Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 13, 2017 in The After-3L Life
If any of my older readers are still checking this blog occasionally, (1) I love you but (2) you probably need to seek therapy 😉
It’s been over a year since I wrote anything here at law:/dev/null. Officially the longest hiatus from blogging I’d had since I started way back in the halcyon days of my 1L year.
A metric f*ckload of life has happened since then. I ran for office (and got blown out). One of my criminal defense cases went viral. And then it went viral again, and again, and again, and again.
My Twitter followers over time, a 1,599% increase since my last post
So basically Twitter became my home instead of the blogging world 😂
We also did a lot of philanthropy work, raising money for the American Heart Association, SHIFT NC, Crayons2Calculators, and two separate “foodraisers” for the kids at a local elementary school (that looks like it will be an annual thing!).
The intern I hired as my paralegal back in March 2015 passed the July 2015 bar exam and started working for me as an attorney in October 2015, so she’s now been with the firm for more than a year. The attorney in Charlotte I brought on board back in August 2015 still works with us too.
Not everything has been lollipops and rainbows, of course. The catch to being a candidate is that running the campaign nearly bankrupted the law firm. 😞 You might remember from this old post that we opened a Charlotte office in September 2015; well we decided to close it in August 2016 due to the costs, and in the months since I’ve been scrambling to get the law firm back on the upward trajectory it was on before I foolishly opted to jump into the ring.
Oh and I nearly died of pneumonia back in December 2015. But I’m still here!
Getting back into blogging was one of my 3 New Year’s Resolutions this year, so I figured it was time to log back in to the WordPress Dashboard and see how many e-cobwebs had built up in my absence. I’ll clean out the blogroll some time soon, and may or may not change the theme to something more modern — we’ll see.
Until then, thanks for checking in!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 23, 2015 in Unsolicited Commentary
From the News & Observer:
Spellings’ salary near the top for public university leaders
By Lynn Bonner | email@example.com
Margaret Spellings will be one of the highest paid public university administrators in the nation when she takes over the UNC system in March.
With a starting base salary of $775,000, she will make more than outgoing UNC System President Tom Ross, who earns $600,000 a year.
Spellings will have the opportunity to earn money on top of her salary by meeting performance goals she and the Board of Governors agree to. She will also be eligible for salary increases with each annual job evaluation.
When Molly Broad retired as President of the UNC system in 2006 she was making $312K.
The Board of Governors then hired Erskine Bowles at $425K, but he donated $125K of it to a scholarship fund (since the guy was already wealthy).
After Erskine retired in 2010, despite the intervening recession, Tom Ross was brought in at $500K — then given a 1-year boost to $600K when the BOG decided to fire him last year.
And now we have Spellings at $775K.
From a nearly-all-Republican, ostensibly “conservative” Board.
Appointed by a Republican-controlled, ostensibly “conservative” General Assembly.
Now I’m not that great at math, but by my count that’s a 148% increase in less than a decade. In-state tuition at NC State has gone up 72% in that same time frame ($4,783 to $8,206.16).
Meanwhile, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina families’ average annual wages have only gone up just 20% over that same period: from $37,439 to $44,973. And that’s not adjusted for inflation or increases in the cost of living.
Something is seriously wrong here y’all…
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 22, 2015 in The After-3L Life
Surprise! It’s a blog post!
I’ve given up trying to preserve the smilies here at law:/dev/null. Not sure when I’ll have the time to go into the archives and replace them in old entries, but from hence forward I’ll do my best to embrace the emojis that are now built-in to WordPress. 😱
Fees earned are still trending up
TGD Law officially finished three years back on September 20th. I still owe y’all a breakdown of how things turned out from Year 2, so add the Year 3 breakdown to that list. Suffice to say fees are still trending upward but the struggle with costs remains… well… a struggle.
On that same note, we opened an office in Charlotte!
Kinda cuts against the whole “Hey we really should contain costs!” narrative from that last paragraph, but I figure I’ve learned enough about how not to run the Durham branch that I think we can make a second office work. 😂
“Wait, did you say ‘we’?”
I did — I’ve actually got two associates who are still able to put up with me! 😮
At some point I’ll have to come up with blog-suitable nicknames for both of them, but one has been my paralegal since March who recently passed the bar exam; I’m hoping she’ll be my #2, once we get her over the whole fear of having never been a lawyer before.
The other has actually been a friend on Twitter (true story!), who I met for the first time during one of my Startup 101 presentations in Charlotte. We had drinks in Raleigh the following Friday, and her skillset was uniquely suited for a multinational corporate fraud case I was working on; she started work sitting in on a deposition I had the next Monday. Hence the impetus for the Charlotte office.
Finances and associates aside, we had what I consider one of our marquee wins since the firm opened — torpedoing a baseless defamation case on summary judgment, after systematically dismantling an opposing counsel who was needlessly confrontational the entire time.
The Patton reference made me smile
We’d represented a nudist group whose board members were sued after they removed another board member for inappropriately touching somebody; the ex-member actually found a lawyer willing to file suit, arguing that he was “defamed” by the removal. Lots of First Amendment issues, and then us discovering he actually had a pattern of groping multiple women over a number of years.
At the onset of the case I got some guidance from Ken White over at Popehat — I’ve been a shameless fanboy of both him and Patrick at the same site since just before I took the bar exam — and gave them a shout-out when the judgment order arrived in my inbox 😊
Of all the motion hearings and trials I’ve had since I started practicing law back in 2012, that one was my most-crisp and thorough. And the case helped me continue develop my knowledge of First Amendment law that I’d started building from representing the Moral Monday protestors in Raleigh (37 of 39 dismissed) and one of the Black Lives Matters protesters here in Durham (also dismissed).
In my personal world, Nan is doing worse 😞 She finally had the operation to take her thyroid out a week or so ago. Apparently at some point during that operation the doctor nicked her parathyroid which (news to me) regulates the body’s store of calcium — while she’s also on medication that hinders calcium absorption. So long story short I’m sitting at my desk yesterday and see my Aunt Diane calling, which I just knew meant Nan was in the hospital. She was taken to the ER where they discovered she had almost no calcium left in her system. She’ll be there for at least 4-5 days until there’s some improvement. I’m crossing my fingers that things will turn around but I’m not optimistic.
Samson is still a pain in the butt. We’ve reached a détente of sorts with him destroying the apartment, but he’s taken to scratching at the doors to the bathroom and my bedroom, and (when that didn’t do the job) chewing at the wood paneling around them. Needless to say I won’t be getting my security deposit back.
There’s been more since then — asked by MDG to volunteer with the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, creating a new endowment at the NCSU Libraries to focus on collections on student leadership, my frustration with both parties in the General Assembly when it comes to the economy and our court system, etc etc etc — but hopefully I’ll do a better job of updating things here and will have those as future topics.
Hope all of you are doing well!
From the law:/dev/null 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 Nov 30, 2014 in The After-3L Life
I knew it had been awhile since I’d written something here, but it didn’t really click that it had been sooo long until Thanksgiving this past week
It also served as a reminder that an awful lot of stuff can happen in just three months.
Needless to say, things have been hectic. My associates both found (much) better paying jobs. I briefly brought in a trio of interns who didn’t pass the bar and needed to make ends meet for a little bit. Won a pair of awards. Lost a pair of trials I should have won. Then (when I was seriously questioning wtf I was doing with my life) won another pair of trials I should have lost. Fought with Samson. Fought with opposing counsel. Fought with my alma mater. Spent a much-needed Thanksgiving break with my grandparents. The list goes on.
The law firm has survived its second full year and was still somewhat profitable. Fees earned went up +37%, but expenses climbed +32% so that pretty much washed out the gain; net profit went up just over $1K. I’ll post a full finance breakdown at some point in the near-term(-ish) future.
The other cool thing that happened was making my debut on the law-related speaker circuit
A room. Of lawyers. Listening to me.
After helping a dozen or so folks start their own law firms, and keeping pretty thorough records on my own startup experience, a few months ago I was asked to put together a presentation for a North Carolina Bar Association group called Starting Out Solo that focuses on lawyers who have just started a solo practice or are thinking about going that direction.
The presentation was basically supposed to be a “how to” guide on starting up a law firm, with an added section glommed on about doing the monthly trust account reconciliations.
And a bunch of people showed up
Even though I’ve been doing presentations on leadership development and on Robert’s Rules of Order for years now, I was crazy nervous presenting to a room full of peers (you can tell my hands were shaking from how blurry the picture I took turned out). But it went very well — so much so that I was asked to do the same presentation for a CLE in October and another one coming up in a couple weeks.
Things have been hectic. But still good
Sorry for being MIA for months at a stretch y’all. Should have more soon. Have a great night!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 21, 2014 in The After-3L Life
To the extent not doing something can be considered habit-forming, I slipped back into my old habit of not updating law:/dev/null on a regular basis — I wrote a “stub” for a handful of entries, never actually finished them, and now they’re just not nearly as interesting as I thought they were at the time.
So rather than an in-depth entry this go-round, I’m gonna go with one of those bullet-point updates I use in situations where I’ve been gone awhile:
- A couple weeks ago I agreed to join a classmate at the veterinarian for moral support as she had one of her dogs put to sleep. This particular pooch was in horrible shape — cataracts, tumors, seizures, unable to eat, tremendous weight loss — so euthanasia “made sense.” But it still ranks among the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Ever. Over the past 33 years I’ve lost pets, I’ve lost friends, I’ve been to funerals; the pain from those losses is real, but totally unrivaled compared to being inches away watching as a living thing takes its last breath. In her case I was horrible as moral support because I’m pretty sure I cried more than she did (and it wasn’t even my dog). Not an experience I want to repeat.
- That same afternoon I came back to the TGD Law headquarters to resume work, and met my first bona fide batsh*t crazy prospective client. He was referred to me by another lawyer, said he had an issue that fell squarely within my realm of expertise, and had $5,000.00 in-hand ready to pay me — until I started asking him questions, his responses threw up red flags, I asked more questions, and got more nonsense. Essentially what he wanted me to do was get myself disbarred trying to use the legal system to pursue a foreclosure-related scam, with nearly a dozen different justifications already debunked in North Carolina appellate law that he heard at some seminar he paid to attend in Florida. It was a horribly awkward consultation, and he was mystified when I told him I couldn’t take his money and then sent him on his way. After nearly 2 years in practice I hadn’t met anyone with a truly outlandish claim; he is now officially at the top of the list.
- Speaking of TGD Law: I convinced two of my NCCU Law classmates to come work for the firm starting this past Monday Shutterbug is now on board helping with the business law side of the practice, as well as the Class of 2013 President Miss ርእሰብሔር helping with the higher education / criminal defense side. It’s slightly nerve-wracking knowing I’ve now got a team of people to look after. We’ve all got complementary strengths, though, so I’m hoping it will lead to greater success for all of us
- That same day, I was walking back to my car after lunch with one of my good friends from my UNCASG days (the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel reporter assigned to cover ASG at the time). As we get near the parking deck we happen to pass two uniformed officers with the Durham Police Department. I say hello as we pass, one of the officers mentions he likes the NCCU Law baseball cap I’m wearing, and after a few more paces I hear the same officer shout “Doucette, right?” For an ever-so-brief instant, my mind raced to figure out what I could possibly have done to merit me getting arrested. Turns out he’s a third-year student in the law school’s evening program who had visited law:/dev/null on occasion and wanted to let me know. Felt pretty cool after the fact but I was definitely nervous beforehand!
- Even though I’m in my mid-30s, in my mind I’m still somewhere in my mid-20s. Then Q.T. sent me a text earlier tonight to let me know she’s the new Student Government advisor at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics and wants me to do my training program for them in the Fall. And I realized: Son of TDot is now the same age as most NCSSMers I’ll be training kids who are quite literally young enough to be my own children…
- I also spent the afternoon helping conduct the character and fitness interviews for the 14th Judicial District Bar I don’t think I ever finished the post I meant to write way back in 2012 about my own experience, but it was marginally terrifying at the time — so I thought I’d volunteer in the hopes of making it not terrifying for this year’s batch of applicants. It was a fun experience, plus I got to serve with another lawyer I met for the first time who handles an area of law I will never touch if I can help it (ZombieLaw). I’m looking forward to doing it again next year if they need me.
- I’ve also got an incredibly important brief due Monday that I haven’t started yet So time to close this entry out so I can get to bed and start tomorrow!
That’s the extent of what’s been new and exciting in my life. I hope all of you are doing well, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!
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
(North Carolina, by contrast, is giving me a $12 refund.)
I see why small business owners learn to hate the government…
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 31, 2014 in The After-3L Life
I hit a point a couple months ago where I had more work at TGD Law than I could handle on my own. Like cleaning out flagged email from my inbox, I had a sense of accomplishment when my active caseload shrunk from 100+ down to a more manageable 75ish.
More work than I can handle also meant money-making cases were sitting idle, so I started making plans to bring in more personnel. That in turn prompted me to look at things like my firm’s balance sheet statement and my profit & loss statement — things I knew existed from my 2L Business Associations class, but that I never had much actual reason to review while I was busy chasing new clients.
And that, in turn, led me to spend the past 4 hours dabbling in QuickBooks as I discovered I’d done a few things totally wrong since I started 20 months ago
I’ve been a QuickBooks user since 2005 when I was hired to be a lobbyist for a small firm in downtown Raleigh. While my boss originally hired me for my political acumen (and the ability to break bread with the then-minority Republicans as he schmoozed the Democrats), I offered to also use my financial skills on the company’s behalf in exchange for an early pay raise. QuickBooks became my go-to app for managing my own checkbook from there.
So when I started TGD Law, naturally QB was the only accounting software I considered. And having already run one company with it, getting things set up for the law firm was straightforward. But since I had requested an extension on my 2013 tax returns, and didn’t have that much activity to go through for my 2012 taxes last year, I never noticed before now that my books weren’t quite as clean as they should be
For example: an accountant told me that when I use my personal funds on behalf of the law firm, I should record it in QuickBooks as a loan to the firm — but subsequent accountants have told me that’s a no-no, and should instead be recorded as a capital contribution to the firm (to which I discovered I’ve somehow contributed $36K over not-quite-two years ).
Conversely, when I’d pay myself I would mark it down as a payroll expense; the same subsequent accountants tell me that too is a no-no, and that as a single-member LLC I should instead mark them down as capital distributions.
Then there were my insurance expenses (malpractice insurance and health insurance are treated differently for tax purposes) and a handful of other small items.
Hence spending what was going to be a productive Saturday instead cleaning up several dozen accounting entries
There’s no real overarching “moral of the story” to this post (except maybe to hire a competent accountant early in your practice). Just consider yourself forewarned if you decide to go the solo/small practice route that you’ll want to get your accounting stuff squared away sooner rather than later
Have a great night y’all!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 5, 2014 in Background
Most folks I meet don’t believe it when they find out I was once a homeless college dropout. I’ve mentioned it occasionally here at law:/dev/null but I generally don’t talk about it in person — it’s not exactly an uplifting topic!
Well of course that ended up being one of the topics of discussion during my interview with the N.C. State Libraries as part of their Student Leadership Initiative (links to Part 1 and Part 2 are below).
We also chat about me helping to shepherd a few items through the Student Senate on my return, including the creation of a campus LGBT Center.
Questions in this Clip:
00:00 – You’ve spoken about the challenges you faced while you were a student, specifically your time as a self-described “college dropout.” Can you talk a little bit about why you dropped out and what factors influenced your decision to return?
08:21 – As a Student Senator, you authored many bills including the Student Media Independence Referendum and a bill that supported the establishment of a campus LGBT center. Can you talk about your decision to support these bills?
I’m off for a weekly poker night with one of my mentors and his friends Have a great night y’all!
From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:
- Part 1 of 9: The Backstory (05/03/14)
- Part 2 of 9: In the Beginning… (05/04/14)
- Part 3 of 9: Dropping Out (05/05/14) [this post]
- Part 4 of 9: Prelude to Revolution (05/06/14)
- Part 5 of 9: Party Time in Witherspoon (05/07/14)
- Part 6 of 9: “Collaboration” (05/08/14)
- Part 7 of 9: SSP Round Two and UNCASG (05/09/14)
- Part 8 of 9: Law School (05/10/14)
- Part 9 of 9: Traffic Tickets (05/11/14)
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 2, 2014 in Randomness
Way back in October last year, I threw caution to the wind and posted this entry detailing my first-year revenues and expenses for the law firm, with a follow-up entry answering some of the questions I got.
Now I would never claim to be a trend-setter or anything ( ), but I stumbled across a post from a solo practitioner down in Florida who posted his own revenue/expense figures — and he gives law:/dev/null a shout as the motivation for it!
Here’s a snippet from the initial entry, “No Navigator, No Parachute, No Problem: An In-Depth Look at Flying Solo” authored under the nom de plume Florida Esq:
As part of my preparation, I started combing the Internet for any and all information I could find about starting a firm. I was looking for hard data: what are the costs involved in starting a firm, how much do new solos bring in, what works and what doesn’t when you’re starting out, and so on. Unfortunately, there was almost nothing like that. Instead, nearly everything I found fell into one of two very unhelpful categories: One was the “LAW SCHOOL IS A SCAM! BURN YOUR J.D.! YOU’LL NEVER MAKE IT!” crowd which has taken over many popular law blogs and message boards. The other was very basic, generalized stuff like “Network, do good work and if you make it through your first year, you’ll probably be okay.” Neither was much help.
One exception to this came from Greg Doucette, a North Carolina attorney whose blog I stumbled across one day. Greg did something I hadn’t seen any other attorney, new or established do: he put up a one year “postmortem” of his new firm with hard numbers, showing exactly what he made and spent, along with examples of what he did wrong (and right!) that first year and the changes he planned to make going forward. This information was just what I was looking for, and was much more helpful than pretty much anything I had found before.
Then a few days later he posted a follow-up detailing his first quarter revenue as a solo, with “No Navigator, No Parachute, No Problem: First Quarter of Flying Solo.”
Here’s a snippet from that one:
In summary, my first quarter led to approx. $22,575 of income and $8,114 of expenses, netting me approx. $14,461. I’ve taken $6,000 of that as paychecks, leaving my firm with nearly $8,500 in the bank. I know that might not seem like much to a lot of you, but after all the doom and gloom I read before starting out, I’m actually ahead of where I thought I would be at the moment. I’m still networking my tail off to increase my exposure and I know I need to be withholding more money to pay my taxes, but I think things have gone okay so far.
I’ll ignore his comment that $22.5K in a quarter “might not seem like much” or the fact he’s averaging over $1K-per-client — I’d (almost) kill for that kind of success — and instead just say it’s freaking AWESOME that someone else is willing to open up their books to folks thinking about going into solo practice!
If “flying solo” is something you’re considering, definitely take some time and go read both of those entries. And keep an eye out for what he writes down the road