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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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First Impressions: ABA Midyear Meeting 2012, Day 1

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

This is a lot different from the ABA’s annual shindig

First, neither EIC nor I have found a single law student here :surprised:  From the agenda it looks like the only thing the Law Student Division has going on is the National Negotiation Competition — so we stopped by to see who we could see, and didn’t see a soul. A huge disappointment in my opinion, and a highlight of why it’s difficult increasing participation in the ABA-LSD.

There are also fewer attorneys here overall, which means fewer CLEs and more meetings for the leadership of the ABA’s multitude of Divisions, Sections, Committees, and so on. It looks like that’s the purpose for why the midyear meetings were created in the first place; it’s just difficult for a law student to break the ice when you walk in a room and you’re not part of the “in” crowd on that committee.

We did swing through several events though. This morning we sat in on a CLE discussing the trends in cybercrime heading into 2012. It was an interesting discussion, though one where I felt my inner computer scientist and political libertarian creeping out. For example, the CLE began with a discussion of Anonymous and LulzSec… labeled as terrorist organizations :crack:  I have a hard time accepting the notion that hacktivists are of the same mold as Al Qaeda or Los Zetas. A few minutes later a panelist with the Secret Service commented on the Jones SCOTUS decision and how GPS “tracked your phone number” so a vendor could text you when you were in the vicinity of their store — except GPS only tracks the GPS receiver in your phone, and any text messages you got based on that data would be the result of you sharing your phone number with a vendor a priori, and not because of some innate danger to GPS itself.

View of the Mississippi River from the hotel's 41st floor (Panorama via AutoStitch iPhone app)

Afterwards we stopped by a roundtable discussion on election laws going into the 2012 election cycle, where we happened to cross paths (again) with former NC Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye. The roundtable itself featured an at-length discussion of Voter ID laws in Louisiana, similar to those that were vetoed in North Carolina, and how the law was implemented. With North Carolina shaping up to be an electoral battleground next year it was an interesting conversation.

Following the election panel we headed over to a CLE on qui tam lawsuits, easily among the Top 3 most lively debates I’ve ever seen at a CLE. I confess to knowing almost nothing about qui tam suits beyond what I learned in Employment Discrimination last semester, or how many of them (if any) there are here in North Carolina, but I spoke with the panelists for a bit afterwards and if this turns out to be something our alumni do I’m hoping to bring them down to NCCU Law for a panel discussion some time in the future.

CLEs aside, New Orleans is very cool :) We took some time to go explore, eat some po’boys and other Louisana staples, shop a bit, and otherwise wander around. And we ate some beignets from Cafe du Monde that tasted delicious.1 The whole area is an interesting blend of really really really old mixed with the modern and tourist-y stuff. It also reminds me of Disney’s The Princess & the Frog (courtesy of EIC’s voice impressions) and a smidge of Q.T., who has a very Tiana-like persona.

Once the exploring was done I came back here to the hotel to crash and do some work. Things resume early tomorrow morning and frankly I need my beauty sleep too :beatup:

If you haven’t been to New Orleans before, definitely add it to your life’s to-do list! From what I’ve seen so far it’s pretty amazing.

Until then, have a great night y’all! :D

—===—

From the law:/dev/null 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting-related archives:

  1. Yes, I’m sufficiently fat-minded that beignets get their own special line of commentary in that paragraph :P []

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Über-huge mini-update on life

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 7, 2011 in The 2L Life

Evening y’all! :D

I’ve been gone from the blawgosphere for what seems like an eternity — I looked at the little calendar thing on the right for January, and for the first time since I started law:/dev/null there were more days without entries posted than with them :beatup:

As you can probably guess, I had totally overcommitted myself this semester. But I’ve started paring back and hope to get back into the swing of things here starting now ::fingers crossed::

Here’s a quick update on my life, which encompasses most of the dozen-ish entries I had queued up but never got around to posting:

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I. ACADEMICS
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The academic vibe this semester is totally different from last semester. Thus far I’ve got no real interest in any of my classes… plus I’m behind in pretty much all of them :(

Trial Practice is boring because all the stuff we’re going over — openings / closings / directs / crosses / objections — has already been beaten into my brain from trial team practice (see Part II below). Business Associations would probably be a fun class, if not for the fact I’m about 4 lectures behind in the reading.

Same deal with Scientific Evidence; I’ve got high hopes for enjoying it as the semester progresses, but between falling behind in the reading and class being at 8:30am, I’ve been very “blah” every day. As for Criminal Procedure, I finally managed to get caught up last week just to fall behind again by the next class.

I’ve basically been keeping my head down in all of my classes praying I don’t get called on :beatup: God willing I’ll be able to get everything caught up tomorrow and Tuesday…

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II. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M IN
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Trial team has essentially consumed my life. Back in early January during our first practice I was worried I’d be blown out by my teammates in our draft closing arguments, so I did a lot of prep on mine… and ended up giving the best one :surprised:

That netted me the team captain spot for the 2Ls with the designation as “swing” counsel. Since TYLA teams are either 2 or 3 people, in our case we’ve got 1 person solely doing prosecution, 1 solely doing defense, and the “swing” (me) doing both :crack:

So there have been multi-hour practices 4-5 days a week for a month now. On the off days I’m tweaking things and updating my trial binder and thinking about possible curveballs that could be tossed at us by the competition. Add in the fact I’d never actually questioned a witness before — abjectly failing on the first couple attempts as a result — and you get what’s been an awful loooong month.

For several days I’d get to the law school at 8am and not leave until 10pm, a scenario I assiduously avoided during 1L year and now can’t escape :beatup:

On the SBA end, Treasury work has been a mess too. All NCCU Law school students pay a fee to the main campus student union, which goes into a programming fund to which different organizations can submit requests for event funding. At some point years and years ago, the administrators on main campus decided it would be more efficient to just give the SBA that $$$ paid by law school students and letting us distribute it (since our folks almost never use main campus facilities) instead of having the law school groups submit a boatload of requests to main campus.

Turns out this was all a totally unofficial arrangement. With catastrophic budget cuts looming, the folks on NCCU’s main campus decided a few weeks ago they’re not going to give the SBA that money — months after the fiscal year started and we had adopted a budget including it. So I got to spend a good chunk of late January working with the SBA Exec Board and law school administrators to fill a ~$90K budget hole with only a few months left in our terms.

Fortunately we wrote a very austere budget back in September so we were able to pull it off, but at the cost of having to cancel our Spring appropriations process and trim back a bunch of other expenditures.

My campaign logo+slogan for SBA President

The whole situation’s roots in budget cuts has also persuaded me to run for SBA President in March. The impending cuts being handed down by the state legislature are truly mind-boggling in their enormity. Consider, for example, that for every $1 in state funding that’s eliminated from North Carolina’s university system, tuition has to be raised by $3 to make up the difference. The NCGA is currently talking about cutting $400,000,000.00+ from the UNC system. That means we’re facing $1.2B+ (yes, “billion” with a “b”) in tuition increases just to stay where we are — increases of roughly $5,600 per student.

Those kind of increases lead to mass dropouts like we had back in the early part of this millennium — including your humble author — and it makes for horrible public policy. Our SBA this year had to focus on rebuilding its internal credibility with the Student Body and faculty, and now it’s time for us to focus our sights elsewhere. I think (hope?) my experiences can make me a solid advocate for this university and law school in the year ahead.

I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes :)

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III. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M NOT IN
====================

Speaking of student advocates, UNCASG has been in the news quite a bit lately — and it seems for all the wrong reasons.

My successor and his administration pushed me out of the group and ran as far away from my way of doing things as quickly as his legs could carry him. I can’t really complain because that’s how politics goes and I certainly did the same thing when I took over.  The difference between then and now, though, is that I discarded things that didn’t work and found ways that did.

On the other hand, the new kids on the block have basically taken a timewarp back to 2006-07 :crack:

First there was a controversy over the President threatening Executive Officers who support local SG candidates who “disagree with the ‘ASG vision'”. This kind of institutional arrogance is precisely what alienated campuses from UNCASG in the past and led to the withdrawals in the year before I was elected. How anyone thought it was a good idea is beyond my limited mental faculties to comprehend; in my world, if you’re going to have to fire someone… you just don’t hire them in the first place.

The UNCCH Carolina Review decided to make hay from the issue with a piece of their own of course. You might recall the folks at the Carolina Review are the self-proclaimed conservatives cited by the Pope Center in the Center’s hit piece on my tuition views last March.1

I can’t blame the Carolina Review for trying to boost their readership with a timely article on a manufactured controversy, but pegging it as a conservative issue struck me as amusing — once upon a time conservatives opposed non-local people getting involved in local affairs. Instead the Review encourages it, as long as the involvement coincides with their own political views.

The whole situation is a mess, and one that should have been avoided. When I originally wrote UNCASG’s Ethics Act 2.5 years ago, I included this provision:

§1-2.5. Electioneering Prohibited.
(a) No Executive Officer receiving compensation funded by student fees shall knowingly engage in election-related advocacy or other campaign activities on behalf of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(b) No Executive Officer shall allow his or her name and/or official title to be used to further the candidacy of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(c) This section shall not be construed to prevent an Executive Officer from filing for elective office at a constituent member of the Association and from campaigning on his or her own behalf.

The section was removed in committee, at the urging of students from… UNCCH.2

The folks at the Carolina Review have also been circulating a petition to have a referendum on UNCCH’s participation in ASG put on their Student Government ballot in an effort to have the University remove itself. As the guy who created N.C. State’s student fee referenda from scratch back when I was Student Senate President, I’m actually in total support of having this particular referendum… but (unsurprisingly) they haven’t yet collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot. If they did, it would deprive them of an issue to carp about :roll:

“But TDot,” you say, “all of the stuff you’re talking about is small potatoes. None of this matters when a group is doing meaningful work and making a difference.” And you’d be right — but that’s not what’s actually going on.

Instead of focusing on the impending tuition battle I mentioned in Part I above, the leadership of UNCASG has focused instead on getting the President a vote on the university system’s Board of Governors — an utterly useless power on a Board where almost all votes are unanimous, and doubly useless when reaching out to the 215,000+ students the ASG President represents can carry more power than any vote. The last ASG meeting produced a total lack of consensus on a legislative agenda, leading to a factually-inaccurate DTH editorial touting a student vote as a good thing to try and fix the total dysfunction currently gripping the group.

The DTH (unsurprisingly) is wrong. Unfortunately the ASG leadership is wrong too.

Then there are the upcoming campus elections which will produce the next salvo of anti-ASG fireworks when new SBPs take office in a few months. Among the amusing candidacies is Rick Ingram, the odds-on favorite to become Student Body President at UNCCH. You might remember Ingram as the Kerry-esque flip-flopper who voted in favor of the UNCASG budget before he decided it would be more beneficial politically to oppose it. He’s been aggressively courting students for their votes — apparently so much so that the campus’s Board of Elections has already fined him for violating campaign rules and is now debating having him disqualified.3

Ingram also proclaimed on his website that “The simple truth is this — the days of fighting against tuition increases are over.”… an odd proclamation from a student and aspiring student leader in light of $1.2B+ in upcoming tuition hikes, and one which (1) the media (unsurprisingly) never covered and (2) promptly disappeared from his website when it became a political liability. Ingram’s victory would speak volumes about the UNCCH electorate, but more ominously it would ensure UNCASG wastes all of next year fighting pointless internal battles instead of serving students.

With all of this drama going on, for some unknown reason I made the mistake of heading to the NC General Assembly to catch up with some old colleagues and ask a few legislators of their thoughts on the situation. To say UNCASG has lost nearly all the credibility we built for it over two years would be putting it mildly :mad:  If I had any doubt that things were really as bad as they seemed, I actually got calls from several campuses asking me to come back and run for the organization’s Senior Vice President position.4 It’s disheartening that I’m actually considering it…

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IV. PERSONAL LIFE
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The saying “when it rains, it pours” was a pretty good epitaph for January 2011.

I was sick for the first week. My sister was committed to a mental institution the second week. QT’s dad unexpectedly died of a heart attack the week after. That very same day in trial team practice I found out a friend of mine was killed in a car accident.

At some point around that portion of the month I discovered both of my parents are either currently having or recently had affairs (I was sufficiently disappointed in both of them that I didn’t bother to inquire further) and the situation with my sister has them contemplating divorce. My dad was laid off from his job. My sister got released from the mental hospital and within the week was off her meds and smoking weed like she had nothing better to do with her time. At which point my parents discovered she had been stealing my mom’s jewelry to sell in an effort to finance her drug habit. Etc etc etc ad nauseum.

I’m pretty sure there was other crazy sh*t going on last month too but I did my best to forget as much of it as possible :beatup:  I’m trying to be a supportive friend to QT and her brother as best I can, trying to avoid the quagmire that is my family and their attendant refusal to make the tough decisions necessary to actually improve their lives, and otherwise trying to avoid having my generally sunshine-y disposition rained out on a near-daily basis like it did last month.

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V. PROFESSIONAL STUFF
====================

Things are at least marginally better on the professional side. I’ve started my tutoring sessions with the 1Ls in Criminal Law, and so far I’ve got the highest-attended tutorial and office hours out of the 15 different 1L classes (3 each in CrimLaw, CivPro, Torts, Property, and Ks). It’s too early to tell if that trend’s going to continue, but the feedback has been very positive and it really boosts my spirits :spin:

My internship with I-Cubed was also going really well. The people are great, the company culture is cool, the issues are interesting, and I was turning in sterling work product (even earning the praise of an attorney at another tech company). I was also getting addicted to the four-figure paychecks…

…but I walked away :surprised:

Between trial team consuming my time, my personal life being a crucible, and trying to keep up with academics, I just wasn’t able to give the company the 20 hours a week they needed. So I met with the CEO last week (my boss) and basically quit for now. I’m still part of the company and available for non-time-sensitive ad hoc projects as needed, but I’ve otherwise wound down to -0- hours a week until summer when the company will re-assess if I’m still useful to them.

It was the first time I’ve left a job since 2002, when I quit the State Bar to go take a leadership spot in the Wake County Clerk’s Office. There’s a part of me that’s terrified I made the wrong choice, especially with all the doom and gloom about the economy and law school employment stats and etc. But honestly I’d rather put everything out on the table and take my chances down the road than either (1) being miserable every day as I’m stretched too far in too many directions, or (2) start failing at things, turning in below-par work, and ending up getting fired anyway ;)

It was an awesome opportunity and I’m thankful for it, and I’ve got faith everything will work out exactly how it’s supposed to work out :)

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VI. BLAWG LIFE
====================

Spam combat on the backend of this blog has been continuing apace. My edition of the (badly-delayed) Law School Roundup will be coming up this week so I can punt the ball back over to Katie Luper :)

And oddly enough we had a real explosion in Google searches last month, so even though I had almost no entries in January we still had fairly decent traffic :crack:

I’ve also got a piece on tap for Beyond Hearsay that should be going live some time over the next couple weeks, and one for The True Verdict that I’m working on in my spare time — hopefully you’ll like them both ;)

—===—

That’s it for this entry y’all! I’m sorry for being gone as long as I was, but I’m gonna make a serious effort to get back in the game.

Until next time, have a great week! :D

  1. Views they fabricated from whole cloth despite five years’ worth of publicly-available commentary to the contrary. []
  2. Conservative UNCCH students at that, who saw an opportunity to back one of their own SBP candidates with ASG EOs. []
  3. Ingram’s response to the potentially-disqualifying allegations is quite entertaining. Anyone who’s taken the “Detection of Deception” CLE should be able to spot several items where he’s being dishonest with the Board; see if you can find them :) []
  4. I wrote term limits into the ASG Constitution so I’m ineligible to serve as President ever again. []

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Back in the Bull City

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 3, 2010 in Randomness

Hey everybody! :D

If you’re one of the (few) people still visiting me here at law:/dev/null even after my extended absences,  you know I never did get those entries posted that I mentioned last week.

And you also know that, given my track record, it’s not a surprise to anybody :beatup:

Aside from fending off a horrible this-is-why-Fall-sucks weather-related illness, Saturday through Monday was filled with a bunch of meetings, football games, birthday festivities (both for Co-Counsel and Q.T.), then packing for a 5.5-day excursion to Memphis, Tennessee to visit 雅雅 for her White Coat Ceremony at the Southern College of Optometry.

That’s where I’ve been since Tuesday night :) Every time I thought about pulling up the laptop to finish editing the old entries, my body usually reminded me that I was dog-tired and would be better off going to bed at a reasonable hour. And so that’s pretty much what happened like clockwork — I went to bed at the same time while on vacation that I go to bed during a school week…

You may judge me now :beatup:

So now it’s Sunday night, I’m penning this on the plane flight from Memphis to my layover in Atlanta, and I figured it’d probably be a good time to post something before the last handful of you decide to stop reading entirely ;)

The trip itself was very cool. On the plus side: Tennessee has minimum speed limits; I saw all sorts of cool creatures at the Memphis Zoo; plus I got to walk alongside the mighty Mississippi River :D

On the not-so-plus side: Memphis drivers are roughly comparable to people on the New Jersey Turnpike in terms of insanity; and I can’t recall the last time I went 6 days without Bojangles’.  But getting to hang out with 雅雅 and explore a different state made up for it :)

I've hit 8 states since moving out on my own at 17; still have a lot more exploring left!

I actually got to explore -3- different states — Memphis is sufficiently close to Mississippi and Arkansas that we swung through those as well. Many many many years ago I set a life goal of being in all 50 states before I die; I’ve still got a long way to go, but I did bump my total by 16% in one trip :D

Before I head off for the night, I also want to mention that it’s incredibly cool AirTran has wi-fi available during the flight! I’m guessing other carriers have wi-fi now too, but it just blows my mind to think how much air travel has advanced from the first flight at Kitty Hawk to now, where a law student of limited/nonexistent financial means can now travel across the country for just a tiny chunk of his financial aid refund — and remain digitally tethered to the ground in the process :spin:

Can you imagine how much cooler stuff is going to be in the next 100 years?? I hope we live that long (and are still competent to enjoy it!)

That’s it from me y’all. If any old entries get posted I’ll let you know, but given my track record just assume they’ve ended up in the digital abyss :P  Have a great night everybody!! :D

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T.G.I.T.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 26, 2010 in The 2L Life

Way back in March I mentioned one of the benefits of 2L status: my weekend starts on Thursday at 4pm.

Didn’t realize how much more appreciative I’d be of that perk after a rough week :beatup:

On the personal life front, 雅雅 is in Tennessee for optometry school and (understandably) homesick. The problem is she’s been there for 3 weeks now and it seems to be getting worse instead of better. Fully two-thirds of the text messages she sent me over the past couple days have been full of :( faces and references to missing me, missing her family, missing North Carolina, and so on. I try to cheer her up as best I can, but truth be told the whole situation sucks for me too… and constantly being reminded I can’t do anything about it just depresses the f*ck out of me. Not sure how to deal with it going forward but need to come up with something soon…

I figured out a solution fairly quick for Q.T. on the other hand, who over the past week has really gone out of her way to prove she has a maturity level roughly comparable to her height with a moral compass (to the extent it can even be called that) rivaling the most ignoble of politicians. And this is on top of her inconsiderate (footnoted) foolishness back on Monday.  So I blocked her on Facebook. And Twitter. And Gchat. And BBM. And Skype. I’d remove her contact entry from my phone entirely, but I needed it for archiving the text messages in case I ever develop a vengeful streak one day.

To all you disloyal immature jumpoffs out there: deuces

It’s a crushing change for someone who was a friend for 2 years, attended my graduation, even made my shortlist back at Thanksgiving :cry: But with some people sometimes you just need to chuck the deuces.1

Law school hasn’t been my typical 2L lollipops and rainbows either. The guy who recruited me for the VLAAC had some serious personal issues come up so he’s out of the competition, and me with him. Then there was yesterday’s workshop debacle. And with everything else going on I didn’t finish all the law school reading that had to get done for today, meaning I’ll need to shelve my plans to party this weekend so I can get caught up — I did, however, make sure to volunteer early and often in ConLaw when we were still covering the 3 pages I finished out of the 20 we were supposed to read :beatup:

Sorry for the downbeat opening y’all, just needed to vent a bit. I’m done now :)

A huge bright spot of the week: finally getting my $$$ for the semester. So I lifted my spirits earlier today by paying off all my credit cards, restocking the apartment with about $300 in groceries, and buying a new electric razor (I officially now :heart:  the Norelco Arcitec line). Now I’m packing to head down to Wilmington tomorrow to help with training for this year’s UNCASG delegates, which will at least give me an opportunity to be at the oceanfront tomorrow night — one of the very best forms of therapy ever created :spin:

I hope all of you have a great weekend, and I’ll do my best to keep things updated while I’m in Wilmington! :D

  1. I just kinda wish we had resolved everything yesterday, so the dates of us interacting with each other could have been a palindrome (10/25/08 to 08/26/10) #nerdfootnote []

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TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 23, 2010 in Mail

Good evening y’all! :)

Sorry for the multi-day hiatus here at law:/dev/null. There’s been some personal stuff going on behind the scenes that has really sapped my motivation to be productive,1 and unfortunately that included writing an entry for the blog.

But I missed y’all, so I’m making sure I put something together for tonight ;)

Back during 1L Orientation a couple weeks ago, the NCCU Law Student Bar Association put together a student panel where the 1Ls could ask us any questions they wanted. The 2012 class president and I represented the 2Ls, while the SBA President, Vice President and Parliamentarian offered the 3L perspective.

We got uniformly positive feedback from the 1Ls afterwards, but based on some of the faces I saw while the Q&A was going on I have to wonder if we were really just boring the f*ck out of them :beatup:

The Q&A was capped at an hour, so I’ve gotten a few questions since then that I threw together into this entry. Just remember that my perspective is a bit different from other folks — not always in a good way — so take this with the requisite grains (translation: barrels) of salt…

***

Q: David2 asks:

One of your colleagues on the panel said she studied 60 hours a week to get her grades. Do we really need to study that much?

A: It depends :)

Don’t focus as much on the exact number of hours she quoted as on what she said afterwards: you have to know yourself. No one can gauge your own strengths and weaknesses, your own study habits, your goals, and so on better than you. That’s going to be a huge determinant in how much you study.

For example, I didn’t study anywhere near 60 hours a week during my 1L year. After spending over a decade working in the legal arena, a lot of the terminology and reasoning came naturally to me — so I maybe studied 2 hours a day at most, and most of that was just doing the required readings.

But the difference between my colleague and I? She’s one of the top-ranked students in the class, while I barely made the top half :beatup:

If you have legal experience or naturally “get” this stuff, you may be able to study less; conversely, if the material is difficult for you to digest you’ll need to study more. If you’re content with barely passing, you can have a great time screwing around your 1L year3 and won’t need to study nearly as much as my colleague… but if you want to have a high GPA to get a decent internship or otherwise do something productive with your life, you’ll probably want to work a little (translation: a lot) harder than I did ;)

***

Q: Ethan writes in with a similar question:

So some of my study partners have been in the library since at least 12pm and stay until the building closes. Am I missing something? I’m worried I’m messing up already…

A: See above — it depends ;)

Some of your classmates will genuinely need to study that much, based on their study habits or their scholastic objectives or other issues; we certainly had folks like that in my classes last year. But you’re not going to get anywhere comparing yourself to them.

Remember: law school is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you want to gauge whether or not you’re “messing up already” before midterms, reflect on how well you’re able to understand the material and follow along in class. If you’re totally lost, go see your professor. If you see you’re professor and you’re still totally lost, then think about studying a bit harder or checking the law library for a hornbook or other useful supplement.

Putting in all the study time in the world isn’t going to benefit you at all if you’re not getting anything useful out of the time you’re studying ;)

***

Q: Felicia’s thinking about skipping law review too:

How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative or some of these other clubs? Do you think I’ll have time to do that and study?

A: Not to give everyone the same lawyer-esque response, but you’ve probably guessed by now — it depends :beatup:

All of the SBA Representatives will need to participate in the normal SBA meetings, including when we hear requests for funding from all the student groups which historically takes about 6-7 hours. SBA Reps are also required to have office hours (good study time) and help with planning/implementing any SBA events that get held.

If this were the entire equation, I’d say “Of course you’ll have time”… but only you will know what grades you’re aiming for and how much you’ll need to study to get there.

I’d encourage you to run regardless — if nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to get out and meet your fellow 1Ls — but whether you’ll have time for it is a judgment call you’ll have to make for yourself.

***

Q: Gabriel also has studying on his mind:

I’m having trouble deciding whether or not to do my case briefing based on the outlines the 2Ls gave me, the stuff I find on random case briefing websites, or just do the reading and brief it all on my own? A combination of the two or three?

A: Definitely do the briefing all on your own, at least for the first few weeks. The stuff 2Ls pass down to 1Ls is designed to serve as a template since you’ll have no clue what to look for when you first start out. The whole point to briefing on your own is to train your mind to recognize the important stuff in a case.

After you’ve been at it for a month or two, odds are good you’ll be in the habit of briefing the case in your mind as you read — this is the precursor to the common “book briefing” you’ll see other students using, where stuff like “Issue” and “Rule” get scrawled in the margins of the textbook. At that point folks will start using the 2L briefs to save time, because by that point in the semester you’ll be focusing more on outlining than you will on case briefs.

***

Q: Henry is looking ahead to next year:

Is law school really just a big head game? What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?

A: To the first question, I’d say yes.

You’ll hear folks repeat the law school aphorism “Your first year they scare you to death, your second year they work you to death, and your third year they bore you to death.” But if you know you want to be a lawyer and you’re determined to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal — or, conversely, you have a backup plan and don’t really care if you fail out — there’s nothing to really scare you in the first year.

And, at least in my opinion, a lack of fear goes a long way to maintaining your composure under pressure and mastering the 1L crucible.

As for the second question, the biggest difference I’ve noticed between 1L and 2L years so far is how relaxed everyone seems. There’s no discernible terror over being called on in class. People understand the material. Folks don’t seem to study as much as last year — hell even a slacker like me was actually two days ahead on the class readings :crack:

We’re only a week into the semester though, so I’m fairly sure things will change from here :)

***

Q: And we’ll finish with a question from Isabella about my own motivations for law school:

What made you pursue law after having done computer science?

A: As bizarre as I’m sure it sounds, I’ve actually wanted to do law since I was a kid :beatup:

Some time around the 10th grade I really got hooked on civics, public service, and related stuff — read Supreme Court decisions for fun and so on.4 I decided I wanted to be a constitutional law professor at some point, and wanted to be Virginia’s Attorney General when I got older (before I moved to North Carolina and fell in love with this state :spin: ).

But I also grew up in a family that most folks would consider “poor” financially, so my college focus was on what was going to make me the most $$$ when I graduated. I had a talent for computers and I started at N.C. State right as the dot-com boom was hitting its stride. I was going to become a computer engineer and make six figures starting after graduation.

That was the plan at least. I dropped out of N.C. State two years later because I couldn’t afford tuition and ended up $16K in debt to the University :beatup:

During the five years I was a dropout, I worked in the legal arena the whole time since I could make a decent wage without a college degree. Getting hired for computing-related jobs, by contrast, typically required various certifications that I couldn’t afford to get. So when I finally came back to N.C. State in August 2005, I knew law school was definitively where I was going once undergrad was done.

But I was also determined to get my Bachelor’s degree in some kind of computer-related field because I felt like switching into something else would be like admitting defeat, like I wasn’t intelligent enough to hack it in a “hard science” engineering discipline. I briefly entertained the thought of switching to Communications or Political Science or Economics before coming back to that conclusion every time. Not the most rational thought pattern in the world, I admit… but I damn sure have a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science adorning the wall of my bedroom ;)

So that was a ridiculously long answer where a fairly short one would suffice: I’ve known I wanted to do this for years, I just didn’t do it sooner because I was stubborn as hell :)

—===—

That’s it from me for the night folks! I hope all of you have an amazing week!! :D

  1. For example, dealing with people who treat you with a level of respect generally reserved for household insects… until they need tech support. And then don’t show up after asking you to be available at a certain time to provide said tech support. And then act incredulous when you no longer have the patience to continue dealing with them gratis or otherwise. []
  2. In case you’re new to these mailbag entries, all the names are anonymous — picked at random from the Social Security Administration’s Popular Names database. Feel free to send me an email if you’ve got a question for a mail entry! :D []
  3. For posterity’s sake, my “screwing around” was actually doing advocacy work with UNCASG. I’m bad but I’m not that bad. ;)   []
  4. Yes, I was odd. Don’t judge me. :P []

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2

O Motivation, Where Art Thou?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 19, 2010 in The 2L Life

Last Friday I mentioned looming Saturday classes from 9am-3pm every weekend until the end of June, as part of our ADR Clinic at the NC Central University School of Law. Today was supposed to be spent volunteering as a mediator in a mock MSC for our Mediation Advocacy class, where my colleagues are learning the advocate side of the mediation process.

Mine got cancelled so no class for me B-)

And what did I do with my unexpected free time? Hit the pool? Hit the gym? Hit the road?

None of the above :beatup:

Maybe it’s just a recurring experience at the end of a semester — final exam week starts Monday! — but lately I’ve had roughly -0- motivation to do anything even remotely productive. Today I woke up on time (for a change) and cooked breakfast, spent the morning reading the news and catching up on the law blogs, ate lunch with Q.T., then came home and did everything possible to avoid doing something useful. Played Wii. Watched Lockup reruns on TV. Upgraded my BlackBerry’s OS. Randomly started cooking food around 10pm. Etc.

Meanwhile I’ve got clothes strewn around the bedroom in need of laundering, dishes around the kitchen in need of washing… and the law school stuff in need of reading/writing that I’ve been avoiding like the plague :beatup:

I’m gonna try to will myself into productivity tomorrow though :) Fingers crossed. Hopefully all of you are having a bit more success in that endeavor than I am ;)

Have a great night y’all! :D

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1

TDot’s Treats #3: Nan’s Peanut Blossoms

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 26, 2010 in TDot's Treats

With the requisite “no offense intended” disclaimer to the ladies who happen to read law:/dev/null, my (limited) experience with female drivers suggests to me that they tend to look at traffic laws more like traffic suggestions.

Co-Counsel nearly gave me a heart attack back in January. Q.T. seems to have a new citation of some kind or another every time we talk. Even 雅雅, the safest of the bunch, was once on the telephone with me while driving… a fact I didn’t know, until I hear “OH MY GOD I JUST RAN THROUGH A STOP SIGN!” on the other end :beatup:

So you can imagine my shock (shock!) when I was talking with the Pickle Princess early today and find out that she happened to get a speeding ticket1… on the very day she has an attorney in a different county taking care of another speeding ticket on her behalf.

You may commence head-shaking at any time ;)

Since she’ll be needing another attorney sooner than I’ll have my law license, I promised I’d put up my family recipe for a special brand of cookies in the hope she might be able to offer them as compensation. It also gave me an excuse to stop studying for tomorrow’s Property exam :angel:

Hope y’all enjoy :D

—===—

TDot’s Treats #3: Nan’s Peanut Blossoms
Difficulty: 4 of 5 (kinda tough)

One of my absolute favorite family traditions growing up was having the entire family gather at Nan’s each Christmas Eve for dinner and other festivities. Pretty much everyone in my family fights with everyone else all the time — imagine locking some Tea Party folks in a room with Obama-ites, the Goracle, and a handful of illegal immigrants — but the fact Nan would bake almost a dozen different types of cookies more than made up for it ;)

This recipe is my personal favorite, and continues to be my favorite cookie to this day.

***

Ingredients:

  • 1 & 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of shortening
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 unbeaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • A small bowl of sugar on the side (for coating)
  • A bag of Hershey Kisses

***

Culinary Notes:
Any recipe that calls for more than 1 cup of flour calls for a mess. Make sure you’re comfortable with having to do some kitchen clean-up when it’s all over :)

***

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 375º F.

Tonight's finished product. Had to eat 1 already...

In a glass or ceramic mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter and the shortening.  Gradually add in the sugar and the brown sugar, creaming all of that well.  Then add in the egg and the vanilla and beat/cream well.

By the time this first phase is done, you should have a light brown, not-quite-gooey-looking lump of not-quite-dough.

Next you’ll want to gradually blend in your remaining dry ingredients (the flour, baking soda and salt) and mix well.  By the time you get about 1 cup of the flour into it, the dough will probably be too thick to mix with egg beaters or a wooden spoon so I’d recommend just using your hands to mix in the rest.

After everything is very thoroughly mixed, it should be a uniform color throughout.  It should also be dry enough that the dough will crumble around the edges of the lump in the bowl, but still moist enough that if you mush it together in your hands and shape it into a ball it’ll hold its shape.

As you can probably guess, that’s what you’re going to do next :D

Take a chunk of the dough and roll it into a ball in your hands, so it’s roughly 1″ in diameter.  Take the ball and roll it around in the bowl of sugar on the side so there’s a light sugar coating all around it.  Then place on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies at 375º for 10 minutes.  While the cookies are baking, unwrap 1 Hershey Kiss for each cookie you’ve got on the sheet.

At the 10 minute mark, take your cookies out of the oven and firmly push a Kiss into the middle of each cookie. The cookie dough ball should crack around the edges.

Put your cookies back in the oven to cook another 2-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

Once they’re done, remove them from the oven and let cool on a cookie rack.  Clean up the mess in the kitchen and then reward yourself with one of your new sweet treats :D

***

Total Preparation Time: ~30 minutes
Total Cooking Time: ~30 minutes

Serving Size: ~24 cookies

Recommended Side Items: n/a

—===—

Have fun y’all :) And have a great night! :D

Past TDot’s Treats entries:

  1. In contrast to my somewhat more leisurely driving preferences ;) []

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1

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 26, 2009 in Randomness

Second only to Independence Day, I have to confess Thanksgiving is my other favorite holiday of the year :D

It’s not about the food (though that’s definitely a perk for someone on the “impoverished law student” diet). Thanksgiving is a useful holiday for benchmarking how much things have changed over the years and reminds me how truly fortunate I’ve been.

Today I enjoyed a delicious meal with a half-dozen or so classmates who stayed in town to study for finals, prepping for the end of my first semester in professional school.

1 year ago I was in Virginia Beach visiting my grandparents, still a semester away from finishing my undergraduate degree, but enjoying the insane schedule that came with being a first-term President of the UNC Association of Student Governments and a second-term Student Senate President at N.C. State — highlighted by the Raleigh-to-Elizabeth City-to-Virginia Beach-to-Greenville-to-Raleigh itinerary for the break :)

Myself and QuietStorm back in 2004

Myself and QuietStorm back in 2004

5 years ago I had an equally insane schedule but it wasn’t quite as fun. I was a college dropout working 2 jobs, enjoying a small-but-delicious Thanksgiving meal at the country club apartment I shared with QuietStorm, thankful for having a full-time job after the 2004 election season ended but also relishing the day off before I headed back on Friday to work overtime on some pleadings. It was at that point I decided BigLaw was probably not my cup of tea :beatup:

And 10 years ago I didn’t have much of a Thanksgiving meal at all, with QuietStorm and I sharing some EasyMac and leftover Pokey Stix from Gumby’s while we surreptitiously stayed in my dorm room (despite the residence halls being closed) because I didn’t have the money to travel and she took pity on me wanting to make sure I enjoyed my Thanksgiving (it worked :heart: ).

Some people ask why my ego is so outrageously oversized.  In all candidness I’ve even wondered myself every now and then (ok really just once). Yet when I go back through the old photos and old emails from holidays past, when I reflect on going from a high school scholar to a college dropout, from being homeless to living in a ridiculously swank apartment, from having to work 2 jobs just to make ends meet to studying law full-time while being a student advocate on the side — it’s hard to be humble.

But it’s harder not to be humbled.

For all the experiences, I owe most of it to circumstances and people beyond my control. So with Thanksgiving 2009 winding to a close, here’s a brief (non-exhaustive) list of some of the things I’m thankful for this year:

Can you guess which one is the college degree? :)

Can you guess which one is the college degree?

  • My degree — After I dropped out back in 2000, I thought I’d never graduate from college. By the time I made it to my senior year in Computer Science, I really thought I’d never graduate from college :beatup: But for whatever reason my teachers took pity on me, and the Bachelors of Science degree they gave me this past June is proudly framed and hanging on my wall.
  • The NCCU School of Law — Out of my 3 options for law school, NCCU was really the only one I could afford. It turned out to be an excellent fit, plus I met some pretty awesome people in the process :D
  • Madame Prosecutor — Speaking of those classmates, no one has challenged me quite like this lady. She drives me absolutely bonkers at times but I’ve got no doubt my grades and overall 1L experience have been better because of her.
  • My SG colleagues — This is such a diverse group of people I can’t really single anyone out, but working with these folks has been the highlight of my life for the past 4 years. I appreciate and respect all of you, and look forward to the great things you’ll be doing in the years ahead!
  • Q.T. — One of those aforementioned colleagues, she’s not only helped me get things done in UNCASG but has been a great friend as well. She even helped me study for the CivPro midterm :)
  • 雅雅 — Dealing with me on a daily basis is bad enough in a normal year; it’s even worse when I’m active in 2 separate Student Government groups, interning downtown at the N.C. General Assembly, and trying to graduate in Computer Science. 雅雅 supported me the whole time even when more rational people would have bailed, and some of the best times in my life have been spent with her :)
  • Nan and Pops — I love my family, but my grandparents deserve more recognition than I could ever give them here. They helped raise me, helped me get back on my feet as a dropout, helped me stay in school when I made it back, the list goes on. When I was at N.C. State the 2nd time through I was terrified one of them would pass away before I got my degree, and more so than anyone else on this earth they’re responsible for me graduating and making it to law school.
  • God — I’m not a particularly religious guy, and I’m generally averse to publicly displaying my faith (not sure why, I’ve just been that way my whole life). Even so, I’ve had so many great experiences and been surrounded by so many amazing people that I can’t ascribe it to mere coincidence. I just hope I can live my life in a way that reflects my appreciation for all the blessings I’ve been given.

I’ll end the list there, since this entry is already pretty long ;)

I hope all of you had an amazing Thanksgiving with friends and loved ones! And remember: it gets even better from here :D

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-

“Tendencies”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 21, 2009 in Student Government

Whenever there’s a UNCASG meeting, the wholesale creation of various inside jokes (some funny, others not-so-much) inevitably follows.  ASG may be the best student advocacy groups in the state. It may get a lot of tangible business done that benefits the students of the University. But it also epitomizes the “Play Hard” component of the saying “Work Hard, Play Hard” — and those antics provide a ready supply of material.

Calling “tendencies” seems like it’ll become one of the new ones from this weekend.  It started last night when some of us noticed one of our more-coquettish officers flirting with a few delegates, and a comment was made about her “ho-like tendencies” (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek, as she’s probably the most innocent of my executive team — myself included :angel: ).

The reference would have died as quickly as it was uttered… but for the indignation of the lass in question when she overheard it. So now whenever she does anything that could conceivably be construed as flirting, someone blurts out “tendencies” and a round of laughs ensue.

And after the ASU-WCU football game earlier today, it may get expanded to other uses as well.

UNCASG folks at the ASU-WCU football game in Boone

UNCASG folks at the ASU-WCU football game in Boone

Following an ASU touchdown, their school mascot fires a rifle over the crowd. Shortly into the first quarter they scored, the rifle goes off… and Q.T. + half of our folks duck. Not flinch, not scrunch down a little bit, but completely hit the deck to avoid gunfire. And where were those folks from? Winston-Salem. Durham. Baltimore. Miami. Etc.

Maybe I didn’t react because I saw it coming, but I laughed :beatup: It’s one of those experiences that I can’t adequately capture in words for the blog, but thought I’d share just the same.

Off to the usual post-meeting celebrating :)  Have a great night folks!

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