6

Queries queries everywhere

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 11, 2011 in Site Stats

Good evening folks!

I haven’t compiled one of these Site Stats entries since January, owing largely to the fact law:/dev/null has been slowly atrophying during my chronic absences and I didn’t feel the urge to memorialize it in a blog post ;)

The number of visitors atrophied a bit over the Spring

But despite the chronic disappearances we still had two interesting developments in the statistics department, so I figured I’d go ahead and cobble an entry together.

First, we somehow inexplicably had a +35% spike in folks subscribing to the RSS feed in the past month. That’s the largest month-over-month increase — both in terms of % and # of raw subscribers — since we started publishing via RSS back in November ’09 :surprised:

I have no clue where y’all came from or what prompted you to start reading law:/dev/null via RSS, but welcome! :D

The other surprise was that my disappearances didn’t seem to impact the number of people reaching us via search engine. There were over 1,800+ unique queries made by folks visiting this site since that December entry (9,100+ searches total, with ~400K impressions), setting a record for us in January and setting the #2 and #3 marks in May and April.

We’re currently averaging 350 unique searches a month (compared to 80 this same time a year ago), a perk of producing original content even if it is a bit on the infrequent side :)

***

Here’s a random selection of 20 out of the 360+ unique search terms that brought folks here in May 2011:

  • which t4 law school is the best to attend: NCCU Law. Duh. :P
  • nccu law is hard: That’s generally the idea. If law school was easy, everyone would be doing it ;)
  • suicidal thoughts after law school exam: ok it’s hard, but it’s not that hard. Seriously, your grades don’t matter and there’s -0- point in stressing about what you can’t change.
  • law school, got a c in a class where the median is a b+: Can you change it? No. So stop worrying about it and just do better next time. :*
  • 1l student failed out+someone help me: Talk to your professors and to your mentors. Between the two of them, you’ll know what options you have open to you.
  • do 3ls ever fail: Yep.
  • when will nccu law school grades for 2010-2011 be posted?: They should all be finally online for everyone as of this past week. Though apparently some of my almost-3L colleagues are still waiting to learn whether or not they’ve passed ConLaw :beatup:
  • nccu law unfair grading: 1Ls (and some 2Ls/3Ls) complain about this every year when grades don’t turn out how they want. It’s a myth. Go get your exams from your professors and you’ll see sometimes you really do get things wrong ;)
  • if my final grade is b+ and my midterm was b+ what was my final: It depends on the curve. For example, in CivPro II during my 1L Spring semester there was a +19-point curve on the final exam to get the grade distribution we had.
  • law school c- curve: Doesn’t exist, at least if this well-cited Wikipedia entry on law school curves is to be believed. NCCU Law is among the lowest at 2.0.
  • why is nccu’s law school curve so low?: I’m actually covering this question (and a related one on why we kick people out) in a Mailbag entry I’m hoping to have posted on Monday or Tuesday this coming week — keep an eye out for it :)
  • definition for “madame prosecutor”: This is a loaded query so I’ll plead the Fifth on this one :beatup:
  • i missed my deposit deadline with campbell law: Give them a call and see if you can still pay it. And if not, go somewhere else :angel:
  • unranked law schools worth it: I think so, both here and here.
  • preston mitchum, nccu law: El Presidente, he is my predecessor as SBA President, kicked Harvard Law’s butt in the Luke Charles Moore Invitational, served as President of his 1L and 2L classes, and is an all-around cool guy.
  • has anyone gotten into duke law with a 2.7 gpa and a high score on the lsat: Depends on how high your “high score” is ;)
  • attrition at nccu law: Was #2 highest in the country for a public law school the last time NLJ put a chart together (scroll down), and around #7 highest among public and private law schools combined.
  • unc asg constitution: It’s been shuffled from location to location since I left the organization in April ’10, but you should (hopefully) still be able to find a copy at this URL on iwantmydollarback.org. I have no clue if it’s been amended since then though.
  • t. douchette, nccu law grades: There’s no “h” in my last name :P  But you can find my grades in the transcript at the bottom of this entry.
  • does the the law a pickle is not a pickle unless it bounces to be considered a pickle stand today: Wait… what?? :crack:

Not as exotic as some of the entries from months past, but still fun to dig through :spin:

***

We also have a whole new set for the Top 5 most-viewed posts of the month, including one that vaulted to #2 in just a couple days:

  1. On me nearly missing my CrimPro final: Dear Future 2Ls… (05/04/11)
  2. On my $.02 about 1L grades: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/11)
  3. On closing arguments at TYLA’s Southeast Regionals: Wrong man. Wrong place. Wrong time. (05/05/11)
  4. On slogging through the end of 2L Spring: 2L Year: 1 more exam to go… (05/03/11)
  5. On my 1L Spring grades and NCCU Law’s attrition stats: Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”) (06/08/10)

*THANK YOU* to all of you for continuing to check out law:/dev/null despite my chronic disappearances — I truly appreciate you! :heart:

—===—

From the Site Stats archives:

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16

Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 29, 2011 in Unsolicited Commentary

The first batch of 1L grades got posted Tuesday here at NCCU Law… in turn prompting the first batch of telephone calls from panicked 1Ls worried about their performance :beatup:

First, breathe.

Second, repeat after me: “My 1L grades don’t matter.”

Yeah I said it. Your 1L grades do. not. matter.

I’ve mentioned before that NCCU Law is one of the few law schools that still follows a strict-C median, and also academically dismisses any student who falls below a 2.0 at the end of any year (all the way up through 3L/4LE). Although I’m not a fan of the dismissal policy, my personal $.02 is that the low C-curve helps produce better-prepared attorneys; apparently I’m part of an “old school” worldview that looks at grades as providing feedback primarily to the student, not to the outside world.

Unfortunately the C curve also means folks who coasted through undergrad with no serious criticism and near-perfect GPAs (often thanks to B+ curves that are becoming the norm nationwide) are only now learning they can’t be superior at everything (cue the :eek:  faces).

 

“But TDot, you don’t understand! I made the top 10%!”

Congratulations! I really, truly, seriously am proud of you (seriously)… and it still doesn’t matter ;)  Yes, you now get to grade on to law review without having to do these agonizing BlueBook exercises. But they don’t give out bonus points in 2L and 3L classes just because you did well as a 1L. The material you’ll be learning is more expansive, the training wheels are taken off, and in the electives you’ll be taking as a 2L you’re going to be held to the same standards as everyone else — including us 3Ls in class with you :*

 

“But TDot, you don’t understand! I’m only at [some number ≥2.0] and I will never get into BigLaw and my life is ruined and omg omg omg!”

A few points here: (1) it doesn’t matter; (2) 90% of us didn’t make the top 10% either (and are doing just fine might I add); and (3) if the blawgosphere is to be believed, there are Ivy League kids with perfect GPAs who still can’t get into BigLaw… yet we’ve got several classmates and graduates doing just that, including at least one out West whose 1L GPA was below mine. The position was advertised on the jobs board, she submitted her résumé and an impeccably-edited writing sample, snagged an interview and took it from there.

While some firms will ignore applicants below a certain threshold GPA, many provide interviews based on factors beyond raw metrics.1 If you really do want to work in BigLaw (I’m judging you for it, jsyk :P ) then your work experience over this summer, coupled with your willingness to network and prepare an immaculate writing sample, will play a bigger role in the 2L job hunt than your 1L GPA.

Oh, I forgot: you also have 2 more years to bring your GPA up ;)

 

“But TDot, you don’t understand! I’m only at [some number <2.0] and I will never make it through law school and my life is ruined and omg omg omg!”

OK so in your case your 1L GPA will have a bit more of an impact, something I saw first-hand as most of my good friends during 1L year didn’t make it back for 2L year. But, if you still want to become an attorney and you’re dedicated to making it happen, these 1L grades still don’t matter.

First, figure out what happened; some of you had difficult personal or family situations that were beyond your control, some of you dug a hole in the Fall that was too deep to climb out of, some of you just had a bad day. Whatever the reason, use this upcoming year to get things squared away. Pick up your exams from your professors and see where things went wrong; if writing was a weakness, work with a writing coach. If it was something personal, do what you can to resolve the situation(s) or at least minimize the impact they’ll have on you in the future. Tie up loose ends. And generally position yourself to make a compelling case to the Admissions Committee when you appeal for readmission next year.

—===—

The main thing to remember, regardless of which of these categories you happen to be in, is that nothing is impossible. You’re reading a blog written by a guy who was booted from college as a sophomore, boasting a 1.x GPA and a $16K-ish debt to my future alma mater. I got back, got graduated, got into law school — and had an almost-criminal amount of fun along the way once I stopped fearing failure :D

And I still found a (well-paid) law job even after my 1L grades were safely below the Top 10%. Don’t believe me? Check my transcripts for yourself:

There’s nothing any of us can do to change any of our grades — so why stress about them? :P  Instead of letting your grades run your life, do what needs to be done so you run your life.

Trust me: if I can do it you can too ;)  Good night y’all!

  1. As counterintuitive as it sounds, this is particularly true in a bad economy. It’d take a whole ‘nother entry to explain the rationale, but the short version is that information asymmetry between applicant and employer gets worse as the ratio of applicants-to-jobs goes up, pushing employers to rely on non-quantitative criteria like recommendations from existing employees or other people of trust. []
  2. More F’s than A’s: 13 A’s, 12 B’s, 11 C’s, 4 D’s, 16 F’s. Plus a 4:3 pass/fail ratio in my credit-only classes. And I still had a trio of options for law school. []

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NCCU Law 1Ls take Silver (again) in K-S competition!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 22, 2011 in NotFail

Amid all these posts about my TYLA exploits in Charlotte this past weekend, I realized that I completely forgot to update y’all on how the NCCU Law 1Ls did in this year’s Kilpatrick-Stockton Mock Trial Competition last month!

Let’s just say the finals triggered flashbacks from 2010 :D

The info’s a bit dated, but I wrote a summary for the law school’s website you can read at this URL. Here’s the copy/paste:

NCCU 1Ls TAKE 2ND PLACE, TIE FOR 3RD IN ANNUAL K-S MOCK TRIAL COMPETITION
Home > News and Announcements > Student News
Posted January 21, 2011

In only NCCU Law’s second year of competition, the Trial Advocacy Board’s 1L trial teams once again dominated the annual Kilpatrick-Stockton 1L Mock Trial Competition hosted by the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law on January 13-16, 2011.

Pictured (from left to right): Cheri Hamilton, Helena Kirland-Werts, Nikia Williams, Kevin Boxberger, Jennifer Turner (Team Captain, "1L of a Team"), Susan Dow (Team Captain, "The Whole Truth"), Deyaska Spencer Sweatman, Diane Carter; Not Pictured: Anna Love

The “1L of a Team” squad advanced to the final round and earned a 2nd place finish, getting edged out by Duke Law after an intense and hard-fought trial by both sides. There were also 35 NCCU Law students, professors and alumni in attendance, a 10x increase over the audience for last year’s competition. The other 1L team, “The Whole Truth”, successfully advanced to the semi-final round and tied a separate Duke Law team for 3rd place.

Not only did NCCU Law’s 1Ls take half of the spots in the Final Four, this now also marks the 2nd year in a row that NCCU Law has made the final round of the competition — setting a 100% track record of NCCU Law 1Ls advancing to the final round.

28 teams participated from 6 North Carolina schools (all schools except Charlotte School of Law), and NCCU Law’s 1Ls successfully beat teams from Campbell, Duke and UNCCH at various stages of the competition.

Everyone delivered an exemplary performance, and the Trial Advocacy Board looks forward to watching these 1Ls blossom into even stronger advocates over their next two years!

A belated-but-much-deserved congratulations to the NCCU Law 1L Trial Teams! :D

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1

Summer ’10 Final Grades

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 16, 2011 in NotFail

A couple days ago I posted an updated entry on how my 1L Spring grades turned out, and this entry is a follow-up with my summer school grades so y’all will have the “full picture” of how my 1L academic life turned out :)

====================
SUPERIOR COURT MEDIATION
====================

This 5-day, 40-hour pass/fail class doubled as a CLE for practicing attorneys and is required for all certified mediators in North Carolina.

Tagged by me as “Lobbying for Lawyers“, essentially we learned about various types of alternative dispute resolution and then plowed in-depth into various aspects of mediation, followed by a series of role-playing exercises where we rotated as mediator with other classmates acting as attorneys or clients.

The variety of ages and student-vs-practicing-attorney split made for a different dynamic than the other classes (in a good way). Even though there were some boring moments, I enjoyed it overall and feel like I learned some useful snippets from it. It certainly helped with my ADR Clinic experience :)

Expected final grade for class: Pass
Actual final grade for class: Pass

Synopsis: Useful topic + free food == #win

====================
ADR PROCESSES AND PRACTICE
====================

While Superior Court Mediation focused on teaching the various types of alternative dispute resolution and training people on how to be effective mediators, this class focused on ADR from the vantage points of the advocates.

The first day of class covered some of the essentials on ADR that I had already learned, but beyond that each subsequent class involved reading a chapter or two on negotiating styles, competitive tactics, and so on along with learning a new fact pattern. Then we’d have a mock settlement conference with opposing counsel for each of these sets of facts.

The professor for the course was hilarious and laid-back. I also surprisingly enjoyed the course textbook (even though it was dry in parts).

Final grades for the course were based on a journal maintained throughout the summer session1 and two essays critiquing the results of a negotiation session and a mediation session respectively. I figured I aced the essays but also lost points on the journal because I missed an entry or two. Luckily it wasn’t enough to alter my grade :D

Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: A

Synopsis: Good professor + good textbook == #win

====================
ADR CLINIC
====================

Most of my experiences in this class already got written about elsewhere on the blog under the ADR tag. Basically every participant had to mediate about a dozen cases, the bulk of which were in Criminal District Court in Wake County. We also mediated cases involving child support, 50(B) protective orders, Medicaid cases pending before the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings, and had to sit in on a session with Wake County’s Drug Court.

Clinic grades were based on performance/professionalism during the mediations, teaching a class on an ADR-related topic of choice, completing three different reflections on various mediations (mine were late), and compiling a portfolio including a résumé and pricing list for use if/when we became real mediators.

The main upside to the class was learning that I’m probably not cut out for mediation. I’m incredibly talented at it, but I’m also accustomed to having an opinion and I’m ill-suited to simply facilitating :beatup:

Expected final grade for class: B-
Actual final grade for class: B+

Synopsis: Tangible experience + decent grade == #win

====================
RACE & THE LAW
====================

This class was the highlight of my summer :spin:

It’s a seminar course that focuses on the impact race has played on American jurisprudence, through the lens of 5 different groups (lumped together in the casebook as whites, blacks, asians, hispanics, and American Indians). In addition to examining the core case law — sizable chunks of which are still surprisingly considered good law, even though they were based on what we now know are inaccurate perceptions of race — the book then follows with looking at race-based cases as applied to issues such as free speech, marriage/adoption, immigration, political participation, and so on.

As you can probably guess, conversations in the class periodically got emotional but everything was kept at a high level of professionalism. It was engaging to hear the different perspectives based not only on folks’ own races, but also their age, socioeconomic status, sexuality, upbringing, military service and various other factors. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though my somewhat-outspoken views aren’t exactly politically correct.2

Final grades were based on two different group presentations and two essays. I had to give myself a crash course in constitutional law because all of the essay options included either First or Fourteenth Amendment considerations, but I anchored myself to a desk at the law school until I learned it and wrote solid responses. The effort was worth it ;)

Expected final grade for class: A
Actual final grade for class: A

Synopsis: Engaging discussion + “A” in a 3-credit course == #win^2

====================
FINAL SCORE: SUMMER 2010 FINALS
====================

Expected End-of-Summer GPA: 3.523
Actual End-of-Summer GPA: 3.810

Actual End-of-1L GPA: 2.898 (Law school median: 2.000)

*****

I’ll be focused on the upcoming TYLA regional competition in Charlotte for the next few days so I don’t know when I’ll have a follow-up post, but once life settles down I’ll go through the Fall 2011 semester and I’ll finally be more-or-less caught up with things :)

Have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

  1. I hate those things []
  2. While I recognize actual racism still exists across society — a recognition affirmed throughout the 7 years I dated QuietStorm — I think the overwhelming majority of problems attributed to “race” today are more accurately attributable to class / socioeconomic differences, particularly for people 35 and younger. []

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Revisiting 1L Spring Grades

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 14, 2011 in NotFail

Good evening y’all :)

As law:/dev/null exhibited the occasional sign of life over the past couple weeks, I had a trio of people ask me the same question: aside from my obvious elation at the ending GPA, how did my individual classes turn out during 2L Fall?

I’ve been meaning to post an entry explaining exactly that… but then realized I never gave y’all a final update on 1L Spring, or any update at all on 1L Summer :beatup:

So to properly bolster my reputation of being totally open about my law school grades, I’ve copy/pasted my previous Spring grades entry and revised it with the exam info :D The textual updates are [bracketed], bolded, and preceded by “Update:” for readability.

I’ll post a separate entry on summer school grades some time this week, and then 2L Fall grades after that — I thought about rolling all that info into this one entry, but considering I haven’t managed to string 3 consecutive entries together for awhile now I wanted to make sure I’ve got easily-editable stuff in the queue ;)

Without further ado…

********************
1L SPRING REVISITED
********************

[Everything below is a copy/paste from this entry except for the updates and the final exam grades. You’ve been forewarned, so any resulting confusion is your own fault! :P ]

====================
CIVIL PROCEDURE II
====================

MDG switched things up from the usual final, giving us a set of multiples but then providing documents from a mock court case to review for the essay. Our objective was to review the documents and craft a letter to the client discussing the numerous FRCP-related concerns that existed.

It was during that portion of the exam that I stopped watching the clock and had time called before I got anywhere near finishing it :beatup:

CivPro II Final Exam Grades

The multiples were a challenge, with MDG describing them as “nuanced” and mentioning that even a fellow CivPro instructor missed a couple. The highest correct was 15 out of 20 multiples (75%) with the class average at 12 (60%) — high enough to pass the Bar, which is definitely a good thing given the difficulty.

The chart to the right shows how the final exam grades broke down. There was a +19-point curve.

My final grade for the course turned out slightly higher than anticipated, so my guess is I did well on the multiples. But I’m kicking myself for choosing a UNC Board of Governors meeting over an extra credit assignment we were given shortly after midterms though — the extra 5 points would have bumped the final grade to a B, bumping my 1L GPA above a 2.7 (eligible for some NCCU Law merit scholarships).

Lesson learned :headdesk:

[Update: I found out from MDG that I tied for top score on the multiple choice, which let me know I completely bombed the essay — so I didn’t bother picking it up :beatup: ]

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: C
Expected final grade for class: C+
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: Worse performance than last semester, but given how gratuitously I choked on the essay I’m satisfied with how it turned out. And now I know to do all available extra credit in the future :beatup:

====================
CONTRACTS II
====================

Not a whole lot to say here: Contracts clearly isn’t my thing.

The downside is that I now have to explain to future employers how I barely passed a core class two semesters in a row.

The upside? I never have to take Contracts again until the bar exam ;)

[Update: This was the first (and thus far only) exam where I’ve underperformed on the multiples compared to the essay. According to Prof Ks, I got 33 of 50 possible essay points and was comfortably above the class median. But I somehow had the 3rd lowest score on the multiple choice :crack:  Still glad the class is over…]

Midterm exam grade: C-
Final exam grade: C
Expected final grade for class: C-
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: I passed :surprised:

====================
CRIMINAL LAW
====================

If my perpetual flailing in Ks killed any briefly-nurtured dreams I had of going the intellectual property route, CrimLaw coupled with 1L Trial Team have convinced me to follow my heart and go the criminal prosecution route professionally. It’s something I had wanted to do for years, but never seriously considered since public employees don’t make much salary-wise.

But based on my grades it seems like the only thing I’ll be qualified to do :beatup:

The really crazy part? This was my best grade all year, and it was in the one class where I didn’t study for the final exam because I had a UNCASG meeting that weekend :crack:

Professor CrimLaw sent me an email making sure I knew that (i) I earned the grade I got but (ii) I shouldn’t make any professional decisions based on one course. He’s got a valid point but I don’t feel like I’m doing that here — I really, truly, and deeply hate Contracts too so technically it’s based on three courses :spin:

[Update: I missed a trio of the multiple choice, and had a few points taken off on the essay. For an ever-so-brief period of time I thought about arguing with Prof CrimLaw over some of the missed points — including a section where he wrote that I misread the fact pattern, even though myself and every other classmate I spoke to “misread” the same thing — but I was sufficiently happy/stunned to have at least 1 A-range grade that I didn’t bother contesting it.]

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: A-
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: A-

Synopsis: I’m 90% sure Professor CrimLaw isn’t a TDot fan, but I still enjoyed the course. And I’m glad I finally have something other than B’s and C’s populating my transcript ;)

====================
LEGAL RESEARCH & PERSUASION
====================

Along with not watching the clock in the CivPro final, this was my other instance of taking a strong starting grade and pissing it away through truly stunning incompetence.

Note to the pre-Ls: read directions!

Then when you’re done: re-read directions!

Then after that: re-re-read directions!

Trust me :beatup:

[Update: The professor said my final memo was excellent and would have earned me an A- had it not been days late. Le sigh. #kanyeshrug]

Cumulative grade after midterm: A-
Final memo grade: C-
Expected final grade for class: C
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: It could have been worse I guess. At least the research skills we learned actually turned out to be useful. ::headdesk::

====================
PROPERTY II
====================

This was the only final exam where I didn’t have a gut feeling one way or the other on how it turned out. I’m not sure if it was from the stress of the looming Contracts final two days later or what.

My performance was worse than the midterm, but high enough that I ended up with the exact same grade I got in the Fall.

And I don’t remember any of it already :beatup:

[Update: The final for Property II was “meh” all around. Lost a few points on the multiples. Lost a few points on the fill-in-the-blanks covering future interests. Lost a few points on the essay. If anyone has any particularly compelling insights to glean from that performance, let me know :) ]

Midterm exam grade: A- (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: B
Expected final grade for class: B+
Actual final grade for class: B+

Synopsis: At least I’m consistent :beatup:

====================
TORTS II
====================

Professor Torts is currently in Costa Rica with our Study Abroad folks, so I won’t know how the final exam turned out for a long while.

But I know enough to know I blew it :(

Back on the midterms I ended up with the #1 score out of the class on the multiples-only exam, so to end up with a final grade below even last semester’s I must have quite thoroughly FUBAR’d the final. And I feel fairly certain I did well on the essay, meaning I can only assume I botched the multiples.

Meh. Was never a fan of this class either…

[Update: Didn’t do as well on the essay as I thought, completing missing 1 of the issues and losing a point or two on a pair of others. Also didn’t do as bad as I thought on the multiples… but someone nailed everything so there was no boost at all in the typical curving of grades :surprised: ]

Midterm exam grade: A (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: C+
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: This was the only bona fide disappointment for the semester, but at least it’s over. I will most definitely not be taking Advanced Torts ;)

====================
FINAL SCORE: SPRING 2010 FINALS
====================

Expected End-of-Semester GPA: 2.756
Actual End-of-Semester GPA: 2.733

Actual End-of-1L GPA: 2.678 (Law school median: 2.000)

*****

So that’s the final word on 1L Spring.  Info on 1L Summer coming soon (really! ;) )

Have a great night! :D

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

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A half-million pageviews later

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 3, 2011 in Site Stats

I bet y’all never thought you’d see one of these entries again :D

2nd month of 6,000+ visitors!

law:/dev/null crossed the 500,000 pageview milestone back in mid-November and I’ve been meaning to do another one of these entries ever since. Then studying and taking finals and working and vacation snuck in and I never got around to it :beatup:

But December 2010 was our 2nd-best-trafficked month since we started — despite two 5-day absences — so I figure that calls for celebration! :spin:

Quite a bit has changed on the server backend of the blog since July, including an increasingly aggressive (and thus far successful) effort at stomping out spammers.

Take a look at one of the new graphs I created below, which shows the number of spammy visitor sources I’ve added to the .htaccess file for banning. I recently started throwing in some keyword bans just to reduce the number of directives the server is processing; for example, instead of banning every spammer coming here from a buythisrandomdrugplz.com address, I’ve just decided to ban all the referers with “buy” in the URL.1

The net result? While July featured an almost comically-absurd abundance of spam comments and we had a couple recurrence spikes in August and October, we’ve “purified” the traffic enough that December had the lowest number of spam visitors in the entire history of law:/dev/null :D

The downside is that the bans kill our pageviews-per-day and Alexa traffic stats, the latter of which are used for determining things like avvo.com’s Top Legal Blogs.

Over 1,000+ spammy domains banned!

Our ranking has steadily dropped like a stone over the past two months while sites like Bitter Lawyer — which has become spam-blasted and hasn’t had fresh content in 3+ months — actually find their stats going up over that same timespan :crack:

But, just between you, me, and the interwebz: I’d prefer having 6,000+ flesh-and-blood visitors a month actually reading this stuff instead of tens-of-thousands of spammers just crawling for comment forms ;)

We’ll see if we can keep our current anti-spam success going in the new year. Honestly I’m just pretty amazed / impressed / blown away that we had as many visitors as we did in December, especially given my infrequent posting. So thanks to all of you :*

***

On the search query front, we’ve had over 1,000 new queries since the last time I did one of these lists :surprised:

Here are 20 of the 240+ unique search terms that brought folks here in December 2010:

  • time magazine decade from hell picture: the picture was more thoughtful than the story itself ;)
  • 1l grade wait: will be at least a month for most law schools, sorry
  • human shooting target: didn’t survive my concealed carry qualification shooting :D
  • nccu law school grades: aren’t due until January 12th :beatup:
  • badass eagle: was briefly considered for my new gravatar — but I decided to stick with my current colonial eagle instead
  • is law school worth it: yes
  • is law school really worth it: yes
  • t4 law school worth it?: probably
  • essay explaining why i would attend north carolina central university: here’s a tip: if you can find it on Google, the admissions staff can find it on Google too ;)
  • if you turn in your tag for lapse in north carolina can you turn around and get a 30 day temporary tag: I could, so you probably can too
  • gpa ncsu computer science: hopefully yours is higher than mine :beatup:
  • final exam advice: check out this entry and this entry — and GOOD LUCK!
  • 1l gpa for top 10%: depends on where you’re going to school, but for the NCCU Law Class of 2012 it was around 3.28
  • hey tar heels… kick rocks: please :angel:
  • people v andrew madison mock trial keys to win: villify the Queen of Hearts :D
  • first kid movie: was my first/only foray in a Hollywood movie (check #19 on that list and see my FB profile for the pics :) )
  • how can a 24 year old get money for law school: apply for students loans. Lots of loans. :beatup:
  • do classmates know your 1l grades: usually no, unless they do really well
  • grading curve nccu law: follows a strict-C, which I’m apparently the only one supporting
  • can’t stand law students: then you’re probably reading the wrong blog ;)

I missed going through these monthly… :spin:

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of December 2010:

  1. On tackling finals: TDot’s Tips: More Final Exam Advice (11/30/10)
  2. On Fall 2010 grade expectations: Halfway done! (12/12/10)
  3. On combating spammers: Fight WordPress comment spam with .htaccess (08/04/10)
  4. On law students around the web: Law School Roundup #247 (12/19/10)
  5. On figuring out what to do with my life: Straddling the fence (12/13/10)

*THANK YOU* again to each of you for your continued support of us here at law:/dev/null! :D

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Past Site Stats entries:

  1. On the ever-so-slim chance you happen to get here from a legit source with “buy” (or any other banned keyword) in the URL and you get one of our lovely error pages, just reload law:/dev/null manually and you should be able to see everything :) []

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TDot’s Tips: 1L Midterms “Quick Hits” Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 11, 2010 in TDot's Tips

This entry is devoted primarily to my 1L colleagues at the N.C. Central University School of Law, so if you’re not a Legal Eagle you can probably skip it :)

And if you’re not a 1L you can definitely skip it ;)

I also planned on making this a longer and more-detailed entry, but I didn’t realize the midterm schedule got switched up this year: instead of 2 days of regular class followed by double-stacked exams on Wednesday and Thursday, 1Ls this year get one midterm a day at 8:00am :surprised:

So with CivPro behind y’all and most of you asleep already heading into Ks tomorrow, here’s a few quick points to keep in mind:

  1. Get the 1L Stuff. If you haven’t already, make sure to download the 1L Stuff ZIP archive I put online for y’all. This is basically a collection of every 1L outline and brief I could get my hands on last year; it includes everything from the 1L folder folks pass around, along with stuff other folks gave me. There are probably quite a few duplicate files, but there’s also a wide breadth of outlines to study from1 :)
  2. Focus on the multiple choice. We use a strict-C curve at NCCU Law, which means (i) the median grade has to be a C2 and (ii) professors usually have to use some kind of subjective criteria to ensure that distribution. That subjective component is unavoidably your essay, since multiple choice answers are either right or wrong. And because it’s subjective it means a stellar essay may not net you as many points (comparatively speaking) if everyone else in the class does well on the essay too. So if you can ace the multiple choice, you’ll have a significant advantage before your professor even grabs your essay for grading.
  3. Watch the clock. Hopefully you’ve read the Final Exam tips and you’re knocking out the multiple choice questions first. If you’re not — or if the multiples seem to be taking longer than you think they should — make sure to keep checking the clock sporadically so you know how much time you have left. Otherwise you’ll end up like me on my CivPro II final :beatup:
  4. Sleep! For some unknown reason, 1Ls seem to think law school is like college and all-nighters are an effective way to do test prep. Don’t do it! You need to be able to decipher complex hypos on the multiple choice, spot the issues in an even longer hypo for the essay(s), and write coherently about it as well. You’re only going to be able to do that on a decent night’s sleep, and ideally a good breakfast before you head to the test.
  5. Read the Final Exam tips too. The same stuff I mentioned then applies to midterms too ;)

Oh, and be prepared to not get your grades until the end of the month :beatup:

That’s it from me y’all — GOOD LUCK on your exams!! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. And if you happen to be a Mac user like me, having this folder indexed by Spotlight makes it easy to pull up case briefs on the fly later in the semester ;) []
  2. See the bar graphs in some of the older grade-related entries for distributions from my 1L year. []

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No, I’m not dead. But thanks for asking :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 24, 2010 in Randomness

Hey y’all! :)

Earlier today I got a message in my Facebook inbox from a reader wondering if I’d met an untimely demise, given the week-long absence of anything here at law:/dev/null.

Rest assured I’m still alive and kicking, my immune system and I have just been working overtime to fight off some seasonal unpleasantness that hit me right around the same time last year.1 Treatment has included getting a full 8+ hours of sleep a night, but since my classes haven’t gotten pushed back that means going to bed earlier at night — which is typically when I’m writing the day’s entry here :beatup:

I’ve got a sextet of posts on my desktop that I’ll hopefully get posted today. I can’t guarantee they’ll be any good, of course, but it’ll (hopefully) be better than a week-old post of me complaining about campus media ;)

Thanks for checking up on me, and have a great day!2 :D

  1. Right before/during 1L midterms :( []
  2. And on a more-festive side note, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Co-Counsel! :spin: []

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

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

Good evening y’all! :)

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

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

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

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

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

***

Q: David2 asks:

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

A: It depends :)

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

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

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

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

***

Q: Ethan writes in with a similar question:

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

A: See above — it depends ;)

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Q: Gabriel also has studying on his mind:

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

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

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

***

Q: Henry is looking ahead to next year:

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

What made you pursue law after having done computer science?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—===—

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

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

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When internet memes attack…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 15, 2010 in Site Stats

What do “nom nom nom”, “::headdesk::”, and “#fml” all have in common?

Lots of people looking for nom-ing bunnies...

They’re all internet memes I’ve been using here on law:/dev/null for months now… and they’ve turned into a real headache when it comes to site maintenance :beatup:

I first noticed something was amiss when the blog got hit by a massive wave of spam comments back on July 11th. The pageview spike was so massive I had to leave out that entire day when updating these bar charts, otherwise the “Pageviews per Day” bar would be about 50% higher than it is now.

To highlight the spike, I created a new chart below graphing the number of spam comments against the number of unique IP addresses we had in a given month (higher bars == more spam comments per capita).

As I spent the next couple weeks re-acquainting myself with .htaccess directives for this spam prevention entry, I noticed something else odd in the log files: we had a trio of referrer URLs showing megabytes upon megabytes of data being transferred but with -0- corresponding pageviews. After poking around I realized the bunny picture from this old Contracts entry was being hotlinked all over the place for reasons I couldn’t figure out.

So I logged in to Google’s Webmaster Tools for the first time in months, and figured out what was going on — over 15,000+ searches on 30 different variations of “om nom nom” :crack:

July brought lots of spam...

Apparently when I switched how WordPress sets post URLs last month (from the old numeric “?p=1234” to the current setup), the search index for that Contracts entry went up high enough that the bunny picture became the #1 result for anyone doing a Google search with “nom nom” in it.

Not the entire entry of course. Just the bunny pic. :beatup:

Things have calmed down a bit now that I’ve started banning spambots and limiting the hotlinks. My guess is traffic will go back to a more-linear growth pattern for August. We’ll see what happens :)

***

On the search query front, we had a bunch of duplicate searches but also some fresh ones. Here are 20 of the 100+ unique search terms that brought folks here in July:

  • chazz clevinger: worked with me as the Vice President of Legislative & Public Affairs for UNCASG two years ago. I haven’t kept in touch with him much since law school started, but he did good work for the students of North Carolina.
  • nc dmv 30 day tag for insurance lapse: cost me $63, and I didn’t even need one :mad:
  • nccu lsat score evening program: for 2009-10, was 151 for the evening program, with the 25th percentile folks at 148 and the 75th percentile folks at 155 according to the class profile.
  • blackberry messenger group nccu school of law ’11: exists, but I’m not a part of it since I’m in the Class of 2012 ;) Hit up one of the 3Ls for more info.
  • tdot surplus vehicles: HA! I wish I had surplus vehicles…
  • does duquesne law school give midterms?: I don’t know about Duquesne Law, but NCCU Law does :spin:
  • letter demanding payment from ex girlfriend: is probably not going to accomplish much of anything…
  • negative things about nccu law: vary depending on who you ask. I’m a huge NCCU Law fan, and my only real complaint is that the wi-fi can be spotty in certain areas of the building (like the Great Hall and the Fishbowl). Hopefully they improved that over the summer.
  • 2010 11 tuition north carolina: is unfortunately still going up by almost $1K at several universities, since state legislators decided to balance the budget on the backs of students :mad:
  • nccu law fall 2010 class calendar: can be found on the Law School Registrar’s TWEN page, or downloaded from the NCCU Law “Academics” page.
  • nccu school of law’s grading curve: follows a strict-C median, which I happen to enthusiastically support ;)
  • mary wright 1l advocacy competition: takes place every Spring semester for 1L students. You can watch the video of my 3rd place performance here.
  • daryl wade unc: is probably not the same guy as Daryl Wade, the former Student Body President at UNC School of the Arts who served as Vice Chairman of the UNCASG Council of Student Body Presidents last year. I’m sure the other Daryl Wade is still cool though… even if he goes to UNCCH :sick:
  • are 1l’s included in the 30 day delay for financial aid?: For the vast majority of 1Ls, no.1 This was actually one of the questions we had at my 1L Orientation last year, so you’re not alone in wondering :)
  • what percentage of nccu law school are white law students?: roughly 35-40% each class year. Another 45-50% are black, and the remaining 10-20% are spread across other races. We’re routinely ranked among the most diverse student bodies in the country.
  • nccu minority scholarships for white law students: “No, officer…”
  • nccu law fall 2010 book list: can be found above the academic calendar on the NCCU Law “Academics” page.
  • acpi:system state: could signal a dead motherboard :(  Take it to get looked at ASAP.
  • which computer apple or pc for law students: Apple. Hands down. Trust me. ;)

Definitely a different mix of search results getting here this month… :)

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of July 2010, quite a bit different from past Top 5s due to the new indexing changes:

  1. On avoiding contract enforcement: Mmm Ks nom nom nom (02/16/10)
  2. On inexpensive résumé websites: Things TDot Likes: Persona Non Obscura (12/08/09)
  3. On post-1L class ranks: Learning what I already knew (07/12/10)
  4. On having a shadow: Spreading the (Law School) Gospel (02/17/10)
  5. On saving money: TDot’s Tips: Tips for the pre-L’s on $$$ (05/29/10)

*THANK YOU* as always to each of you for your continued support of us here at law:/dev/null! :D

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Past Site Stats entries:

  1. My understanding is that some international students who have never attended a U.S. school previously get included, but I don’t know enough people (translation: none) who fall into that category to know if that’s accurate :beatup:   []

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