say it’s freaking AWESOME that someone else is willing to open up their books to folks thinking about going into solo practice!
If “flying solo” is something you’re considering, definitely take some time and go read both of those entries. And keep an eye out for what he writes down the road
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 24, 2014 in Unsolicited Commentary
Earlier this week one of my good friends and occasional law:/dev/null commenter VA forwarded me a story out of Florida Coastal School of Law, which is apparently in the process of searching for a new dean.
The entry comes from Richard Gershon over at the “Law Deans on Legal Education Blog” in an entry titled “Florida Coastal Dean Search Raises Deeper Issues”. From the story it sounds like the faculty got to see presentations from the 7 finalists for the dean job, but cut one of those presentations short when their sensibilities got offended.
Here’s a snippet:
The disturbing part of the report involves a candidate who raised concerns about the school’s declining student credentials and bar pass rates. That candidate was asked to leave in the middle of the lunch presentation. The candidate resisted, but was told that security would be called to remove the candidate from campus. This all happened in the view of about 40 faculty and staff present at this presentation, which was being recorded so others who were teaching class could see it later.
Th concerns raised by the dean candidate are supported by publicly available information showing that the 2013 entering class at Coastal had the following 75/50/25 LSAT profile: (148/144/141). Reports indicate that the students who have placed seat deposits in 2014 have a virtually identical profile as the 2013 entering class.
The LSAT in 2008 and 2009 was (153/150/147). In 2010 the numbers were (152/149/146). The decline continued in the succeeding years (151/147/145) in 2011 and (151/146/143) in 2012.
As might have been predicted, the weaker entering class of 2010 had a low bar pass rate, 67% for first time takers on the July 2013 Florida bar. This was the first time in several years that Florida Coastal had dropped below 70%.
At first I thought there was no possible way the story could be accurate. To borrow VA’s words, “And it was to the FACULTY… it wasn’t like ‘Hey, students, you go to a crap school!'” — but after seeing the first comment on the blog entry, from a FCSL professor who doesn’t dispute the account of events but simply notes “The entire Florida Coastal Community works hard to help our students do well on the bar,” now I’m inclined to believe it.
I don’t know how that story reads to the folks in academia, but as a lawyer on the outside all I see is “We don’t want to be held accountable!” If FCSL’s student profile climbed, and bar passage rates didn’t climb accordingly, it would be painfully obvious the faculty are at least partly responsible for the failure; now though, by accepting students with “declining credentials,” the faculty can blame any shortcoming in the pass rate on the caliber of student they’re letting in.
Then to make it worse, after throwing a temper tantrum about now wanting to be held accountable, they threaten to have the person offending them escorted from the premises by security? Wow.
Evidently legal education is in more trouble than I thought…
From the law:/dev/null Unsolicited Commentary archives:
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. 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
And it also reminded me how long it’s been since I wrote the last entry
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: Dude what are you doing!!
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.
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.”
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.
- Average Invoice: The average of those same 142 invoices.
- 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 ).
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
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 cards and since then have had to repeatedly hit up my grandparents for loans until things turn the corner.
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
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.
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
Q: If you could start over, what 3 things would you do differently?
A: That’s easy –
- 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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. 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) –
- Bar Exam?
- The Work?
- 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?
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 12, 2013 in The After-3L Life
For better or worse, it’s a sign of my near-terminal inability to get back into the blogging routine that it took more than a month since my last entry.
Several folks reminded me of the extended absence this week so I thought I’d cobble something together.
A couple weeks ago, back on September 21st, I officially hit the 1-year anniversary of starting my own law firm right out of law school. And with that milestone came the attendant benchmark-assessing / income-calculating / win-loss-recording administrivia.
The results were not what I’d have guessed they would be when I started: my workload has been absurd, my time management skills suck, and if my tax return is to be believed I’m financially more destitute now than when I was a homeless college dropout.
I’m also apparently a much better lawyer than I am a businessman
A peek into the TGD Law financials after Year 1
On the right is a chart I put together with some of the details from the year running from 21 September 2012 to 20 September 2013, with the percent of my practice areas based on gross income.
On the lawyer side of things, in the one year since I started practicing (and the not-quite-200 clients I’ve had in that time) I’ve only lost 1 case. I stopped keeping tracking of the wins entirely because it started sounding absurd when folks would ask how the year had gone; needless to say, I’ve been very fortunate on the trial front.
But I’ve also made some very boneheaded decisions in the money-making department.
Key example #1: burning several hundred dollars’ worth of gas helping a guy I met at NC State with a dozen criminal charges (pro bono).
Key example #2: taking a personal check from an attorney I represented in a foreclosure case… whose check promptly bounced after I saved her home (and who still hasn’t paid me several months later).
As much as I love piling up good karma, I’m doing this to make a living — so (also needless to say) I’m a bit disappointed with how the first year has turned out.
The one bright spot in the data, aside from the win-loss record, is that more than half my practice is already in my preferred focus area helping small businesses. I have absolutely no clue how that’s happened given the still-not-completed status of the TGD Law website but on that I’m not going to complain.
“Did I hear you say ‘dinner’??”
Things are also improving (thank goodness): the first 11 days of October 2013 have brought in more than my first two full months of practice from 09/21/12 to 11/20/12.
I just hope/pray it continues, because Samson isn’t as big a fan of ramen noodles for dinner as I am.
So there’s a glimpse into the life of one particular starting-from-scratch solo practitioner! I’m still a strong supporter of the whole going solo option — I’d venture that nearly 100% of y’all could easily outperform these financial metrics — I’m just maybe a smidge more cynical than when I began.
Hope all of you have been doing well, and enjoy the rest of your weekends!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 9, 2011 in Site Stats
It’s been half a year since our last Site Stats entry back in June, not for lack of time or interest but mostly because traffic tended to stagnate with my random disappearances all the time. Even with us passing 1,000,000+ pageviews back in September, there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy to merit another entry.
November '11 now holds the all-time attendance record
Then a whole bunch of y’all appeared out of nowhere!
November 2011 was officially the single busiest month law:/dev/null has had since we launched back in August 2009!
And I have absolutely no clue why
We had a +6.7% bump in daily readership to 2,041, likely resulting from my somewhat-less-sporadic posting over the month.
But the real craziness is the sudden +57.4% explosion in unique people coming to the site (8,144) — leapfrogging our previous record back in October 2010 of 6,716, and for reasons totally unknown to me.
There wasn’t a sudden bump in Google searches, no random spike in RSS readership, no particularly controversial posts that I’m aware of, and yet somehow we still had a whole bunch ‘o newcomers stop by this little piece of internet real estate.
The war on spammers continues...
And what makes the unique IP number particularly odd is that it came alongside us blocking an unprecedented number of spammers that would otherwise be distorting the traffic figures.
In what has become my WordPress equivalent of the government’s War on Drugs, on a regular basis I go through our logs line-by-line and wall off this space from an ever-growing number of bots and spamdexers via our .htaccess file. It’s virtually eliminated comment spam (0.00479 spam comments per IP last month) but has the side effect of holding down the traffic figures.
Which is just as good since I don’t really count spammers as “real” visitors, but it’s still weird seeing such a jump in readership knowing there are about 2,000 URLs blocked from sending people here.
Anyhow, to the new folks: *WELCOME*, and thank you for visiting! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and keep coming back.
Doubt we’ll hit this level of traffic again any time soon but we’ll see what happens…
The main reason I started putting these entries together ages ago was to go through some of the search queries that send people to the site. So here’s a random selection of 20 out of the 580+ unique search terms that brought folks here in November 2011:
- can a footnote go under the signature on a legal doc: Depends on the document, and depends on the rule of construction the courts in that jurisdiction use; some courts allow it, others consider anything past the signature (including footnotes) as “surplusage” that has no legal effect.
- nccu law bad neighborhood: Aside from a drug bust at the local Burger King and the occasional stuff that happen on every sizable college campus, it’s really not that bad.
- can you petition your gpa if you are within less than 2 tenths away from cum laude: In the words of MDG, “LOL. no.” (at least not here at NCCU Law)
- lawyers in state legislatures: Are a surprising rarity
- i’m panicking wording: Freaking out. Melting down. Losing your nerve. Having a psychotic episode. Taking a law school exam. Let me know if I should continue…
- how often do people get kicked out for 2l grades: Not often compared to 1L year because people can self-select their classes, but it does happen. The frequency doesn’t matter, all that matters is whether or not your GPA is above a 2.0
- how to get a job with bad grades in law: (1) Develop a personality, then (2) network. If you exclude me tutoring CrimLaw (where the grade for that single class was a smidge important), I’ve had exactly -0- employers care about my GPA for the various law jobs/internships I’ve had. Particularly in smaller firms, people care more about whether or not they can tolerate working with you every day than whether or not you were Top 10% academically. Make sure you have a solid LinkedIn profile, go to various law-related events, attend CLEs, get to know your professors and career services personnel, and so on — that way when openings pop up, people are willing to recommend you or at least clue you in to the vacancy.
- american travel blog first impression toronto: I loved loved loved it! Awesome place.
- dueces fingers with white background: You’d probably have more success spelling it correctly (“deuces”), but until then you can use the pic from this old UNCASG-related entry.
- college students taking classes unrelated to their major: Yep, that’s how I made my way through N.C. State
- why do you want to go to nc central law?: Ummm… if you don’t know the answer to that question already, you probably don’t want to go here If you want my reasons, you can read my “Why NCCU Law?” entry linked at the top of this page.
- is law school still worth it: Nothing has happened to change my perspective (Part I and Part II) so I’d say “yes.”
- can you fail duke law?: On a B+ curve? And risk the school losing $51K+ a year in tuition in fees per student? It might be theoretically possible, but I doubt it happens
- 1l grades most important: I certainly hope not or I’m screwed. I prefer my own $.02: your 1L grades don’t matter.
- va beach snowmageddon: Terrifying at the time, but pretty effing cool in retrospect
- sulc has too many white students: With budget cuts going on and minimum bar passage rates slated to rise, my guess is SULC has bigger things to worry about
- november mpre 2011 thoughts: It sucked. But I passed.
- “closing argument” “let me try that again” good morning: Assuming you’re planning to try something similar to the Chief’s greeting back at 1L Orientation: please don’t. I’ve yet to find a single person who thinks this tactic is humorous or anything but annoying.
- how to get caught up law school: When you figure it out, please let me know
- young lawyers division ridiculous: That’s actually not the first time I’ve heard this. Aside from the YLD’s incomplete approach to transparency in law school statistics, a number of them were downright rude during the ABA Annual Meeting this past summer. I guess being esquires entitles them to be pricks? Hopefully that won’t be me this time next year.
Nothing particularly risqué in this month’s batch of queries, but I still enjoyed digging through them
To wrap things up, here are the Top 5 posts from November 2011:
- On NCCU Law’s strict-C curve: In support of the strict C: a year later (11/12/11)
- On thinking about going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part I) (11/27/11)
- On pros/cons for going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part II) (11/29/11)
- On the irrelevance of 1L grades: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/11)
- On the November ’11 MPRE: That was remarkably unpleasant (11/05/11)
And that’s it for this entry! *THANK YOU* as always for your continued support of law:/dev/null, it’s greatly appreciated!
From the Site Stats archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 5, 2011 in The 3L Life
I’ve officially concluded that the course load I signed up for this semester was, in fact, insane
Scarcely two weeks in to my 3L Fall semester at NCCU Law and I’ve already burned an extended weekend getting caught up on reading for classes. I took some time on Saturday to clean up the apartment and enjoy some Wolfpack football, but otherwise have been steadily immersed in my Tax and Sales books.
And the sad part is I’m technically not even caught up yet: I wasn’t able to get my Employment Discrimination textbook until this weekend, I’ve saved ConLaw II reading for tomorrow in between classes, and I’ve got Sales practice problems to knock out somewhere along the way.
But on the upside (and on a totally unrelated note), either today or tomorrow law:/dev/null should hit its 1,000,000th pageview! So I’ll have another Site Stats entry to queue up later in the week
That’s it from me, I’m heading to bed so I can get up for the 8:30am Tax class — have a good night y’all!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 12, 2011 in Unsolicited Commentary
Tonight’s entry was originally going to focus on some of the economic unpleasantness unfolding at NCCU Law courtesy of our state legislature’s emasculation of North Carolina’s university system.
But Twitter is temporarily sending me in a different direction
One of the highlights from attending the ABA’s Annual Meeting was finding out who are among the most prolific law Tweeters, most of whom used the #ABAannual hashtag to keep their followers updated on what was going on.
Is reasonable reliance on law school stats even possible in the Google era?
David Pardue of @georgiatriallaw is one of those folks, and he mentioned this story in the Wall Street Journal about a class action lawsuit filed against Cooley Law School (by its own graduates) over the school’s disclosed employment statistics.
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. 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.
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.
Google, by contrast, began in 1996. Its world-famous PageRank search algorithm won patent protection in 2001. It already had 50%+ of the global marketshare for search engines by the time the earliest of the 4 named plaintiffs ever decided to attend Cooley Law, reaching such ubiquity that Merriam-Webster added the verb “to Google” to the dictionary in 2006.
And if through some miracle this well-educated class of plaintiffs 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.
“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.
With my own search on Google.com, I came across this 2007 piece from the Wall Street Journal on the imploding legal job market. Here’s a snippet, with emphases added by me:
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.
But this particular argument requires the willing suspension of disbelief to be plausible — and like the other works from whence that phrase was derived, this lawsuit should be recognized for the fiction that it is
Have a great Friday night and an amazing weekend everybody!
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 Jul 7, 2011 in The 3L Life
Good evening folks!
I hope all of you had an amazing Independence Day weekend — the 235th celebration of my favorite holiday evah — and a solid start to the abbreviated-and-soon-to-end workweek
On my end I made my annual trip with 雅雅 up to Virginia Beach to see Nan and Pops, though the festivities this year were somewhat dampened (literally and figuratively) by thunderstorms that spanned Virginia and North Carolina… and the start of Summer Session II classes this past Tuesday
Class this week plus that trip plus the preceding week helping with NCCU Law‘s Legal Eagle Law Camp was the reason for my most recent extended hiatus from the blawgosphere. The Law Camp in particular was an interesting experience that I’ll hopefully have time to write about in a later entry — it included everything from sitting in on an actual arson trial (featuring extensive vulgarity and sexual innuendo) with ~35 7th-10th graders, to witnessing the Durham PD’s drug interdiction unit arrest two people for trafficking in cocaine in the parking lot of a Burger King where I happened to be getting lunch with about 20 of those same campers, to watching my group successfully put on a full mock trial even after the group’s star witness was a no-show on trial day, to a bunch of other randomness in between
But that’s not the reason for tonight’s entry
Those of you who have been reading law:/dev/null for awhile might recall the pie chart of class ranks I put together last year for the Class of 2012 day program. I’m hoping to create new ones this year for all the classes, so we can (i) gauge how much the average GPAs have climbed between 1L and 2L year now that students can self-select their electives, and (ii) compare the GPAs across classes / programs / years. Did this year’s 1Ls perform significantly better or worse compared to last year’s? Does the evening program really have higher median GPAs as rumored? What are the odds of a now-3L reaching #.## GPA based on the curve and colleagues’ grades? Those are the types of questions I’d like answered.
However I’ve got two problems: my source for grade info last year is no longer around, and my new class rank doesn’t have the serendipitous function of being a cutoff for a round-number percentile like it was when I was the 40% guy last year.
And that’s where you come in…
I know folks are über-secretive about law school grades, even though we all find out something anyway. Taking that preference for discretion into account, I’ve created a temporary page on the blog (linked at the top) called “2011 Data” that includes a comment field where you can anonymously enter your own GPA and class rank. By entering in a fake name and using a fake email address, your comment will go into the WordPress “moderation queue” we have here behind the scenes, I can then harvest your GPA/rank without ever knowing who you are, and then delete your comment without it ever appearing to the outside world.
As of this entry I’ve got 14 people who’ve already shared their data — 4 from the class of 2012, 6 from 2013, and 4 from 2014. That’s a solid start, but most of the folks who have commented are in a fairly narrow band rank-wise and I need folks across the spectrum to get accurate charts. So if you don’t mind taking a few seconds to shoot me your info I’d really really really appreciate
Once I’ve got enough data points to put the charts together, I’ll delete the 2011 Data page and put up a new entry with the approximate grade distributions.
Thanks in advance for your help, and feel free to recommend that a classmate send in their info too Have a great night!