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Giving Thanks, 2015 Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 26, 2015 in Randomness

Greetings from Virginia Beach! 😃

It’s been 6 years (!) since I posted a Thanksgiving entry, reflecting on the things I’m thankful for and where I was in life 1 / 5 / 10 years ago. Taking the time to reflect is something I started doing back when I had dropped out of college, trying to keep my spirits up when it felt like I was never going to amount to anything.1

Whether I’ve actually amounted to anything is up for debate — but at least now my spirit is doing OK 😊

A year ago today, I was here in Virginia Beach with my family. Survived my second full year as a solo practitioner. Excited about an uptick in the practice and recently joining the speakers circuit with a quasi-CLE on starting your own law firm.

I sacrificed Thanksgiving cooking for that 3.333

I sacrificed Thanksgiving cooking for that 3.333

Five years ago, I learned that I was actually capable of cooking my own Thanksgiving dinner 😂

It was my 2L year at NCCU Law and I decided to stay home for the holiday so I could study for final exams — even though I stood by my belief that grades don’t matter (reaffirmed in this Mailbag entry), I was close enough to a 3.0 that I’d regret not trying to make it.2

So I cooked my own turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and croissant rolls… and a few weeks later made the Dean’s List for the first time since 2005.

And ten years ago, to be honest I don’t remember where I was 😶 I’d just returned to NC State, terrified by Calculus III,3 and focused on not bombing academically. That was the semester I made Dean’s List. 😄

I’d go through and give you the full list of the things I’m grateful for like I did back in 2009, but the main one is my grandparents. The Thanksgiving meal this year was so different from everything I had growing up — Nan can’t physically cook, so Pops and my Aunt Diane prepared a few things while I handled getting the table prepared (and I’m on deck to mow the lawn and rake the leaves before I leave). It was just the 4 of us. A smaller meal, smaller group of family members. Everything just felt… off. Smaller. Like twilight. It’s tough to accept.

I’m grateful to have the ability to travel up here to be with them. Grateful for a team at TGD Law willing to put up with my idiosyncrasies and family drama. Grateful for friends who’ve texted throughout the day to wish me a happy Thanksgiving.

And grateful for each of you, still stopping by even though I’ve done a terrible job of keeping things up to date.

Thank you. And I hope you’ve had a happy Thanksgiving! ❤️

  1. I’d never wish the experience on anyone, but you really start to understand how important a college degree is to people when you feel like you’ll never get one yourself. []
  2. A story for another post! []
  3. Where I actually learned more than in 3 different attempts at Calculus II 😂 []

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Life Comes at You Fast (Part III)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 28, 2015 in The After-3L Life

One of the other factors in my lengthy hiatus was seasonal: the annual ritual of trial advocacy competitions! :D

Some of you might remember back in February of last year I penned this bittersweet entry celebrating the accomplishments of some students I coached in the TYLA National Trial Competition, but sharing my disappointment that my talents were being used to benefit UNCCH Law rather than my own alma mater.

Well this year was… interesting.

The folks at UNCCH Law plan ahead, and had contacted me at the beginning of last August to ask if I’d come back for the 2015 competition. And me, being the naïve person I am, told them to give me some time so I could check with NCCU Law — just in case the whole “us kicking NCCU’s rears” would prompt them to let me come home.

(cue the “LOL!”s)

I hit up my old coach to ask for his advice. We met over lunch to talk that week, and he told me to hold off with the acceptance; he was going to step down as coach, and wanted to recommend me as his replacement. All I’d need to do is contact the advisor for the Trial Advocacy Board and let her know.

So I do. And get her voicemail.

A week goes by without a response. I call again. Voicemail.

A few more days go by, and I stop by the school in person. She’s teaching a class so I leave a note.

Another week goes by without a response.

It was around the third week in August when I learn that Prof CrimLaw had now been made the new Dean of our clinical programs (which also has responsibility for our competition teams), so I reached out to him. He suggested I contact a different professor who is now in charge of overseeing competition programs for everybody across both the Trial Advocacy Board and the Moot Court Board — and that, whatever she says, not to feel any shame or regret for working for a different law school. “That’s what we do as lawyers.”

So I call the other professor. She actually answers the phone ( :eek: ) and asks me to give her until that Friday. Then actually calls me back when she said she would!

Just to tell me that the first professor told her my old coach was coming back for another year…

(cue the “#dafuq?”s)

Now this call to me happened around 3pm-ish. Keep that in mind.

I email UNCCH my acceptance that afternoon and resign myself to going another year without helping my own alma mater.

The following Monday I text my old coach and say “Guess I’ll be seeing y’all in Charleston” — and almost immediately get a text back, even though it’s during work hours and he’s rarely that quick with a response. “Call me after lunch.”

We connect later that afternoon, and he’s just as confused as I am. Turns out no one from NCCU Law had contacted him until after they had told me he was coming back. But he hadn’t changed his mind: he still wasn’t coming back, so he asked if I still wanted to coach NCCU (duh). I’d already emailed my acceptance to UNCCH though and couldn’t break my commitment to them.

(cue the sad trombones)

Well fast forward to the end of January. I survive the car drama and make it down to Charleston. Both TYLA teams do admirably well under the circumstances but neither advance. I drive back feeling like I failed.

Then about two weeks later I get a call from NCCU. :crack:

Turns out the AAJ coaches had quit unexpectedly, and no one seemed to notice until a month after the problem packet had been released. The second professor asked if I’d be willing to step in (duh again). Given the short timing I bring in EIC as a co-coach, we get started about a month after everyone else…

NCCU Law's 2015 AAJ trial team. From left: me, Petal Munroe, Shelvia Dancy, Joshua Palmer, Jaimee Bullock, and EIC

NCCU Law’s 2015 AAJ trial team. From left: me, Petal Munroe, Shelvia Dancy, Joshua Palmer, Jaimee Bullock, and EIC

…and make it to the Regional Finals for the first time since 1998.

(cue the victory trumpets)

At various points during the month of February, EIC and I both had our doubts. Really right up until competition (the last practice did not go well at all).

But then when the first round happened, she and I were both totally blown away. So much so that we both did a look at each other like “Where did this come from??”

And then did it again in the 2nd round. And again in the 3rd. And again in the semifinals.1 When it was all said and done, a new plaque was getting added to the trophy case at the law school.

There’s a lot getting glossed over here simply because this entry is pushing 1,000 words and I realize many of you won’t actually read that far. But trust me when I say it was a busy-but-interesting Spring semester :)

So after two years of coaching, of two law schools, in two different competitions, I’ve had the privilege of helping a batch of proto-lawyers make the regional finals both years. I’m going to count that as a 100% success rate.

Now we’ll just see if NCCU Law finally lets me come back for 2016…

Good night y’all! :D

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

  1. We eventually lost to Wake Forest Law in the final round, whose team was actually quite good. []

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Time flies when you’re flying solo

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 :beatup:

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.1 I briefly brought in a trio of interns who didn’t pass the bar and needed to make ends meet for a little bit.2 Won a pair of awards.3 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.4 Fought with opposing counsel.5 Fought with my alma mater.6 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.7 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 :surprised:

A room. Of lawyers. Listening to me.

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 :crack:

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 October8 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!

  1. And also taught me that my managerial skills leave much to be desired at this point in my career. I learned a lot during the time they were here, including that I suck at delegation. []
  2. One each helping with NC SPICE, marketing, and getting me organized. It’s a sign of how chaotic things were that I still haven’t actually looked at what they produced on several projects yet… []
  3. The NCCU 40 Under 40 Award, and one that won’t be announced until January. []
  4. The little sh*t has somehow learned how to get into the refrigerator, and has raided it three times despite my efforts to stop him. []
  5. Including one, during discussion of a case, randomly goes “I notice you’re very into blogging.” It was weird. []
  6. I will once again be coaching the TYLA trial teams for UNCCH Law. The details are even more ridiculous than last year if you can believe that. []
  7. Needless to say that New Year’s Resolution won’t be coming to fruition :beatup: []
  8. The program for new lawyers. It was called NAPP back in my day, though now apparently they’re calling it PNA: Professionalism for New Admittees. []

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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 :)

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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

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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 ;)

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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

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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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Old habits die hard…

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. :beatup:

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:1

  • 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,2 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.3 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 :eek: 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.4 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,5 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.6 :beatup: 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 :crack: 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 :beatup: 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! :D

  1. Though I’ll note for the record that “gone awhile” this time around was only 2 weeks, which is much better than my average absence last year ;) []
  2. Who I already called an *sshole for sending him to me… []
  3. I’ll admit, my bank account was mystified too :beatup: []
  4. There’s a better-than-half chance I’ve butchered this as a nickname. She’s an Ethiopian-American — even writes a blog on her experiences — so I tried to find the Amharic word for “president” and use that. Hopefully I got it right, but if not someone can correct me :) []
  5. The only downside to summertime for me: potential sunburn on my bald scalp requiring the near-constant wearing of a hat… no matter the temperature. []
  6. My Facebook page tends to have quite a few anti-government posts on it, which inevitably includes a string of anti-police posts as well. []

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 8 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 10, 2014 in Background

Many years ago, back during the days-you-couldn’t-pay-me-to-relive when I was a 1L, I wrote this entry on LRA mentioning how my computer science background helped me with studying law (and also how I hated LRA :mad: ).

That was the main topic in the penultimate snippet from my interview with the NCSU Libraries as part of their Student Leadership Initiative — not just how computer science prepared me for law school, but how my NC State education in general factored in.

Before we get to that though, you get to witness me being stumped by a question because the thing I thought was the highlight of my career in Student Senate was dead by the time I had the interview :beatup:

Questions in this Clip:

00:00 – What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a student leader at NC State?

02:11 – Do you think your time at NC State has prepared you so far for law school?

06:07 – Could you talk a little bit about how your time at State has influenced your life more broadly?

Only one more video left, then I’ll get back to law-related stuff :) Good night y’all!

—===—

From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 3 of 9)

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.1 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! :beatup:

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.2

Enjoy :)

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 :D 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)
  1. Case in point: back during law school graduation, after NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms offered some kind words about me to the crowd, Top Gun asked me when I got in line for my diploma “Is all that stuff he said true?” in total disbelief. []
  2. Apologies to my friends who just went into shock to discover I was supporting the LGBT community before it was trendy ;) []

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Throwback [Sunday]: Wolfpack takeover of NCCU Law Graduation 2012

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 27, 2014 in NotFail

(I know the Twitter thing is to post pictures on Throwback Thursday, but I’m trying to get back in the blogging habit and needed something to write about tonight :P )

Back on Friday I had the high honor of presenting one of my good friends to the Court for her attorney oath of office.

Madame President1 made the smart play and had spent her post-graduation time making real money in the immigration department of a local corporate behemoth. Obscene wealth notwithstanding, she decided now was the time to get sworn in and dive into bona fide lawyer stuff.

Me introducing Madame President to the Court (Photo courtesy of Shutterbug)

Me introducing Madame President to the Court (Photo courtesy of Shutterbug)

As part of the process here in North Carolina, anyone wanting to take the oath of office that enables him or her to practice law first has to be introduced in open court by a member of the bar who can attest to the person’s good character (including uttering magic words like “has passed the bar exam”).

It’s also appropriate to highlight some of the applicant’s achievements, so I noted she had distinguished herself as a senior member of our Moot Court Board, the Articles Editor for our Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Law Review, and of course was elected by her peers to serve as the Class of 2012 President.

I also mentioned our shared alma maters and mutual love for all things North Carolina State University, which reminded me of a story the NCSU Alumni Association did on us (and our two valedictorians) back during graduation time.

I went through the law:/dev/null archives and realized I never actually mentioned it here, so I’m doing it now :)

From the the N.C. State University Alumni Association:

NC State alums make mark at N.C. Central’s School of Law

05.22.2012 | Posted by Bill Krueger | Filed under Alumni News, NC State People | Tags: Jeremy Adams, N.C. Central University, N.C. Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment, Sharika Robinson, Shauna Guyton, T. Greg Doucette

When the School of Law at N.C. Central University held its commencement earlier this month, four students were given seats on the platform and a chance to speak in recognition of their leadership and scholarship.

But they had more in common than their good work in law school — all of them are proud alumni of NC State.

Doucette, Guyton, Robinson, Adams

Doucette, Guyton, Robinson, Adams

None of the students knew each other when they studied at NC State, but they became friends during their time in law school.

“N.C. Central’s law school has a small, tight-knit student body, so all of us became friends over the past three years through our different activities,” said T. Greg Doucette, a 2009 NC State graduate who was president of the Student Bar Association at N.C. Central.

The others in the group are:

  • Shauna Guyton, a 2008 NC State graduate who was president of the senior class at the law school.
  • Sharika Robinson, a 2005 NC State graduate who was valedictorian of the three-year day program at the law school.
  • Jeremy Adams, a 2005 NC State graduate who was valedictorian of the four-year evening program at the law school.

All four of them will be busy for the next several weeks getting ready for the North Carolina bar exam in late July. But Doucette says everyone in the group already has plans beyond taking the bar exam.

  • Doucette is executive director of the N.C. Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment (NC SPICE), a nonprofit that provides mentorship, education and office support to new attorneys in exchange for pro bono legal service for those who can’t afford legal representation.
  • Guyton is hoping to be a law clerk at the N.C. Supreme Court, but is also considering becoming an assistant district attorney.
  • Robinson is moving to Michigan to become a law clerk for a federal judge.
  • Adams plans to start his own law firm in the Triangle, with a focus on employment law.

Some of the new law school graduates made it a point to include a touch of the Wolfpack in the commencement exercises at N.C. Central. Doucette wore a Wolfpack red dress shirt and an NC State tie under his robe, while Guyton wore her NC State class ring. “I never take it off!,” she said in a text message.

“State is just the best school in this state!!!” Robinson wrote in a text message. She said that NC State’s homegrown students are “the best talent, and it is evident in us.”

The whole NC SPICE thing has had a bumpier start than I expected back at graduation of course, but I still think this was a pretty cool story. And I’m honored to share it with some pretty cool people too :D

Hope all of y’all had a great weekend, and a great week ahead!

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

  1. The elected leader of the Class of 2012, who I relied on frequently my 3L year to help ensure events went smoothly and were well-attended during my overlapping term as SBA President. Definitely one of my favorite people from law school. :) []

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The Wild Roller Coaster of Solo Practice

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 21, 2014 in The After-3L Life

Happy Monday y’all :)

It’s become a bit of a habit with these posts to note it’s been ages since I last wrote one, I’m not keeping up with my New Year’s resolution to write more, “zomg life is soooo busy!” and so on.

The underlying premise, of course, being that I really really really want to write something but I just haven’t had the time.

That’s still true — there’s been a bunch of cool stuff going on in life over the past 2 months that I wanted to write about1 — but a big chunk of the reason for my absence is that life overall has… well… kinda sucked :beatup:

If you’re one of our long-time law:/dev/null readers2, you might remember how I’d stress out as we got near the end of the semester, building up to the don’t-sleep-for-a-few-days exam week followed by a reprieve for a few weeks before things started all over again.3

6.5 calls per business day: good! Turning cases away: not so much

6.5 calls per business day: good! Turning cases away: not so much

Well running your own law firm is a bit like that. Except you never really get the reprieve (unless you’re slowly going out of business).

Things at TGD Law have been beyond busy; we’ve been averaging 6-7 calls every single day each month, there are over 1,300+ fans of the TGD Law Facebook page, and a growing number of those incoming phone calls / emails / etc have been from folks who’ve heard I kick @ss in a courtroom.

But I’ve also got more work than I can handle, and I’ve been turning away cases left and right because I refuse to let my work product slip for the folks who have already hired me.4

The catch to turning away cases, of course, is that there’s very little money coming in. That, in turn, means no staff. Which in turn means I’m stuck spending time on menial work that I’d really like to farm out to a paralegal or file clerk. Which in turn means no matter how much I work, I feel like nothing gets done.

The sense of complete and utter futility I’ve had the past few weeks is actually pretty well encapsulated in a graph of my weight loss efforts: past progress has been undone, and now I’m treading water until I can out-think my problems.

That 27lb drop? Bar prep

That 27lb drop? Bar prep

It’s led to me sleeping an awful lot, watching TV when I’d probably be better off working or blogging,5 and finding it beyond difficult to focus on things instead of my usual unproductively-trying-to-multitask-across-a-dozen-things-at-once.

So rather than blog about being blah, I figured I’d spare y’all the bellyaching until I got my sh*t together ;)

I can’t guarantee that’s happened yet of course, but fingers are firmly crossed! This past Easter weekend I brought some work home with me when I went up to visit my grandparents, and made some headway on several cases. I’ve started doing a list of a few high-priority items a day that simply must get done, and that’s helped me wrap my mind around things a smidge better.

Anyhow, I don’t have much more to write about at the moment — just wanted to let y’all know I’m not dead and I haven’t forgotten about you! :D

More blog posts sooner than later (certainly in less than 60 days).

  1. I was invited to be a guest at a professionalism dinner at my alma mater, served on an ABA-LSD panel on going solo, coached two NCCU Law moot court teams, judged the 1L Mary Wright Competition and the Clifton Johnson Moot Court Competition, had a trial of some of my Moral Monday folks, did a bunch more stuff I can’t recall at the moment, and at some point in the middle turned 33 years old. Life has been crazy! :crack: []
  2. **THANK YOU** btw! :* []
  3. It’s a testament to how long I’ve been away from blogging regularly that I can’t actually find the old links to the appropriate entries for that :beatup: []
  4. I’d rather be an amazing poor lawyer than a substandard rich one. []
  5. Not sure what my list of shows included before, but it’s now got The Walking Dead, Suits, Turn, Scandal, Mythbusters, and Psych reruns on it []

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A Mercenary’s Lament

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 10, 2014 in NotFail

mer•ce•nar•y (pl. mercenaries) – noun. a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.

Today’s my first day “back in the real world” after spending the past weekend at the annual TYLA NTC Regionals.1 And where I coached my very first TYLA trial team, comprised of two 2Ls and a 3L.

A team that ended the competition as finalists :surprised:

In turn making them the best trial team in both North Carolina and South Carolina.2 Not to mention going further in that competition than I ever made it myself.

From… the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

That’s not a typo. It’s the same institution I’ve ridiculed on this very website as The University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven. The one whose students meme’d me in my NC State hat. The one with its very own “#gthc” tag here at law:/dev/null.3

And I was their coach :beatup:

So how did a guy with an eagle carving on his dining room table plus another on a bookshelf and a third on my bedroom wall — alongside a wolf painting, a wolf carving, even the comforter on my bed — end up in the finals of my favorite mock trial competition helping the one institution that happens to be a rival of both my undergrad and professional school alma maters?4

My team, from L to R: Jonathan Williams '15 (Defense), Michelle Markham '14 (Swing), Dave Fitzgerald '15 (Plaintiff), Eli Sevcik-Timberg '14 (Student Coach)

My team, from L to R: Jonathan Williams ’15 (Defense), Michelle Markham ’14 (Swing), Dave Fitzgerald ’15 (Plaintiff), Eli Sevcik-Timberg ’14 (Student Coach)

Well first we had an amazing team. I was a little nervous at the start because only one student was a 3L; the other two were 2Ls who’d never competed in anything before, and the 3L student coach assigned to work with me had experience but not in TYLA.

I also got the impression at a few points in practice that our goal was just to not embarrass ourselves — I don’t think anyone (admittedly, myself included) thought we had any shot at going anywhere.

But let me tell you: when it counted, they competed. All three of them turned in solid performances to nab the #6 seed after the first three rounds, setting up a semifinal match against the University of South Carolina for Sunday morning. They promptly slaughtered USC and pushed us on to the finals.5

“But TDot! But TDot!” I hear you saying, “WHY were you working for them?”

Aaanndd… that’s where the title for the blog post comes in. ;)

Last winter my 2L/3L TYLA coach6 and I had talked about the future of NCCU Law‘s team and whether there’d be a spot for me anywhere as an assistant coach. Nothing ever happened with it, so in the Spring I volunteered to be one of the guest judges for the TYLA Regionals when they were hosted by Campbell Law down in Raleigh.

For my round I watched an absolutely superb performance by a team from WFU Law — a team that ended up getting functionally disqualified when a meritless protest was filed over WFU’s cross-examination of the other side’s expert, and the “protest committee” voted to give them -0- points for the cross.7 I felt bad for them. And I also decided that I hated the idea of “just” being a judge if our ballots could be summarily disregarded by a 5-member committee of other competing coaches.

Fast forward to early October. The Monday before the 2L/3L trial team tryouts to be exact. I still stop by the NCCU Law building on a fairly regular basis, so during one of those trips while I’m down in our clinic area I make some inquiries about the process to become a trial team coach.

Now in retrospect I don’t know what response I expected. I figured, at the very least, it would be something along the lines of “All the coach spots are filled for every team at the moment, but when something opens up we’ll let you know.”8 Instead the response I got was as clear as it was unambiguous: “Coaches have to have 5 years of practice experience. That’s the rule.”

I was a smidge annoyed. But rules are rules, right?

So a couple days later, when I’m down in Wake County for a traffic case, I talked with one of my 2L AAJ trial coaches (a District Court Judge down there) about how he got involved. Apparently someone just called and asked him to do it. But he went on to tell me no one even asked him to return as a coach my 3L year or the year after. That in turn led me to express my frustration over how I felt the law school treated our competitions as afterthoughts, and how I really wanted to run one of these teams to show what could be done.

Well even though he’s an NCCU Law alum, he’s also a dyed-in-the-wool Tar Heel as well. He had heard the UNCCH trial team advisor was out for the semester due to a medical issue and suggested I consider looking there.

I then texted a friend of mine from my NC State days who had just graduated from UNCCH Law the prior year. She confirmed the story on the advisor and said it would be “awesome if [I] potentially think about maybe” being their coach (after confessing surprise that I like trial team :crack: ). And if I wanted her to make a call the spot would be mine.

Unpaid, but a shot nonetheless.

Not quite ready to go calling in favors, I had lunch with my other 2L TYLA coach the next week to get his advice on basically squaring off against my own school. And he said to go for it. I’m paraphrasing here, but his argument was something along the lines of “Think about what it says for Central if you do well, what it says if your alma mater’s graduates do a better job at this than their own.”

Still not fully comfortable with the thought of switching sides, I sent a text message to my 2L/3L TYLA coach to get his thoughts since he was still in charge. When he saw me at the Alumni Association meeting that Saturday, he said to take the spot as well.

So I did.

I Facebook-messaged a UNCCH 2L I knew from UNCASG, who in turn put me in touch with the Trial Advocacy Board chairman over there, who in turn connected me with the TYLA squad and a 3L student coach to assist. And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

“But TDot! But TDot!” you interrupt again, “WHHYYY??”

Well… because my alma mater didn’t want me :(

Look, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who loves NCCU Law more than I do (or NC State for that matter). You’ll be equally hard pressed to find anyone who takes quite as much glee in disparaging UNC Chapel Hill as I do. The students on the NCCU teams that didn’t make it were real people, including two of my mentees

And I can’t even articulate for you in words how awkward it felt when I actually typed “#goheelsgoamerica” into my phone for a Facebook status. :beatup:

But the fact is it didn’t make a d*mn lick of sense for me to sit on the sidelines getting rusty for another year waiting on my alma mater to let me help. And it most definitely didn’t make a d*mn lick of sense for me to do that for 4 more years until I’d reach some arbitrary quantum of real world experience.

UNCCH needed someone. They offered me that opportunity. The folks I met turned out to be really cool people. And, having made a commitment to them, I wasn’t going to let them down.

So I didn’t. :)

Now the only issue at this point is really what other folks’ decide will happen next year. Because now that I know the finals are attainable, I’m not going away until nationals…

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

  1. I know I’m behind schedule on the “blog more” resolution, but it’s still early in the year and anything can happen :P []
  2. The regional winners were the University of Georgia — the same school that knocked out EIC, Shutterbug, and I back in Memphis two years ago :mad: — and Georgia State University. []
  3. “GTHC” means “Go to Hell, Carolina!” for the uninitiated ;) []
  4. No comments from UNCCH homers on “omg you’re not our rival!” I’ve enjoyed enough hostility while wearing my NCSU paraphernalia to sporting events and NCCU paraphernalia to law events to know better :* []
  5. Frankly I don’t fully understand how we lost the final round, and got the impression the judges were scoring based on the merits of the case rather than the advocacy. But I’m also biased. []
  6. Don’t have nicknames for most of the folks in this entry, so I’m going to titles. []
  7. The ruling was improper, and it was sufficiently improper that TYLA amended their Rules for this year’s competition to prevent situations like that from happening again. []
  8. It’s not like I swept both 3L competitions and was on the #1-seeded team in the 2012 TYLA Regional semis while serving as SBA President and graduating with honors and two concentrations or anything… :beatup: []

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