4

TOP 8!!!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 18, 2012 in NotFail

AAAHHHHHHHHHH!! :D

Sorry, had to get that out :)

So after finally getting things caught up here at law:/dev/null a couple weeks ago, I promptly disappeared again to focus on my upcoming competitions. I’m the “swing” counsel for one of NCCU Law‘s TYLA National Trial Competition teams again this year and have been determined to improve on last year’s just-barely-missed-it 9th place finish…

…and tonight WE DID IT!!! :spin:

NCCU Law's 2012 TYLA Trial Teams! From left to right: Associate Coach Jessica Major '09, Head Coach Clayton Jones '03, Me, Deyaska Spencer '13, Robert Brooks '12, Jillian Mack '12, Nikia Williams '13, Omari Crawford '13. Not pictured: Associate Coach Dominique Camm '09. Photo courtesy of 雅雅 :)

Teams are a little different year — instead of doing straight 2L-only and 3L-only squads, we have two 3Ls1 and one 2L2 on one team and one 2L, one 2.5L,3 and a 3L on the other — but even with the switched up pairings we still had a team make it into the Top 8 to advance to tomorrow’s quarterfinals.

And not only did we advance, but we discovered (i) we were 1 of only 5 teams4 to win all three of our preliminary rounds and (ii) we also swept all 9 of the judges’ ballots, making us the #1 seed in the quarterfinal pairings! :surprised:

For a time it didn’t seem like things were going to turn out that way.

NCCU Law’s been getting hammered with budget cuts, so we couldn’t afford to print our enlarged exhibits locally and then ship them from Durham; we had to get them printed here in Memphis before our arrival… only to discover yesterday morning (before the first round) that the order was completely FUBAR’d :mad:  So rather than spending our time focusing on the upcoming trial we were scrambling to get the prints done like they needed to be, get additional prints for the stuff that never got done, etc etc.

The first round was against the University of Memphis School of Law with EIC and I on defense, and after it was over we felt pretty good — no repeats of first-round jitters like we had at both the TYLA competition and the AAJ competition last year. Then came this morning, with Shutterbug and I representing the Plaintiff against a team from Duke Law. It was the same Duke Law team that won the 1L K-S competition last year so Shutterbug was looking for revenge and did a superlative job; Duke Law’s main strength was the breadth and quality of their objections, but we had a special pow-wow before heading to Memphis where we anticipated almost everything they threw at us.

But then the afternoon session was against a team from Charleston Law and we just knew EIC and I had lost our shot. One of the other side’s witnesses was actually a witness from the Friday night round playing the same guy, so he knew our cross-examination; the Memphis hosts went out of their way to try and find someone else, but couldn’t come up with anybody so we had to roll with it. I think knowing that was an issue had both of us mentally thrown off because neither of us were really “in the zone” like we should have been from that point onward.

By the grace of God we somehow eked it out though, winning that particular round by a couple points :)

I was so nervous when they were announcing the results of who advanced that I completely forgot my alphabet too. The hosts were announcing winners in alphabetical order, and when they said “E” I dropped my head thinking we had lost again  :oops:  Then they said “H” and I did a little foot stomping before giving the team a bear hug :D

Coach Jones and I with the Sunday rounds poster (before the re-flip)

The 8 advancing teams got called into a side room to get entered onto the chart of Sunday rounds and call a coin toss to see who would be which side. We were originally slated to go against Mercer Law, but their team was late to the meeting (for reasons that’ll be apparent in the next paragraph) so we were given the chance to call the coin toss, won, and were slated to go against them on Defense.

Then we went back to the room to change clothes before getting dinner… only to get called back because apparently there was a ballot error,5 Mercer Law was right in thinking they hadn’t advanced after all (hence why they were late), and we had to do everything all over again with a different team. We lost the coin toss the second time and the sides have switched, so we’re now on Plaintiff paired up with Georgia Law‘s defense.

In addition to us and Georgia Law, there’s one team apiece from Wake Forest Law (NC), Campbell Law (NC), Georgia State Law (GA), Vanderbilt Law (TN), Memphis Law (TN), and Emory Law (GA).

I’m more nervous than a Mythbusters insurance agent about how tomorrow is going to go down, especially after the unexpected change in plans about who’s going on what side. But after last year — and I hate to say this in print because it seems preemptively defeatist, but it’s true — I’m totally content with where we’ve gotten. NCCU Law made it to the Sunday rounds for the first time in at least 3-4 years,6 we are 1 of only 3 North Carolina schools to advance this year, we swept everything, and we snagged a #1 seed… and, the biggest relief for me, I redeemed myself for blowing the first round last year :beatup:

Totally unrelated to how things go, I want to publicly give some praise to the University of Memphis School of Law on how they implemented the competition this year.  They did an excellent job of making sure the judges didn’t know what schools the different competitors were from, reminding coaches and competitors both not to disclose that information intentionally or accidentally, went out of their way to ensure there were no conflicts with judges or witnesses seeing the same teams more than once, the list goes on. The competition coordinators were moving around all over the place keeping things running like a well-oiled machine, and I greatly appreciate that.

And I’m not just saying that because we advanced :P  I’d rather lose a fair contest than win a rigged one.

Aside from all the competition-ness, I also got to see 雅雅 who gave up her weekend to come out and support us, ate some delicious ribs and bbq from Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous, and generally just enjoy having the weight of last year’s failure lifted off my chest. It’s been a good day :)

I’ll keep you posted on how things go tomorrow, but for now I’m heading to bed so I can get ready for tomorrow morning. Good night y’all! :D

—===—

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

  1. Myself and EIC, who was on the AAJ team last year. []
  2. Shutterbug from last year’s Kilpatrick-Stockton 1L team. []
  3. A 3rd-year student in our 4-year JD/MBA joint-degree program []
  4. Out of 32 teams from 16 law schools across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee []
  5. One of the judges marked a defense ballot part of the ballot as a plaintiff part of the ballot :crack: []
  6. No one’s been able to tell me the last time our TYLA team actually made it to Sunday :beatup: []

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3

“Where did all these people come from?”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 9, 2011 in Site Stats

Hey y’all! :)

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.

Then a whole bunch of y’all appeared out of nowhere! :crack:

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 :beatup:

We had a +6.7% bump in daily readership to 2,041,1 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)2 — 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,3 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. :surprised:

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! :D  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 2011:4

  • 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 :surprised:
  • 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. :D
  • 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 :beatup:
  • 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 :P  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 :roll:
  • 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 B-)
  • 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 :beatup:
  • 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 2011:5

  1. On NCCU Law’s strict-C curve: In support of the strict C: a year later (11/12/11)
  2. On thinking about going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part I) (11/27/11)
  3. On pros/cons for going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part II) (11/29/11)
  4. On the irrelevance of 1L grades: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/11)
  5. 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! :spin:

—===—

From the Site Stats archives:

  1. +23.4% year-over-year since November 2010, for those who like analytics :) []
  2. +57.1% year-over-year []
  3. We’re actually back down to 116 RSS readers, which is more in line with our historical average. Looks like the previous spike was an aberration. []
  4. Down -18.4% compared to last month, but up +81.25% year-over-year []
  5. An odd collection considering #2 and #3 were only up for a couple days before the month ended, and #3 was posted half a year ago :surprised: []

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4

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Q: William2 asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Q: Danielle asks:

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

Q: And Kevin asks:

What’s the rationale on the dismissal policy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Q: Nina asks:

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

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

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

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

***

Q: Susan asks:

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

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

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

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

***

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

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

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

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6

Queries queries everywhere

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 11, 2011 in Site Stats

Good evening folks!

I haven’t compiled one of these Site Stats entries since January, owing largely to the fact law:/dev/null has been slowly atrophying during my chronic absences and I didn’t feel the urge to memorialize it in a blog post ;)

The number of visitors atrophied a bit over the Spring

But despite the chronic disappearances we still had two interesting developments in the statistics department, so I figured I’d go ahead and cobble an entry together.

First, we somehow inexplicably had a +35% spike in folks subscribing to the RSS feed in the past month. That’s the largest month-over-month increase — both in terms of % and # of raw subscribers — since we started publishing via RSS back in November ’09 :surprised:

I have no clue where y’all came from or what prompted you to start reading law:/dev/null via RSS, but welcome! :D

The other surprise was that my disappearances didn’t seem to impact the number of people reaching us via search engine. There were over 1,800+ unique queries made by folks visiting this site since that December entry (9,100+ searches total, with ~400K impressions), setting a record for us in January and setting the #2 and #3 marks in May and April.

We’re currently averaging 350 unique searches a month (compared to 80 this same time a year ago), a perk of producing original content even if it is a bit on the infrequent side :)

***

Here’s a random selection of 20 out of the 360+ unique search terms that brought folks here in May 2011:

  • which t4 law school is the best to attend: NCCU Law. Duh. :P
  • nccu law is hard: That’s generally the idea. If law school was easy, everyone would be doing it ;)
  • suicidal thoughts after law school exam: ok it’s hard, but it’s not that hard. Seriously, your grades don’t matter and there’s -0- point in stressing about what you can’t change.
  • law school, got a c in a class where the median is a b+: Can you change it? No. So stop worrying about it and just do better next time. :*
  • 1l student failed out+someone help me: Talk to your professors and to your mentors. Between the two of them, you’ll know what options you have open to you.
  • do 3ls ever fail: Yep.
  • when will nccu law school grades for 2010-2011 be posted?: They should all be finally online for everyone as of this past week. Though apparently some of my almost-3L colleagues are still waiting to learn whether or not they’ve passed ConLaw :beatup:
  • nccu law unfair grading: 1Ls (and some 2Ls/3Ls) complain about this every year when grades don’t turn out how they want. It’s a myth. Go get your exams from your professors and you’ll see sometimes you really do get things wrong ;)
  • if my final grade is b+ and my midterm was b+ what was my final: It depends on the curve. For example, in CivPro II during my 1L Spring semester there was a +19-point curve on the final exam to get the grade distribution we had.
  • law school c- curve: Doesn’t exist, at least if this well-cited Wikipedia entry on law school curves is to be believed. NCCU Law is among the lowest at 2.0.
  • why is nccu’s law school curve so low?: I’m actually covering this question (and a related one on why we kick people out) in a Mailbag entry I’m hoping to have posted on Monday or Tuesday this coming week — keep an eye out for it :)
  • definition for “madame prosecutor”: This is a loaded query so I’ll plead the Fifth on this one :beatup:
  • i missed my deposit deadline with campbell law: Give them a call and see if you can still pay it. And if not, go somewhere else :angel:
  • unranked law schools worth it: I think so, both here and here.
  • preston mitchum, nccu law: El Presidente, he is my predecessor as SBA President, kicked Harvard Law’s butt in the Luke Charles Moore Invitational, served as President of his 1L and 2L classes, and is an all-around cool guy.
  • has anyone gotten into duke law with a 2.7 gpa and a high score on the lsat: Depends on how high your “high score” is ;)
  • attrition at nccu law: Was #2 highest in the country for a public law school the last time NLJ put a chart together (scroll down), and around #7 highest among public and private law schools combined.
  • unc asg constitution: It’s been shuffled from location to location since I left the organization in April ’10, but you should (hopefully) still be able to find a copy at this URL on iwantmydollarback.org. I have no clue if it’s been amended since then though.
  • t. douchette, nccu law grades: There’s no “h” in my last name :P  But you can find my grades in the transcript at the bottom of this entry.
  • does the the law a pickle is not a pickle unless it bounces to be considered a pickle stand today: Wait… what?? :crack:

Not as exotic as some of the entries from months past, but still fun to dig through :spin:

***

We also have a whole new set for the Top 5 most-viewed posts of the month, including one that vaulted to #2 in just a couple days:

  1. On me nearly missing my CrimPro final: Dear Future 2Ls… (05/04/11)
  2. On my $.02 about 1L grades: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/11)
  3. On closing arguments at TYLA’s Southeast Regionals: Wrong man. Wrong place. Wrong time. (05/05/11)
  4. On slogging through the end of 2L Spring: 2L Year: 1 more exam to go… (05/03/11)
  5. On my 1L Spring grades and NCCU Law’s attrition stats: Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”) (06/08/10)

*THANK YOU* to all of you for continuing to check out law:/dev/null despite my chronic disappearances — I truly appreciate you! :heart:

—===—

From the Site Stats archives:

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2

Heads up: possible indecent content tomorrow

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 19, 2010 in Wolfpack Athletics

This is NCSU-UNCCH football weekend, a point I hinted at in yesterday’s entry. Anyone who tells you it’s not one of the biggest rivalry games in the ACC is either (a) delusional, (b) clueless, or (c) lying to you ;)

I come from an apparently-bygone era where it’s still possible to appreciate a person/group/institution and what they do, while still trashing them habitually in certain competitive eras like athletics (or mock trial competitions). So, for example, while I’ve got a few colleagues who hate anything and everything that is Duke Law, I don’t have a problem with them or their students — just the trial team, which couldn’t litigate its way out of high school detention without professional help1 :angel:

By that same token, I have no doubt the University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven is a fine upstanding academic institution 6 out of 7 days of the week. But the rest of the time they’re typical blue-blood white-wine elitists who got where they are today courtesy of mommy’s and daddy’s trust fund.

Oh, and the wealthy white alumni $$$ that came with excluding blacks for 160 years.

So it was in that spirit I’ve been exchanging trash-talk with one of my colleagues in the NCCU Law Student Bar Association, who happens to be a UNCCH alum. That in turn led to the inevitable taunt of putting a friendly wager on the game. I proposed the loser cooking the winner dinner and wearing a t-shirt touting the victorious school.

She saw my bet and raised by taking it a step higher: social media :surprised:

If, by some cosmic coincidence, the Baby Blue Powder Puffs manage to eke out their 1st victory in the past 4 years over my beloved N.C. State Wolfpack, I have to change my Facebook and Twitter avatars to something UNCCH-esque and write an entry here at law:/dev/null praising them for their victory :sick:

Even though Vegas has my Wolfpack as a 3-point underdog… and we’ve whipped them 3 years in a row so they’re due for a win… I accepted :beatup:

So this entry is just to give y’all advance warning that if things don’t turn out the way I want, you might want to avoid stopping by the blog tomorrow — and if you happen to ignore my advice, make sure you read #6 on the Disclaimer first ;)

  1. And even so, I’m sure they’re fine people outside of a courtroom and I’d happily get drinks with them :* []

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5

2L Year: Initial Impressions

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 16, 2010 in The 2L Life

Good evening y’all! :D

The first day of my 2L year at NCCU Law is officially done! ::happy dance::

It’s interesting how much different everything feels as a no-longer-1L. Several of the 3Ls were walking around with a “we have class?” look on their faces, while the 1Ls had that “we have class!!!” look instead. The 2Ls were somewhere in the middle, my guess reflecting a new level of comfort with the law school and the whole educational process.

I figured I’d jot down some initial impressions to see how they stack up once the semester is over…

====================
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: HISTORY, LAW & PRACTICE
====================

NCCU Law was one of the first law schools in the country (and the first HBCU) to develop a clinical program dealing with domestic violence issues. This class is the prereq for working in the clinic and is my first class of the day on Mondays and Thursdays — and several 3Ls tell me the course has a reputation as being the most-work-per-credit-hour-earned at the school :surprised:  Professor DVLaw seems personable though, so that should makes it more bearable.

The material is another story. The background details aren’t necessary for a family-friend blog like law:/dev/null, but let’s just say I’ve developed a very visceral impulse reaction toward people who abuse others. And I can already tell trying to learn the law and apply it rationally will be a challenge.

For example, today we were given an in-class exercise featuring three trial themes often used by both the prosecution and the defense in real life domestic violence cases: framing it as (i) an issue of personal choices, (ii) an issue of luck/chance, or (iii) an issue of social standing. We were then given the basic facts of an actual Durham DV case we chose at random: a man attacked a woman, pulled her hair, knocked her (1-year-old) child to the ground, and when the police arrived he verbally threatened to kill both her and her other (7-years-old) child when he got out of prison.

Our task? Come up with an argument on the spot as though we were the defense attorney, and then afterwards do the same as though we were the prosecutor. I had the “personal choices” theme with 2 of my classmates, and I totally failed at coming up with anything defense-oriented. All I kept wondering is what “choice” the 1-year-old had in getting knocked to the ground, or what “choice” the 7-year-old had in being threatened. Thinking about the fact pattern just really pissed me off, and I was in a dour mood for most of the class because of it.

My displeasure must have been written on my face or something, because when we switched over to the prosecution side Prof DV points to me saying “this will probably make you feel better.” :beatup:

Definitely going to be a challenge…

====================
EVIDENCE
====================

Evidence is next in the schedule, and the first thing I noticed is how f*cking PACKED the room was — I swear every 2L and their sister must have signed up for this section of this class. There were even a trio of students who showed up late and had to spend the entire class sitting on the steps because we didn’t have enough desks left in the room :crack:

Even though Professor FRE teaches CrimLaw for one of the other 1L sections (not mine), I did talk with him on a couple occasions during summer school and he seems like a quality guy. Good sense of humor, movie buff, former basketball player, etc. Should keep things interesting.

The class itself started with some preliminaries, then we watched the first 10 minutes of the 2000-remake edition of Shaft and discussed how a prosecutor would build a case within the confines of the Federal Rules of Evidence based just on the information in those first few minutes. Then we just jumped straight into the rules themselves, covering a half-dozen of them before class was out.

I’m actually a little nervous about this class because there are so many rules to remember — and usually with several facets to each one. We’ll see how it turns out :)

====================
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW I
====================

NCCU Law switches things up from our nearest law school neighbors at UNCCH Law and Duke Law, teaching ConLaw I and II as 2L courses rather than covering them in the first year…

…but when we take it doesn’t matter for me though, because barring something totally unexpected I can guarantee this will be my favorite class ;)

Today was just a historical overview lecture from Professor ConLaw, who has a reputation for being a challenging professor (and also teaches Torts for one of the other 1L sections). I don’t know if I’ve got the work ethic to earn an A for the class, but as a guy who used to quote passages from Marbury v. Madison and other Supreme Court decisions way back in high school I will definitely enjoy it one way or the other :spin:

====================
ZOMBIELAW (DECEDENTS ESTATES I)
====================

Class today was mind-numbingly boring. Professor ZombieLaw herself is hilarious — she refers to the course as “Dead People’s Stuff 101″ — so that should make it a little bit better I hope…

…but it’s basically just like Property for dead people :(

Upside: it gives me a chance to get caught up on Twitter and Facebook? :beatup:

***

That’s the rundown on Day 1 of classes :) Tomorrow is the first day for Legal Letters, then more ConLaw and ZombieLaw before I’m done for the day.

For anyone else reading this who’s already started classes, I hope you have an excellent week! And to everyone else, have a great night! :D

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6

Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 8, 2010 in NotFail

Pretty much ever since I started law:/dev/null — back when I decided to take a quantity-over-quality approach to these posts ;) — it’s been a challenge thinking of something to write about each night that at least a handful or so of you will actually enjoy reading.

Then this week happened. And I had three (three!) separate topics enqueued. Three! Topics that, I concede, got briefly postponed so I could rant about my missing grades. But topics that I fully intended to resume writing about tonight. (Three of them!)

And then the missing grades materialized. And the bodies started piling up… :beatup:

So in deference to the requests I’ve already gotten,1 I figured I’d spill the beans on my grades now rather than knock out those other entries and post grade info on Friday.

That’s how much I :heart: y’all ;)

We haven’t actually gotten any of the physical exams back yet so I’m not sure how my performance broke down in terms of multiples-vs-essays, but I’ll share my guesses where I can.

Without further ado, here’s the rundown for Spring 2010:

====================
CIVIL PROCEDURE II
====================

MDG switched things up from the usual final, giving us a set of multiples but then providing documents from a mock court case for the essay. Our objective was to review the documents and craft a letter to the client discussing the numerous FRCP-related concerns that existed.

It was during that portion of the exam that I stopped watching the clock and had time called before I got anywhere near finishing it :beatup:

CivPro II Final Exam Grades

The multiples were a challenge, with MDG describing them as “nuanced” and mentioning that even a fellow CivPro instructor missed a couple. The highest correct was 15 out of 20 multiples (75%) with the class average at 12 (60%) — high enough to pass the Bar, which is definitely a good thing given the difficulty.

The chart to the right shows how the final exam grades broke down. There was a +19-point curve.

My final grade for the course turned out slightly higher than anticipated, so my guess is I did well on the multiples. But I’m kicking myself for choosing a UNC Board of Governors meeting over an extra credit assignment we were given shortly after midterms though — the extra 5 points would have bumped the final grade to a B, bumping my 1L GPA above a 2.7 (eligible for some NCCU merit scholarships).

Lesson learned :headdesk:

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: ???
Expected final grade for class: C+
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: Worse performance than last semester, but given how gratuitously I choked on the essay I’m satisfied with how it turned out. And now I know to do all available extra credit in the future :beatup:

====================
CONTRACTS II
====================

Not a whole lot to say here: Contracts clearly isn’t my thing.

The downside is that I now have to explain to future employers how I barely passed a core class two semesters in a row.

The upside? I never have to take Contracts again until the bar exam ;)

Midterm exam grade: C-
Final exam grade: ???
Expected final grade for class: C-
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: I passed :surprised:

====================
CRIMINAL LAW
====================

If my perpetual flailing in Ks killed any briefly-nurtured dreams I had of going the intellectual property route, CrimLaw coupled with 1L Trial Team have convinced me to follow my heart and go the criminal prosecution route professionally. It’s something I had wanted to do for years, but never seriously considered since public employees don’t make much salary-wise.

But based on my grades it seems like the only thing I’ll be qualified to do :beatup:

The really crazy part? This was my best grade all year, and it was in the one class where I didn’t study for the final exam because I had a UNCASG meeting that weekend :crack:

Professor CrimLaw sent me an email making sure I knew that (i) I earned the grade I got but (ii) I shouldn’t make any professional decisions based on one course. He’s got a valid point but I don’t feel like I’m doing that here — I really, truly, and deeply hate Contracts too so technically it’s based on three courses :spin:

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: ???
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: A-

Synopsis: I’m 90% sure Professor CrimLaw isn’t a TDot fan, but I still enjoyed the course. And I’m glad I finally have something other than B’s and C’s populating my transcript ;)

====================
LEGAL RESEARCH & PERSUASION
====================

Along with not watching the clock in the CivPro final, this was my other instance of taking a strong starting grade and pissing it away through truly stunning incompetence.

Note to the pre-Ls: read directions!

Then when you’re done: re-read directions!

Then after that: re-re-read directions!

Trust me :beatup:

Cumulative grade after midterm: A-
Final memo grade: ???
Expected final grade for class: C
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: It could have been worse I guess. At least the research skills we learned actually turned out to be useful. ::headdesk::

====================
PROPERTY II
====================

This was the only final exam where I didn’t have a gut feeling one way or the other on how it turned out. I’m not sure if it was from the stress of the looming Contracts final two days later or what.

My performance was worse than the midterm, but high enough that I ended up with the exact same grade I got in the Fall.

And I don’t remember any of it already :beatup:

Midterm exam grade: A- (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: ???
Expected final grade for class: B+
Actual final grade for class: B+

Synopsis: At least I’m consistent :beatup:

====================
TORTS II
====================

Professor Torts is currently in Costa Rica with our Study Abroad folks, so I won’t know how the final exam turned out for a long while.

But I know enough to know I blew it :(

Back on the midterms I ended up with the #1 score out of the class on the multiples-only exam, so to end up with a final grade below even last semester’s I must have quite thoroughly FUBAR’d the final. And I feel fairly certain I did well on the essay, meaning I can only assume I botched the multiples.

Meh. Was never a fan of this class either…

Midterm exam grade: A (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: ???
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: This was the only bona fide disappointment for the semester, but at least it’s over. I will most definitely not be taking Advanced Torts ;)

====================
FINAL SCORE: SPRING 2010 FINALS
====================

Expected End-of-Semester GPA: 2.756
Actual End-of-Semester GPA: 2.733

Actual End-of-1L GPA: 2.678 (Law school median: 2.000)

*****

So that’s the rundown on the 1L grades.

But one wrinkle added to the mix over the past 24 hours has been NCCU Law‘s strong adherence to the strict-C grading model: we have a policy that any 1Ls who have fallen below a 2.000 at the end of their first year are academically dismissed from the school (hence my reference at the start of this post to “the bodies piling up” once grades came out).

The policy is essentially a trade-off in exchange for the school giving a shot to folks who might not be academically qualified to get into other law schools, providing a level of access that I personally think does wonders for the legal profession (at least in North Carolina) because many of the best lawyers I crossed paths with when I worked for the State Bar were less-than-stellar students as undergraduates.

The 2.0 model forces students to perform. It produces good attorneys. It’s why so many judges in North Carolina are NCCU graduates. And it’s why many of my classmates and I have a huge chip on our shoulder when we listen to trash-talk from students at other law schools.

But the dark side of that 2.0-cutoff is that NCCU Law ranks #2 in the nation for 1L attrition at a public law school (we’re edged out by FIU Law). We’re around #7 among both public and private law schools combined.

1L attrition is the red bar on the right-hand side

Take a look at this PDF chart from NLJ if you need a visual. The picture to the left is North Carolina’s section of the report.2)

That means roughly 1-in-5 of my colleagues will not be returning this coming August, and I’ve already gotten messages that a couple very close friends who’ve been mentioned here at law:/dev/null are among the casualties :cry: It kinda kills the buzz from being able to officially declare myself a 2L…

I’m not sure where those folks will end up down the road, but if they happen to read this entry I’m hoping they’ll keep in touch and let me know if I can help. We might not all be destined to be lawyers, but I’m a firm believer we’ll all end up where we’re supposed to end up.

*****

I completely and totally *hate* ending posts on a sour note, so I do want to formally say *CONGRATULATIONS!!* to everyone in the Class of 2012 — both at NCCU Law and elsewhere — who can officially call themselves 2Ls! :) Good luck to all of you in your summer endeavors, and I hope you’ll keep coming back to law:/dev/null next year now that I get to officially keep chronicling this experience :D

Have a great night everybody!

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

  1. Including from classmates who said they were looking forward to tonight’s blog entry — that inflated my ego at least two-fold apiece ;) :D []
  2. To my Duke Law readers, I assure you its absence from the pic isn’t a sign of ill will — since Duke Law is a T14, they’re on the NY page of the report and I didn’t have time to do a Photoshop splicing of the pages together. If you want to know about Duke Law just download the PDF ; []

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2

Apparently we’re nomnom-licious?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 2, 2010 in Site Stats

That’s the only reason I can think of to explain the search results from last month :beatup:

I wasn’t surprised when “law:/dev/null” turned out to be the most frequent query leading people to law:/dev/null, used by 20 separate visitors from across the web last month. But what was the #2 most frequent search term, used by over a half-dozen?

law:/dev/null Pageviews and Unique IPs over time

“nomnom”

Yeah. I don’t understand it either :crack:

But before we get into the amusement that is our monthly search queries, I wanted to give an über-huge *THANK YOU!!!* to y’all for helping May outpace April as our busiest month yet! :D

An updated graph is on the right for those of you who are visual people.1)

The data this month is interesting, because we had a -2.2% drop in unique IP addresses served — not a surprise given the summer break from school — but somehow still had a +13.6% bounce in average pageviews per day and a +17.3% jump in total pages overall.

I could be wrong here, but to me that means we’ve got more regular visitors who actually enjoy reading this stuff :eek:

Assuming I’m right on that, to all of the new folks I just wanted to say: 1) welcome!, 2) read the disclaimer!, and 3) thanks for visiting! :*

# of unique search terms

Also on the “this was unexpected but still pretty cool” front, we had a real explosion in search queries used to find this site — jumping +76.2% from 84 to 148.

I made a graph for that one too… :beatup:

I’m not entirely sure what prompted the search spike, since most of the terms go to entries that have been indexed by search engines for awhile now. If any of you happen to work for Google (our #1 referrer again) feel free to share some insights!

***

And now for those queries. Here are 20 of the 140+ search terms that brought folks here in May:

  • nomnom: Maybe the folks who tried this one were hungry for Contracts?
  • what is taking nccu so long: There were literally about a dozen different variations on this search, including “how long did it take to receive a decision from nccu law?” and “north carolina central university school of law admissions taking a long time” and “still no decision from nccu law”. All I can say to you folks is this: try not to think about it. In my case I got my acceptance letter from NCCU Law on 05/04/09, one week after I received an email that my application was “complete” and that I’d receive a decision “six to eight weeks” thereafter.2 The admissions staff are dealing with the recurring issue of having thousands more applicants than there are seats, and this year they have an added wrinkle with politics: the N.C. General Assembly has a provision in the House version of its budget currently being considered that would severely restrict enrollment growth at all institutions in the University of North Carolina… which means available fewer seats than anticipated. I know that’s approximately -0- solace to those of you who are waiting, but the admissions folks have a tough and thankless job so it takes awhile :beatup:
  • when does the nccu law packet come in the mail?: I got my packet around June 22nd or so.
  • conservative corporate taglines: Not sure what you’re looking for, but the only mention of taglines here is this entry on Men’s Wearhouse. Sorry.
  • segregated lunch counters: Are thankfully a thing of the past. I wrote some thoughts in this entry on the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins.
  • nccu law school section 102 grades: I’ve been told y’all have 3 of your 6 grades in already :mad: Be thankful you’re not §103 — we’re still waiting
  • mock trial: people v andrew madison: There were several searches related to this one too, looking for opening statements. Can’t help you with the opening, but feel free to check out my closing in the #4 entry of our monthly Top 5 list below.
  • nccu law summer reading list: If you haven’t gotten it already, you should get it around June 30th. I read To Kill A Mockingbird but didn’t read a single other book on the list. In my opinion you’re better off spending your time enjoying your summer ;)
  • blogs about north carolina central university school of law: There are 3 I’m aware of: us here at law:/dev/null, one by Madame Prosecutor, and one by the Prophet. If you find any others let me know!
  • does nccu school of law have midterms?: Yes we do, and with few exceptions they make up 20% of your final grade. That’s not always a good thing :beatup:
  • 3.0 gpa as a 1l: I need to know what school you’re at to give you any meaningful commentary. If you’re attending a law school with a 3.333 curve (like UNCCH Law or Duke Law), that means you’re not doing so hot. If you’re attending a law school with a 2.000 curve (like NCCU Law), it means you get a 100% tuition scholarship.
  • nccu law school trial team: Kicks ass — and that’s just the 1Ls :D
  • ashley yopp: Has been dubbed the Pickle Princess here on the blog. She worked with me last year running the UNC Association of Student Governments after she basically created the Student Senate at East Carolina University.
  • what states still elect clerks of superior court: Don’t know the answer to that question, but I know 100% for certain that North Carolina is one of them :)
  • unc asg stipends: Have been slashed to the lowest point they’ve ever been, and are now at a level where I’m worried it’s going to negatively affect the effectiveness of the organization if they’re not increased. See entry #5 in the monthly Top 5 list below for details.
  • why does nccu school of law have first year orientation: Because when it comes to law you’re not going to know your ass from your elbow when you start school, but you’ll be reading dozens of cases in every class every night for the first several weeks starting on Day 1. Orientation lets you get familiar with the school first, so you can get your locker, grab your ID card, buy your books and such — that way there are no excuses for you when the work gets piled on ;)
  • is nccu law accredited: Yes, as it has been since it was founded in 1939. The better question is: are there any law schools the ABA won’t accredit? :beatup:
  • law school student mental breakdown: Those apparently happen on occasion. NCCU Law has its own full-time psychiatrist for that very reason. Remember to breathe and everything will be fine…
  • how to answer contracts ii final exam: Not like this :cry:
  • people that start drama and then expect apologies: are insane. Just my $0.02.

It’s been an interesting month. Now I kinda want July to hurry up and get here so I can see how the June queries turn out… :spin:

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of May 2010, including two repeaters at #4 and #5:

  1. On my product-purchasing pathologies: Some signs you might be a law student… (05/04/10)
  2. On last month’s site stats: “You like me, you really like me!” (05/02/10)
  3. On LRP reducing me to tears: Illiteracy FTL (04/22/10)
  4. On my first ever closing argument: Alice in Wonderland (03/24/10)
  5. On political hacks-in-training writing commentary: On UNCASG, $1, and the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel (03/30/10)

*THANK YOU* again for your continued support of this blog, I truly do appreciate it :) I’m heading to bed so I can wake up on time to knock out some class work — have a great night y’all!! :D

—===—

Past Site Stats entries:

  1. Or folks like me who just get a kick out of making graphs and charts and stuff ; []
  2. But I also had a high LSAT score to balance out applying so late in the admission cycle. Long-time readers of law:/dev/null may recall I’d gotten several emails from NCCU Law about a missing reference letter, so my application wasn’t ready for them to review until early April. []

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7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now back to that email…

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

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

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

Not so with law.

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

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

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

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

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

Trust me ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody experiences the same thing at some point.

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

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

—===—

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

Until then, have a great night everybody! :D

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

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TDot’s Mailbag v4.0

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

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

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

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

So here are your questions… well… answered :D

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

Q: Michelle wants the rest of this story:

How did that CivPro exam turn out?

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

—===—

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

Have a great night everybody! :D

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