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Priorities

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 3, 2010 in The 1L Life

The Property II midterm wrapped up this afternoon, so we’re 1 down and 4 to go :D

Not entirely sure how mine will turn out — it’s one of those situations where I either did exceptionally well or exceptionally not-so-well, depending on if I got a few foundational issues straight in my head or if I applied the wrong rule(s) throughout the multiples+essay.  We’ll see.

Left for home after classes to escape the aura of stressed-out-ness that emanates from the law library this time of the semester, swinging by Bojangle’s to grab whatever meal comes in between lunch and dinner.1  Now spending the next 3ish hours studying CivPro before switching to Torts before bed.

It was in the middle of eating that I realized how badly my priorities get screwed up around exam time :beatup:

I couldn’t tell you the last time I got up early enough to cook breakfast. Haven’t gone running in a week, despite the bundle of motivation that is reading idwsj. And when I invited Co-Counsel over to be my CivPro study partner, the invitation was promptly followed by me freaking out when I realized the level of disaster that was/is my apartment.2

Thankfully she declined the invitation so that particular crisis was averted ;)

Just 2 more days to go with CivPro+Torts tomorrow, then Ks+CrimLaw on Friday. I promised my apartment I’d clean it at some point soon thereafter.

Good luck to all my fellow 1Ls going through midterms alongside me! Remember: this time next week you’ll be able to enjoy the ever-so-slightly-less-frenetic pace that follows an exam :D

  1. Ever notice there’s no “brunch” equivalent for the afternoon? []
  2. On a scale of 1 to Haiti, high enough that my bedroom is the only sanctuary from various law-related materials strewn about and I avoid the kitchen entirely :beatup: []

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Digesting the FRCP

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 21, 2010 in The 1L Life

To the current attorneys that happen to swing by law:/dev/null every now and again: how do they test the various Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the bar exam? Do you get a cheat sheet or anything listing each rule? Are only a few of the main ones tested? Or do you have to remember the essence of every single one?

Trying to keep up with the new material in CivPro this semester is like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and getting a horrible case of indigestion afterwards… :beatup:

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Spreading the (Law School) Gospel

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 17, 2010 in The 1L Life

NCCU Law has a “Law Student for a Day” program going on this week, where 1Ls who volunteer get paired up with an undergrad student thinking about law school, and let them be a “shadow” in classes and other activities throughout the day.

As you can imagine, I’m a big fan of better promotion for the law school so I volunteered for the program :)

My shadow (we’ll call him Shadow for this entry) was a junior pursuing a dual major in poli sci and business, solid GPA, aspiring corporate attorney, and taking the LSAT this June.  Compare that to my degree in Computer Science, a GPA that looked like it was shot repeatedly and left to die, with no interest in corporate law and who took the LSAT in February :beatup:

But what I lack in academic credentials I more than make up for in zeal ;)

After an impromptu tour of the law school, Shadow joined us for Property where we’re discussing leaseholds, privities of contract and estate, etc. The material was/is a bit boring but the class provided him an opportunity to see the Socratic method in action — definitely A Good Thing™ for an ambitious pre-L :D

CrimLaw was far more engaging and easier for a non-law student to grasp since we’re going over the elements of homicide.

Trying to put myself in Shadow’s shoes reminded me of how utterly clueless I was when law school started seven months ago. Makes me almost wish I had done something like this when I was in undergrad. Almost.

Wrapping up CivPro reading then heading to bed — get back my first quiz from Legal Research tomorrow morning so need to make sure I don’t oversleep and miss class :beatup:  Night folks!

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Mmm Ks nom nom nom

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 16, 2010 in The 1L Life

Reading up on Justifications for Non-Performance in Contracts. Not entirely sure why it’s a “defense” in a Torts/CrimLaw context but a “justification” in a Ks one, but I digress.

Anyhow, no-oral-modification clauses are abbreviated NOM throughout the notes. And every time I read it I envision this happening to the contract:

Obligatory cute bunny pic. nom nom nom.

Yes, I recognize this is probably one of the first signs of some degenerative mental illness…

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The Law as a Time Capsule

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 15, 2010 in The 1L Life

Every now and then when I’m reading these casebooks, it really throws me for a loop to realize how incredibly old so many of our rules of law have gotten.

The obvious reference for a 1L is Property, where items like BlackAcre were first referenced nearly 4 centuries ago and most of the estate terminology was created around the same time.

But even in Civil Procedure many of the rules are orders of magnitude older than the current students of them. Consider, for example, that counterclaims were first codified in New York in 1852 (1.5 centuries ago). Or that the comparably “new” Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are closer to the 1-century mark than the 0-century one (created in 1938 / 0.7 centuries ago).

For all the talk of law evolving — which we know it undoubtedly has just looking at the opinions we study — it’s still interesting to see how many vestiges of it remain relatively untouched decade after decade after decade.

Just thought I’d share my bemusement :) Back to more CivPro before bed. Hope all of you are having a great start to the week! :D

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Drifting towards CrimLaw

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 10, 2010 in The 1L Life

It was only a couple weeks into law school when I first wrote that CivPro had become my favorite class, an opinion that endured throughout the semester.

CrimLaw has quickly displaced Torts at #2 on my list… and as the semester continues I’m pretty sure this is where I want to spend my career :)

I fumbled at the start of class today when Professor CrimLaw asked me to detail the 4 types of homicide under the common law — totally forgot about involuntary manslaughter :beatup: — but later in the class we got into Justice Blackmun’s dissent in Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141 (1994).

Prof. CrimLaw asked what I took out of the dissent, which I characterized as Blackmun “whining” about the death penalty. That opened the door for a class-wide discussion on capital punishment… where I ended up being the only one to openly support executing murderers :crack:

My once-hostile philosophy on the death penalty notwithstanding,1 the debate itself was engaging. Even in CivPro I’m rarely more than half-certain on my opinions in class discussion; that percentage is far lower in something like Ks. But CrimLaw seems intuitive and comes naturally (at least thus far).

I was already planning on going the public service route in the Marine Corps, and had developed a growing interest in being a litigator from the Kilpatrick-Stockton competition last month. The downside of course is that it doesn’t pay much, but it’s one of the most direct ways for me to help improve my community. I’d argue that’s well worth the pay differential :)

My opinion might change after taking Evidence, but for now I think this is what I’ll be doing for a living :D I’ll keep you posted over the next couple years ;)

  1. Personally, I found Scalia’s concurrence in Callins persuasive on the legal justification for the death penalty, and the 4 men who raped an 11-year-old girl and killed her by stuffing her panties down her throat persuasive on the moral justification. See the fact background in State v. McCollum, 334 N.C. 208 (1993). []

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How much of a lawyer are you after 1 semester?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 4, 2010 in The 1L Life

My 2L and 3L friends are collectively rolling their eyes at the post title, but I promise it’s a serious (or at least seriously-intended) question :angel:

Just how much of a lawyer is a law student after their 1st semester?

Some background behind the question is in order, so you don’t think I’m totally batshit crazy for even asking. Everyone talks about the big life adjustment that is law school — teaching you to “think like a lawyer” and all that jazz.

But my (admittedly unproven) hypothesis is that 90%+ of any such adjusting is going to take place in your first semester, since presumably if it hadn’t you would have already failed out of law school.  Unless of course you go somewhere with a B+ median.1 ;)

So assuming, arguendo, that my hypothesis is right, the next 2.5 years will be spent not on training you to be a lawyer so much as forcing you to have at least a passing knowledge of the current state of the law in various subject areas.

Not sure if that’s worded well enough to convey my point, so let me try a computer comparison:  basically in the first semester you’re taught all the logical constructs of programming (conditionals / loops / etc) and then for the next 2.5 years you get taught logically-identical variants of programming languages (Java / C++ / etc).

Or maybe a movie comparison works?  It’s like the first Matrix movie, where the first semester is for explaining wheretf you are and rebuilding your atrophied muscles from scratch, then the next 2.5 semesters get spent uploading various martial arts like kung-fu straight into your brain.2

Hopefully at least one of those three made sense :beatup:

So going back to the question, let’s say you finished all of your required credit hours in Contracts, Legal Research, and Civil Procedure. At this point would you be competent enough to litigate a Contracts dispute pro se? Or will some other course over the next 2.5 years add still more training that you’d need to be effective?

Not sure why that particular question crossed my mind tonight, but I figured I’d throw it out there if any of my 2L/3L/post-L readers have insights they wouldn’t mind sharing :)

Back to reading for Contracts, just in case I need to represent myself any time soon ;) Have a great night everybody!! :D

  1. JUST KIDDING AGAIN! I promise I still :heart: y’all Tarheel ppl (you know who you are)  and it won’t become a habit :* []
  2. And if you haven’t actually seen any of the Matrix movies, you need to get out more. Seriously. :P []

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The main reason I dislike Ks?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 2, 2010 in The 1L Life

Boring fact patterns :beatup:

Torts, CrimLaw, even CivPro have more exotic cases IMO.

And I’m also pretty sure any decent grammarian could say the same thing as these opinions, but with 60%+ less verbiage… :roll:

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Dying a not-so-slow death…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 27, 2010 in The 1L Life

After classes today, I’m starting to wonder if that’s what is happening to my faith in people since starting law school :beatup:

But before rehashing today’s material, I have to confess it’s not an entirely recent phenomenon.

When I first moved to North Carolina over a decade ago, I was a doe-eyed teenager who knew some individuals could be a bit unsavory but firmly believed that most people were good, upstanding folks — and the bad ones probably just had bad parents or something. I was a strident opponent of the death penalty back then too, not because of any amorality to state-sanctioned killing (I was also a big “separation of church/state” kid), but because no crime could be sufficiently heinous to merit the ultimate punishment in light of the non-zero chance the person being executed was actually innocent. And so on and so forth.

Then reality smacked me around a little bit.

Back in 2003 I started working for the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court in Wake County as its first “Director of Special Projects” — code for having carte blanche to work on various Courthouse problems with minimal red tape.

One of those problems was figuring out a way to consolidate 3 separate Courthouse evidence rooms.  I’ll forgo mentioning the actual floors since I’m not sure if they’re considered confidential anymore, but for the sake of description the bottom room held seized cash and small drugs, the middle room was for small weapons and miscellany, and the top room held everything relating to the major felonies: dozens of weapons (including some wrapped in biohazard tape with dried blood still on them), luggage full of weed, various exotic implements of death… and the tri-fold picture displays frequently used by prosecutors to make a point with the jury.

One afternoon I walked through the top evidence room with a deputy from the Sheriff’s Department, just to get an idea of the scope of the storage problem I was working on. I pulled out one of the tri-fold displays and nearly puked at the crime scene photos: this particular victim was lying facedown in a pool of blood, and after reading the text I learned it was the mother of the accused… a mother who had been beaten, raped and sodomized by her own son before he slit her throat and left her to die.

There were a string of displays featuring dead prostitutes, dead drug dealers, dead gang members, and various other dead people participating in illegal activities.

But then it went back to the totally innocent victims. One particular display that got seared into my brain was a two-fold instead of a three-fold, on the left side containing a photo of an attractive Hispanic female in her early 20s smiling for the camera. The right side? That same woman, on the floor, no longer smiling, brutally shot 43 times by her then-boyfriend who claimed she was cheating on him.

43 shots. Now I’m no expert, but I do know my way around the occasional firearm enough to know the Glock 21’s standard magazine is only 13 rounds. Try pulling an imaginary trigger as quickly as you can 13 times. Then pause to reload. Then do it 13 times again. Then pause to reload. Then do it 13 times again. Then pause to reload. Then do it 4 more times.

I timed how long it would take in my head, and started crying in the middle of the evidence room. I took the rest of the day off.

You can pretty much pinpoint that day as the one where I stopped caring quite so much about the Eighth Amendment.

Fast forward back to today in class.

We’re having an engaging discussion in CrimLaw about Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11 (2003), and the fairness of Cali’s “three strikes” habitual felon statute. And I tell you folks, I didn’t care. At all. A guy stole $1K+ worth of golf clubs to add to his burgeoning criminal record, he was going to prison for the rest of his natural life… and I felt no sympathy. “Don’t want to get sentenced to life in prison as a habitual felon? STOP BREAKING THE @#$%ING LAW.” That was pretty much the only thing that went through my mind.

Then there was Contracts, discussing the doctrine of unconscionability and Higgins v. Superior Court, 140 Cal. App. 4th 1238 (2006). Essentially 5 siblings lost both of their parents, moved in with a family they knew through church, got approached by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to build a new 9-bedroom house for all of them (the siblings plus the family they moved in with)… and then once the house was built, the quasi-foster family threw out the siblings.

Since this was a Ks case it centered on an arbitration clause when the Higgins brothers pursued ABC, but what really got me was the family that ejected them. Kids lose their parents, move in with you after meeting you at church, you exploit them to get a new mini-mansion… then throw them out to enjoy the gains you unjustly got at their expense. We need to throw these people in prison with the golf club thief.

I was accustomed to the crazy @#$% we’ve already seen in Torts, but stuff like today caught me off-guard. And makes me dislike people. Grrr.

Sorry for the rambling-ish post tonight everybody, it was just one of those days. I hope all of you have an amazing night, and I’ll try to post something more chipper tomorrow :)

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Summer uncertainty looming…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 19, 2010 in The 1L Life

For those of you who are relatively new readers here at law:/dev/null — probably coming from Facebook if the log stats are to be believed :) — I’ve been planning on spending my summer in Quantico to attend Officer Candidate School for the United States Marine Corps. Hoping to become a Judge Advocate in the USMC was one of my motivations in choosing NCCU Law over some higher-ranked alternatives, even meriting inclusion as 1 of my 3 resolutions for the new year.

But it’s looking like I might have to wait until 2011 :(

I’ve known from the beginning that the biggest challenge getting into OCS has been physical fitness, largely rooted in the fact I’ve spent the years since high school doing minimal exercise.  I got back into a workout routine when I returned to N.C. State in 2005… only to break my left fibula playing basketball 2 days before the Spring 2006 semester started :beatup:

By the time I was off crutches back then, I was deep into Student Government and working full-time between being a lobbyist downtown and a TA for CSC116 on campus.

That lack of exercise continued until this past July, when I started a workout routine with some 2Ls and 3Ls heading to OCS this summer. I was making quasi-decent progress but developed a stress fracture from overexertion (apparently my left leg is not a fan of exercise :mad: ). I tried to keep up with various upper- and lower-body exercises that didn’t require the use of my leg, and started brisk walking late last month.  But after finally making it out to the track yesterday for my first “real” run, my time has really fallen off a cliff and I’m back at August levels.

The 1stLt who’s helping me train suggested I wait until next summer for OCS so I can be in better physical condition and have fewer mental distractions (UNCASG, surviving 1L, etc), and my OSO wants a “no bullshit assessment” in 2 weeks on whether I’m going to proceed or wait.

So… yeah.

The stubborn side of me says to stay the course, even though I know I’m risking another injury if I try to ramp up too quickly on the physical training. The pragmatist says it’s better to wait and succeed than to go too soon and risk getting booted for being out of shape.

And both sides of me wonder wtf I’m going to do this summer if I change my plans :surprised:

Summer associateship applications should have gone out weeks ago. There’s a neat study abroad program in Costa Rica that I’d love to do, but at $5K+ it’s entirely too pricy unless there’s some massive financial aid $$ available. And the General Assembly had some intern openings in the Research Division that my legislative contacts wanted me to pursue, but that closed on Friday.

So whatever the decision, I have no clue what my summer is going to look like. Normally uncertainty doesn’t bother me, but for some reason it’s really got me in a slightly restive mood at the moment.

We’ll see what happens. Have a good night folks!

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