2

A Mercenary’s Lament

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 10, 2014 in NotFail

mer•ce•nar•y (pl. mercenaries) – noun. a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.

Today’s my first day “back in the real world” after spending the past weekend at the annual TYLA NTC Regionals.1 And where I coached my very first TYLA trial team, comprised of two 2Ls and a 3L.

A team that ended the competition as finalists :surprised:

In turn making them the best trial team in both North Carolina and South Carolina.2 Not to mention going further in that competition than I ever made it myself.

From… the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

That’s not a typo. It’s the same institution I’ve ridiculed on this very website as The University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven. The one whose students meme’d me in my NC State hat. The one with its very own “#gthc” tag here at law:/dev/null.3

And I was their coach :beatup:

So how did a guy with an eagle carving on his dining room table plus another on a bookshelf and a third on my bedroom wall — alongside a wolf painting, a wolf carving, even the comforter on my bed — end up in the finals of my favorite mock trial competition helping the one institution that happens to be a rival of both my undergrad and professional school alma maters?4

My team, from L to R: Jonathan Williams '15 (Defense), Michelle Markham '14 (Swing), Dave Fitzgerald '15 (Plaintiff), Eli Sevcik-Timberg '14 (Student Coach)

My team, from L to R: Jonathan Williams ’15 (Defense), Michelle Markham ’14 (Swing), Dave Fitzgerald ’15 (Plaintiff), Eli Sevcik-Timberg ’14 (Student Coach)

Well first we had an amazing team. I was a little nervous at the start because only one student was a 3L; the other two were 2Ls who’d never competed in anything before, and the 3L student coach assigned to work with me had experience but not in TYLA.

I also got the impression at a few points in practice that our goal was just to not embarrass ourselves — I don’t think anyone (admittedly, myself included) thought we had any shot at going anywhere.

But let me tell you: when it counted, they competed. All three of them turned in solid performances to nab the #6 seed after the first three rounds, setting up a semifinal match against the University of South Carolina for Sunday morning. They promptly slaughtered USC and pushed us on to the finals.5

“But TDot! But TDot!” I hear you saying, “WHY were you working for them?”

Aaanndd… that’s where the title for the blog post comes in. ;)

Last winter my 2L/3L TYLA coach6 and I had talked about the future of NCCU Law‘s team and whether there’d be a spot for me anywhere as an assistant coach. Nothing ever happened with it, so in the Spring I volunteered to be one of the guest judges for the TYLA Regionals when they were hosted by Campbell Law down in Raleigh.

For my round I watched an absolutely superb performance by a team from WFU Law — a team that ended up getting functionally disqualified when a meritless protest was filed over WFU’s cross-examination of the other side’s expert, and the “protest committee” voted to give them -0- points for the cross.7 I felt bad for them. And I also decided that I hated the idea of “just” being a judge if our ballots could be summarily disregarded by a 5-member committee of other competing coaches.

Fast forward to early October. The Monday before the 2L/3L trial team tryouts to be exact. I still stop by the NCCU Law building on a fairly regular basis, so during one of those trips while I’m down in our clinic area I make some inquiries about the process to become a trial team coach.

Now in retrospect I don’t know what response I expected. I figured, at the very least, it would be something along the lines of “All the coach spots are filled for every team at the moment, but when something opens up we’ll let you know.”8 Instead the response I got was as clear as it was unambiguous: “Coaches have to have 5 years of practice experience. That’s the rule.”

I was a smidge annoyed. But rules are rules, right?

So a couple days later, when I’m down in Wake County for a traffic case, I talked with one of my 2L AAJ trial coaches (a District Court Judge down there) about how he got involved. Apparently someone just called and asked him to do it. But he went on to tell me no one even asked him to return as a coach my 3L year or the year after. That in turn led me to express my frustration over how I felt the law school treated our competitions as afterthoughts, and how I really wanted to run one of these teams to show what could be done.

Well even though he’s an NCCU Law alum, he’s also a dyed-in-the-wool Tar Heel as well. He had heard the UNCCH trial team advisor was out for the semester due to a medical issue and suggested I consider looking there.

I then texted a friend of mine from my NC State days who had just graduated from UNCCH Law the prior year. She confirmed the story on the advisor and said it would be “awesome if [I] potentially think about maybe” being their coach (after confessing surprise that I like trial team :crack: ). And if I wanted her to make a call the spot would be mine.

Unpaid, but a shot nonetheless.

Not quite ready to go calling in favors, I had lunch with my other 2L TYLA coach the next week to get his advice on basically squaring off against my own school. And he said to go for it. I’m paraphrasing here, but his argument was something along the lines of “Think about what it says for Central if you do well, what it says if your alma mater’s graduates do a better job at this than their own.”

Still not fully comfortable with the thought of switching sides, I sent a text message to my 2L/3L TYLA coach to get his thoughts since he was still in charge. When he saw me at the Alumni Association meeting that Saturday, he said to take the spot as well.

So I did.

I Facebook-messaged a UNCCH 2L I knew from UNCASG, who in turn put me in touch with the Trial Advocacy Board chairman over there, who in turn connected me with the TYLA squad and a 3L student coach to assist. And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

“But TDot! But TDot!” you interrupt again, “WHHYYY??”

Well… because my alma mater didn’t want me :(

Look, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who loves NCCU Law more than I do (or NC State for that matter). You’ll be equally hard pressed to find anyone who takes quite as much glee in disparaging UNC Chapel Hill as I do. The students on the NCCU teams that didn’t make it were real people, including two of my mentees

And I can’t even articulate for you in words how awkward it felt when I actually typed “#goheelsgoamerica” into my phone for a Facebook status. :beatup:

But the fact is it didn’t make a d*mn lick of sense for me to sit on the sidelines getting rusty for another year waiting on my alma mater to let me help. And it most definitely didn’t make a d*mn lick of sense for me to do that for 4 more years until I’d reach some arbitrary quantum of real world experience.

UNCCH needed someone. They offered me that opportunity. The folks I met turned out to be really cool people. And, having made a commitment to them, I wasn’t going to let them down.

So I didn’t. :)

Now the only issue at this point is really what other folks’ decide will happen next year. Because now that I know the finals are attainable, I’m not going away until nationals…

—===—

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

  1. I know I’m behind schedule on the “blog more” resolution, but it’s still early in the year and anything can happen :P []
  2. The regional winners were the University of Georgia — the same school that knocked out EIC, Shutterbug, and I back in Memphis two years ago :mad: — and Georgia State University. []
  3. “GTHC” means “Go to Hell, Carolina!” for the uninitiated ;) []
  4. No comments from UNCCH homers on “omg you’re not our rival!” I’ve enjoyed enough hostility while wearing my NCSU paraphernalia to sporting events and NCCU paraphernalia to law events to know better :* []
  5. Frankly I don’t fully understand how we lost the final round, and got the impression the judges were scoring based on the merits of the case rather than the advocacy. But I’m also biased. []
  6. Don’t have nicknames for most of the folks in this entry, so I’m going to titles. []
  7. The ruling was improper, and it was sufficiently improper that TYLA amended their Rules for this year’s competition to prevent situations like that from happening again. []
  8. It’s not like I swept both 3L competitions and was on the #1-seeded team in the 2012 TYLA Regional semis while serving as SBA President and graduating with honors and two concentrations or anything… :beatup: []

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TOP 8!!!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 18, 2012 in NotFail

AAAHHHHHHHHHH!! :D

Sorry, had to get that out :)

So after finally getting things caught up here at law:/dev/null a couple weeks ago, I promptly disappeared again to focus on my upcoming competitions. I’m the “swing” counsel for one of NCCU Law‘s TYLA National Trial Competition teams again this year and have been determined to improve on last year’s just-barely-missed-it 9th place finish…

…and tonight WE DID IT!!! :spin:

NCCU Law's 2012 TYLA Trial Teams! From left to right: Associate Coach Jessica Major '09, Head Coach Clayton Jones '03, Me, Deyaska Spencer '13, Robert Brooks '12, Jillian Mack '12, Nikia Williams '13, Omari Crawford '13. Not pictured: Associate Coach Dominique Camm '09. Photo courtesy of 雅雅 :)

Teams are a little different year — instead of doing straight 2L-only and 3L-only squads, we have two 3Ls1 and one 2L2 on one team and one 2L, one 2.5L,3 and a 3L on the other — but even with the switched up pairings we still had a team make it into the Top 8 to advance to tomorrow’s quarterfinals.

And not only did we advance, but we discovered (i) we were 1 of only 5 teams4 to win all three of our preliminary rounds and (ii) we also swept all 9 of the judges’ ballots, making us the #1 seed in the quarterfinal pairings! :surprised:

For a time it didn’t seem like things were going to turn out that way.

NCCU Law’s been getting hammered with budget cuts, so we couldn’t afford to print our enlarged exhibits locally and then ship them from Durham; we had to get them printed here in Memphis before our arrival… only to discover yesterday morning (before the first round) that the order was completely FUBAR’d :mad:  So rather than spending our time focusing on the upcoming trial we were scrambling to get the prints done like they needed to be, get additional prints for the stuff that never got done, etc etc.

The first round was against the University of Memphis School of Law with EIC and I on defense, and after it was over we felt pretty good — no repeats of first-round jitters like we had at both the TYLA competition and the AAJ competition last year. Then came this morning, with Shutterbug and I representing the Plaintiff against a team from Duke Law. It was the same Duke Law team that won the 1L K-S competition last year so Shutterbug was looking for revenge and did a superlative job; Duke Law’s main strength was the breadth and quality of their objections, but we had a special pow-wow before heading to Memphis where we anticipated almost everything they threw at us.

But then the afternoon session was against a team from Charleston Law and we just knew EIC and I had lost our shot. One of the other side’s witnesses was actually a witness from the Friday night round playing the same guy, so he knew our cross-examination; the Memphis hosts went out of their way to try and find someone else, but couldn’t come up with anybody so we had to roll with it. I think knowing that was an issue had both of us mentally thrown off because neither of us were really “in the zone” like we should have been from that point onward.

By the grace of God we somehow eked it out though, winning that particular round by a couple points :)

I was so nervous when they were announcing the results of who advanced that I completely forgot my alphabet too. The hosts were announcing winners in alphabetical order, and when they said “E” I dropped my head thinking we had lost again  :oops:  Then they said “H” and I did a little foot stomping before giving the team a bear hug :D

Coach Jones and I with the Sunday rounds poster (before the re-flip)

The 8 advancing teams got called into a side room to get entered onto the chart of Sunday rounds and call a coin toss to see who would be which side. We were originally slated to go against Mercer Law, but their team was late to the meeting (for reasons that’ll be apparent in the next paragraph) so we were given the chance to call the coin toss, won, and were slated to go against them on Defense.

Then we went back to the room to change clothes before getting dinner… only to get called back because apparently there was a ballot error,5 Mercer Law was right in thinking they hadn’t advanced after all (hence why they were late), and we had to do everything all over again with a different team. We lost the coin toss the second time and the sides have switched, so we’re now on Plaintiff paired up with Georgia Law‘s defense.

In addition to us and Georgia Law, there’s one team apiece from Wake Forest Law (NC), Campbell Law (NC), Georgia State Law (GA), Vanderbilt Law (TN), Memphis Law (TN), and Emory Law (GA).

I’m more nervous than a Mythbusters insurance agent about how tomorrow is going to go down, especially after the unexpected change in plans about who’s going on what side. But after last year — and I hate to say this in print because it seems preemptively defeatist, but it’s true — I’m totally content with where we’ve gotten. NCCU Law made it to the Sunday rounds for the first time in at least 3-4 years,6 we are 1 of only 3 North Carolina schools to advance this year, we swept everything, and we snagged a #1 seed… and, the biggest relief for me, I redeemed myself for blowing the first round last year :beatup:

Totally unrelated to how things go, I want to publicly give some praise to the University of Memphis School of Law on how they implemented the competition this year.  They did an excellent job of making sure the judges didn’t know what schools the different competitors were from, reminding coaches and competitors both not to disclose that information intentionally or accidentally, went out of their way to ensure there were no conflicts with judges or witnesses seeing the same teams more than once, the list goes on. The competition coordinators were moving around all over the place keeping things running like a well-oiled machine, and I greatly appreciate that.

And I’m not just saying that because we advanced :P  I’d rather lose a fair contest than win a rigged one.

Aside from all the competition-ness, I also got to see 雅雅 who gave up her weekend to come out and support us, ate some delicious ribs and bbq from Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous, and generally just enjoy having the weight of last year’s failure lifted off my chest. It’s been a good day :)

I’ll keep you posted on how things go tomorrow, but for now I’m heading to bed so I can get ready for tomorrow morning. Good night y’all! :D

—===—

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

  1. Myself and EIC, who was on the AAJ team last year. []
  2. Shutterbug from last year’s Kilpatrick-Stockton 1L team. []
  3. A 3rd-year student in our 4-year JD/MBA joint-degree program []
  4. Out of 32 teams from 16 law schools across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee []
  5. One of the judges marked a defense ballot part of the ballot as a plaintiff part of the ballot :crack: []
  6. No one’s been able to tell me the last time our TYLA team actually made it to Sunday :beatup: []

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In support of the strict C: a year later

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 12, 2011 in Randomness

Waaayyyyy back during the halcyon days following 1L year, I wrote this entry explaining why I supported the “strict C” curve we use at the North Carolina Central University School of Law. “Setting the middle grade in the middle of the grading scale,” I wrote back then, “provides law professors with a full range of options to give you — and gives you the student a full range of feedback so you know where you’re weak and need to improve.”

In the subsequent comments I expanded on that theme a smidge more, but basically my philosophy on the curve was/is this: we’re attending law school to become proficient in the law (not simply to become employed as lawyers), grades are the best opportunity for professors to give feedback to students on where they’re strong or weak, and anything short of what we use at NCCU Law encourages “innovation”/inflation in grading to the point where that feedback becomes functionally useless.

Nothing I’ve seen or experienced in the 17 months since writing that post has prompted me to change my mind or otherwise reconsider my position.

Well now the faculty are contemplating some tweaks to the curve — whether or not to explicitly codify it in a new publicly-distributed document and, if so, whether to inflate where it’s centered — and I’m in a bit of a pickle as SBA President as a result. Literally 100% of the classmates I’ve spoken to about the issue over the past 2 years have expressed unconditional hostility toward our grading system…

…and I still think they’re all wrong :beatup:

The main argument given to me is that inflating the curve will make our people more competitive in the job market, especially with bigger employers who don’t bother to read the paragraph of text atop our transcripts explaining we use a C curve.

It’s an understandable theory, but (to the extent people pay attention to rankings or “brand name”) we’re still a regional Tier IV law school that simply cannot expand much beyond where we are without spending a ridiculous amount of money. Consider: Campbell Law‘s tuition and fees ($33,910.00) are downright obscene compared to what NCCU Law charges ($5,207.49) and they’ve only just now broken from Tier IV to the very bottom of Tier III — still only regional in reach, with graduates still facing the same challenges as us Legal Eagles if they try to venture beyond the borders of North Carolina.

Then there’s my personal suspicion that NCCU Law just plain doesn’t tell it’s story very well. Judging by the search queries and the emails I get, apparently law:/dev/null is one of the main sources of information for prospective students looking to attend the institution. Now as much as I love (love love love) the attention and visitors, it’s downright crazy that a one-man blawg can have any marketing reach at all relative to an established law school with decades of alumni. If you’re concerned about employability of the portion of our graduates going to other states, let’s get our branding and outreach up to par before we start tinkering with the grading system.

While the potential benefits to re-centering the curve are hypothetical at best, I’d argue the things we lose as a result are far more concrete.

The family atmosphere at the law school (see #4 on why NCCU Law was my first choice) is rooted on the shared experience of trying to overcome such a gruesome curve; being one of the survivors of 1L year is A Big Deal™. And our graduates are practice-ready on Day 1 because we don’t sugarcoat incompetence — if you do something poorly, the curve let’s you know you do something poorly. I can’t help but feel a little nauseous every time I hear Jack Boger (Dean at UNCCH Law) talk about all the “innovative” things they’re doing to make UNCCH Law grads practice-ready — stuff NCCU Law has been doing literally for years through our clinical programs, rigorous grading, and willingness to kick out people who come up short.

Is it worth sacrificing our identity as a no-bullsh*t law school just for a boost to some folks’ GPAs? Sacrificing graduates who are practice-ready on Day 1? Sacrificing the “we’re in this together” mentality?

Personally I vote no.

I know I’ve got a roughly 0% chance of convincing my colleagues to concur though, so I’ll just have to grab a bag of popcorn and see what happens next :beatup:

Good night folks! :)

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TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 22, 2011 in Mail

I know y’all, it’s been well over a week since my last entry where I said I’d have this entry ready to roll  “on Monday or Tuesday this coming week” — I’d give you an excuse, but you can probably already guess what it is.1 :beatup:

So can we all just pretend that when I said “this coming week” I meant the week after the week that was actually coming at the time? Yes? Great. :*

Although I’ve gotten a smattering of questions from current and prospective students in the 10 months since I last put one of these entries together, the bulk of them were so über-fact-specific that they weren’t really suitable candidates for including on the blawg. But with end-of-1L grades getting released and folks experiencing the same shellshocked reactions I saw firsthand last year, there’s been renewed interest in how NCCU Law handles grading, curving, dismissal and so on.

So, without further ado, here are your questions — answered.

***

Q: William2 asks:

Just read your entry on making Dean’s List again. But grades don’t matter right? :P

A: If you read that Dean’s List entry, then hopefully it meant you also read this footnote written in anticipation of an email just like the one you sent  :angel:

Needless to say, I stand by my earlier commentary. Most grades at most law schools get determined by a single final exam, or a combination of a final preceded by a midterm.  These aren’t like grades in undergrad or high school or even how you’d be “graded” on a job, where you’re given multiple assignments over a given timeframe and tested on things like time management and ingenuity in addition to raw knowledge.

Now I realize there are few absolutes in life — in some cases good grades are genuinely a sign that someone’s a legal genius who will make a phenomenal attorney, and in some cases bad grades are genuinely a sign that someone just doesn’t “get it” and would end up as a Joseph Rakofsky-grade incompetent if they were given a law license.

But for the overwhelming majority of the however-many-thousands of people graduating law school every year, including here at NCCU Law, a string of subjectively-scored 1-time 3-hour exams is a meaningless measurement of someone’s skill and potential as a lawyer.

That rule applies to me too. My excitement over making Dean’s List this past Fall and again in the Spring had nothing at all to do with some misplaced belief that I’ll make an amazing litigator as a result. I just derive great joy from getting to disabuse people of their mistaken beliefs, including the higher-ranked classmates, friends at other schools, and occasional professors who all made the mistake of concluding I was an inept buffoon because I spent my 1L year saving students millions of dollars instead of worrying about my classes ;)

***

The answers to the next two questions are rooted in the same background, so I’m pairing them together –

Q: Danielle asks:

Why is our curve so ridiculously low? And we don’t have A+’s?

Q: And Kevin asks:

What’s the rationale on the dismissal policy?

A: NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve and its 2.0-or-out dismissal policy are both byproducts of being what the administration labels “a school of opportunity.”

Remember that NCCU Law was created by the N.C. General Assembly way back in 1939, an era when de jure segregation was the reality across the country.3 The politicians created the law school specifically so that aspiring black attorneys could get a “separate but equal” legal education without trying to attend a white law school.4

The only other public law school in the state, UNCCH Law, wouldn’t accept black students until forced to do so by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a 1951 lawsuit challenging its admissions practices.5 Private Duke Law and WFU Law wouldn’t desegregate until the 1960s. Campbell Law, Elon Law, and Charlotte Law didn’t exist. And even if a black student managed to graduate and pass the bar exam, they were still categorically denied admission to influential industry groups like the N.C. Bar Association.

This second-class status for black attorneys and black law students was reflected in the Legislature’s second-hand funding for “the Negros’ law school,” as NCCU Law grappled with an inadequate building, a minimal law library, few faculty and related problems. As an example, for a good chunk of the law school’s history its law library was stocked with the out-of-date books discarded by the neighboring law schools at UNCCH and Duke.  :surprised:

The point of noting all that background is to highlight that NCCU Law was created to educate students that other schools wouldn’t take; it’s part of our law school’s DNA. That legacy is reflected in the admissions data: even today our GPA and LSAT scores of admitted students are among the very lowest in the country (we’re functionally tied at the bottom with 2 other HBCUs, FAMU Law and Southern Law). The law school views its job as providing an opportunity to people who are willing to take advantage of it, regardless of how they “measure up” on paper.

Which finally brings me around to the questions at hand :beatup:  From a philosophical perspective, the strict-C curve exists because the faculty believe (and I agree) that it’s the best way to gauge student performance. And from a practical perspective, law schools bumping their curves use the Lake Wobegon defense6 as a smokescreen — something that can’t credibly be done with our mission and legacy.  The curve ensures students have earned the grades they get.

Working in tandem with the curve but serving a slightly different purpose, the law school’s policy of dismissing students if they fall below a 2.0 at the end of any year is designed to “separate the chaff from the wheat” as the Biblical saying goes.  Since it’s statistically possible for every student to make a 2.0 or above, and the school is taking what it considers a “calculated risk” by admitting students whose quantitative credentials wouldn’t get them in elsewhere, the assumption is that someone who doesn’t hit a 2.0 (and hasn’t already withdrawn before Spring final exams) must not be taking their educational opportunity seriously enough to continue. So those folks get a letter telling them they’ve been dismissed and then have to wait at least a year before they can petition to return.

***

Q: Nina asks:

How exactly does the dismissal policy work, as far as coming back goes?

A: The dismissal policy and petition process can both be found in the Student Handbook distributed to 1Ls each year (in the 2010-11 edition it’s in §1.09).  Basically only 1Ls who have between 1.8-1.999 are eligible to petition for readmission; if a student’s GPA is below 1.8, their only option is to reapply as a completely brand new student at least 2 or more years after their dismissal.

For eligible students, they get 1 chance to submit a petition to the Standards Committee for readmission the year after they are dismissed. To quote from the policy, the petition must “demonstrate that extraordinary circumstances resulted in his/her substandard academic performance.  Extraordinary circumstances are those that do not ordinarily occur.  Financial concerns, employment obligations, family illness or commuting distances normally involve no element of extraordinary circumstances.  The petitioner must demonstrate that the extraordinary circumstances have been resolved and that, if re-admitted, he or she will be able to successfully handle the rigors of legal education.”

Following review of the petition and an optional presentation by the petitioner in person, the members of the Committee vote on whether or not the student should be reinstated the following Fall semester. Decisions on reinstatement are usually released in mid-June.

***

Q: Susan asks:

What are the GPA cutoffs for honors? Dean’s List? Do we get notified?

A: You can find the listings for academic honors on this page of the NCCU Law website.  Cum laude requires a GPA of 3.000 to 3.299, magna cum laude is from 3.300 to 3.499, and summa cum laude is 3.500 and above. All of those are of course based on your GPA at the time of graduation.

The Dean’s List is compiled on a per-semester basis, and includes all students who earn a 3.0 and above. Students on Dean’s List can get a certificate from the Registrar’s Office upon request, a lapel pin from the NCCU main campus in the week before Convocation, and will have their name included on the massive posters created by main campus listing everyone at the entire University who made Dean’s List each semester.

And it’s up to each student to know whether or not they made Dean’s List on their own; there is no individualized “Hey btw you made Dean’s List!” emails or anything like that :P

***

That’s it for this entry y’all :) Thanks again to all of you for your continued support of law:/dev/null, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an email to tdot [at] lawdevnull.com! :D

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with “fool.” Totally coincidental. :beatup: []
  2. For the new folks, I keep the names on these submissions anonymous (picked at random from the Social Security Administration’s Popular Names database) so feel free to send me an email if you’ve got a question but don’t want to risk having your name in print :) []
  3. A point politely ignored by nearly every law school nationwide even as they dole out admission to legacy applicants of alums who benefited from segregationist admission policies. []
  4. As otherwise would have been required by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938), which held that states providing education for white students either needed to admit blacks or provide a “separate but equal” education for them. []
  5. McKissick v. Carmichael, 187 F.2d 949 (4th Cir. 1951), reversing Epps v. Carmichael, 93 F.Supp. 327 (M.D.N.C. 1950). And even then UNCCH only accepted students who had already completed their first 2 years at NCCU. Admitting blacks as incoming 1Ls wouldn’t occur until later, and the rest of campus wouldn’t be desegregated until a post-Brown decision handed down in Frasier v. Board of Trustees of Univ. of N.C., 134 F.Supp. 589 (M.D.N.C. 1955).  []
  6. They admit students with higher GPAs/LSATs, and therefore “all of our students are above average.” Even though we all know the main motivation behind bumping curves is to artificially make graduates appear more competitive in the job market. :roll: []

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“You like me, you really like me!”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 2, 2010 in Site Stats

Or, if you don’t like me, y’all were at least kind enough to stop by regularly and make April the busiest month yet for law:/dev/null! :spin:

law:/dev/null Pageviews and Unique IPs over time

Here’s an updated graph of our pageviews-per-day and unique IP addresses. We had a 5.4% increase in unique visitors for the month1 along with 1 additional daily pageview.

But TDot,” you may be wondering, “+1 pageview-per-day is a mere 0.098% increase in traffic. Can you really consider that an increase in traffic beyond any but the most literalist of interpretations?

I certainly can, dear reader — though whether you agree with my rationale is another matter entirely :beatup:

You see March’s numbers were a big 51% jump over February, skewed upwards over just three days of traffic when local folks heard about a mere college student taking on one of the largest think tanks in North Carolina.2

Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with a comparable controversy this month… but the traffic rate held constant. That either means (i) the old political folks who stumbled across this little piece of internet real estate over those 3 days decided to keep reading all month (plausible but not likely), or (ii) new people somehow found law:/dev/null and became regular readers (plausible and less not likely).

Regardless, I’m not one to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth: I truly appreciate y’all being here, regardless of your reason, and I hope you’ll continue to stop by in the future (and spread the word!) :D

In referrer-related news, Google also continues to be our top referring site, sending about 1.5% of the folks who stop by here on a given day. Here are a selection of the 80+ searches that brought folks here in April:

  • decade: We had 4 separate people use this query. I’m guessing you got directed to my thoughts on the 2000s, but my question is this: people actually do searches on single, generic words?? :surprised:
  • nccu law study room reservations: Are done on the NCCU Law intranet. Can’t help you on this one. Sorry.
  • how to get into nccu law: Through the doors ;)
  • nccu law blogs: There are at least 3 of us I know of: myself, Madame Prosecutor, and a brother I’ve started calling the Prophet. If you find any more, let me know and I’ll add ’em to the blogroll.
  • hard work never killed anyone but: why take the chance?
  • student election poster: Take a look at my SBA poster or my SSP poster. You can take a guess at which one worked :beatup:
  • campbell law can 1ls work?: According to Campbell 1Ls at NCSU’s pre-law forum, nope.
  • how long does it take to get a decision from nccu school of law?: As long as it takes ;)
  • t greg tomes: T Greg’s Tomes are my political missives posted on Facebook. Haven’t put many of them on law:/dev/null, but I’ve posted this one and this one.
  • rick ingram unc: You’re probably looking for his SBP endorsement by the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel in that 1st Tome I just listed.
  • nccu law admission by email or mail?: Mail! Email admission notices are tacky :P
  • 5 u.s 137 shepardize: Yes, it’s true — I Shepardize old cases for fun :beatup: (5 U.S. 137 is Marbury v. Madison)
  • c grade law student screwed?: God I hope not, otherwise Contracts has ruined my life
  • best parking spots at nccu school of law?: The ones that are available. Word of advice for the incoming Class of 2013: show up early ;)
  • what classes do you need to become a lawyer at nccu: The same classes you need at every other ABA-accredited school. But you can check out NCCU Law‘s specific course catalog here.
  • law student disclaimer: You can read mine right here.
  • capsule wardrobe for a law student: How did someone looking for fashion tips end up here?? :crack: Check out TRPLS instead :)
  • computer scientist or lawyer: Lawyer
  • 1l memo useless: #truestory
  • attending nccu law: Congratulations! :D

I continue to be amazed at the searches that bring people here… :)

And finally, our Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of April 2010, including two repeaters at #1 and #5:

  1. On my first ever closing argument: Alice in Wonderland (03/24/10)
  2. On sound principles making sound politics: More vindication! : ) (04/20/10)
  3. On political hacks-in-training writing commentary: On UNCASG, $1, and the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel (03/30/10)
  4. On the never-ending end of the semester: Like a mirage in the desert (04/10/10)
  5. On political hacks writing commentary: Crazy, or just lazy? You be the judge (or, “Erroneous trash masquerading as punditry”) (03/15/10)

*THANK YOU* to everyone for your continued support of the blog — it means a lot :)

I’m heading to bed, gotta be rested for my last final exam as a 1L! Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. Approximately; the logs only measure unique IP addresses, so if multiple people have logged in from the same IP (e.g. using corporate wifi with only 1 publicly-exposed IP) those folks get missed. I think the folks missed are balanced out by the spambots though :beatup: []
  2. Residual traffic to that entry has kept it at #5 in our Top 5 list for April :crack: []

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Site stats and queries and graphs, oh my!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 1, 2010 in Site Stats

First, happy April Fool’s Day to everybody! :D

I personally only got fooled twice, which is two times too many but still better than years past :)

law:/dev/null Pageviews and Unique IPs over time

On a non-prank-related note, I’ll shamelessly confess that Huma was/is the inspiration for today’s post.  She’s been occasionally posting her top posts and blog results at TRPLS for quite some time — I wanted to post something similar months ago, but for the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to get my stat software to show more than 20 search results1 :beatup:

But before getting into the search queries I want to give a huge *THANK YOU* for all of you for stopping by law:/dev/null! March 2010 was our busiest month yet :D

Sure a good chunk of that was because of political drama, but 7 shorts months ago it was pretty much just the web bots and me. So I’m pretty excited for the visitors, no matter the reason ;)

Google/Topeka also continues to be our top referring site based on some queries that make sense… and others that make me wonder why people actually stopped here of all places.

Here’s a few search results from the past month:

  • ncsu student government elections: Will be April 6th this year. Go to the NCSU SG Board of Elections website for more info :)
  • is it legal to dismiss a student for midterm grades?: Can’t help you on this one, I think that’s a 3L class :(
  • i got a c on contracts midterm: Don’t feel bad, I got a C- :beatup:
  • unc association of student governments and jay shalin: You must be one of the folks looking for info on this piece here. Enjoy.
  • torts was my favorite class in law school: ::smh::
  • what tier is nccu law school: Tier 4… though producing lawyers who can out-litigate T1s :)
  • how does nccu school of law send decision letters: In the mail.
  • how long does it take for nccu school of law to send a decision: As long as it takes :P
  • has anyone been accepted into nccu school of law 2010: Yep.
  • should i go to nccu law school?: If you like a solid legal education at a cheap price, yes.
  • should i go to nccu or campbell law: NCCU. They’re both good schools, but why pay 4x as much? ;)
  • what is 16.67%: One-sixth. Half of one-third. Two one-twelfths added together.
  • homemade spaghetti sauce: Try Nan’s recipe here :)
  • slow cooker beef tips: In your case, I’d recommend QuietStorm’s beef tips recipe instead :)
  • how can computer scientist count beyond their fingers: The lawyer in me is going to interpret this as how a computer scientist can use their fingers to count past 10 — in which case they’d use binary, with each finger representing a bit. So you can count up to 1,023 using your fingers (starting at 0) ;)
  • bar chart of premarital sex: I have no clue what this is or how you ended up here as a result, but good luck finding it :P

There were about 50 more, but most of them were variations of those ones :beatup:

And finally, our Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of March:

  1. On forgetting St. Patricks Day:2 This is what law school does to you… (03/17/10)
  2. On political hacks writing commentary: Crazy, or just lazy? You be the judge (or, “Erroneous trash masquerading as punditry”) (03/15/10)
  3. On my first ever closing argument: Alice in Wonderland (03/24/10)
  4. On Spring ’10 midterm grade expectations: A Temporary Reprieve (03/06/10)
  5. And on Fall ’09 final grades: Fall ‘09 Grades: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugh-ly (01/26/10)

That’s all the stats I’ve got for this post — gotta head to bed so I can be up bright and early for my make-or-break Physical Fitness Test for the USMC at 9am tomorrow :beatup:

Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. The Computer Science degree finally came in handy — I figured it out last week :D []
  2. Weird that this was #1, there’s nothing really in the post :crack: []

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TDot’s Mailbag v4.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 21, 2010 in Mail

After Torts today I let myself get convinced by Rico to stick with my exercise routine for the New Year and go for a run outside… even though it’s only around 37ºF and raining. I couldn’t feel my fingers after the first mile :beatup: They’re still defrosting, so I figure today’s as good a day as any to answer some mail since there’s plenty of point-click-copy-paste involved ;)

And yes I know it’s literally been months since I answered reader mail here at law:/dev/null… but that’s mostly due to the fact it’s literally been months since I got any reader mail :P

A few of the recent entries must have triggered some latent inquisitiveness from a handful of folks though, because the inbox got e-bombed over the last week :) I figured I need to answer them before folks lose faith in my responsiveness ;)

So here are your questions… well… answered :D

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Q: Liz asks in response to a post I linked off the Kilpatrick-Stockton update, where I mentioned disliking BigLaw:

What really made you dislike BigLaw? You seem to be a workaholic, so the workload argument seems like an excuse.

A: It’s no excuse, I promise you that :)  Am I a workaholic? Maybe. But there’s 1 key difference between when I was a BigLaw paralegal and what I do now: I actually enjoy it ;)

Law school has been an adventure and I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people, and running UNCASG gives me an opportunity to improve the lives of 215K+ students here in North Carolina. Compare that to law firm life, which consisted mostly of attorneys giving me things a couple hours/days before deadline or the partner I worked for deciding he needed yet another weeklong vacation and wanted me chained to my desk in case anything happened in his absence.

With law school and ASG, working during a holiday is something I do by choice; with BigLaw, it was a mandated part of my job. I’ll take the former over the latter 7 days a week :D

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Q: Clarence wants insight into the Kilpatrick-Stockton post itself:

I thought it was interesting 2 of the top 4 K-S finalists were T4 schools. Any theories on that?

A: I’ve got plenty of theories, I just can’t guarantee any of them are valid ;)

The first thing that comes to mind is the fact it’s a North Carolina-based competition, and a majority of the state’s law schools are in the lower ranks.  In the latest edition of the US News rankings, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest are all now in Tier 1; Campbell and NCCU Law are both Tier 4; while Elon and Charlotte both only have provisional accreditation and can therefore functionally be treated as Tier 4. So even though the bulk of teams came from UNCCH and Duke, the natural odds of the 4 finalists including a pair of T4 schools are non-trivial.

There’s probably a cultural aspect to it as well. At least here in North Carolina, NCCU Law and Campbell Law both have well-earned reputations for producing high-quality trial attorneys and judges, and that legacy is worked into things like the aggressiveness of the Socratic method in 1L classes. The T1s by contrast have a reputation geared more toward BigLaw, international affairs, research and teaching; anecdotal evidence from friends at those neighboring schools is that classes are a challenge, but not intensely so.

Running with the cultural theme — and at the risk of getting shot by my T1 colleagues — I wouldn’t be surprised if the curve plays an impact too. Both Duke’s median and UNCCH’s median are set at 3.33 (B+), while Wake Forest sets theirs at 3.00 (B).  The T4 schools set their medians far lower, with Campbell’s median around 75 (C+) on their numeric system, and NCCU Law standing by its strict-C curve at 2.00 (and capping a course grade at A versus A+ elsewhere).

Most employers know that curves are set all over the place at different schools, which is why class rank is so important to landing a job rather than GPA. But for the chronic overachievers who go to law school, there is a fundamental shock to the psyche when a “good” semester is full of B-‘s or B’s compared to your fellow 1Ls at neighboring schools banking straight A’s.

Combine those latter two points — reputation and curves — and what you get are 1Ls who feel like underdogs compared to their peers, with a hunger to “show up and show out.”  That’s basically what happened at the Kilpatrick-Stockton competition this year IMO (at least I know that’s what we did :D )

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Q: Courtney expresses faux concern over the lack of structure we’ve had here since 1L Fall came to an end:

What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by??

A: The lack of structure that comes with winter break :P

Not sure what the future of Tweet-sized Tuesdays will be.  They were created last semester because the schedule for my section looked like a camel hump, with 5 classes on Wednesdays — that meant Tuesday nights spent studying instead of blogging.  This semester has the pain spread throughout the week. I’ll have a better idea as we get closer to midterms if I need to curtail the time spent writing here and bring Tweet-sized Tuesdays back ;)

As for the Friday Drive-by, that’ll be resuming at some point here in the next few weeks :)

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Q: Michelle wants the rest of this story:

How did that CivPro exam turn out?

A: There was a 22-point curve, so even though I almost failed I didn’t do too badly :)  I’ll post a full rundown of my 1L Fall grades at some point over the next couple days.

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That’s it for this edition :) If you have a question you want me to answer, send an email to tdot [at] lawdevnull.com or hit me up on Facebook!

Have a great night everybody! :D

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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):

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(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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