Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 28, 2015 in The After-3L Life
One of the other factors in my lengthy hiatus was seasonal: the annual ritual of trial advocacy competitions!
Some of you might remember back in February of last year I penned this bittersweet entry celebrating the accomplishments of some students I coached in the TYLA National Trial Competition, but sharing my disappointment that my talents were being used to benefit UNCCH Law rather than my own alma mater.
Well this year was… interesting.
The folks at UNCCH Law plan ahead, and had contacted me at the beginning of last August to ask if I’d come back for the 2015 competition. And me, being the naïve person I am, told them to give me some time so I could check with NCCU Law — just in case the whole “us kicking NCCU’s rears” would prompt them to let me come home.
(cue the “LOL!”s)
I hit up my old coach to ask for his advice. We met over lunch to talk that week, and he told me to hold off with the acceptance; he was going to step down as coach, and wanted to recommend me as his replacement. All I’d need to do is contact the advisor for the Trial Advocacy Board and let her know.
So I do. And get her voicemail.
A week goes by without a response. I call again. Voicemail.
A few more days go by, and I stop by the school in person. She’s teaching a class so I leave a note.
Another week goes by without a response.
It was around the third week in August when I learn that Prof CrimLaw had now been made the new Dean of our clinical programs (which also has responsibility for our competition teams), so I reached out to him. He suggested I contact a different professor who is now in charge of overseeing competition programs for everybody across both the Trial Advocacy Board and the Moot Court Board — and that, whatever she says, not to feel any shame or regret for working for a different law school. “That’s what we do as lawyers.”
So I call the other professor. She actually answers the phone ( ) and asks me to give her until that Friday. Then actually calls me back when she said she would!
Just to tell me that the first professor told her my old coach was coming back for another year…
(cue the “#dafuq?”s)
Now this call to me happened around 3pm-ish. Keep that in mind.
I email UNCCH my acceptance that afternoon and resign myself to going another year without helping my own alma mater.
The following Monday I text my old coach and say “Guess I’ll be seeing y’all in Charleston” — and almost immediately get a text back, even though it’s during work hours and he’s rarely that quick with a response. “Call me after lunch.”
We connect later that afternoon, and he’s just as confused as I am. Turns out no one from NCCU Law had contacted him until after they had told me he was coming back. But he hadn’t changed his mind: he still wasn’t coming back, so he asked if I still wanted to coach NCCU (duh). I’d already emailed my acceptance to UNCCH though and couldn’t break my commitment to them.
(cue the sad trombones)
Well fast forward to the end of January. I survive the car drama and make it down to Charleston. Both TYLA teams do admirably well under the circumstances but neither advance. I drive back feeling like I failed.
Then about two weeks later I get a call from NCCU.
Turns out the AAJ coaches had quit unexpectedly, and no one seemed to notice until a month after the problem packet had been released. The second professor asked if I’d be willing to step in (duh again). Given the short timing I bring in EIC as a co-coach, we get started about a month after everyone else…
NCCU Law’s 2015 AAJ trial team. From left: me, Petal Munroe, Shelvia Dancy, Joshua Palmer, Jaimee Bullock, and EIC
…and make it to the Regional Finals for the first time since 1998.
(cue the victory trumpets)
At various points during the month of February, EIC and I both had our doubts. Really right up until competition (the last practice did not go well at all).
But then when the first round happened, she and I were both totally blown away. So much so that we both did a look at each other like “Where did this come from??”
And then did it again in the 2nd round. And again in the 3rd. And again in the semifinals. When it was all said and done, a new plaque was getting added to the trophy case at the law school.
There’s a lot getting glossed over here simply because this entry is pushing 1,000 words and I realize many of you won’t actually read that far. But trust me when I say it was a busy-but-interesting Spring semester
So after two years of coaching, of two law schools, in two different competitions, I’ve had the privilege of helping a batch of proto-lawyers make the regional finals both years. I’m going to count that as a 100% success rate.
Now we’ll just see if NCCU Law finally lets me come back for 2016…
Good night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null competition-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 22, 2015 in The After-3L Life
Soooo it’s been not-quite-half-a-year since my last entry back in December. And the frequency of these disappearances is sufficiently frequent that it’s actually a preface to almost every single entry in the past year
I’d pretend that I’m going to be more consistent with the updates, but at this point y’all know better
That’s not to say I haven’t wanted to post stuff; I wasn’t kidding when I said back in my very first post of 1L year that writing here is cathartic for me. But a couple things have contributed to my absence: (i) I utterly fail at trying to set a work-life balance, and by the time I get home I just want to watch TV or sleep; and (ii) I’ve gotten hooked on a lot of different TV shows, so the whole “watch TV” side of the “watch TV or sleep” equation wins out a lot.
In any event, here I am! First post in five months is starting somewhere right?
As you can probably imagine, there’s been quite a bit of life upheaval since December. But the most expensive one has been my car.
Yes, my car finally died. After so much maintenance it merited not just one but two separate blog posts, along with asides in other entries here and here and here, the damn thing finally croaked in January.
I had just gotten brand new tires put on about a week prior, was heading down to Charlotte, and made it to Kannapolis before the engine started revving to 6K-7Krpms before catching and lurching forward, over and over again. Turns out the transmission had died — but of course I didn’t know that at the time. So I made it to a parking spot, called a friend at Charlotte School of Law to take me to get a rental (since I’d have to be back in Durham to take out Samson), forgot to leave the car key so overnighted that to a different friend who in turn got the car to a supposedly reputable repair shop… who couldn’t recreate the problem
So instead I spent about $600 in deferred maintenance thinking that would fix it. I take the rental back to Charlotte on Friday, pick up my car, head back to Durham… and make it about 2/3 of the way before the same @#$%ing problem starts happening again
I finally get back to Durham going about 20mph on I-40 for an hour, drive the car straight to a transmission shop without even making it to the apartment, and get told they’ll take a look at it that afternoon. So I call yet another friend to hitch a ride to a CLE happening while the car’s in the shop. I get out of the CLE around 4:30pm, call the repair shop… and find out they can’t recreate the problem either.
And they’re gonna close before I can get there.
And they’re not open on weekends.
Cashing in friend favors faster than is appropriate for anyone, I call EIC and beg her to borrow her car for the weekend — I was coaching the UNCCH TYLA team again (a topic for a whole separate entry), and that particular weekend was dress rehearsals before we’d be heading to Charleston SC for the competition at the end of the week. She thankfully agrees so I’m at least mobile for the weekend.
Well fast forward to the following Monday. The repair shop has finally recreated the problem and confirmed the transmission is toast. And it’ll take at least $2K to repair. Oh and they don’t have the parts to fix it in a timely fashion, so I’m looking at several weeks before I get my car back.
I borrow the third friend to take me to get another rental so I can do what needs to be done before competition. And for better or worse that includes buying a new car.
The law firm limo is dead. Long live the law firm limo.
Sooo yeah. Dropped $$$$$ on an old car that turned out to not be drivable.
By the grace of sweet cherubic baby Jesus I was able to qualify for a no-money-down loan through Navy Federal Credit Union in the middle of the car drama, and started negotiating with some different places at the same time I was holding out hope the Focus could be salvaged.
But instead I’m now enjoying a new Hyundai Elantra
The car payment is terrifying, especially after not having one for the better part of a decade. The advances in technology make it feel like I was driving a dinosaur though — and frankly I appreciate knowing the car’s not going to break down any time soon.
I drove it to Charleston for TYLA, Washington DC, Virginia Beach, and a ton of places in between since I got it. Putting about 12,000 miles on it already despite only having it for four months this week
Anyhow, I’m back! The WordPress Word Counter says I’ve already blown past the 800+ word mark so I’ll cut things here. Hope all of you are still doing well, thanks to the few of you who still read law:/dev/null, and look for another entry sooner rather than later!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 4, 2013 in TDot's Tips
No, your eyes don’t deceive you — you’re seeing two entries in a one-week period for the first time since I went on a three-posts-in-a-week writing spree way back in January.
[Yes, I’m proud of myself. Told y’all I was serious about getting back in the habit of blogging ]
Admittedly I’m cheating a smidge on this one (I forewarned you Friday!) since it’s a mostly-copy/paste job of this old TDot’s Tips entry from just after I passed the bar. But I figure it’s a timely rehash since folks got their bar results over the Labor Day weekend, so hopefully you’ll forgive me
So you’ve gone from being a doe-eyed proto-lawyer nurtured in the ivy-covered walls of legal academia for the past three years, and grown into a bona fide at-least-minimally-competent attorney-at-law. Now what do you do?
STEP 1: GET SWORN IN
Oaths are what us lawyerfolk call Serious Business™. For srs. Meaning you need to take one before we’ll allow a non-lawyer to put their life in your at-least-minimally-competent hands.
To get that done:
- Grab your ID card and your pass letter from the NCBLE. You don’t actually need your law license to practice law, you just have to meet the qualifications for doing so: passing the bar exam, passing the MPRE, and passing the character and fitness review. So as a threshold issue all you’ll need to get sworn in is your letter from the NCBLE showing you passed, and an ID card proving you are who you say you are. Those, and…
- Grab -3- copies of your oath. You can find the standard oath at this link hosted by the NCBLE; if you’re not comfortable with the “so help me God” part, they’ve also got an alternative oath available here. Why have three copies you ask? Well one of them is going to get time-stamped and filed with the court wherever you get sworn in, and the second is going to get time-stamped and returned to you so you have a copy for your records. The third is optional — but as a stylistic choice I recommend printing that one on nice paper, signing it in blue ink, framing it, and putting it up somewhere in your office as an ever-present reminder of how amazing you are
- Pick your county. Now that you’re certifiably at-least-minimally-competent, you can take the oath in any courthouse in the State. Lots of folks pick the county where they’re from so it’s easily accessible for family friends; others pick the county where they’re planning to practice; others like me go where there’s a friendly judge (see below). Some counties will try to push you into participating in their mass swearing-in ceremonies — for example, Cumberland County had theirs today, Mecklenburg has one on September 26th, and Wake has one on September 23rd — but you’re not obligated to do so if you’ve got folks willing to be flexible. Which brings me to…
- Pick your judge. You can have any judge you want swear you in (as long as he/she agrees of course). In my case, EIC and I got sworn in together in Wake County by our former 2L AAJ trial team coach, the Honorable Judge Vince Rozier. You can go with a District Court Judge, a Superior Court Judge, or if you’ve got high-end connections you can even get someone from the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court. And if you don’t have someone in mind, it’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself to a judge you’ve never met to see if they’d be open to it.
- Pick your sponsor. Finally, as a matter of local custom, you’ll want an existing member of the bar to introduce you to the court. This is the person who tells everyone how amazing you are and how you’re going to use your law license to fight for truth, justice, the American Way, apple pie, mega-corporations, or whatever else suits your fancy. As an example, EIC and I both picked our 3L TYLA trial team coach (the guy in the bottom picture in this entry from the competition in Memphis).
- Take the oath. You’ll get introduced to the court by your sponsor, given the oath by the judge, then you and the judge will both sign all the copies of your oath document (ideally in blue ink for the framable copy). Take those oaths to the Clerk of Superior Court’s Civil Division, have them file one and return the other two to you, and you’re officially official!
STEP 2: PAY YOUR TAXES
Being officially official, of course, means you get to pay even more money to various organs of government than you would if you were just some random schmoe trying to start a career.
Specifically, you’ve got a trio to taxes to worry about:
- Dues to the State Bar. Here in North Carolina, this is a $375.00 fee you have to pay annually to continue practicing law. It’s officially “due” on January 1st each year, but it’s not “late” until July 1st — so basically few first-year lawyers pay it until the summer time.
- Dues to the District Bar. In addition to your required membership in the State Bar, you’re also required to join a Judicial District Bar here in NC; you can pick from either the District where you live or the one where you work. This is usually $75.00 and whether you get a reprieve before having to pay varies by District. Here in Durham we’re in the 14th Judicial District which, aside from being utterly useless so far as I’ve been able to tell to-date, requires you to pay your District dues before the calendar year is over.
My interactions with the Department of Revenue on my “privilege” license/tax (click for the full-size version)
Your privilege license. You’ll generally only need this if you’re practicing law outside of a preexisting firm — basically if you’re going solo, or doing doc review with the inevitable “I’ll only give legal advice to Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving” (otherwise, your employer usually picks up the tab).
This is a $50-per-year tax levied by the NC Department of Revenue for the “privilege” of being part of certain licensed professions. You’ll have to apply and pay for it before you start practicing, otherwise you’ll get hit with a penalty and interest for paying late.
And honestly you might even get hit with a penalty and interest anyway, just because: that’s the situation I had back in October as part of my long-running “I’m a magnet for every form of government incompetence imaginable” series Here’s the picture I created for an entry I never wrote. Make sure to appeal in a timely fashion!
There are a few other tax-related items to worry about if you’re planning to open your own firm, but that’s beyond the scope of this entry — for this one I only care about making sure you can practice law without getting thrown in jail for being a tax delinquent.
I do however, totally coincidentally, have this entry on the cost of going solo where I mention some of that stuff
STEP 3: GO BACK TO SCHOOL
You didn’t think you were done with classes just because you finished law school, did you?
Now that you’re a lawyer, you’ll have the joy of getting at least 12 hours’ worth of Continuing Legal Education classes every single year for the rest of your practicing life, starting January 1st.
And, just for you as a newbie, there’s a special epically-long CLE called the “New Admittee Professionalism Program” (NAPP) that you’ll need to complete within the first 18 months of practice. Expect to spend $200.00 and two days of your life on that one.
Luckily a good chunk of the material is actually quite useful ( ), so I’d recommend knocking it out sooner rather than later. You can find more information about NAPP on the North Carolina Bar Association’s CLE website, and information on CLE obligations in general at the State Bar’s CLE website.
And that’s it! There’s a bunch of other stuff you should do of course — buy malpractice insurance, join some of the voluntary bar associations, sit and observe other lawyers as time permits — but that’s for another blog entry
So in the words of one of my mentors after hearing I passed the bar exam: “Congratulations. Good luck. Don’t f*ck up.”
Good night y’all!
Past TDot’s Tips entries:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 18, 2013 in Mail
I just want to start out this post by noting it’s the first time I’ve had two pieces done in a 7-day period since… August
Back on Wednesday, EIC and I went out to lunch with a former classmate who’s now a soon-to-graduate 3L. He wanted to make sure he does everything he needs to do in his final semester of law school to set him up for success after graduation, and asked us both about how we got where we are, the things we did that helped, what we would do differently, and so on.
It was a fun conversation, not least of which because it fed into my pre-existing love of dispensing (rarely sought) advice
Plus it made a great topic for a blog entry, so voilà! 2nd post in 7 days
Here are some of the questions that got asked, along with my thoughts…
Q: So why did you decide to go solo?
A: I had forgotten I wrote a pair of blog entries on the prospect of going solo way back in November 2011 (here and here). After re-reading through those while writing up this entry, I’d say I was pretty spot-on with my assessment — the priorities just changed a little bit.
I’d say my top 3 reasons for becoming a solo practitioner were:
- Freedom: By the time I got near graduation, I had long-since made up my mind that I was going to try running my own business one way or the other (my attention was focused on NC SPICE at the time). The mere thought of getting up in the morning to go work for someone else was enough to put me in a salty mood, and long-time law:/dev/null readers know being a subordinate doesn’t really mesh with my personality anyway So now I set my own hours, take or reject cases as I see fit, and can do things like take a soon-to-graduate 3L to lunch or randomly show up to mid-day events without having to clear it with a supervisor first. It’s low-paying at the moment but I wouldn’t trade that freedom for anything.
- Friends: I’ve been beyond blessed to meet thousands of amazing people over the 14.5 years I’ve been in North Carolina, from classmates during my first time at NC State, coworkers during my years as a college dropout, folks I met my second time in school through student media, Student Senate, UNCASG, NCCU Law‘s Student Bar Association and trial teams — the list goes on and on. I’m still connected to 1,900 of those folks on Facebook, and 1,200 of them on LinkedIn. That’s a huge pool of folks I can ask for advice, hire for projects, send clients who I can’t help, or represent if they need me.
- Fear: Even though it’s been 12 years at this point, the whole “homeless college dropout” phase of my life still haunts me pretty regularly; I’m reminded of it every time I go against a lawyer who’s been practicing the same length of time as me, but is in his mid-20s while I’m a couple months away from hitting 32 (and bald ). I remember having job applications denied because I didn’t have a college degree, and times I got laid off because the people I worked for couldn’t make payroll. Being at the mercy of others sucks — but I also know from experience that a steady paycheck is a powerful impediment to making overdue life changes. There was simply no better time for me to do my own thing than now, and I was afraid if I started working for someone else I’d become complacent with that.
There are a whole flotilla of other reasons for going solo and odds are high yours will be completely different than mine. The key point is that, if you feel something in your gut urging you to try venturing out on your own, do it now while you still have the flexibility to change your mind if you decide you don’t like it
Q: What was your backup plan if things didn’t work out?
A: Going solo
I knew I was going to start my own business, but the glaring need for affordable office support and mentorship services for solo practitioners prompted me to invest a lot more energy and money than I should have into getting NC SPICE launched. I just knew I’d have everything operational and in place before the bar exam, so once the exam was over I could get to work helping other folks while I waited on my exam results.
Needless to say that was more than a smidge naïve on my part. I’d have been better off conserving the cash and putting the time toward business development for the law firm.
Q: What helped you the most your 3L year in terms of preparing for life after graduation?
A: Talking to as many folks as I could. By an order of magnitude.
Out of those 2,500ish folks I’m connected to on social media, there’s maybe 100 or so I talk to weekly. But I’ve got a fairly good memory when it comes to remembering bits and pieces about most of those other 2,400 in terms of what they do, where they’re at, and what experiences they’ve had.
That makes it easier for me to connect folks who have complementary interests, whether it’s something simple like helping a friend get better rates on their auto insurance (NC Farm Bureau Insurance if you’re in North Carolina) or combing through my NCSU contact list to help someone find someone else who knew someone else who raised a certain breed of horse (seriously!).
That keeps me in more-frequent contact with folks I wouldn’t get to talk to that often otherwise, and it’s a great way for meeting even more people I’ve never met before. Ultimately that’s how I ended up in my current office and also how I got my very first client.
The law is a people-centric profession. If you want to excel at it, you need to meet people, take an interest in their lives as people (rather than walking dollar signs), and respect them accordingly
Q: If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?
More than a few of my classmates were pissed when I graduated from NCCU Law with honors and they didn’t. The prevailing assumption (continuing to this day) is that I got all sorts of special privileges because I was SBA President, and that I would have been honors-less alongside them had I just been treated like everyone else. The most-cited example has been my ConLaw II class and how I didn’t turn in the final paper — 80% of the final grade — by the deadline.
The nasty byproduct of a lack of focus: a 2.333 GPA
Few (if any) of those folks realize I got an F in that class as a result, so whatever “special privileges” I supposedly got certainly weren’t much help.
The 2.333 GPA I had during my 3L Fall semester was my very worst in all of law school, and because of it I had to spend more time than I wanted focusing on academics during 3L Spring. When I could have been creating my future law firm’s website, or designing my business cards or letterhead, or attending local CLEs for free as a student, or any of a million other business development activities I could have done while I was still in school, I was instead cutting out my social life and studying non-stop to get the 3.630 GPA I needed to counteract that 2.333.
And of course those small snippets of free time I had toward the end of the semester got plowed into the NC SPICE business plan, articles, bylaws, 501(c)(3) app, etc etc etc
If there’s something in particular you want to do after graduation, be it going solo or working for a firm or something else entirely, focus on it with every spare ounce of time and energy you have. Don’t split your time if you can help it because your ability to excel at any one thing is going to drop as you add on more of those “one things” to your plate. Trust me.
So those are my thoughts on going solo. But it’s just my $.02, and I could be wrong
Have a great night y’all!
From the Mailbag archives:
- TDot’s Mailbag v9.0: “So why did you go solo?” Edition (01/18/13) [this entry] –
- 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 Dec 26, 2012 in The After-3L Life
Merry (belated) Christmas y’all
I know, I know — law:/dev/null‘s been dormant for over a month now. It’s gotten so bad the spammers don’t even care anymore, leaving me only 1 spam message to clean out over the past month
But I’m working on getting that turned around (seriously!)
A couple weeks ago EIC and I had lunch with one of my attorney mentors, and I got ribbed a bit because my law practice is still in about as much disarray as it was last month.
We’ve moved up to around 23 clients since opening and advanced to 11-0 in the adversarial stuff.
Finally got my office decorated a smidge
But the TGD Law website hasn’t had any work done on it since I played around with it during my Thanksgiving trip to visit Nan and Pops, I still haven’t ordered envelopes or letterhead, and my QuickBooks accounting is a work-in-progress.
At least I got the office spruced up a bit?
Anyhow, so while I’m being teased at this lunch for the by-the-seat-of-my-pants operation of my law firm — and me arguing in rebuttal that my neglect of the business side of things is fine so long as I stay organized on the law side of things (which I seem to do quite well) — my mentor dropped one of those questions you just know someone’s going to ask because there’s really no rebuttal to it:
“Are you telling me you can’t even set aside one hour a day for the business?”
Aaaannndd after me failing to come up with something witty in response I of course had to concede that I could. Hence, resurrecting law:/dev/null.
[And yes, I fully realize you might have done a ::facepalm:: right then because my personal blog is not law firm business. I know. I’m setting aside an hour for the law firm too, plus time for NC SPICE. I just figured since I’m going to make an effort to better-regiment my time, I might as well try to resume the enterprise I spent the better part of 4 years now creating ]
Now I’m not sure yet how often law:/dev/null will be updated going forward. Daily is probably unrealistic, but at-least-weekly sounds doable. So take this entry as a heads up, cross your fingers with me, and hopefully I’ll talk with y’all more soon.
Until then, have a great night!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 11, 2012 in The After-3L Life
I’m still here!
It seems like at least once a week I say to myself “I really need to start updating law:/dev/null regularly again”… I log in to the WordPress admin interface… clean out the spam comments and update outdated plugins…
…then promptly get sidetracked by something and never actually write anything down
Life over the past month has been crazy. Certifiably nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever had this many things going on simultaneously in my life. Ever.
The law firm’s been up-and-running for a smidge under two months, and I’ve had around 13 clients in that timespan. The crazy part is that I’ve represented those clients despite having no business cards, no website, no letterhead or envelopes or advertising — just my LinkedIn profile, an unpublicized Facebook page, and the Twitter account I barely use.
I’m also 6-0 in adversarial proceedings, which is just downright surreal. Had you told me back when I got my license that I’d go my first two months without losing a case, I’d have called you crazy. But I’m now 3 foreclosures, 2 misdemeanors, and 1 breach of contract down without a losing client. I know the first loss comes to everyone eventually but I’m over-preparing in the hope I can delay the inevitable as long as possible
Panorama of the new place right after moving in
Speaking of the law firm, I also migrated out of my apartment into a bona fide office. Trying to work from home was cheaper but incredibly inefficient between the dog and the lack of dedicated space for office-related work. The office is huge (~223 square feet), half a block to the Durham Courthouse, and cheaper than damn near everything in downtown Raleigh or Durham — and a testament to the utility of both networking and poker.
How so? Well one of my friends from Student Senate connected me to a Raleigh attorney to talk about NC SPICE. I had lunch with him, and he recommended I talk with a particular Durham DWI attorney. I had lunch with him, and he invited me to join his friends at a weekly poker night they have on Mondays. After losing my entire buy-in one week and half my buy-in the next week, I randomly asked him if he knew any attorneys with spare offices they wanted to sublease.
Turns out he had two, including the one I’m in now
So I’ve got an office, conference room, full kitchen, lobby with receptionist, free parking, all right next to the courthouse! Plus the place is huge enough that I’m now splitting it with EIC, who’s getting ready to start her own practice as well.
And speaking of NC SPICE and splitting things, there’s been some developments on that end as well. I got a response from the Internal Revenue Service that it would take them 9 months just to assign our 501(c)(3) application to somebody for review, then that person would have 90 days to make a decision — meaning we’ll get no update at all whatsoever until June 2013
So at our most recent Board of Directors meeting last week, the Board authorized me to cleave the group into two: the education-related components will stay in the nonprofit, and the office support services will get rolled into a new corporation. Since then I’ve lined up 4 investors interested in getting the program off the ground, and we’ve got our first in-person interest meeting and focus group slated for 12/12/12 at 6:00pm.
We’ve also got around 216 people following the NC SPICE Facebook page, and a hair’s breadth over 200 followers on the NC SPICE Twitter feed.
The only downside is that I’ve now gone from running one nonprofit 6 months ago to running a nonprofit, a corporation, and a law firm all at the same time
A long overdue lifestyle change. Just 18lbs to go!
On the personal side, my quest to get back in shape is still on target with me down -27lbs since June 30th. I don’t think I ever wrote the original entry I meant to write on that, but during bar prep my good friend Tim Lipka (Mr. QC) from NCSU’s Student Government passed away from a heart attack at age 25. I’d just had drinks with him when I was in DC for the Howard Moot Court Competition back in February, and we’d talked on Facebook about grabbing lunch when he came to town before the DNC convention in Charlotte. His passing was coupled with an unexpectedly high blood pressure reading I got during a regular checkup the day before, so the two of those things combined freaked me out enough to get my life in order.
More exercise and less food has been the lifestyle change for the past few months, and I’m slowly making progress. My target weight is 175lbs so I’ve got a bit more to go but it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I imagined thus far — and my blood pressure is coming back down slightly, hopefully meaning I’ll be able to avoid medication.
Aside from my personal health, life is good. I’m still contributing semi-regularly over at JD Oasis. Samson is still happy and healthy. And even though I’m broke financially I know things are going to pick up as time goes on.
That’s all I’ve got for this entry, but hope to (seriously) have more some time soon. I hope all of you have had an amazing weekend, and enjoy the week ahead!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 9, 2012 in TDot's Tips
Well now I’m officially official: I got sworn in as a North Carolina attorney Friday afternoon!
Taking the oath of office. From left: Judge Vince Rozier, Me (with Eagle lapel pin and Wolfpack Red shirt + silk + socks), Nan, and Hahvahd
The ceremony was put together on short notice (about 20 minutes of text messages exchanged on my way to Charlotte on Wednesday) but it turned out great, with EIC getting sworn in at the same event, the two of us being presented to the court by our TYLA trial team coach, and our AAJ trial team coach presiding.
Even my grandparents managed to make it down with just a day’s notice
Amid getting all that set up and executed, I’ve gotten questions from classmates on a few issues and had to find answers to some questions of my own — so I thought it might be helpful to throw it all in this entry in case anyone else needs it.
APPEALING YOUR BAR EXAM
As some background, last week I noted that NCCU Law’s bar pass rate dropped unexpectedly for first-time test takers to the lowest rate we’ve had in decades. Professors have cited a variety of factors for the drop, some of which are unique to our school and others that affect every school to some degree or another.
One issue I suspect hurt our students more than most was the lack of electricity due to egregiously poor contingency planning by the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners. Here’s why: so far as I know, NCCU Law is the only law school in North Carolina to have a “loaner laptop” program where everyone is issued a laptop as a 1L that they can use until after the bar exam. It’s a great program for a law school whose students skew toward a lower socioeconomic status than, say, our friends over at UNCCH Law.
But after 3 years the laptop batteries can’t hold a charge for more than a few minutes
So when the lights went out and laptops started dropping like flies, Legal Eagles were disproportionately affected. The addition of more time helped to mitigate the damage but it’s hard to undo the psychological impact of seeing your electronic work disappear and then having to switch to hand-writing.
Anyhow, there’s a procedure in place for appealing one’s bar exam results (though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the NCBLE website). If there were ever a set of circumstances warranting an appeal, I think what we went through would qualify. Here’s what you have to do:
- Get your scoresheet from the NCBLE. Those are available now, and can be obtained either by calling them at (919) 828-4886 or emailing info [at] ncble.org;
- Prepare a letter addressed to Fred P. Parker III, North Carolina Board of Law Examiners, PO BOX 2946, Raleigh, NC, 27602;
- Outline the grounds for your appeal, noting for example the impact of the lack of electricity;
- Get the letter notarized; and,
- Mail it to the NCBLE by September 14th, 2012.
Bear in mind, like most appeals, that the odds of success on appeal are very slim. The best appeals will be folks who are at most 1-2 points away from passing and did better comparatively on the MBE than the essays. If they re-review your essays as a result of the appeal there’s an ever-so-small chance you’ll be able to get that last point or two.
If you’re dissatisfied with whatever procedure NCBLE uses for the appeal, your last resort is filing suit in Wake County Superior Court; that process is outlined in the Rules section of the NCBLE website.
GETTING SWORN IN
Information contained on the NCBLE and North Carolina State Bar websites notwithstanding, you don’t actually need your license in order to get sworn in and begin practicing. Judges have judicial discretion to administer the oath if you have met all the requirements for licensure, which will be reflected in your letter from the NCBLE if you passed the bar exam, the MPRE, and the character & fitness check.
If you don’t believe me, consider that Alamance County had a mass swearing-in for their attorneys this past Friday (and you’d have a great as-applied challenge if anyone tried to stop you from doing the same).
Once you’ve got a judge ready to conduct the oath, as a matter of custom you’ll want to find a current member of the bar to present you to the court. Typically your presenter offers a few words about how amazing you are and how you’ll be a great addition to the legal profession. I went with my 2L/3L TYLA coach (who ad-libbed his remarks, noting “I’ve seen the progress in him, from knowing everything, to still knowing everything but being able to work within his limitations to be a successful attorney” ).
In addition to having your NCBLE letter on-hand, you’ll also need at least 2 copies of the Oath of Office available from the NCBLE website. And if you’re like me, with a penchant for framing and hanging things, you’ll want at least one (or more) copies of the oath signed in blue ink on nice cardstock for display
After getting the oaths signed by you and the judge, take two copies to the Civil Division of the Clerk of Court’s Office for filing. The clerk should timestamp and file one copy, then timestamp the other copy and hand it back to you for your records.
Once you’ve got that done you’re officially a lawyer!
“PRIVILEGE LICENSE” / TAX, MANDATORY CLE, AND INSURANCE
Officially being a lawyer doesn’t mean you’re officially able to practice yet though
Turns out being a lawyer is a “privilege” — and the North Carolina Department of Revenue wants their cut. You’ll need to visit the Privilege License / Tax section of the Department of Revenue website, download the form, fill it out, and mail it off to NCDOR with your $50.00 tax payment. You’ll need to renew that license every year before July 1st.
Not to be outdone, you’ve also got a special professionalism CLE you have to complete within your first year of practice. Called the “New Admittee Professionalism Program” (NAPP), that’ll set you back about $200.00 plus two days of your life.
You’ll also want malpractice insurance, but (thankfully?) I have no clue how much that will cost to include it in this blog entry…
WAIVING IN TO WASHINGTON DC
One last addition for this entry, which is actually one of the few useful snippets of information I retained from the Law Student Division’s “Super Circuit” meeting in Charleston last October: you might be able to get into the District of Columbia Bar without having to take their exam
So far as I know, Washington DC is the only jurisdiction that will let a newly licensed attorney waive in based solely on whether or not he or she scored high enough on the MPRE and the MBE. You won’t be able to get your actual MBE scores from the NCBLE of course, but you can give them a call and they’ll tell you whether or not you qualify for admission in the other jurisdiction.
First, you’ll have to wait until you get both your physical license from the NCBLE (which should be 4-6 weeks after they mailed your passage letter) as well as your State Bar Identification Number (1-2 weeks after getting your license). Then give the NCBLE a call to see if you qualify for DC admission.
If you qualify, you’ll need to send a written request addressed to Jody Rollins at the NCBLE asking for your score information be transmitted to the DC Bar — along with a $25.00 check for processing You’ll also need to get a Certificate of Good Standing from the North Carolina Supreme Court (which will set you back another $5.00) that you’ll include with your admission packet for DC.
Once you’ve got all that together, go to the DC Bar’s Committee on Admissions website, fill out the application, fire it off and wait a few months for things to get approved.
What’s the point of getting licensed in DC (aside from the cool points for having a multijurisdictional practice)? Since it’s the nation’s capital, it has reciprocity with more jurisdictions than any other state. So after having an active license in DC for 5 years, you can pretty much waive in to just about anywhere in the country — giving you tremendous mobility for later on in your career.
That’s it from me for tonight y’all — hopefully at least some of it was useful! Have a great night!
Past TDot’s Tips entries:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 3, 2012 in The 3L Life
This is the first Saturday I’ve been home since January 28th and, aside from Samson seeming confused about why I’m still around, it’s actually felt great being able to sit around the apartment and catch up on the mundane parts of life like laundry and homework and such
It has also let me shift gears into “soon to be graduated” mode — just 70 days until graduation day! — and start wrapping up the last few projects I’ve got left before I have to venture back into the real world.
For better or worse, that includes winding down one of the most successful SBA terms in law school history. Our elections interest meetings happened on Thursday and filing for office is open now, but before the new folks take over we’ve still got a second Speed Networking event coming up at the end of the month, a completely new format for our annual Law Week Banquet, the last two meetings of the Presidents’ Roundtable group we created back in August, and of course prepping for the actual transition itself.
Jillian Mack '12 and Travis Ellis '13 with NCCU Law's 2nd consecutive Bronze Key Award
Speaking of SBA, one thing I wanted to mention a couple weeks ago but didn’t have a chance: apparently NCCU Law has the most ABA members of any law school in the ABA-LSD’s Fourth Circuit
Yes, you read that correctly. Not the “biggest percent increase in membership” like we got last year in Williamsburg but the largest number of members overall.
Now under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t make a big deal about it…
…but we’re one of the smaller law schools in the Fourth Circuit.
Consider as an example: Charlotte Law, home of the ABA-LSD’s Fourth Circuit Governor, has a 1L class that alone is bigger than all of NCCU Law. And yet somehow we have more people in the ABA than they do.
It blows my mind. For srs.
This is also now the third time EIC has been recognized for her work as our ABA Representative! She was first highlighted as one of the ABA’s Top 9 reps nationwide back in August, and then recognized indirectly in the December 2011 issue of Student Lawyer magazine for the awesome Speed Networking event she envisioned and spearheaded.
Snippet from Student Lawyer magazine on NCCU Law's EIC-created Speed Networking event
Now she’s racked up another honor just two months later. With colleagues like that, no one should wonder why I love my job
I also have to recognize our 2L SBA rep (who I don’t have a nickname for yet) for his willingness to drive to Charlotte for the meeting while EIC and I were both tied up with TYLA obligations. I remember what it was like heading to the Williamsburg meeting last year, and being willing to give up a weekend for this stuff is a much-appreciated sacrifice.
It’s also the first time in NCCU Law history that we’ve had people at every single ABA meeting for an entire year: the Fourth Circuit meeting in Williamsburg under last year’s SBA, the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto, the ABA-LSD “Super Circuit” meeting down in Charleston, the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, and now this year’s Fourth Circuit meeting in Charlotte.
And keep in mind all of this year’s successes — not just the Bronze Key, but the Speed Networking event, the standing-room-only Access to Justice / Civil Gideon panel, the packed judicial clerkship forum, the record-setting mentor/mentee program our Vice President reorganized, the list goes on and on — all of it has been done despite a -40% cut to the SBA budget back at the very start of the fiscal year.
To get all this stuff done in a year is groundbreaking in its own right, but to do it on a shoestring budget where we had the least amount of SBA funding since George H.W. Bush was President?
There’s a reason I consider us the best SBA in the country.
Anyhow, enough of me crowing about my colleagues and all the successes they’ve achieved on behalf of the law school I’m working on the second edition of this S.P.I.C.E. proposal and heading to bed soon thereafter.
Thanks for enduring this entry, and have a great night!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 26, 2012 in The 3L Life
Hello from Reagan Washington National Airport!
Yes, I’m posting from the airport while waiting for a flight home
Life the past week has been crazy and taken its toll. Backtracking to the previous law:/dev/null entry, the TYLA quarterfinals at Memphis Law last week came to an ignominious end. The UGA team went in on Shutterbug with some thoroughly bizarre objections during our case in chief, and the (bankruptcy lawyer) judge actually sustained them And since I’m a smidge overprotective of people, I was pissed they hounded her and was determined to get our evidence in come hell or high water — which I eventually did on cross-examination of their expert witness, but only after giving the (bankruptcy lawyer) judge five (5!) separate rules allowing it in and still having to go through three separate sets of questions the (bankruptcy lawyer) judge felt I needed to ask as foundation.
Soooo I lost points for my demeanor…
Bear in mind this was the same (bankruptcy lawyer) judge who decided to publicly berate Shutterbug for questioning the Defendant about a prior DUI… after the Defense opened the door on direct examination. Needless to say we lost that round, and EIC was less-than-pleased with me. But at least NCCU Law set the stage for an even better performance next year!
The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out with 雅雅, then afterwards I joined the team for drinks and relaxation. What happens in Memphis stays in Memphis of course; I’ll just say I had a blast and didn’t fall asleep until 4am
Group photo of NCCU Law's Howard Moot Court Teams: Me, Diane Carter '13, Nnenna Olu '13, and Kelvin Jacobs '13
Once we were back in NC my focus shifted to moot court and the competition at Howard Law this weekend in Washington DC. Enduring two weeks of averaging 4.5 hours of sleep a night finally caught up to me, and by the time we got into Washington this past Thursday I had come down with a full-fledged cold. I was chugging Theraflu like it was Kool-Aid and popping Halls cough drops like Skittles. That in turn affected my oral argument performance, which I thought was utterly disastrous despite my coach and El Presidente (who’s getting his LLM at American Law) both insisting it went well. I’m proud one of our two teams made it to the quarter-finals there, my team just wasn’t one of them and I feel responsible for it
The highlight to the trip was getting a chance to catch up with two friends from my NC State days. On Friday I got food and a drink with Shirley, someone I first met all the way back in 2005 when I came back to NC State and became the Treasurer of my Hall Council. I’ve always been guaranteed to have an abnormally insightful discussion with that one, and Friday was no different. Then Saturday I joined a former SG colleague Mr. QC for a couple hours to learn about all the big-time stuff he’s doing in the nation’s capital. He’s currently with a federal agency and actively dabbling in city politics, and I fully expect him to be running something major by the time I’ve gotten my law license.
Cool+random mural on the side of a DC building Shirley and I passed, with Presidents going back to Eisenhower
It was truly awesome talking with them both, and really helped put me in a better mental frame of mind after my competition I can’t tell you how truly blessed I feel having crossed paths with all these really amazing folks. It gives me the cliché warm fuzzies inside…
Which brings me to today, sitting here about to board a flight back to the Bull City. I’m way behind on academic work — and made the mistake of signing up for 3 separate classes that have weekly assignments, so my grades are pretty much shot for the semester already — but fortunately will not be traveling anymore until after the bar exam, so I can go back to a somewhat normal life. Obviously I’m ready to be home and get things back the way they should be!
And, God willing, including a few more blog entries too
That’s it from me, about to go board — have a great day y’all, and a great week ahead!
From the law:/dev/null travel-related archives:
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 18, 2012 in NotFail
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!!!
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 3Ls and one 2L on one team and one 2L, one 2.5L, 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 teams 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!
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 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 Then they said “H” and I did a little foot stomping before giving the team a bear hug
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, 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, 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
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 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!
From the law:/dev/null travel-related archives: