1

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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Billing by the word (or, “Redundant Redundancy FTL”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 17, 2011 in Fail

Hey everybody! :D

I hope all of you have had an amazing weekend!  The crush of work I mentioned in my last entry is finally finished, so I’ve spent the past couple days reflecting on life,1 relaxing,2 and now working on a leadership development presentation for my undergraduate colleagues in the N.C. Central University Student Government.

And of course taking a break to throw one of these posts together ;)

It’s no secret that I’m generally not a fan of Contracts (see here and here and here if you don’t know why). The concepts aren’t exactly difficult, I’m just not aware of any field of law where people have gone to greater lengths to defile the meaning of perfectly functional English words.

Not even Capt. Picard approves of these Ks

Now most legal documents seem to have taken the old adage of “Don’t use a 10-cent word when a 5-cent word will do” and replaced it with “Don’t use a 10-cent word when an identical or substantially similar conveyance of meaning is articulable through the concurrent deployment of at least, but not limited to, a half-dozen or more $2 locutions.” :beatup:

So this entry is dedicated to those documents and to the lawyers billing by the word who wrote them.3

I’ve picked a quartet of clauses from actual contracts that have crossed my desk over the past few months for your reading pleasure, and underlined the language that irks me…

Honorable Mention:

This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of [RandomState], without reference to its conflict of laws principles.

Now I realize that this underlined snippet is actually designed to serve a purpose. Those of you who paid attention in CivPro might recognize this entire clause as a “choice of law” provision, indicating which state’s laws the parties want to use in enforcing the contract. And some of those states have enacted statutes — their “conflict of laws principles” — that say if a cause of action arises in another state, that other state’s laws should govern the conflict.

So, hypothetically, if a contract between a buyer in North Carolina and a seller in Virginia is construed under North Carolina law, but something happens in Virginia such that the seller defaults and the buyer files suit, a judge interpreting the contract might say “Construing this contract under North Carolina law, since this default happened in Virginia and North Carolina’s conflict of laws provisions say a contract must be governed by the law of the state giving rise to the cause of action, the Virginia law applies to this suit.” The underlined text would, theoretically at least, prevent that from happening.

[Note that I don’t actually know if what would actually happen in that particular hypothetical, I’m just trying to come up with a rational explanation for the underlined verbiage :beatup: ]

Then why, assuming this language really does serve a purpose, did it get included in my list?

Because one of the cardinal principles of contract interpretation is construing the contract in a way that effects the intent of the parties. It’s evident from including a choice of law provision in the first place that the parties wanted it governed by the law of the chosen state. For either party to then use the chosen state’s conflict of laws principles to wedge their way under the aegis of a different state’s laws would seem (to my feeble mind at least) to frustrate the signatories’ intent.

***

Third Place:

Notwithstanding any provision of this Agreement to the contrary, if any confidential information is required to be disclosed pursuant to an order of a governmental agency or by operation of law, the receiving party shall be permitted to disclose such confidential information in accordance with the order or law. Prior to the disclosure the receiving party shall, unless prohibited by law, give the disclosing party reasonable advance notice to contest the disclosure.

Is there any kind of notice “[p]rior to the disclosure” that would not be “advance notice”?

Is there any kind of “advance notice” to contest a disclosure that could happen after “[p]rior to the disclosure”?

Unless the meaning of those basic words has changed since I last took an English class, the answer to both questions is “no.” The redundancy is unnecessary surplusage.4

***

Second Place:

In the event of a breach of this Agreement, [OurCo] may demand from [YourCo] the sum of One-Hundred Thousand U.S. Dollars ($100,000.00) as liquidated damages and as reimbursement for expenses incurred and estimated to be incurred by [OurCo], which [YourCo] agrees to pay to [OurCo] within five (5) business days of the demand by [OurCo].

This one evidently originated in the Legal Department of a company that really likes seeing its name in print :roll:

This type of “break fee” provision is common in many contracts, designed to incentivize a party to avoid breaching the agreement. It’s obvious from the first sentence that the ability to demand payment in this clause belongs to OurCo, so the recitation of the rationale (“reimbursement for expenses…” blah blah blah) doesn’t need the “by OurCo” reference. Neither does the last line, since nothing in this clause gives YourCo the ability to make such a demand; we’re only talking about OurCo’s demand here.

And if OurCo is making the demand, why require in the contract that YourCo must “pay [it] to OurCo”? Maybe OurCo’s finance guys want YourCo to pay the money to some random charity so it’s not reflected as income on OurCo’s balance sheet.

Lots of redundancy all around… ::smh::

***

Before getting into our First Place winner, I have to confess up front that I bear some responsibility for any continued longevity this provision now has — I alphabetized the original and removed some of its duplicate listings.5 :beatup:

First Place:

“Document” means a physical embodiment of information or ideas of any kind or nature, including items that are handwritten, printed, mimeographed, lithographed, duplicated, typed, or contained in a graphic, photographic, film, video, tape or other electronic recording. Examples of documents include, but are not limited to: accounts, affidavits, analyses, answers to questionnaires, appointment books, balance sheets, bills, blueprints, book entries, books, cables, calculations, catalogs, charts, checks, computer files, computer logs, computer printouts, computer programs, contracts, correspondence, data, deeds, deposit slips, desk calendars, diagrams, diaries, drafts, drawings, emails, evaluations, expense reports, films, forms, formulas, graphs, income and/or investment statements, indexes, instructions, invoices, journals, ledgers, letters, license agreements, lists, logs, magnetic tapes and cards, manuals, maps, memoranda, microfilms, minutes, money orders, newspaper articles or clippings, notations, notes, offers, opinions, pamphlets, papers, periodicals, photographs, plans, publications, punch cards, purchase orders, questionnaires, receipts, records, renderings, reports, schedules, sheets, specifications, statements, statistical records, studies, summaries, surveys, tabulations, tax returns, telegrams, telex messages, text messages of any kind (including AIM, ICQ, MMS and SMS), transcripts, vouchers, warranties, web pages, websites, work papers, and worksheets. Documents also include, but are not limited to, reports and recordings of (i) telephone or other conversations, (ii) interviews or personal conversations, (iii) conferences, or (iv) committee meetings or other meetings, in addition to all other records or information kept by electronic, photographic, mechanical or other means, and things similar to any of the foregoing, however denominated.

This one actually takes up an entire page once it’s put in 12pt Times New Roman and doubled-spaced :crack:

For comparison, Black’s Law Dictionary defines a “document” as “Something tangible on which words, symbols, or marks are recorded.”

And Merriam-Webster’s goes with “a piece of written, printed, or electronic matter that provides information or evidence or that serves as an official record.”

Neither apparently feels it necessary to provide a page’s worth of examples.

—===—

Have a good night y’all! :)

  1. Son of TDot turned 13 yesterday :surprised: []
  2. Saw Harry Potter 7.2 with 雅雅… and, the storyline notwithstanding, thought it was the worst film in the series :beatup: []
  3. Hat tip to Peter Romary of The True Verdict blawg for inadvertently suggesting the title of this entry :) []
  4. And yes, I realize “unnecessary surplusage” is redundant — that’s the point :P []
  5. Meaning the original was even worse, if you can imagine that… []

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Best. Vacation. Evah.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 31, 2010 in Randomness

Back in July, I took my first bona fide vacation in ages when 雅雅 and I went to visit Nan and Pops for Independence Day and took a roadtrip through the Outer Banks of North Carolina on the way back.

This past week was so much better! :D

First, my employer1 closed down the office on both Thursday and Friday for Christmas. I don’t get paid time off or anything when they’re closed, but it did let me leave out of here on Wednesday night and spend more time with family.

Speaking of family, those of you who were readers back during Father’s Day or who are friends with me on Facebook might recall that it had been an incredibly long time since I last saw Son of TDot.2 Well at some point recently he asked his mom about who I was and if he could see me, so she arranged for the three of us to have lunch on Thursday :surprised:

We met up at the food court of a local mall for what was probably one of the most nervous moments I’ve had ever in my life. It was amusing as I walked up because his mom was standing with her back to the direction I was coming from with Son of TDot facing my way. He saw me from about 75ish feet away and gave a look like “This guy looks oddly familiar”… and I basically gave him the same look, because I thought it was him but hadn’t seen him in so long I wasn’t sure :beatup:

It’s not surprising to share similarities with your own offspring, but some of it still took me by surprise. His hair was cut short like mine3 and he looks a lot like I did when I was 12. We ended up independently ordering the same thing for lunch: a 10-piece chicken nugget meal from McDonald’s with a Sprite for the drink. His favorite subjects in school were the same as mine (science and history). He loves playing with Legos (I’ve still got a box of mine in the closet). He also loves RPGs, specifically Kingdom Hearts — a spinoff of the Final Fantasy series I play myself, so a good chunk of lunch was spent with the two of us talking video games :D

He also has allergies in the winter like I do, to the point where he keeps tissues in his jacket pocket. The look on his face was priceless when I pulled out my own batch of tissues from my coat pocket too :lol:

I know he was nervous and I suspect his mom was nervous (and Lord knows I was nervous too), but all in all it was pretty awesome and I’m hopeful that it was the first meeting of many more in the future :)

The snow that was predicted (top) and what fell (bottom)

The next day was Christmas Eve, which is when the family gathers at Nan and Pops’ house to exchange presents with each other. If you count the various denominations of currency/gift cards as one gift, 50% of my Christmas presents were toothbrushes (an electric one and a travel one). It’s almost like my family was trying to tell me something…

Everyone got along this year, which is a switch from years past when there’s usually a bunch of arguing.4 And I enjoyed being able to finally afford presents for everyone in the family — even if it meant they all got NCCU Law paraphernalia :angel:

Then of course there was Christmas, my 3rd favorite holiday of the year after Independence Day and Thanksgiving :) Dinner was tasty and it was fun getting to hang out with the family.

Y’all already read about Snowmageddon 2010, my road trip back to Durham. The photo on the right shows the difference between what was forecast when I left for Virginia Beach and what had I actually fallen by the time I was driving home.  The red dots respectively show Nan and Pops’ house in Virginia Beach and my apartment here in Durham.

It was a bit of a white-knuckle experience but in hindsight it was pretty cool :D

Our view from the hotel room

雅雅 and I then headed down to Orlando the next morning for the Champs Sports Bowl, where we got totally spoiled by Nan using her frequent traveler points to reserve a hotel room for us at the Grand Bohemian in downtown Orlando.5 We were automatically upgraded to the “concierge level” on the top floor because of it, which included among other perks a VIP lounge with its own bar just steps from our door B-)

The photo shows part of what I woke up to on Tuesday morning :eek:

In a fitting dose of irony, however, our trip to Orlando happened to be accompanied by near-record low temperatures for Florida :beatup: We had to bundle up as we were exploring downtown, and had to double-bundle up before heading to the stadium.

But I think one of the coolest aspects of the trip (aside from the weather) was being able to connect with dozens of friends from undergrad, all of us in a different city of a different state, traveling from across the country to reunite in support of our alma mater. It was a fun realization :)

Then of course there was the game itself, my very first bowl game that I attended in person :D

My new red NC State hat!

I upgraded my black N.C. State hat that I’ve had since 2000 with a new red edition to help add to the red shading of the arena — which complemented the shading of the post-game crowd after the Wolfpack followed up with a huge 23-7 win! :spin:

It was definitely a lot of driving over the past week, but it was well worth it! It’s been an amazing year, and I’m incredibly blessed to have an opportunity to end it the way I have.

Now I’m recharged and ready for the Spring semester to get underway :)

Hope all of you had equally amazing vacations, and have a fun and festive New Year’s Eve! :D

  1. Do you call them employers for internships? []
  2. 8 years, 5 months, 7 days to be precise. []
  3. Voluntarily in his case, disguising the fact I’m going bald in mine :beatup: []
  4. My family puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” ;) []
  5. She said it was repayment for me winning a trip for 2 to Atlantic City NJ during an elementary school fundraiser when I was in the 5th grade :surprised: []

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Happy Father’s Day!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 20, 2010 in Randomness

Not sure if we have any fathers who read law:/dev/null, but if there are a happy Father’s Day to you! :)

This is a weird holiday for me, has been for awhile. I’m a father in the definitional sense — Son of TDot turns 12 years old next month — and because of that some of my friends will send me text messages or give me a call with well wishes. But I also don’t play any meaningful role in his life1 so today isn’t really meant for people like me.

It does remind me, though, how traditional the “nontraditional” has gotten. I’ve never met my biological father, and was adopted by my dad when my parents got married… but spent a majority of my life growing up living with Nan & Pops. Even though Son of TDot knows who I am in an abstract way, he was adopted when his mom got married too. I know a number of colleagues with two fathers, both in the “my mom got divorced and remarried” sense and the “my parents are gay” sense. I know a larger number with no father in the picture at all, raised by single moms filling both the mother and father roles. And I know folks who were/are foster children, and others raised by their grandparents. The list goes on.

It’s those folks who are supposed to get recognized today. So if you’re a father, a grandfather, a stepfather, an adoptive father, a single mom filling in as a father, or anyone else holding that role in a family, I hope you have a very happy Father’s Day! :D

And to the rest of you, have a great night :)

  1. I’ll spare you the details and attendant documentation; suffice to say I acceded to what I was told would be best for him despite regretting doing so most of the 10 years since. []

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