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Getting intimate (with QuickBooks)

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.1

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 :beatup:

I’ve been a QuickBooks user since 2005 when I was hired to be a lobbyist for a small firm in downtown Raleigh.2 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 :surprised: ).

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 :beatup:

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! :D

  1. It took awhile to sink into my brain that 1 civil litigation case is (typically) more involved than 1 criminal case. I’d been benchmarking myself against classmates routinely handling 200+ cases at a time, before discovering most of them were traffic tickets :beatup: []
  2. Where they apparently still haven’t removed me from the “About Us” section of their website 8 years later… :crack: []

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Things TDot Likes: Ruby Receptionists

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 28, 2014 in Things TDot Likes

You might have noticed in a couple of my old entries here and here that I’ve posted a graphic of how many phone calls have come in to my firm during the previous month.

The Activity screen from Ruby's iPhone App

The Activity screen from Ruby’s iPhone App

You may not have noticed that graphic is from the iPhone app for my receptionist :)

Ruby Receptionists is a virtual reception service based out of Portland, Oregon. Using VOIP technology, phone calls to your business line1 get routed to them, the caller talks to a live receptionist on the other end, and then if you’re available the receptionist can patch the call through to any line you choose (mine comes to my mobile phone).

If you’re not available — something you can update easily with the iPhone app or through their website — they can inform clients where you are, when you’ll be back, take a message, or forward them to your voicemail.

They send you a handy email letting you know who called and the details, and if someone left a voicemail you’ll get a separate email with a .wav audio file of the message attached.

They can also assist you by making outbound phone calls to clients2 and can also take detailed instructions on what kind of information you want collected from incoming callers (including whether or not they’re existing clients or potential new ones).

I’ve been using Ruby for almost a year now and have nothing but the highest praises for what they do. It lets me focus on my cases when I’m in court without worrying that I’m missing important calls.

Plus getting the emails with caller details and voicemail messages make it easy for me to work remotely, so if I have multiple hearings in another county — usually in Wake, 30 minutes south — I can just camp out and work in between hearings instead of burning gas and an hour of time traveling back and forth :D

My praises notwithstanding, don’t misunderstand: the service is expensive. I’m using their lowest tier of service at $239.00/mo.3 Next to office rent, that’s far and away my biggest expense.

But it’s also much much cheaper than hiring an actual person, who would likely cost me at least $2,000.00/mo plus benefits and regulatory compliance.

I’ve also found it makes clients more inclined to hire me; in terms of “conversion” (salesspeak for the proportion of folks who hire me out of all the ones who call), there was a bump when I shifted from meeting people in the library to having a dedicated office, and a bump again when I shifted from answering my own calls to having a receptionist.

This is officially the first hand-signed birthday card I have ever received from a vendor. Ever.

This is officially the first hand-signed birthday card I have ever received from a vendor. Ever.

Folks just naturally expect that in order to be a competent lawyer you need a receptionist too. So Ruby ultimately pays for itself in my case.

Plus they sent me this birthday card signed by all of their staff, which totally blew my mind :surprised:

If you’re thinking about using Ruby, you do get 14 days free so you can test out the service and see if you like it.

And I don’t typically shill referral links and such, but they also offer to waive the $95 setup fee for people who sign up through a referral — so if you want to give them a try, feel free to use this link.4

That’s my rundown on Ruby :) If you’re a new solo or hitting a point where you think you need a receptionist, I strongly suggest you give them a try before you hire an actual person!

—===—

From the Things TDot Likes archives:

  1. (919) 998-6993 in the case of TGD Law B-) []
  2. Example: when I got my first batch of Moral Mondays clients, I was out of town in New Bern. From my phone I forwarded Ruby the spreadsheet of the contact numbers, and by the time I got back to the Bull City they’d already called everyone with the info I asked them to share :crack: []
  3. And pay for quite a few overage charges on top of that because I’m in this midrange where I go over the amount of their lowest tier but don’t use the service enough to upgrade to the next tier up :beatup: []
  4. If you don’t, that’s perfectly OK too. I’m not really concerned about whatever swag I’m supposed to get sent for referrals — I’d rather you just have a service you’re happy using, think I’m brilliant for showing it to you, and then you tell all your friends how brilliant I am ;) []

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TDot’s Tips: Bootstrapping your first law office

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 10, 2012 in TDot's Tips

I meant to post this entry back on Saturday night, but I got side-tracked by watching one of the 3 most-amazing NC State football games I can remember1 — as my alma mater came back from a 0-16 halftime deficit to beat the #3 Florida State Seminoles 17-16, scoring the game-winning touchdown with a mere 0:16 left on the clock (the first time we had the lead all game!) :spin:

Then of course life and the whole “needing to pay rent” thing got in the way, so you’re getting this entry 4 days later :beatup:

Since we’re now more than a full week into the new fiscal quarter, I wanted to share a few equipment-gathering tips for the entrepreneurial crowd in solo and small practice. If you’re like me just starting out — or a 3L heading that way soon — you’ve probably realized the practice of law is awfully damn expensive. And unfortunately you need to make certain expenses now so you don’t risk derailing your practice from the beginning.2

Luckily there are a few things you can do to create a functioning law office without breaking the bank in your first year. Here are four suggestions that can help:

  • Get a high-end laptop as a 3L: It’s not a widely advertised program, but the US Department of Education permits students to get an increase in financial aid once as an undergraduate and once as a graduate/professional student solely for the purchase of a computer and related accessories. If you’re still a 3L reading this, your financial aid office will have the details; to see how my N.C. State does it, check out the bottom of this Scholarships & Financial Aid webpage.3 Use your last year of law school to get something on the high end that will last you through your first few years of practice. Now realistically this means you’ll end up taking out more student loans, and I fully realize no rational person normally takes out a loan on a depreciating asset, but (i) when you start your practice preserving cash will be vital (landlords don’t like credit cards), and (ii) the terms of a student loan are almost always going to be better than the terms of financing the laptop on a credit card or some other form of credit.
  • Use a scanner + laser printer as your copy machine: The costs of a copy machine lease vary depending on where you are in the country, but dropping around $200-$250 per month is a typical expense — around $3,000 a year. The problem is that, in the start of your practice when you have comparatively fewer clients, you’re essentially paying for the machine to go unused.  A less expensive combination is to combine a solid laser printer with a standalone scanner, ideally one with an automatic document feeder (ADF) attachment. It will be a slower option than the copy machine but the cost savings are worth it early on until you’re making a lot of copies. Consider this: a Brother 2270DW (wireless+duplex) costs around $99, an Epson v500 scanner is currently $150, and the ADF costs another $200. That all comes out to $449 — one-sixth the cost of the copy machine lease, with no contracts or other hidden expenses after that initial purchase aside from toner and paper.
  • Government surplus == cheap furniture: I guarantee every single person reading this is within a 30-mile radius of a municipal, state, or federal government agency of some kind. Governments routinely upgrade equipment and furniture with each budget cycle (universities especially), and when the old stuff has to go it typically ends up at a government surplus department somewhere. Find the ones in your state and go do some shopping. Most of the items getting replaced aren’t in mint condition, but they’re still more than adequate. For example, I bought an ugly-but-comfortable office chair that had a broken left arm. Price from government surplus due to the defect? $3. Once I got it home all I had to do was break out my drill and screw it into a slightly different place on the frame to make it as good as new.4 In addition to chairs the surplus folks will also have fleets of desks, file cabinets, and just about anything else you’ll need for an office.
  • Negotiate for free office space: With the economy still in the doldrums, many landlords are sitting on space that hasn’t been leased in a very very long time. Take advantage of that opportunity by pushing the landlord to consider giving you 3-6 months rent-free while you get your practice off the ground. In exchange, you can even offer to help them out with any legal needs they might have. You’re not going to end up with the penthouse suite, but you’d be amazed the quality of office space you can get for pennies with just a little negotiation — and politely reminding them that unoccupied space doesn’t make anyone any money.

Hope those suggestions are useful to at least one of you out there! :) More to come later this week, including another entry in my “I’m a magnet for government incompetence” series ;)

Have a great night y’all! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. The others being the miraculous 27-point comeback over the University of Maryland last season, and the highlight-reel-worthy plays to beat the University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven the year before :D []
  2. CLEs are a key example: if you passed the bar in July, you have until Dec. 31, 2013 to log your hours — but some of the law practice management stuff is essential for new solos. []
  3. I couldn’t find comparable information online for North Carolina Central University, but I used the program myself just by talking to the financial aid folks in person and then providing them a receipt for the purchase. []
  4. I still haven’t actually done that of course, but that’s mostly because I grew accustomed to armless office chairs doing computer science work in undergrad :beatup: []

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Some help for calculating law school GPAs

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 2, 2012 in Technology

Good evening everybody! :D

I’m still working on the backlog of entries from May, but wanted to post a file right quick.

It’s that time of year again where the 1Ls at NCCU Law get the last of their grades back and folks learn who’s coming back and who is getting booted under our “2.0-or-you’re-out” policy.1  And one of the challenges I’ve noticed some folks have — not just in law school but in most non-mathematically-inclined majors — is calculating possible GPAs based on different outcomes in different classes.

Back in 2009 I created a spreadsheet in Excel that I’ve been using to track my grades over the past 3 years, so I could figure out roughly what volume of effort I needed to put in to get to a certain GPA. It’s been tweaked and revised over the past 3 years to the point that it should be at least marginally useful for folks other than me, so I’m posting it here :)

You can download the spreadsheet at this URL:  TDot’s Law School Grades Calculator

It’s initially keyed for our 1Ls but you can tweak it to suit just about any area of study. Hope it helps, and let me know if you have any questions on it! :D

  1. You can check out the bottom of my 1L Spring grades entry for details on how it works and a graph of where NCCU Law falls with respect to other NC law schools when it comes to 1L attrition. []

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Speaking of NC SPICE: New FB page and Twitter feed

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 2, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Getting some paperwork for NC SPICE filed yesterday prompted me to work on the technology side of things too…1

…so now we officially have a NC SPICE Facebook page and a NC SPICE Twitter feed! :D

There’s nothing substantive up there yet of course — it’ll still be a couple months before we’re even organized enough to start raising money — but I figured I’d give y’all the links now if you want to keep an eye on them down the road :)

Have a great night!

  1. Anything to avoid studying for this PR exam… :beatup: []

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More minor blog tweaks coming

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 10, 2011 in Technology

Not much time to post anything substantive tonight — I’m grinding away trying to finally wrap up this entirely-too-long semester — but wanted to give y’all a heads up that some changes will be coming to law:/dev/null over the Christmas break.

First, I’ve resumed the process of going through old posts and adding the appropriate tags to them, so old entries will finally show up when you click a tag in a recent post. For whatever reason I didn’t start using tags until several months into blogging so there’s a bunch of them to go through :beatup:  But for the several 1Ls and pre-Ls who had sent messages asking where all the stuff was from my first year (like the Torts mixtape with bonus Ks track) because going through the overall category took forever, the tagging process should make life a little easier.

Also, as we’ve banned more and more spammers the site has slowed down from parsing the ever-growing .htaccess file. Average load time is hitting 2-3 full seconds ( :eek: ) which is an order of magnitude slower than where I’d like it to be. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to fix it, but wanted you to know I’m aware of the problem and will see what I can do.

That’s it for now, back to these papers. Have a great night y’all! :D

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Back in a week or so

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 7, 2011 in The 3L Life

Hey folks! :)

law:/dev/null will be sporadically offline over the next week starting tonight, and updates will be queued up in the meantime instead of posted nightly — I’m making a number of behind-the-scenes tweaks to the WordPress install and the layout template I’ve been using,1 archiving server data for this site and others I’m hosting on the same machine, and grabbing some of my content from Facebook (“T. Greg’s Tomes”) that I’ll be trying to HTML-ify for archiving here on the blog.2 And somewhere along the way I need to keep up on law school reading and related events :beatup:

Apologies in advance for the disappearance, and keep an eye out for us mid-week next week!

  1. The layout in particular was never really intended for what I’ve been using it for; if I can get a spare weekend to work on some graphic design stuff, don’t be surprised to see a total layout switch some time in the near-term future if I can’t optimize some of this CSS. []
  2. Since FB can’t keep their @#$%ing layout consistent for more than a month at a time… :mad: []

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Reason #17 why I don’t work in IT

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 1, 2011 in Fail

Alternate title: how I almost created a really expensive paperweight :beatup:

After 5 years of dependable service, the Airport card in my original edition MacBook Pro finally started to die a couple weeks ago. It was making life difficult between my networked laptop backups getting corrupted from the sporadically dropping signal1 and having absolutely no internet access at all during classes.2 :(

Determined to make this laptop last until after I’m licensed next year, I took it into Apple for an official diagnosis that the card was dying (it was) and an estimated on repairs (~$100). The cost wasn’t particularly exorbitant but it would have required me to part with my laptop for 3-5 business days — which simply wasn’t going to happen.

Since my laptop has long been out of warranty — and I’ve already hand-upgraded the RAM, hard drive, and CD drive myself — I bought a replacement on eBay and planned to do the upgrade myself.

I’m at NCCU Law about 45 minutes before Sales starts, which should be plenty of time to get the top case removed, the antennas unhooked, the card swapped out, the circuit board tape replaced, and everything back to together again. Leaning over a table with an ice cube tray beside me for sorting the removed screws, I’ve got everything apart and the card out in 15 minutes and the new card put in.

I go to replace the screw in the retaining bracket that holds the wireless card in place…

…and my fat fingers knock the @#$%ing thing off the screwdriver :cry:

I shake the circuit board and don’t see anything fall out. I check the table I’m working on and don’t see it. I crawl around on the floor and can’t find it. I get a broom and sweep the entire region, poring over flecks of dirt bigger than the missing screw, all without success.

And did I mention this particular screw for this particular retaining bracket is required to hold the wifi card in place and re-secure the top case? :mad:

After successfully burning 30 minutes on an unsuccessful screw-hunting expedition and my “laptop” looking like nothing but a circuit board with a monitor attached, I ask EIC to go tell Prof Sales that I’ll be missing class for the 2nd day in a row.3

I then go to the law school’s IT folks and get a magnet-tipped screwdriver4 and also ask if they’ve got a screw of a comparable size and width. After spending another 30 minutes testing various screws from a bad Lenovo ThinkPad, nothing works and what little hair I have left on my head is falling out from the sheer terror that I’ve just torpedoed my efforts at keeping this laptop through law school.

Finally, in near-total desperation, I take the recommendation of a nearby 2LE who suggests using one of the screws elsewhere on the logic board instead. I promptly unfasten one of the screws holding the CD drive in place (since I use that once every 2-3 months at best) and fasten the wireless card, get the keyboard reattached and the top case back on, press the power button — and everything works :surprised:

By the time I’m done, it’s roughly 2 minutes before Sales class ends… whereupon I had to tuck my tail between my legs and go explain to Prof Sales that I had no intention of missing his class.5

The upside is that I’m now able to write this entry from the comfort of my bedroom without losing signal for the first time in weeks — but after nearly having a heart attack over a screw comparable in size to a blood clot, I think I’ll stick with law instead of IT ;)

Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. Not having multiple redundant backups of my files makes me paranoid after seeing what happened to one of my Legal Eagle colleagues and my own personal drama with Gmail here, here, and here… []
  2. Yes, I listed “no wifi in class” as an unmitigated negative — as counterintuitive as it sounds, I actually pay more attention to the material when I know I have the option to not pay attention to the material :crack:  When I’m trapped in a room and forced to listen, I pull out my iPhone and start playing Angry Birds. []
  3. On Tuesday I participated in an interest meeting for SBA elections — clearly my priorities have not improved since undergrad :beatup: []
  4. I know, I know — something I probably should have done in the first place… []
  5. Even though we’re paying to be here, and we’re all adults and professionals, and etc etc etc… every time I have to initiate one of those types of conversations with one of my law school professors I still feel like I’m back in elementary school being called to the principal’s office. []

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Steve Jobs, Apple iCEO-for-life, steps down ::sadface::

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 24, 2011 in Technology

Wow.

Just… wow.

From Apple’s Press Info page:

August 24, 2011

Letter from Steve Jobs

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

I’ve got an entry on first impressions of 3L Fall prepped and ready to deploy, but this hits like a brick to the chest :(

I know Steve’s “just a CEO,” Apple’s “just a company,” Steve’s health has been getting progressively worse since at least 2004, etc etc etc. And yes, there’s an ever-so-tiny part of me that feels silly for being upset.

But I feel like I’m indebted to the guy.  It was the Apple Campus Representative program he created nearly two decades ago — long before MacOS X existed, before the first Apple Store was erected, before anyone even envisioned an iPhone or an iPad or buying music and apps on an otherwise-hardware-only store in the cloud — that gave me my first opportunity to do something really, really cool.

If you’re a long-time law:/dev/null reader, you already know the story about how that happened: me coming to college dirt poor and sans computer, flipping through the classifieds in N.C. State‘s student newspaper The Technician seeing if I could find someone selling their PC… on what turned out to be the only day Apple had paid for an ad seeking a campus rep.

Twelve years later, I still have no clue why they hired me :beatup:

But it was like being one of those kids finding a Golden Ticket in the old Willy Wonka movie.1

Suddenly I was immersed in the latest technology: a grape-colored Rev. D iMac, MacOS 8.5.1, programs like SoundJam MP,2 the list goes on. I was meeting administrators and other tech purchasers all over the N.C. State campus, learning the ins and outs of how the bureaucracy worked — invaluable information when I got back into the Student Senate nearly a decade later. Having my own @apple.com email address alone was adequate payment for the work I was doing each week.

But then Apple also added in training trips to California each summer. Every campus rep from across the country flown into San Jose, brought to “the Mothership” at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, and instilled with knowledge on all the latest Apple stuff.

At the risk of forever being labeled a nerd’s nerd, one of the Top 5 most-awesome experiences of my life came during one of those summers when, in a less-than-3-hours span, I met Jonathan Ive showing off a G4 Cube in Apple’s cafeteria, had a 15-minute technical conversation with Avie Tevanian about his Mach kernel, and as I was walking with the Campus Rep group back to our room I made a comment along the lines of “This is like a trip to Mecca” or something to that effect — which apparently was the first time Avie had heard anyone say anything like that, because he then took me to Phil Schiller‘s office to repeat it.3 :surprised:

I got to meet Phil, got to hold one of the first ten Newtons ever produced that he kept on a bookshelf in his office… and completely missed the next session of my training as my Apple Rep colleagues wondered why I came back with a ridiculously goofy ear-to-ear smile across my face :D

No, I’ve never actually met Steve himself. A couple years before I left for college, I remember reading in the business section of the paper in Nan’s kitchen that he had come back to Apple. I remember commenting as I read about how awesome that news was, how Steve was going to save Apple from its death spiral, and that maybe I’d be able to get an Apple for college  now. And I remember Nan looking back at me, laughing at the 15-year-old naiveté embedded in my comment, and just responding “OK.”4

But two years later there I was, Apple-toting tech guru, and — another iMac, an eMac, a Mac mini, a MacBook Pro, an iPod nano, and an iPhone later5 — I’ve never looked back :spin:

Steve Jobs was the driving force behind that Campus Rep program, behind the operating system I love to use, behind the iPhone I’ve got holstered to my hip on a daily basis, the list goes on and on and on (and on). He’s one of the greatest visionaries the technology industry has had, and even with his well-documented “mercurial” temper and other inevitable human flaws he’s still the closest thing to a role model I’ve aspired to since I was a teenager.

So even though the odds of Steve ever reading this law school-related blawg fall somewhere in between infinitesimal and nil, I wanted to post this entry and particularly one closing remark in response to his letter:

To Steve: Thank you. -TDot.

—===—

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

  1. The non-creepy, non-Johnny Depp version. []
  2. That Apple would later acquire and convert into iTunes. []
  3. I was terrified when I was told to come with him to Schiller’s office — I thought my comment had been construed as a non-politically correct remark unfit for a campus rep, and that I was about to get fired on the spot :beatup: []
  4. It’s actually more like a “OhhhhhhK.” It’s the grandmotherly equivalent of saying “That’s probably never ever ever going to happen, but since technically anything is possible I’ll let you keep thinking it just in case.” []
  5. Not to mention a wide collection of Pixar movies ;) []

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Cooley Law grads blame school for their own naiveté

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 12, 2011 in Unsolicited Commentary

Tonight’s entry was originally going to focus on some of the economic unpleasantness unfolding at NCCU Law courtesy of our state legislature’s emasculation of North Carolina’s university system.

But Twitter is temporarily sending me in a different direction :D

One of the highlights from attending the ABA’s Annual Meeting was finding out who are among the most prolific law Tweeters, most of whom used the #ABAannual hashtag to keep their followers updated on what was going on.

Is reasonable reliance on law school stats even possible in the Google era?

David Pardue of @georgiatriallaw is one of those folks, and he mentioned this story in the Wall Street Journal about a class action lawsuit filed against Cooley Law School (by its own graduates) over the school’s disclosed employment statistics.

I’ve posted our Twitter convo on the right so you’ve got an idea of where this entry is going :)

Now let me preface the rest of my commentary by saying I don’t disagree with anything David has tweeted.1 He’s right about the reasonableness of these students’ reliance on Cooley’s stats being a key issue in the case. I suspect/hope he’s also right about law schools being less inclined to screw with their numbers as a result of this lawsuit. And I agree that the court will be considering the circumstances as they existed at the time these students first enrolled, not as they exist today.2

Let me also say here (just so I don’t have to repeat it later) that the response from Cooley Law’s general counsel Jim Thelen to blame the ABA is also shamelessly disingenuous. There’s nothing at all preventing any law school from collecting and releasing far more granular employment data on its graduates — they simply choose not to do so for fear of looking bad from the results.

But with those two caveats out of the way, this is another case of only focusing on the Big Bad Law Schools. I stand by the implication of my admittedly rhetorical question to David on Twitter: can any law school student who enrolled after the proliferation of Google really claim they reasonably relied on a law school’s employment statistics?

Ignore the fact that you can probably count on one hand the number of law students you know who actually based their decision to go to law school in any part on a given school’s stated employment statistics; even though I’ve never met one, I’m assuming arguendo that they do in fact exist. I’m also assuming, simply because they claimed it in the complaint they filed (h/t to Above the Law for this entry on the lawsuit), that the named plaintiffs in McDonald v. Cooley are among them.

Look at when these folks graduated though: 2 of the 4 graduated in 2010, meaning they began enrollment in either 2007 (if full-time) or 2006 (if part-time); the 3rd graduated in 2008, meaning enrollment in 2005 or 2004; and the 4th graduated in 2006, meaning she enrolled in 2003 or 2002.

Google, by contrast, began in 1996. Its world-famous PageRank search algorithm won patent protection in 2001. It already had 50%+ of the global marketshare for search engines by the time the earliest of the 4 named plaintiffs ever decided to attend Cooley Law, reaching such ubiquity that Merriam-Webster added the verb “to Google” to the dictionary in 2006.

And if through some miracle this well-educated class of plaintiffs3 had never heard of Google, they still could have used search engines on Yahoo!, or MSN, or AOL, or Lycos, or AltaVista, or Ask Jeeves, or…

…you get the point ;)

It’s pretty safe to say the concept of internet search was already a widespread and well-ingrained phenomenon before any of these students enrolled, particularly among the well-educated, and has grown even more widespread and even more well-ingrained the later in time that enrollment choice was made.4

“But TDot!” you exclaim, “Just because search engines were available doesn’t mean these students would have found anything of concern!”

Which brings me to the 2nd prong of this analysis: people have known law schools were juicing their employment statistics for most of the past decade.

With my own search on Google.com, I came across this 2007 piece from the Wall Street Journal on the imploding legal job market. Here’s a snippet, with emphases added by me:

Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers
Growth of Legal Sector Lags Broader Economy; Law Schools Proliferate
SEPTEMBER 24, 2007
By AMIR EFRATI

Evidence of a squeezed market among the majority of private lawyers in the U.S., who work as sole practitioners or at small firms, is growing. A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in the 2005 book “Urban Lawyers” found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners, generally big-firm lawyers, grew by 22% — while income for the other 75% actually dropped.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the inflation-adjusted average income of sole practitioners has been flat since the mid-1980s. A recent survey showed that out of nearly 600 lawyers at firms of 10 lawyers or fewer in Indiana, wages for the majority only kept pace with inflation or dropped in real terms over the past five years.

The news isn’t any better for the 14% of new lawyers who go into government or join public-interest firms. Inflation-adjusted starting salaries for graduates who go to work for public-interest firms or the government rose 4% and 8.6%, respectively, between 1994 and 2006, according to the National Association for Law Placement, which aggregates graduate surveys from law schools. That compares with at least an 11% jump in the median family income during the same period, according to the Census Bureau…

Sure this piece only talks about solos and government/public-interest attorneys. But I also found that in under 30 seconds earlier today. Just 30 seconds, despite 4 years’ worth of new websites and blogs and other data Google has indexed clogging up my 2011 search results.

In other words, had any of these students done a same or similar search in 2007 (or earlier), they could have found the exact same IRS / BLS / NALP data indicating a difficult legal job environment in the exact same amount of time (or less!) with a much better signal:noise ratio than I’m getting now.

And that’s not even getting into the “common sense” factor here: you know there’s a stagnant legal market if for no other reason than living in an economy barely recovering from the September 11th attacks (and ensuing diversion of resources to improve homeland security), and yet you really believe your law school had a 90%+ employment rate? While nearly every other law school in the country claimed 90%+ employment over the exact same time?

Really?

Now I’m not the type to categorically trash all graduates from a law school, so I have to assume this “I really didn’t know! I really did reasonably rely on this data even though contradictory information from more reputable sources was literally right at my fingertips! Really!” mentality is atypical of Cooley Law graduates.

But this particular argument requires the willing suspension of disbelief to be plausible — and like the other works from whence that phrase was derived, this lawsuit should be recognized for the fiction that it is ;)

Have a great Friday night and an amazing weekend everybody! :D

  1. As a random aside, have any of you noticed how double negatives are not only commonplace but widely accepted in law? Once upon a time I was taught that a double negative was bad grammar and now I use them regularly :crack:   []
  2. I tried to convey that last point by the “2004+” reference, but I think my inapt inclusion of the word “now” gave a wrong impression of my meaning :beatup: []
  3. Remember, a baccalaureate degree is now required for law school admission. Meaning anyone enrolling at Cooley Law or any other law school is already among the top 10% of the US population in terms of educational attainment. []
  4. Translation: no sympathy at all for the 2010 Cooley Law grads now crying foul. []

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