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Why I blog

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 4, 2010 in Background

Good evening y’all! :D

Despite my chronic disappearances over the past couple months, we’ve been blessed here at law:/dev/null to still have a steady cadre of regular readers along with a (surprising) stream of newcomers.1  And since the recent blawgpocalypse I’ve been asked by folks in both groups what prompted me to stake out this particular piece of internet real estate — and I realized I’ve never actually posted an answer to the “Why do you blog?” question beyond a brief one-line reference on our “About” page :beatup:

So I figured now’s as good a time as any ;)

Without further ado, my four reasons for entering the blawgosphere way back in August 2009:

  1. Therapy: I wasn’t kidding when I wrote in the very first post that “law:/dev/null is really just my own brand of therapy to get me through law school. Some people exercise, some prefer gardening, some drink (a lot). I write.” My classmates have learned firsthand that I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to saying exactly what’s on my mind, so penning my commentary here lets me get it out of my system without subjecting them to something they don’t want to hear in the first place :)
  2. Curiosity: Even though the bachelor’s degree on my wall is for computer science and I created a niche web development company back when I was a college dropout, I was so tired of doing computer-related stuff academically that I never really got into the whole CMS / RSS / CSS / [pick-an-acronym-and-put-it-here] thing in my personal life :beatup: When I wanted to blog, I’d write a note and post it to Facebook because it required minimal tech work; there are 95 of those to date, and it’s where things like T. Greg’s Tomes got started. But with the acute shift from undergrad to the remarkably-less-tech-savvy atmosphere of law, I figured it’d be fun to experiment with a WordPress deployment and all the attendant web work that goes with it.
  3. Scarcity: I first got introduced to the world of law student blogs the night before 1L Orientation, where I stumbled upon Dennis Jansen’s blog and a few others… that I proceeded to read until 2am.2 One of the things I noticed while reading was that the overwhelming majority of law school bloggers I found were at T14 law schools, and none of them were in the southeast quadrant of the country like me (although Mariel is close). So even though I was greatly appreciative for the insights, I wanted to present a different perspective as a law student at a distinguished-but-unranked law school in the South. And judging from the hundreds of search queries on NCCU Law over the past year, I’m apparently not the only one looking for that type of info before starting law school ;)
  4. Keeping in touch: I couldn’t come up with a cute one-word-ending-in-y description for this one :beatup:  Despite an absurd level of shyness that I have to mentally force myself to ignore, I’m generally a pretty sociable guy. But I’m also a Type A workaholic who took my first bona fide vacation in years just this past Independence Day, and it’s really easy for me to lose touch with people in the process.3 The biggest appeal to starting law:/dev/null was creating a way to let folks know what I was up to and that I was still thinking about them, even if I didn’t have an opportunity to get lunch or talk at length on the phone. I’m not sure how well it’s worked so far but hopefully the folks who are important to me know that ::fingers crossed::

So there you have it folks, a quick glance into the mind of TDot4 and the motivations behind law:/dev/null :)

I hope all of you have a fantastic night, and a great soon-to-be weekend! :D

  1. *THANK YOU* to all of you :heart: []
  2. Hours after I was supposed to go to bed, and the catalyst for the ensuing hilarity/embarrassment during that first day of Orientation :beatup: []
  3. It’s also one of the central reasons why I use thousands of text messages every month, peaking at 10,821 not too long ago — or 1 text message every 4 minutes for an entire month :surprised: []
  4. No “TMI” comments on this post :P []

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One more thing

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 3, 2009 in Background

National Jurist magazine ranked the N.C. Central University School of Law as the #1 Best Value in the country.  For the 2nd year in a row.

That’s one of the main reasons I’m here, but the magazine explains it far more eloquently than I did.

For folks who don’t have physical access to the magazine and want to read it online, check it out here.

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3

Why a T4 law school was my 1st choice (Part II)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 15, 2009 in Background

Disclaimer for any of you who become regular readers:  any time I write that I’m going to do/say/explain something “tomorrow” or “soon” or “shortly” or any other chronologically-oriented word that would indicate a time horizon in the relatively near future, add at least a week or two to it.  I’m one of those folks you hear about who get distracted easily by shiny objects, except in my case the “shiny objects” are random occurrences in life that remind me of random earlier occurrences in life and consequently prompt a story.  Consider yourself forewarned, caveat emptor, etc etc etc :)

Moving on…

A couple days ago in this post I mentioned one of my new 1L colleagues who apparently flagellates himself as restitution for his social awkwardity.  Still don’t know the kid’s name because I skipped the past 2 days of orientation (more on that later… maybe), but he essentially tried to demonstrate his Alpha Male-ness by terrifying a young lady I was conversing with about law:/dev/null.  I noted in response to his asininity that the ABA requires all accredited law schools to teach essentially the same material to 1Ls regardless of their “tier,” so theoretically my experience helps inform this blog about as well as anyone else’s informs their own.  I closed the post by posing this question:

…[I]f everyone is learning substantially the same material, why would anyone bother attending a Tier 4 school in the first place when it would seem (at least statistically) that a top school would give someone better odds at passing the bar and landing a job?…

Computer scientists like binary and powers of 2, the fundamental “on” and “off” that governs electrical circuits and spreads out to all CSC constructs like Boolean algebra, memory sizes, and so on.  My figuring is that there are only 2 types of people who go to a T4 law school:  folks who aren’t qualified on paper to get in anywhere else, and folks who could (or did) get into a higher tier school but had at least one logical reason for sticking with a T4.

There’s not much to say regarding the first group, so consequently I won’t say much ;)  For the folks who don’t have the paper qualifications to get into a top school — bad LSAT score or bad GPA typically, since often these are the only 2 values that matter regardless of how many reams of experience one accrues in a legal-oriented field — the T4s are providing them with a rare opportunity to prove through their work ethic they have what it takes to become attorneys.  In that capacity T4s perform a huge public service, because many of the best attorneys are the ones who work hard, meet filing deadlines, and take care of their clients because they know they may not be the brightest and have to make up for their deficiencies (by contrast, at least in my experience, many of the worst attorneys are graduates of top schools who are lazier than a quadriplegic sloth in a drug-induced coma).

The second group is a more difficult nut to crack because many of them have different and varying reasons.  This also happens to be the category I fall into — I actually applied to only three law schools (a T1/”T14″, a T2/”T100″, and T4 NCCU) and had already mailed off my acceptance and deposit to NCCU before I even got my letters from the other two.  I was lucky to do exceptionally well on the LSAT despite taking it “cold” with -0- studying of any kind, combined with nearly a decade of experience in the legal field during my time as a college dropout and after (more on that in a later post).

So why did I decide to go to the North Carolina Central University School of Law, a historically black college in the bottom tier, when I had two other higher ranked options?  Here are my reasons (which conveniently happen to count out to a power of 2):

***

(Before jumping in, I need to stipulate I’m ignoring the T14 school I applied to in these comments — I knew when I applied that I wasn’t going to attend because I didn’t want to move across the country :))

  1. Cost. In high school, I was one of only two students in my graduating class (so far as I know) who were actively recruited by MIT for their Computer Engineering program.  Instead I decided to attend NC State University in Raleigh because, even paying out-of-state tuition, it was a significantly less expensive proposition — MIT’s tuition and fees over a decade ago in 1998-99 was $6K+ more expensive than NCSU’s out-of-state tuition and fees *today* (let that marinate for a minute so you can fully grasp it).

    Cost of attendance was a similar motivator for picking NCCU.  My tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year come out to $9,097.16, less than half of the T2 school I applied to up the street (I don’t compare total cost of attendance for law schools since there’s so much variability in the housing and retail markets, but it’s worth noting many T1s are in outrageously expensive cities).

  2. Competence. Folks who have worked with me in NCSU’s Student Government or the statewide UNC Association of Student Governments will tell you that I am a notorious micromanager, an unapologetic perfectionist and overly obsessive about details (“anal retentive” is the pejorative most often thrown).  When I filled out each of my applications for law school, I quite literally checked, re-checked, re-re-checked, and re-re-re-checked everything before either filing documents online or submitting materials in person. In the case of the T2, I even had a friend from the campus go with me to drop off the application and had him check everything for me. We both confirmed all of the required documents were in the packet I dropped off, including my form declaring North Carolina residency. Yet magically, 54 days after that packet was dropped off, I received an email that the residency form was missing and I’d have to shelve everything I was doing in my life (like trying to graduate) to re-send a duplicate copy.

    Compare that to the response of the T4. When the LSDAS didn’t send my transcripts because one of my letters of recommendation had not yet arrived, I got an email from NC Central only about two weeks after they received my application indicating the transcripts were missing… then got a second email a week later as a reminder (fortunately I had more than ample notice to get in touch with the errant professor and get my LOR squared away, so I didn’t receive any further notices). Not only did NCCU not lose any of my paperwork, they promptly notified me multiple times when they didn’t receive stuff in the first place. That’s a level of competence and attention-to-detail that can only come from a school recognizing its rank and striving to improve.

  3. Character. My time visiting the T2 in-person to gather more information was about what you’d anticipate from a school that loses paperwork and doesn’t notify people until two months later. Trying to meet with the Dean to ask questions was a fruitless endeavor, and the low-grade paper-pusher who finally graced me with her presence acted like it was a burden to talk with me — as though I had just taken her away from the positively riveting experience of playing Minesweeper all day.  And this was as a student with an LSAT score well above the institution’s top quartile.

    The T4 experience was completely different. The Chancellor of North Carolina Central University met with me for about an hour to answer my questions about the University. The Dean of the School of Law met with me for about 20 minutes to answer my questions as well, even telling me he wasn’t sure I was qualified to attend because “[t]here are students who genuinely want to attend NCCU as their 1st choice instead of wanting to go to Carolina and applying to us as their backup” (which, though I was mildly insulted, I considered an eminently reasonable response from a Dean of a law school). They graciously offered their time to speak with me, provided me with their email addresses if I had further questions, and responded to those emails when I contacted them later. It was a “students first” mentality that comes with trying to build a legacy by taking care of its customers.

  4. Culture. In line with my earlier reference about T4s providing a public service by accepting applicants who are “sub-standard” on paper, the culture at the North Carolina Central University School of Law is one where every student is expected to learn the material and excel. This is reflected in the institution’s bar passage rate (81.9% in 2007, +7.9% over the state average) which is actually comparable to several T1 institutions and most T2s. My impression is that the intensity of the student body stems from the knowledge they are “underdogs” in the legal arena, competing with law graduates coming from schools with bigger profiles, resources and legacies.

    Graduates from top schools, by contrast, seem to lack that same level of intensity. That sense was actually summarized best during my experience working with the North Carolina State Bar (our state agency responsible for licensing and regulating attorneys). I was a college dropout at the time and working as a low-level staff member in the Grievance Division. When I mentioned to one of the staff attorneys my interest in law school and wondering where I should apply, I got this as a response (inflection and hand gestures translated visually by me):

    • If you want to be a lawyer who knows the law, go to Campbell (another T4 in the Triangle)
    • If you want to be a judge who knows the law, go to Central
    • If you want to be a politician who “knows” the law, go to Carolina

    (one of the newer attorneys who was still paying down his student loans also chimed in with “If you want to know the law but be homeless, go to Duke” :))

    I simply mesh better with an environment where there’s a feeling of “us vs them” and people are willing to help uplift each other because we’re all essentially a family. There’s still competition of course, but all the “gunner” talk you see on other law-related blogs doesn’t seem to apply to NCCU.

***

And although it wasn’t an actual reason behind my decision, I thought it was fitting that NCCU’s school colors of maroon and gray were just a slightly darker shade than NC State’s red and white ;)

I realize the length of this post has reached ridiculous proportions, so I’ll clip it here for the evening. At some point over the next couple days I’ll actually get into my other experiences during orientation this week… some of which I’ll admit now were more than slightly embarrassing. Good night folks :)

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Why a T4 law school was my 1st choice (Part I)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 13, 2009 in Background

One thing I’ve learned when starting a new project is to keep it secret until you’ve got a fairly decent idea of how you want the project to turn out. Ask someone for their thoughts on a vaporous concept alone and you’re likely to get a critical response — and sometimes you don’t even have to ask.

That was the case today, my 2nd day of orientation at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.  During a mid-day break while talking with a prospective friend (I’m shy by nature so on those few occasions the opportunity for conversation is thrust upon me I hang on for dear life) I was asked about my undergraduate background, which in turn led to a discussion about studying Computer Science, which in turn led to a discussion about social networks / blogs / Twitter / etc… which in turn led to me mentioning law:/dev/null.

At that point a kid who I can only conclude has a raging inferiority complex jumped in with “You’re going to a Tier 4 law school, what on earth can you know about being a 1L to justify writing a blog?” (emphasis his).

So many things with that statement that merit ranting, so little time.  So I figured I’d hit the main one.

Most people by nature are braggarts, and lawyers more so than most.  An outgrowth of that reality is the constant pigeonholing of people based on the law school they attend.  US News & World Report kindly contributes to this foolishness by ranking all 184 law schools in the country and helpfully chunking them into roughly equal-sized Tiers.  Your top schools like Harvard, Stanford, Yale and so on go into Tier 1, while your non-top schools like Appalachian, Duquesne, Ave Maria and their counterparts go into Tier 4.

The statistics about each school generally determine their tiers.  Higher tiers tend to have “more selective” admissions, higher bar passage rates, and better job placement percentages; lower tiers have “more permissive” admissions and lower percentages on both bar passage and job placement.  Although rankings might be useful to the braggart class, they can create self-fulfilling prophecies that don’t accurately reflect the quality of what students are actually taught — for example, higher ranked schools get more attention in books like US News Top 100 Law Schools, therefore they get more applications for a fixed number of spots, therefore they become even more “more selective” when most of those folks get rejected, therefore their rankings are reinforced or improved the next time around, and so on ad inifinitum.

What on earth can a student at a Tier 4 law school know to justify producing a blog?  The same stuff as everyone else — almost all 1Ls get taught the exact same material, primarily because groups like the American Bar Association have certain basic standards that have to be met for a law school to get accredited.

But that fact begs the question:  if everyone is learning substantially the same material, why would anyone bother attending a Tier 4 school in the first place when it would seem (at least statistically) that a top school would give someone better odds at passing the bar and landing a job?

I’d tell you, but it’s just past midnight (as in 2+ hours past my bedtime).  Keep an eye out for my answer tomorrow :)

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Hello world! (and welcome!)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 11, 2009 in Background

Somehow in your travels across the internet you stumbled onto this page, a pet project of mine detailing some of my upcoming experiences as a 1L (first year law student for the non-law-inclined) coming from an undergraduate background in Computer Science.

For those of you who are fellow law students or have a legal background (or just have a perverse fascination with law-related blogs), you probably know there are literally dozens and dozens of 1L blogs online.  What makes this one different?

Absolutely nothing.

This isn’t an effort to attract followers or to become a top Google search result for aspiring law students looking for advice or even to convince you to keep reading — law:/dev/null is really just my own brand of therapy to get me through law school.  Some people exercise, some prefer gardening, some drink (a lot).  I write.  And hopefully as the semester gets going I’ll have something here worth reading ;)

With the intro out of the way, I’m heading to bed.  Orientation Day 2 in the AM and another post soon thereafter.

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