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Speaking of QuickBooks…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 2, 2014 in The After-3L Life

…self-employment taxes suck.

Even after tracking every single penny spent by the business, every mile driven, every conceivable deduction — and not even making that much to begin with — I still somehow owe $1,300 in taxes to the federal government :crack:

(North Carolina, by contrast, is giving me a $12 refund.)

I see why small business owners learn to hate the government…

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Mastering the Art of Embarrassing Myself

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 19, 2014 in Fail

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Superior Court for a solo who’s only been licensed for about a year and 9 months now. While most of that has been on the civil side of the courthouse, it encompasses a handful or two of criminal cases as well.1

But in one of those weird coincidences of life, all of those clients have had last names falling in the first few letters of the alphabet — all “A”s and “C”s before today.

So I’m down in Wake County for Superior Court calendar call today, on behalf of three folks convicted as part of the misguided prosecutions of last year’s Moral Monday protestors.

One of them has a last name starting with H, so about thirty minutes or so into calendar call I note my appearance on his behalf and get a new court date.

Another hour or so goes by, and we’re only to L. I look at my watch and realize I need to go add time to the parking meter so I don’t end up with yet another parking ticket.2 My next client’s last name is Smith, so I figure I’ve got time.

I go downstairs, throw a couple more quarters in the meter, come back to the courtroom… and see everyone streaming out :surprised:

Panicked that I just missed calendar call for two of my clients, I rush up to the ADA and apologize and quickly explain that I had to go add time to the meter…

…before thinking that maybe there was still more to calendar call to go. Sure enough, she replies “oh that was just the first half. We’ve got a 10-minute break before we do N through Z.” :beatup:

Some days I truly question whether I have the competence to do this for a living…

  1. Including one of the “boneheaded decisions” I wrote about during my Year 1 Recap. []
  2. I still get them with annoying frequency, just like when I was in undergrad :mad: []

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It’s already May?!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 1, 2014 in The After-3L Life

Nothing substantive to write about tonight. Just noting that SWEET BABY JESUS A FULL THIRD OF THE YEAR IS OVER ALREADY! :crack:

Time downright flies when it’s spent trying to pay the rent…

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The Lingering Bitterness of Undercharging…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 25, 2014 in The After-3L Life

I’ve written before about the need for lawyers to be able to charge less while still making a living.

But every now and then I regret practicing what I preach…

Without going into too much detail, yesterday I resolved a case involving one of my business clients. When they hired me awhile back I thought they had a horrible case — on the hook for $51,000+ with an unconvincing defense. So I quoted a low flat fee rather than charging by the hour or some other arrangement.

Well a month or so in, I discovered a key piece of evidence for the Plaintiff wasn’t what the Plaintiff thought it was. And yesterday (after more than a year of working on it) everything got settled.

Final price tag: $3,000

Client savings: $48,000

My fee: $750 :beatup:

I’m thrilled for my client’s 6,300% return on their investment, but I really wish I had charged more now…

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Ugh

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 25, 2012 in Fail

When political commentators talk about the presidential election race every four years, have you ever heard them talk about a candidate’s “path to victory”?

I always thought it was a silly phrase to use. I’m not really sure why; maybe because I always saw the President of the United States as a “national” leader that I briefly forgot about the state-by-state nature of the election.

Well this week I’m learning first-hand about the concept  :beatup:

We got back our last-set-of-grades-before-the-final in NC Distinctions, NCCU Law‘s course to help immerse 3Ls in the key distinctions between North Carolina and other states in Future Interests, Criminal Procedure, Real Estate Finance, and Family Law. The course features one test every couple weeks in each of those subjects, worth 20 points apiece, and a final exam covering all four subjects also worth 20 points. Every test except the final can be retaken — the overall score is determined by taking the best of the two scores on the multiple choice portion, and adding the average of the two scores on the essay portion — and there is a curve of no more than +8 points.1 It’s a class the 3Ls before me always complained about and is a renowned GPA killer.

So I’ve been studying my butt off trying to get an A in here now that the best I can do in Arbitration is a B+.

I’d done sufficiently well on the first test (Future Interests) to escape a rewrite entirely, did well on the CrimPro essay so I decided not to risk my score dropping by doing a rewrite for that one, and voluntarily did the rewrite in ReFi to juice my score when I realized the trajectory my grades were taking. I needed roughly an 18 apiece on the FamLaw test and the final; not easy, but not outside the realm of possibility with enough studying.

Me after seeing my latest Distinctions grade

I botched the first FamLaw test multis, earning me a 16. Under the Distinctions scoring model, though, I could bring that up to a 19 on the rewrite.

Then I did the rewrite (the grade we just got back)…

…and got a 16.5 :beatup:

My guess is Prof Distinctions was feeling sympathetic, because she rounded my overall average on the subject to 16.5 from 16.25.  As appreciative as I am, the bigger issue for me now is that I need a perfect 20 out of 20 on the final exam to get that A. Miss a single point and I’m down to an A-; miss 3 or more puts me in B+-and-below territory.

I feel like I’m back at N.C. State, where I spent my Christmas breaks doing academic work and was still doing assignments to graduate in July even after I had “walked” in May.

This is entirely too much effort during what should otherwise be the relaxing downhill coast to graduation… and my “path to victory” is mighty doggone narrow. Grrr.

The final Distinctions exam is tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me y’all! :)

  1. Meaning if someone aces the course the curve will be less than +8, but if we all fail we’re not getting more than +8 no matter how the curve turns out. []

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6

F*cked by Government Incompetence

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 6, 2012 in Fail

Let me start by apologizing for the profane title. We try to keep things family-friendly here but I truly couldn’t think of a sufficiently cathartic alternative title this time without dropping at least one F-bomb. :beatup:

Long-time readers of law:/dev/null know that Big Guv’mint and I aren’t exactly BFFs.  My love and support for education notwithstanding, I seem to be a magnet for every other buffoon making a living off the taxpayers’ dimes.

There was the whole conducting-a-levy-after-it-was-released debacle with the IRS during 1L year. The NC DMV conceding they improperly revoked my license the following summer.  My Post Office Box getting carpet-bombed by duplicate deferment notices a couple weeks after that.

I’ve even had the “joy” of a TSA crotch grab because apparently my cross necklace is terrorist-y…1

In each of those cases, though, an apologist for Big Guv’mint could at least make a non-frivolous argument that I bore at least some responsibility for other’s failures. I could have paid my taxes as they were due instead of trying to get back into college, could have called the NC DMV instead of assuming they updated my address when they sent my new license to it, and could have remembered to take off my suicide bomber bling in the airport.

This isn’t one of those times. :mad:

Let’s begin at the beginning: today did not start off well.  My car wouldn’t start despite a fresh battery installed just last week (driving car maintenance costs during 3L year to the $2K mark) so I once again headed to the repair shop. The repair guys still didn’t know for sure what was wrong, but ~$515 worth of repairs later they assured me everything would work this time.

So now being flat broke and not knowing how April’s rent is going to get paid, I decided to bite the bullet and call Sallie Mae to apply for one of their bar prep study loans. I give the agent my information, have him submit the preliminary app… and get told I can’t be approved for a loan. Which was mighty odd when I’ve been busting my butt to get my credit into the “as good as you can get without having a mortgage” zone, on top of me just disclosing my entire financial life to the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners at the beginning of January.  If something was wrong, I should have known it.

A new addition to my credit report, courtesy of Big Guv'mint's incompetence

Panicked now that I have absolutely no clue how I’m going to cover rent for April — or May or June or July or August — I log onto the Equifax website to check my credit report.

And see this.

That reads “150 days past due”.

As of February 2012.

On a student loan issued in August 2011.

Now those of you who are good at math might notice there’s a 6-month gap between August to February. Roughly 180 days give or take. As few as 155 if you’re going from August 31st to February 1st. Meaning whatever the hell happened with this thing, I’ve supposedly been “delinquent” since the day it was issued. No in-school deferment. Not even a grace period. Nothing.

At this point I briefly stop being concerned about the Sallie Mae app and start being terrified about my bar application itself. The NCBLE likes getting everything about your life and I had just told them in January I was current on everything. Now I’m listed as 5 months late. A pretty big omission that can’t be good for the whole “character and fitness” thing.

Luckily I’m ever-so-slightly OCD when it comes to legal and financial documents, so I’ve got a copy of every single thing I sent to the State Bar. I pull it out, flip to one of the appendices — and sure enough, even the Federal Direct Loan website had me listed as being current on everything :crack:

Big Guv'mint says nothing is due... but I'm apparently 150 days late on it anyway

It’s a bit hard to see because this is a copy-of-a-copy, but you can clearly make out “Next Due Date: 07/14/2013”, “Pay This Amount:  $0.00”, and the timestamp when it was printed out — 01/03/2012, when I would have been 120 days late according to the Department of Education’s report to the credit bureau.

Staring at physical evidence that something was/is amiss, I transition from being worried to being furious. I call the DOE’s 800-number and get to spend the next 30 minutes of my life talking with one of their agents.

He first tells me I owe ~$300ish dollars on March 14th (next week). He then tells me I’m on the verge of defaulting because I’m 150 days late and they report things to the credit bureaus at 90 days. Trying to contain my rage I politely reiterate that I’m still in school, don’t graduate until May, and am entitled by law to an in-school deferment.

Then I get put on hold :beatup:

About 5 minutes later he gets back on the line, tells me he’s going to flag my account as being in forbearance so it doesn’t become even further past due, and will “submit some paperwork” to correct the deferment issue.

And then adds “There might be a little smudge on your credit report. If that becomes an issue, call back and we’ll try to fix it.”

(1) “If”?
(2) “Call back”??
(3)Try“???

I got off the phone before I said something I’d regret. Then filed a credit report dispute with Equifax and took the dog out so I could decompress a bit.

Since Big Guv’mint’s got sovereign immunity — and I don’t have a property interest in a prospective loan, or other damages to bring me under the Tort Claims Act — there’s not much I can do in terms of legal recourse. And at this point, thanks to the DOE, I now have an oncoming financial train wreck bearing down on me that has to take priority.

But damn this is ridiculous. Completely, totally, inexplicably ridiculous.

This wasn’t some loan issued before they nationalized the student loan industry, converting something from my private lender to my public one and something getting lost en route. It wasn’t the first public loan issued to me, where maybe someone somewhere at some point might have been unsure of how the process worked. No: it’s the last loan of at least 13 of them issued under the Direct Loan program.

And the best they can tell me is “If us screwing up becomes an issue for you and you can’t pay your bills as a result, call back to wait 30 minutes and then we’ll try to correct our failures.” :mad:

I pray I can stay healthy for awhile, because with my track record God only knows what’s going to happen when these clowns take over my healthcare system…

  1. The full-body scanner showed I had nothing else on me except for the chain around my neck — why do you need to follow up with groping my genitals? :roll: []

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Signs it might be law school finals time…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 20, 2011 in Fail

I’ve already lost my exam number… that I just picked up on Thursday.

And apparently over the past month I completely forgot to notify my grandparents at any time that I’m coming to visit for Thanksgiving in a few days, so now Thanksgiving dinner is being held elsewhere :beatup:

I swear I’d lose my head if it wasn’t physically attached to my body. I’m ready for this semester to end already!…

Have a great upcoming week y’all, and GOOD LUCK to everyone trying to make it through the end of the semester alongside me!  :heart:

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3

[F]ixed [O]r [R]epaired [D]aily

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 11, 2011 in Fail

“The best laid schemes of mice and men,” Robert Burns wrote a couple centuries ago, “go often askew[.]”

That pretty much sums up today :beatup:

One thing I left out of yesterday’s update on life was that I missed AppAd last Monday to get repairs made to my car, a paid-off-but-aging-rapidly Ford Focus that I’ve driven across the State of North Carolina several times over.1 My cursed tire was flat again for reasons unknown so I headed in to the repair shop, got the tire fixed (gratis), and decided to get the usual pre-winter maintenance done as well: oil change, tire rotation and alignment, coolant flush, and so on.

Sure it came out to a few hundred dollars, but I thought to msyelf “At least this car won’t need any more maintenance until Spring semester.”

Ha. Hahahaha. Ha.

:(

So today’s Election Day in the Bull City, I leave the apartment a little earlier than usual with the plan to go vote before class… and notice the car feels funny. When you’ve been driving the same vehicle for nearly a decade, you can just tell when something’s wrong. And sure enough when I get to the next stoplight the battery warning light comes on to tell me something’s awry with the electrical system.

Rather than turning right to go to the polls, I turn left to go to the repair shop again. A few minutes after turning my key over to them I learn that the refurb’d alternator I had installed back in 2008 picked today to stop working :mad:

And unlike my old 1987 Mazda pickup truck (the first vehicle I had), today’s cars are manufactured by machines that cram parts so @#$%ing tight that it’s damn near impossible to service yourself and takes repair shops a few hours to fix things too. My Focus is actually intentionally designed so the only way you can really replace the alternator is by machine-lowering the entire engine block a few inches :roll:   So I’m at the mercy of the repair folks, shell out more $$$, and head on my way 3 hours later.

In time to completely miss both Tax and Employment Discrimination, less than 24 hours after promising Prof Tax I’d be in class on-time and caught-up…

Over the past just-over-a-month I’ve now spent in excess of $1500 on auto repairs:  getting the cursed tire fixed 3x, replacing some part that holds some other belt in place,2 last Monday’s maintenance, and then this stuff today. That not only totally wipes out my savings account that barely endured what is already my most expensive semester of all time, it also erases the $700 I had set aside for my NC bar application due January 1st :(

And just to add insult to injury? I was late getting out of Sales & Secured Transactions tonight so I couldn’t even make it to the polls before they closed, making this the first election I’ve missed since I started voting 12 years ago :beatup:

Needless to say your friendly neighborhood blawger’s in a bitter @#$%ing mood. Heading to bed with the knowledge tomorrow will inevitably be a better day — have a good night y’all! :)

  1. Literally — I’ve driven it to every campus in the 17-institution UNC system at least 2-3 times apiece. :D []
  2. Which just completely fell off while I was driving one day, destroying the belt in the process :mad: []

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4

Grrr…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 22, 2011 in Fail

Right as I was about to scrawl down an entry about how excited I was for the first day of 3L year and how awesome today went, life decided to throw some lulz my way  :beatup:

From the “be-happy-with-the-blessings-in-your-life-instead-of-complaining-about-minor-annoyances-on-teh-intarwebz” file, we have this:

This is the kind of sh*t that makes less-mentally-stable people think the CIA is out to get them...

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: that’s a flat tire.

And not just any flat tire, mind you, but the exact same now-flat tire I just fixed barely a month ago :mad:

I got my car in 2002, and can recall only 2 flat tires before moving to Durham (and both were the result of the car getting hit).

But since starting at NCCU Law in August 2009, I’ve now had 3 “nailed” tires in 2 years — the first at the intersection a couple blocks from my apartment complex en route to our 1L Mary Wright Closing Argument competition, the second one last month at the intersection at my apartment complex, and now this one earlier tonight in the parking lot at NCCU.1

My car evidently thinks nails in the street are a grave safety hazard, and so it’s determined to roll over every single one it can in the name of preserving public health…

At least I’m slowly approaching my lifetime goal of reaching NASCAR-esque speeds in how quickly I can change a flat tire? :beatup:

  1. Where the gym and the Criminal Justice Building are both being repaired, which presumably has resulted in nails getting littered around… []

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2

An inauspicious start to the summer

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 23, 2011 in The 3L Life

For whatever reason, Mondays are the red-headed stepchildren of the week. I always thought it was an ill-deserved reputation; after all, Monday signals the start of the work week and all the cool stuff that happens when people work on doing cool stuff.

The popular perception of Mondays

Besides, if nothing else it means you can start making money again for another 5 days ;)

But, every now and then, I can see why people hate Mondays…

  • I’ll be volunteering as a counselor for NCCU Law‘s Legal Eagle Law Camp, where 2Ls and 3Ls spend a week teaching 7th-11th graders about our legal system. The volunteers can either get paid or get course credit, and I opted for the 1-credit over the $$$… only to discover that getting the course credit will entail assignments on the side and 3 extra class meetings on either Wednesdays or Thursdays :beatup:
  • Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, since there was an open spot in my Thursday schedule. Except that my USPTO class has now randomly been moved from Tuesdays — where it was scheduled in our course registration system, and around which I’ve planned my summer work and travel schedules — to Thursdays. (A change that just got announced when? Today.)
  • And I still don’t have any Spring 2L grades… :mad:
  • Aside from the academic drama, I also somehow managed to sprain my left thumb this weekend. The pain got bad enough that I decided to go buy one of those immobilizer things you can find at just about any big box or department or drug store in the country (theoretically). So I go to the Super Target closest to my house to save gas, just to discover they only sell them in Small/Medium sizes instead of a one-size-fits-most style :surprised:  They suggest the Walgreen’s that’s on the way home to my apartment… which I visit, and which is out of them entirely. By the time I’m done the Rite Aid up the street is now closed. The closest Walmart is out-of-stock too. So I end up having to drive to a Walmart in a neighboring county until I can finally get my hands on one, wasting more gas than if I had just gone there in the first place and burning an hour of my life in the process. :crack:
  • And the whole trek takes just long enough that, by the time I get close to my apartment, there’s a car accident blocking both westbound lanes of Fayetteville Street nearest to the apartment complex — the only portion of roadway that can be used to get into the complex, since there’s a median with trees blocking the entrance from the eastbound lanes ::headdesk::

Yes, I realize things could be worse; that could have been me in the car accident, or I could have broken my thumb instead of spraining it (or I could have all my grades but they turn out to be F’s :beatup: ).

But I’m still adding Mondays to my list of things to avoid in the future… :mad:

Hope Monday went better for the rest of y’all out there — have a good night! :)

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