Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 24, 2017 in The After-3L Life
One of the big challenges I suspect a lot of us have is figuring out just what exactly we’re supposed to do in life.
Not necessarily with the super-small stuff of course. We wake up every day, eat breakfast, bathe, etc etc etc.
And not necessarily with the super-big stuff; we get an education, a spouse, a job, etc etc etc.
But for that vast expanse of life in between those two things, what are we supposed to do? When do you make a leap to try a new job, or move to a new city, or pick a new hobby? Do we stick with what we know and develop our expertise? How do you tell if you’re meant to do something else?
(I feel like these are maybe mid-life crisis questions? 😂)
For the first 19 years of my life, my focus was on school. Then I dropped out of college, so the next 5 years were focused on (i) surviving and (ii) getting back into school. Then I made it back, so the next 4+3 years were spent getting my bachelors in computer science and then my law degree. The next 3 months were focused on studying for the bar exam. Then the years after that were focused on starting my law firm and building it to a point I could pay some bills, including the exorbitant amount of student loans I used to finance 9 years of education plus a 5-year hiatus’s worth of interest.
Key point though is that there was always a specific, well-defined goal to reach and a specific, well-defined path to get there.
But now… what?
I turned 36 back in March. I totally realize on the Scale of Oldness that 36 is “not old,” but I can’t help but feel like I am. I’ve fallen into this rat race of churning through cases at the law firm to make rent each month. Spend some time each day chatting on social media. Hang out with 雅雅 and Samson. But don’t really feel like I’m moving forward toward any given objective beyond rent-paying (which is a fantastically low goal in life).
It’s terribly frustrating, especially for someone who’s climbed up from how far down I was back in 2000. And the way forward is a complete mystery to me.
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 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 Dec 6, 2014 in Unsolicited Commentary
One of the things I’ve been dabbling with during my most-recent extended absence from law:/dev/null has been the near-daily stream of news stories about police going totally bonkers while carrying out their once-upon-a-time mission to “serve and protect.”
It started out with a one-off rant on Facebook two Septembers ago, about Jonathan Farrell getting gunned down by Charlotte Police while going to them for help after a car accident.
Then, before the day was even out, there was a different news story about the NYPD shooting innocent bystanders while trying to take down a mentally ill man. I added as a joke (because a number of my FB friends are flaming liberals) that we needed cop control more than gun control.
That was it. Two news stories that happened to be on the same day, followed by some banter about whether or not I should be allowed to own my Smith & Wesson M&P9 with three fully loaded 17-round clips.
But then there was a toddler in Georgia.
And a professor in Arizona.
And a photographer in Texas.
Before I really noticed it I’d posted 72 of these stories, adopting a “Warrior Cops Gone Wild!” motif similar to the late-night ads for the college girl videos. Somehow on top of those 72 posts I’d still amassed a queue of 69 unposted entries, and kept getting new material all. the. time.
(See, e.g., the non-indictment of Mike Brown’s killer in Missouri, the non-indictment of Eric Garner’s killer in New York, or the LAPD gunning down a man last night amid dozens of tourists just two days after their own police chief admitted they like to use excessive force.)
It’s some disturbing sh*t that just gets more disturbing as time goes on.
And I’m not really sure what to do about it. I’m certainly not the first person to document that police brutality exists. I don’t have any special influence with any decision-makers who could change anything. I’m also not really the protest type.
But I am an attorney, and a constitutionalist, and a small government conservative who isn’t that big a fan of the police state we’re becoming — and damn sure not a fan of a police state freed of the shackles of due process.
I feel like I need to do something.
I’m open to suggestions. Because something has to change.
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 Aug 21, 2014 in The After-3L Life
It’s been two months since the last entry here at law:/dev/null. Things have been busy at TGD Law (which is A Good Thing™), but frankly I’ve also been wrestling with some personal demons so trying to find the motivation to write has been more of a struggle than just the run-of-the-mill “can’t find the time!” that is usually to blame.
I’m still trying to get myself together. I’m not there yet. But I will be.
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 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 19, 2014 in Fail
I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Superior Court for a solo who’s only been licensed for about a year and 9 months now. While most of that has been on the civil side of the courthouse, it encompasses a handful or two of criminal cases as well.
But in one of those weird coincidences of life, all of those clients have had last names falling in the first few letters of the alphabet — all “A”s and “C”s before today.
So I’m down in Wake County for Superior Court calendar call today, on behalf of three folks convicted as part of the misguided prosecutions of last year’s Moral Monday protestors.
One of them has a last name starting with H, so about thirty minutes or so into calendar call I note my appearance on his behalf and get a new court date.
Another hour or so goes by, and we’re only to L. I look at my watch and realize I need to go add time to the parking meter so I don’t end up with yet another parking ticket. My next client’s last name is Smith, so I figure I’ve got time.
I go downstairs, throw a couple more quarters in the meter, come back to the courtroom… and see everyone streaming out
Panicked that I just missed calendar call for two of my clients, I rush up to the ADA and apologize and quickly explain that I had to go add time to the meter…
…before thinking that maybe there was still more to calendar call to go. Sure enough, she replies “oh that was just the first half. We’ve got a 10-minute break before we do N through Z.”
Some days I truly question whether I have the competence to do this for a living…
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 15, 2014 in The After-3L Life
Samson and I get a lot of law-related magazines each month at the TDot Household.
From the American Bar Association there’s the ABA Journal, GPSolo, and The Young Lawyer (now restyled “tyl”). The Federal Bar Association sends me The Federal Lawyer. With the NC Bar Association there’s the quarterly NC Lawyer and the NCBA YLD’s The Advocate. The State Bar itself sends the quarterly State Bar Journal. Then of course there’s the must-read NC Lawyers Weekly that comes every Monday.
(And that’s just the stuff that arrives in the mailbox. There are a half-dozen more e-newsletters I get in my inbox, whether I’ve signed up for them or not )
So with all that stuff to read — stuff that takes time away from reading case law and client-focused things — it’s not unusual for me to be a few days/weeks/months behind. Then one day over breakfast or lunch or dinner I’ll randomly decide I’m actually going to try and read something from the backlog.
Yesterday was one of those days. I’m eating a sausage biscuit for breakfast, open up the latest copy of the ABA Journal, get to the Letters to the Editor section, and notice one of the letters is about an attorney “Hunoval” touting Lean Six Sigma as a way to run a law firm.
He just happened to share the last name of a firm I’ve got a case against in US District Court for the Middle District of NC. And, given how uncommon the name is, I say aloud to myself “I wonder if this is the same firm?”, go digging for my March edition of the ABA Journal, and find this multi-page firm profile confirming it’s the same firm and going into detail on their process.
Now there’s nothing I can really say about the Hunoval Law Firm itself that wouldn’t get misconstrued. So this post isn’t about them per se, but rather about the ABA Journal’s fawning coverage of using Lean Six Sigma in a litigation-heavy law firm.
Is this really the recipe we want for running future firms, especially ones who regularly use the courts?
The thing about statistical processing is that, by definition, it ignores the individual in favor of the group. Cases get transformed from individual people with individual problems to cookie cutter file batches subjected to cookie cutter solutions.
And while I have -0- doubt that certainly does improve speed and efficiency, I’m not convinced it necessarily also yields quality or ethical litigation.
Take my client’s case as an example. Without getting into too much detail about the merits, it’s self-evident from the exhibits attached to our injunction request (and our reply to the Defendants’ response to that request) that something is very clearly “off” with the mortgagee’s accounting. The same mortgagee likely handles hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts; this one account happens to have a problem.
In a situation like that, one would hope an individual person could recognize the individual account has an individual problem and then tailor an individual solution.
Instead — no doubt from using the same principles of statistics-driven efficiency touted by the ABA Journal’s fluff piece — the mortgagee still can’t get things right years later, the account has been the subject of litigation since 2010 across multiple state and federal courts, and it will continue at least until we get to trial in April 2015.
The individual has been lost in the shuffle, even though “the individual” is ultimately what any given lawsuit revolves around.
Look, I’m all for saving my clients money and being more efficient.
But I’m also in favor of being an excellent lawyer. And that comes first on my hierarchy of career-related aspirations.