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TDot’s Mailbag v11.0: A reintroduction for the 1Ls

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 25, 2014 in Mail

Today marks the first day of classes over at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

This photo is on the wall next to my desk in the office. Every single one of them has graduated now.

This photo is on the wall next to my desk in the office. Every single one of them has graduated now.

It’s also the first time since I started way back in 20091 that I haven’t attended class with a single person there: the last batch of 1Ls I tutored for Prof CrimLaw are now waiting for their bar results :crack:

Unable to accept the reality of being so far removed from being enrolled at an educational institution, naturally I had to drop in on Orientation last Wednesday to mingle as part of the law school’s annual professionalism series for 1Ls.

One of the young ladies I met mentioned that she had read parts of the blog before starting school.2 Then throughout the night I got a few more questions of a 1L-esque nature, so I thought I’d use them as an excuse to create a new Mailbag entry. :)

***

Q: What is [this blog]?

Apparently people think it’s weird that anyone from NCCU Law has a blog, because this was/is probably the most frequently asked question in the past however many weeks between PBAP, Orientation, and classes starting.

Guess long-form blogs are passé these days when we all have Twitter… :roll:

I started this website back during my 1L year because frankly I needed something to do. At the time I thought most of my classmates were clinically insane gunners, and the time devoted to running UNCASG only kept me out of trouble but so many days in a month.

Then I discovered people were actually reading what was getting written, so I tried to make some of it at least marginally useful for folks who came after me. ;)

***

Q: What does “law:/dev/null” mean?

I’d tell you, but I already did! Check the first question of my first Mailbag entry :)

***

Q: I heard I can get outlines and old tests somewhere on here?”

Hopefully you’ll read this website for more than just the outlines! :P

But go to this entry on outlines for the URL.

***

Q: blah blah blah grades blah blah blah

It’s entirely too soon to care about your 1L grades. Trust me. Please.

But if you’re one of those hardcore Type A types who’ve already spent at least one day of this past weekend at the law school studying, go to this grades entry for links to the key points.3

***

Q: Will you be my mentor??

Sure :D

I have an open “mentor anyone” policy — just realize I’ve gotta make money first, so my availability will depend on my caseload ;)

***

Q: What’s the one thing you know now that you most wish you knew back when you were a 1L?

Honestly?

That there were already outlines out there :beatup:

I didn’t discover the contents of the 1L Stuff folder until the first day of final exams during the Spring semester of my 1L year. Rico was reading through a very slick 1-page summary of key issues in criminal law, I asked him how long it took him to make it — because the one I made for myself took forever and wasn’t nearly as nice — and I discovered that he got it from someone else. :crack:

It was at that point I started asking for outlines and stockpiling as many as I could… then posted every last one on this blog so the information was democratized. Some of my classmates flipped sh*t because I was “making it harder to beat the curve,” but I didn’t want future 1Ls ending up like me with absolutely no clue that the info was out there.

So scroll back up to the outlines question, click the link to the outlines entry, and enjoy the next 3 years of your life :)

***

*GOOD LUCK* to each of you with the year ahead, and don’t hesitate to send us a message if you’ve got questions! You can find the email address at the bottom of our About page or you can use the Contact form at the TGD Law website :D

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v11.0: A reintroduction for the 1Ls (08/25/14) [this post] –
    • What is [this blog]?
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • I heard I can get outlines and old tests somewhere on here?
    • blah blah blah grades blah blah blah
    • Will you be my mentor??
    • What’s the 1 thing you most wish you knew as a 1L?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v10.0: First-Year Finance Figures Follow-up Edition (11/27/13) –
    • What are you doing?
    • How are you defining your terminology?
    • How did you survive financially?
    • Have you done any advertising?
    • What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
    • What 3 things would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v9.0: “So why did you go solo?” Edition (01/18/13) –
    • Why did you become a solo practitioner?
    • What was your “Plan B” job-wise?
    • What helped you the most 3L year in preparing for post-grad life?
    • If you had to do 3L year over again, what would you differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition (08/11/12) –
    • What materials did you use for bar prep?
    • Are you bailing on law:/dev/null for Twitter?
    • What are your plans for law:/dev/null post-graduation?
    • Where do things stand with NC SPICE?
    • How does it feel being done with everything?
    • What’s your secret to not being stressed about the bar exam?
    • Do you have any bar exam study materials?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition (06/22/11) –
    • You made Dean’s List… but grades don’t matter?
    • Why is NCCU Law’s curve so low?
    • What is the rationale for NCCU Law’s dismissal policy?
    • How does the dismissal policy work?
    • What are NCCU Law’s GPA cutoffs for Dean’s List and academic honors?
    • Do you get notified if you made Dean’s List?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition (08/23/10) –
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like (04/14/10) –
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • 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?
  1. Yes, that means law:/dev/null has been online for half a decade now! The first post was back on August 11th 2009. :D []
  2. Easiest way to over-inflate my already over-inflated ego is telling me you’ve read something I’ve written :beatup: []
  3. And to convince you I never hid the ball on any of my grades-related entries, you can read my final law school transcript via this entry’s footnote. []

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TDot’s Mailbag v10.0: First-Year Finance Figures Follow-up Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 27, 2013 in Mail

Greetings from Virginia Beach y’all :)

In what you all know is a familiar refrain at this point, “I really meant to write this awhile ago” blah blah blah. :beatup: This post has been tumbling around in the nether regions of my brain since just a day or two after posting my first-year finance figures last month, in part because the (occasionally vitriolic) responses I got started giving me flashbacks to posting my grades 1L year.

Then out of the blue I started getting tagged in a bunch of tweets mentioning the post:

Needless to say I was (1) flummoxed, (2) flattered, and (3) proud of what’s likely the closest we’ll ever get here at law:/dev/null to a viral post :D

And it also reminded me how long it’s been since I wrote the last entry :beatup:

So now that I’m out of town visiting my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I’ve got some free time to respond to the handful of questions I got sent — that can be reprinted on a family-friendly blog like this one — in response to my first-year finance figures…

***

Q:1 Dude what are you doing!! 2

A: I’m assuming this was intended as a question, so I’ll answer it as one: I’m doing the same thing I did when I posted my transcripts from both law school and undergrad.3

Like law students and their grades, people seem to be very protective of their financial info; I searched for this kind of stuff for weeks before getting started and never found anything useful. The most-common finance comment I found was along the lines of “You’ll lose money the first year, make less than what you’d make as a first-year associate your second year, and exceed what you’d make as a third-year associate in your third year.”4

I just don’t care that much ;) And if it would provide any useful data to someone else thinking about going solo, all the better.

***

Q: How are you defining [the terminology at the bottom of the graphic]?

A: These may or may not line up with “normal” usage of the same terminology, but here’s how I came up with the numbers I did:

  • Gross Revenue: Every single penny that ever crossed into the firm’s operating account, regardless of the reason for it (e.g. there’s no differentiation between someone paying me versus me merely being reimbursed for advancing expenses for a client). If you were to take the “Deposits” line from all my bank statements and add them up, this is the number you’d get.
  • Gross Income: This is the total amount I earned in fees doing stuff for people. If you were to take the Gross Revenue category and subtract out all the entries where I was just getting reimbursed, this is the number you’d get.
  • Net Income: This is the amount that actually went into my pocket for personal expenses. Take the Gross Income category, then take out everything I’ve spent on the business — office rent, the office phone line, office supplies, etc etc etc — and this is what you’d get. Meaning I spent a smidge over $30K in business-related items during the first year.
  • Median Invoice: At the time I created that graphic, I’d sent out 142 invoices. This number was the median.5
  • Average Invoice: The average of those same 142 invoices.6
  • Worst Case: On a per-client basis, after factoring in all the case-specific expenses (filing fees, printing, mileage, and so on), this was the amount I lost on the worst single case.
  • Best Case: Same as above, except the single best case instead (a business litigation case that, in light of the magnitude of the victory, I drastically undercharged :beatup: ).

***

Q: There’s no way you survived an entire year on $1700. How did you eat?

A: True, I didn’t survive on the net income alone; remember that business meals are partially tax-deductible :angel:

If you factor out the business meals for the year (as well as a dozen-ish charitable contributions I impetuously made at the end of 2012 when things were going surprisingly well), the net income number would jump up a bit to $7,405.36 — a smidge over $615 a month. To cover the rest of my personal bills, initially I was using personal credit cards7 and since then have had to repeatedly hit up my grandparents for loans until things turn the corner.8

It’s a miracle the doors are still open at this point, so I just keep trying to get smarter about expenses and keep winning cases on the figuring that everything will build on itself. We’ll see.

***

Q: Have you done any advertising?

A: It depends on how one defines “advertising.” If you’re talking about taking a bunch of money, throwing it into a pile on the floor, then setting it ablaze, yes I’ve done some of that :beatup:

After inviting all my Facebook friends to the TGD Law Facebook page, I started doing some modest Facebook advertising. I experimented with the Facebook sidebar ads before realizing they were a near-total waste of money, then switched over to the News Feed ads that got much better results. I still haven’t gotten a significant case from Facebook myself, but I’ve been messaged by a number of folks I had to refer out to other lawyers so hopefully social media engagement will lead to something.

I also started trying direct mail back in May, which was breaking even initially but has now hit a point where I’m likely to cancel it. The direct mail side of the legal industry is very cost-competitive — some lawyers in the Raleigh-Durham area are handling things like traffic tickets for as little as $25 a case — and I’m simply not willing to be a bargain basement lawyer charging dirt-cheap rates in the hopes of getting 20-30 cases a day.

And then a few months ago I started experimenting with ads in the monthly brochure of a well-trafficked local business. The most I’ve gotten out of that one so far has been a single tweet from someone who happened to see it and thought it was interesting — and who already knew me from NCCU Law. :beatup:

All told I’ve spent $4,260.90 on advertising over the year, and in terms of concrete results have only made back $1,379.96 of that amount. Needless to say there will be changes made in 2014.

***

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned financially from Year 1 that you’d give as advice to a new solo?

A: Track everything.

When I first started out, I took a number of cases in far-flung areas like Greensboro and Smithfield just because I needed the money. While those cases were certainly more lucrative than me sitting at the office making nothing at all, after I factored in case-specific costs (office supplies, mileage, and so on) I realized they weren’t nearly as lucrative as I thought.

And tracking everything also taught me how profoundly expensive even local cases can be if you don’t get paid in full and up-front. As an example, the “Worst Case” from the graphic was a simple criminal defense issue in Wake County (adjacent to my home territory in Durham), but required so many trips back and forth to Raleigh trying to get the guy the best possible result that I burned a ton of gas in the process… and never got paid a dime :beatup:

***

Q: If you could start over, what 3 things would you do differently?

A: That’s easy –

  1. Invest in my website: I didn’t even put a page up at tgdlaw.com until last Thanksgiving — and now it’s almost a full Thanksgiving later and there’s still nothing there but the firm bio and a contact page. There’s no telling how many potential clients I’ve missed because I don’t show up on most Google searches and have no meaningful info there when people type in the URL from my business card.
  2. Get paid up front: When I read Jay Foonberg’s How to Start & Build a Law Practice, I was underwhelmed. It had plenty of good info but it simply didn’t match the hype,9 and several times felt painfully anachronistic (especially the tech stuff). But he’s 110% right on the money — pun intended — when it comes to what he calls Foonberg’s Rule: get paid in cash, and get it up front. I “played nice” with a number of clients, including some who were classmates and old friends, and got burned on more than a couple occasions. Rack up a few of those and you start freaking out over how to pay bills in addition to being annoyed that folks decide not to pay for a service you provided. It’s better for everyone involved if you go ahead and get paid in advance and then just work hard to deliver a quality result.
  3. Charge more: A couple weeks before I got my bar results, I saw a blog entry that recommended lawyers “work for full price or for free, but never for cheap.” Being (relatively) young and naïve, I completely disregarded that concept entirely — I started out charging just $75 an hour, did flat rate appearances for what ended up being even less, and even got a $420,000+ judgment wiped out for a nonprofit I only charged $2,500.10 After all, my whole premise underlying NC SPICE was that legal supply and demand were just mismatched because of pricing, and enabling new lawyers to keep their overhead low would in turn enable them to charge lower rates and lead to a flurry of business. But the problem with “working for cheap” is that you have to bring in a ton of clients to make ends meet, even at low overhead. And then you either end up with either (a) dissatisfied clients you can’t keep adequately up-to-date, or (b) working yourself like crazy trying to keep all the plates spinning. It seems counterintuitive, but you’ll be a better and happier lawyer — providing better service to a now-happier client — if you charge a healthy sum and provide a corresponding level of service.

***

So that’s my $.02 follow-up on the money stuff :) I hope all of you get to have an amazing Thanksgiving with family / friends / loved ones!

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v10.0: First-Year Finance Figures Follow-up Edition (11/27/13) [this entry] –
    • What are you doing?
    • How are you defining your terminology?
    • How did you survive financially?
    • Have you done any advertising?
    • What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
    • What 3 things would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v9.0: “So why did you go solo?” Edition (01/18/13) –
    • Why did you become a solo practitioner?
    • What was your “Plan B” job-wise?
    • What helped you the most 3L year in preparing for post-grad life?
    • If you had to do 3L year over again, what would you differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition (08/11/12) –
    • What materials did you use for bar prep?
    • Are you bailing on law:/dev/null for Twitter?
    • What are your plans for law:/dev/null post-graduation?
    • Where do things stand with NC SPICE?
    • How does it feel being done with everything?
    • What’s your secret to not being stressed about the bar exam?
    • Do you have any bar exam study materials?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition (06/22/11) –
    • You made Dean’s List… but grades don’t matter?
    • Why is NCCU Law’s curve so low?
    • What is the rationale for NCCU Law’s dismissal policy?
    • How does the dismissal policy work?
    • What are NCCU Law’s GPA cutoffs for Dean’s List and academic honors?
    • Do you get notified if you made Dean’s List?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition (08/23/10) –
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like (04/14/10) –
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • 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?
  1. Starting with the last mail entry, I’ve given up on trying to anonymize all the names by just eliminating the names entirely. So now if you send me something, don’t worry about you potentially being listed as the person who sent the question :) []
  2. Totally unrelated: I really have an adverse reaction to two exclamation points. I’m fine with one (!), or three (!!!), or an exorbitant number not worth counting (!!!!!!), but two just strikes me as… off. Unless it’s l33t-ized as in “!!1”. []
  3. Mostly unrelated: last winter several of you asked if I’d have the cajones to post my final law school transcript, since the one in that earlier entry was only through 2L year. Well here you go. :P []
  4. I’d need more than two hands to count the number of times I ran across that comment too. You’d think people just copy/pasted it without offering their own perspective… []
  5. I know lawyers aren’t renowned for the mathematical talents, so in case you’re not familiar with medians basically I sorted the invoices by dollar amount, and then took the amount from the middle invoice. []
  6. Adding up the dollar amounts of all the invoices, then dividing that sum by 142. []
  7. A horribly bad idea in retrospect. I know it’s commonplace and the only option a lot of entrepreneurs have, but avoid wrapping your personal life into your business as much as possible. []
  8. There are few things in life more emasculating than being a man in his early-30s with two degrees asking your retired non-degree-holding grandparents both in their mid-70s for a slice of their Social Security checks :( []
  9. Some attorneys commented that they slept with the book next to their bed, so they could read it over and over across the years. I question the sanity of those attorneys. :crack: []
  10. Let me tell you, they appreciated the return they got on that investment! []

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About those 1L grades…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 20, 2013 in Randomness

I know it’s been a month (again), but I can’t write long tonight — flying out to Chicago in the early AM for an ABA shindig, which means I need to go to bed ASAP (pitfall of getting older :beatup: )

I’m cobbling together this quick post because I noticed while checking the law:/dev/null server logs1 that we’ve gotten about a dozen search queries on the NCCU Law academic dismissal policy.

Translation: 1L grades are out and folks are realizing whether or not they’re coming back.

For the folks who are looking, here’s a quartet of old entries I’d offer for your edification —

  1. How the dismissal policy works: TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition (06/22/2011)
  2. The feeling of Armageddon knowing friends are gone: Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”) (06/08/2010)
  3. Why the strict C is still A Good Thing™: In support of the strict C: a year later (11/12/2011)
  4. And why you will, in fact, survive: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/2011)

Hopefully at least some of that is worth reading :) New entry tomorrow from the Windy City! :D

  1. We had another random surge in spam, with 600+ spammers this go-round :crack: []

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Mission Accomplished (or “T., Esq.”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 2, 2012 in The After-3L Life

It’s a testament to how poorly a job I’ve done updating law:/dev/null that I’m just now posting about something that happened a week ago :beatup:

But I’m officially a minimally-competent lawyer now! :spin:

The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners put folks’ letters in the mail back on Friday 08/24/12 so most people got them last weekend. While mine was in my mailbox, I was at East Carolina University for the August UNCASG meeting where I ran a leadership development workshop I put together a few years ago for student leaders…1 anything to keep myself preoccupied and not thinking about bar results.

I got to the post office on Sunday afternoon, stopped to say a prayer a couple paces before getting to the box, opened it up, and found the NCBLE letter sandwiched in between a fundraising solicitation and a bill. Then I took a deep breath, tore off the right edge of the envelope, pulled out the letter, took a deep breath again, and unfolded it to see…

Unbelievable — I PASSED!

“Congratulations! I am happy to inform you that you have passed the July 2012 North Carolina Bar Examination.”

Right then I had to stop and briefly drop to my knees in prayer, just before following that up with a fist pump and blurting out something that was supposed to sound like “Yeah!” but I’m pretty sure came out more like “yeworilfkjsaszahh!” — thankfully I was the only person in the post office to hear it :beatup:

This also makes it the first year since 2009 that I successfully accomplished all of my New Year’s resolutions. :D

If you happen to be a long-time reader, you might recall back during 1L year I posted this entry with my ’09 and ’10 resolutions — and only managed to accomplish 1 of the 3 for 2010, finishing my tenure as UNCASG President on a high note (while ending 1L year well below the 3.0 GPA I wanted and never even making it to OCS after failing my Physical Fitness Test for the Marine Corps).

I never posted a 2011 entry because I was preoccupied with school at the time, but I only ended up 1 for 3 then too:

  1. “Push my GPA above a 3.0” (which it was, very briefly, before taking an F in ConLaw II);
  2. “Get back in some semblance of shape” (HA! 10 more pounds later…); and,
  3. “Win something” (the only one I finally accomplished this Fall).

Not to be cowed into timidity by my 33% success rate two years in a row, for 2012 I went with the 3 things that were most important to me:

  1. “Graduate with honors” (final GPA: 3.0002);
  2. “Don’t f*ck up my commencement speech” (Yes, that’s actually how I wrote it down. And I think it turned out well.); and,
  3. “Pass the North Carolina bar exam on the first try” (hence this entry).

To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I didn’t think I did bad enough to fail, but I also wasn’t sure I did well enough to pass (especially on the MBE). It’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders — especially knowing I didn’t disappoint my grandparents.3

The whole occasion has been unexpectedly somber because a good chunk of my friends didn’t make it — NCCU Law‘s pass rate for NC first-time takers dropped to 60% this time :surprised: — but that just means I need to work harder on getting NC SPICE off the ground so I can help support them in February :)

At the very least they too can become big-time real estate lawyers while I toil away in the low-paid non-profit world :beatup:

More to come in the week ahead. Have a great night!

  1. The content and presentation both get good reviews, so if you happen to know anyone interested in hearing it let me know — I love that stuff! :) []
  2. Yes, I quite literally tied the cutoff for graduating cum laude. How incredibly epic is that?? :D []
  3. Nan’s brother’s son (my great uncle I guess?) is a big-time real estate lawyer, a point that apparently has been getting raised fairly regularly over the years as my side of the family has pursued far less lucrative occupations. But said big-time lawyer also failed the bar the first time, saying “Everyone fails North Carolina the first time they take it.” Needless to say Nan is quite tickled that she has a lawyer on her side of the family now and without hitting the “everyone fails” speed bump. ;) []

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Some help for calculating law school GPAs

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 2, 2012 in Technology

Good evening everybody! :D

I’m still working on the backlog of entries from May, but wanted to post a file right quick.

It’s that time of year again where the 1Ls at NCCU Law get the last of their grades back and folks learn who’s coming back and who is getting booted under our “2.0-or-you’re-out” policy.1  And one of the challenges I’ve noticed some folks have — not just in law school but in most non-mathematically-inclined majors — is calculating possible GPAs based on different outcomes in different classes.

Back in 2009 I created a spreadsheet in Excel that I’ve been using to track my grades over the past 3 years, so I could figure out roughly what volume of effort I needed to put in to get to a certain GPA. It’s been tweaked and revised over the past 3 years to the point that it should be at least marginally useful for folks other than me, so I’m posting it here :)

You can download the spreadsheet at this URL:  TDot’s Law School Grades Calculator

It’s initially keyed for our 1Ls but you can tweak it to suit just about any area of study. Hope it helps, and let me know if you have any questions on it! :D

  1. You can check out the bottom of my 1L Spring grades entry for details on how it works and a graph of where NCCU Law falls with respect to other NC law schools when it comes to 1L attrition. []

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I’M DONE! (for real this time!)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 4, 2012 in The 3L Life

I’M OFFICIALLY / COMPLETELY / TOTALLY DONE WITH LAW SCHOOL FOREVER!!!! :D

Believe it or not, I truly have loved the past three years I’ve spent at the North Carolina Central University School of Law (seriously!) but being finished just feels absolutely amazing!

Ah… mayzing…! :spin:

I stayed up until 4am studying for this morning’s Professional Responsibility exam, falling asleep on top of my book with a couple chapters more to go :beatup:  Yesterday I found out that prof Arbitration was nice enough to give me the B+ I fought for in that class, but my NC Distinctions grade didn’t turn out where I wanted it to be — so for my “path to victory” I now need a 97% (!) on this Prof Resp final to graduate with honors :(

Walking out of the exam I wasn’t feeling too good about it at all. Prof DVLaw1 sent out the answer key a few minutes ago though and I’m at least somewhere in the ballpark. I can’t remember my answers well enough to know for sure, but I’m close enough that I’m getting antsy thinking about it so I’m trying to focus my attention elsewhere. :)

So forget the grades for now: I’M DONE! :spin:

I’m off to go play video games / eat junk food / relax — y’all have a great night! :D

  1. This is my 3rd class with her, she’s a tough but great professor! []

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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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Well that sucks…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 18, 2012 in The 3L Life

With the end of my last semester of law school (ever!) bearing down and final papers coming due, I’ve started worrying about…

…my grades. :surprised:

Now before I get accused of being a flip-flopper or hypocrite after penning entries like “Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter,” let me explain. I stand by my argument that law school grades are irrelevant; I’ve seen enough people with GPAs lower than mine to be convinced legal employment is largely a game of networking and not being a prick, with jobs going to socially adept people who outwork their competitors regardless of artificial scholastic achievement.1 My 1L grades were sufficiently low that graduating with academic honors was always a stretch, so graduating without them hasn’t been a big deal to me.

My family sees things a smidge differently though :beatup:

Nan has been pushing me to drop the extracurricular stuff and focus on my grades for years now. And my mom still has a tendency to bring up National Honor Society inductions in high school — 15+ years ago! — when I needed a 3.5 GPA for admission and only had a 3.492.2 Now that law school is my “last hurrah” academically, and especially with my GPA so close to the cum laude borderline (currently at a 2.934 on NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve), I’m basically facing the either-or dilemma of graduating with honors or… giving my mom yet another story with which to embarrass me in front of people decades from now.

You can guess which option I prefer ;)

I need a 3.667 semester GPA3 in order to reach a 3.004. One-half of one letter grade below that threshold — a single B+ in a sea of A-‘s — and I’d drop down to a 2.996 with all the parental (and grandparental) disappointment that comes with it.

So it was in that spirit I talked to Prof Ks yesterday, explaining my situation and asking for advice on how to gently twist professors’ arms for insight on how to get better grades. I was/am particularly vexed by Arbitration, where the Professor doesn’t seem to be a T. fan.

Not that she’s without justification. We have weekly journal entries to submit based on the readings for class, designed to ensure we’re sufficiently versed in the material to discuss the cases, and not surprisingly I’ve missed 2 this semester.4 We were also supposed to observe one particular arbitration in person, but the day of that arbitration became the day I ended up on the phone all morning with Sallie Mae trying to explain away getting screwed by the Department of Education; I basically stood in the foyer to the courtroom all morning in my suit, missing everything but the verdict, and earning an incredulous look from the Professor when I explained why I wasn’t in the room.

Like I said, she’s not a T. fan. Anyhow, the bulk of our grade is based on a final research paper and in talking with Prof Ks his suggestion was just to ask Prof Arbitration after class how amazing I had to make this paper to snag an A-.

So I did.

And it did not go well…

Favoring the direct non-poker face approach, I just came to her office and asked the question: what can I do to get an A-?

Prof Arbitration’s response: “Oh you’re beyond that.” Her tone of voice made it clear that “beyond that” meant “too low for it to ever happen,” but just in case I misunderstood she made sure to clarify by adding “And what I mean by that is that it’s just not possible.”

Me, to myself: “Well d*mn.”

It definitely put a damper on the rest of the day. Now I’m stuck in this worst-case scenario where I have to go all-out in Arbitration (an elective) to make sure I get at least the B+, and somehow swing an A in one of my other 3 classes.

It’s gonna be a long couple weeks…  :roll:

  1. Or, as Prof Ks aptly put it back during 1L year: “When your competitors are sleeping, you’re hustling. When they’re hustling, you’re hustling harder.” []
  2. No attention paid to the fact I had -0- actual interest in joining NHS, since a good number of the members looked down on folks like me who spent the day playing either basketball, RPGs, or video games. But I digress… []
  3. A-‘s across the board, and what would be my highest GPA ever in law school :beatup: []
  4. Even so, I’m one of only a quintet of students who regularly participates in an often-silent class discussion. I always do the readings, they just typically get done the night before class when I don’t have time to write a journal entry. []

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10

All good things come to an end…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 31, 2012 in The 3L Life

In a case of déjà vu all over again, I went ahead and stepped down from my internship with the Durham County District Attorney’s Office earlier this afternoon :(

I really enjoyed the job — especially after winning my first “real” trial — but after praying about things this weekend and talking things out with MDG earlier today, I realized I’d kick myself for a good long while  if I graduated a hair’s breadth under a 3.0 and didn’t at least try to make it above.1 The staff was very understanding during our conversation about my decision; my hope is they’ll have me back at some point down the road if I end up heading in that direction professionally.

In the meantime, I plan on using my newly-recovered free time to put some real effort into my classes and flesh out this proposal for the Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment idea. I’ve been marinating on it over the past couple weeks and really think I could turn it into something awesome :)  Fingers crossed.

That’s it for now, lots going on this week then heading to New Orleans this weekend for the ABA Midyear Meeting. More soon!

  1. Can any of you imagine 1L version of me ever saying that? :crack: []

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4

Hi! I’m alive, thanks for checking

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 29, 2012 in The 3L Life

Yes, I’m still here :D

When I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was sequestered in my own personalized version of 3L Hell, I wasn’t joking. For most of January my schedule’s followed a pattern: Wake up at 6am, feed/walk dog, bathe, get dressed, go to class then work then trial team practice, come home around 10pm, feed/walk dog, do homework until midnight-ish and go to bed. For a time I had briefly hit the point where I was downing five 20oz bottles of Diet Mt Dew a day and living off Pop-Tarts, animal crackers, multivitamins, and anything else I could eat in the car  :sick:

Which of course didn’t leave much room for updating law:/dev/null :beatup:

I don’t have *too* much time to write tonight, but I miss talking with y’all so here’s a quick bullet list on some of what’s happened since mid-December:

  • Fall semester continued in perpetuity; finally done. With the different extracurricular activities I was engaged in, plus a job on the side, the Fall semester didn’t actually end until a couple weeks ago. I had papers due in Employment Discrimination and another for Constitutional Law II, so I had flashbacks of undergrad and never really got a substantive break during the winter. It was basically a mini-mester trying to clean up what didn’t get finished and spending more hours than I care to admit in the law building.1
  • Wolfpack won the Belk Bowl. But I did take a few hours from the ongoing academic tedium to go with 雅雅 to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, where the NC State Wolfpack dismantled the Louisville Cardinals :D  Didn’t have the time or money to stay overnight like we did for the Champs Bowl last year, but I needed the break and the game was only a few hours away. Watching another win in person was worth the freezing temps and packed stadium :)
  • Most un-Christmas-y Christmas evah. Christmas is my 3rd favorite holiday of the year, following Independence Day at #1 and Thanksgiving at #2… but this year there basically was no Christmas at all :beatup:  With the academic stuff due I couldn’t take the time to go visit anyone (and didn’t have the money for it anyway), but then on top of it I couldn’t even put up my own tree because Samson tried eating the ornaments — the stuffed ones apparently looked like toys worth chewing apart, and the ceramic ones evidently looked like dog treats. So it was easily the most un-Christmas-y Christmas I’d ever “celebrated.” Not sure what the plan will be for next year, but I need to figure something out to stop the dog from destroying things.
  • Samson nearly died before New Year’s. Speaking of Samson, he nearly died right before New Year’s :cry:  He was given one of those big raw pork bones as a Christmas gift, because they’re allegedly great for dogs, but somehow the snippets of bones he managed to chew off clogged up his insides. He wasn’t able to poop and howled in pain when he tried, then woke me up at 4am to go outside and puke. So I freaked out and rushed him to the vet; they took an x-ray and discovered he had backed up fecal matter running nearly the length of his body. They put him in the pet hospital, gave him an enema and an IV and some special food, and a few hundred dollars later he was miserable but alive. Though you can’t tell he nearly died from the way he acts now, as he still tries to eat every damn thing in sight… :mad:
  • Got myself a Christmas present: fixed TV. I can’t remember if I mentioned it in a past entry, but what seems like an eternity ago the bulb in my bought-cheap-on-CraigsList projector television finally burned out so I’ve been working for the past couple months either (i) in dead silence or (ii) with video-less music on in the background. So while Christmas itself wasn’t particularly festive, in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve I decided to give myself a Christmas present and finally fix the burned-out projector in the name of being more productive.2 With bulb costs being what they are for a projector that was/is 5 years old, it was actually cheaper to get a brand new projector with better specs. Money I couldn’t really afford to spend given the mortgage payments I still owe BarBri, but I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way through to August without a TV :beatup:
  • Finally completed NC Bar application! On January 3rd I finally got my monster-of-a-bar-app mailed off. The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners likes knowing every single thing you’ve ever done in your life since you’ve turned 18 — and, in the case of my last name changing when I was adopted at 3-years-old, the stuff before 18 :crack: — to the point where starting the app back in September wasn’t even early enough for me to get all of it done before the last possible moment. I had to request documents from the Social Security Administration to make sure I listed every single place I’ve ever worked, go rummaging through my Bucket-o’-Files to find residential records from the period right after I dropped out of college,3 go to the Clerk’s Office to find out all the cases I testified in back when I worked as the Clerk’s Office ombudsman down in Wake County, come up with 12 different character references, make three copies of everything, and on and on and on. Then include the $700.00 fee to apply, and set aside another +$125.00 to use my computer on the bar exam.4 But fortunately — it’s all done. So yay. And to anyone even older than me: START NOW or you’ll regret it!
  • 1Ls won Kilpatrick-Townsend competition. I’ve already talked about this one at length so nothing much more to say. I’m just glad it validated my philosophy that people produce a better work product when they’re forced to develop it themselves :) Very proud of these folks!
  • Any guesses on which team is mine?

    Submitted brief for Howard moot court competition. A couple months ago I mentioned making the moot court team, the end result of an ill-conceived experiment to see if I had been avoiding it out of fear the past two years or if I really had the skill to do it if I wanted. I was slated for the Howard Moot Court Competition taking place in Washington D.C. at the end of February. Making the team and getting the Howard brief done both came at a high cost — days spent brief writing and editing, that probably should have been spent on classwork instead — but I’m proud of the end result. Feel free to review the briefs if you get bored and guess which one is ours ;)

  • Got a position with the Durham DA’s office… I also somehow convinced the Durham County District Attorney’s Office to bring me in as an intern :surprised:  First day was about 3ish weeks ago. The sheer volume of work — and the… mmm… unique folks who come through the courthouse (especially in traffic court) — have made it a pretty awesome experience so far. I could definitely see myself working there after graduation.
  • …and won my first case! I’m also officially 1-0 on my “real world” trial record! :D I’m slated to work on Tuesday afternoons, and typically there’s absolutely nothing going on in District Court so I end up working on subpoenas and other administrative stuff. So last Tuesday I decided to be a good little intern and show up to work 15 minutes early, get sent down to misdemeanor criminal court… and get handed two shucks and told “Go interview your officer, you’ve got this next case” :eek:  I had no expectation of trying a case, so I didn’t have any notes, my North Carolina Crimes book, nada. I was so absolutely terrified I quite literally forgot what it was I was supposed to prove in a criminal trial; as I’m out in the hallway going through the shucks trying to ascertain what’s going on, I grab an ADA who helped us with trial team last year and plead for a smidge of guidance. She replies “Well what are your elements for the offense?” and suddenly “DING!” my inner lightbulb finally clicks on. I find the officer, read his police report, get asked by him what he can expect on cross, and somehow came up with a quasi-intelligent and spot-on answer. I don’t think I’m allowed to go into too much detail, but it involved two Defendants (and their respective attorneys) charged with minor-but-serious firearms offenses.5 I went through my direct a bit fast due to the nervousness, but the more opposing counsel objected to a response — or asked something ridiculous on cross-examination6 — the more I got into my zone. Neither Defendant took the stand, and a few closing arguments later they were found guilty and sentenced to active time, a fine, probation, and a prohibition from owning firearms. Not bad for my first go-round :)
  • Rewarded myself with a new laptop. In exchange for getting the DA gig, I “rewarded” myself by finally upgrading my trusty 5-year-old MacBook Pro. The Department of Education enables students to get a one-time financial aid boost once in undergrad and once in graduate/professional school for a computer purchase, and it was hitting the point where I’d need something I could use for the first couple years when I start practicing. So I’ve now gone from an original Core Duo with a self-upgraded 250GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM to a new quad-core i77 with a 750GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM :eek:  Seeing how much the hardware has advanced in the past half decade is crazy. I don’t like some of the changes (e.g. there are new function keys to play/pause/rewind/fast forward, so I have to press the Function key to use Dashboard and such) but overall it’s nice being back on the leading edge of technology for another couple months.
  • Fall grades were a disaster. While everything else was going smoothly, my grades turned out better than anticipated but worse than I wanted (if that makes sense). I’ve now fallen back below a 3.0 for the first time in a year and will have to pull off a miracle to graduate with honors. And in all likelihood I won’t be able to finish the Civil Rights & Constitutional Law concentration I’ve been working on for the past 2.5 years. We’ll see what happens.
  • Debating giving up internship to focus on grades and SPICE. The grade situation has prompted me to reassess what I’m doing this semester, and I’m giving serious consideration to dropping the DA internship and some other activities to free up time to focus on grades and the SPICE proposal. It’s not an ideal situation, especially with the economy, but doing the jack-of-all-trades thing clearly isn’t working. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s it for tonight y’all, thanks for still reading :) Hopefully more posts in the days ahead. Good night!

  1. Including 2 separate occasions where I got thrown out by Public Safety because the building was supposedly closed :beatup: []
  2. I am, for reasons unknown to me, more productive when I have Law & Order reruns on in the background… []
  3. Note to the Board of Law Examiners: homeless people generally don’t have files or records of their homelessness. Nowhere to put our file cabinets and all… ::smh:: []
  4. As a point of comparison, the Marine Corps only wanted 10 years of documents back during my 1L year to make sure I passed the security check, and didn’t charge me for the application. Completing those docs was a cakewalk compared to this. []
  5. City code violations (hence the “minor”), but just about anything involving the discharge of an assault rifle qualifies as serious when it comes to prosecuting people. Especially in Durham. []
  6. “Didn’t my client tell you it was his mother’s assault rifle?” No bullsh*t on that one, that was the actual question! :crack: []
  7. Meaning 8 total virtual processors :surprised: []

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