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TDot’s Tips: More $$$-saving ideas

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 13, 2010 in TDot's Tips

Good evening everybody! :D

A couple weeks ago I posted a handful of tips for the pre-L’s on how to live within their means when they get to law school in a couple months.

Several of you sent positive feedback saying you thought the tips were useful, but a few folks complained they focused more on money management habits (making a budget, living like a law student instead of a lawyer, etc) instead of tangible ways to save $$$ while you’re in law school.

Luckily for y’all, I’ve got a few of those too ;)

Here are some suggestions I’ve used to live large without going broke:

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1) FIND A 2L AND PHYSICALLY ATTACH YOURSELF TO THEIR HIP
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Figuratively at least :)

2Ls can already give you great advice because they remember 1L year like it was yesterday — since it basically was yesterday for us, being only a couple months ago.

An added perk of 2Ls: they’ve got 1L books they need to sell, or know classmates who have them. Selling direct to a 1L gets them more cash than they’d get from the bookstore, and saves you a tidy sum compared to what you’d pay buying from the bookstore or Amazon.

*PLUS* you get the added perk of their text highlights. It’s like peering into the mind of someone who was in your class just before you, and can be a huge help for digesting cases.

In my own case, I bought 2 of my books from Delta the now-3L1 and a 3rd from a classmate she arranged for me to meet. The highlights in my Torts textbook were spot-on — I didn’t highlight a single thing the entire semester because I knew exactly what “take home” points to pull from the text. Same with CrimLaw.

And I saved $100+ in the process, which got used to pay my BLSA dues and buy a handful of class-related t-shirts throughout the year.

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2) CHECK STATE SURPLUS FOR OFFICE SUPPLIES
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With few exceptions, every state and local government across the country has an office or agency where they take surplus government property and sell it to the public. Many universities have them as well.

These are easily among the biggest bargains you will ever find on anything office-related ;) A few (like North Carolina’s state surplus office in Raleigh) even have surplus vehicles and fancy stuff seized from drug dealers and such.2

Things like computers and GPS units are quickly snapped up by folks who then resell them on eBay, so if you want the good stuff on those you need to be there early and on days when shipments come in. But for things like chairs, desks and filing cabinets, they’ll always have a constant supply that you just have to inspect closely.

For example, my desk chair is nicely cushioned, vertically adjustable, rocks back, has rolling wheels on it, etc. It was sent to state surplus because the left armrest was loose, which I discovered could be fixed with about 10 minutes of work adjusting the screw.3

Retail price: $110 + tax
eBay price for similar style and use: $30 + shipping
My surplus price: $5 cash
Savings: $25+ (83%)

The only catch for most of these surplus offices is that it’s a cash- or money-order business many times. Most don’t take checks, and many don’t take credit or debit cards because state laws typically ban paying the card vendor fees (and the card vendors ban merchants from directly passing the fees on to customers).

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3) CHECK CRAIGSLIST FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
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More well-known than trolling the surplus offices (but still an excellent spot to find good deals) are the CraigsList listings for your area.

I’ve used CraigsList three times since law school. The first time was finding someone who had just moved in and needed to get rid of their cardboard boxes — got a bunch of really good ones free of charge, and used them to move myself to Durham :D

雅雅 also helped me look for a bed, where we found a lady who had a full-size bed and box spring in a spare room. She was upgrading her own bed to a queen-size, her old bed was going to replace the spare room bed, and the spare room bed needed to be sold. She was incredibly nice and even agreed to hold the bed until the week before orientation so I could come up with the cash.

Retail price for same bed and box spring: $900 + tax
eBay price for similar style and use: $500 + shipping
My CraigsList price: $100 cash (plus she delivered it!)
Savings: $400+ (80%)

Great for football, Wii, and L&O:SVU marathons ;)

The last time I used it was actually a couple weeks ago, when I needed to find a TV for my living room. I had previously figured out how to jerry-rig a normal office projector to play video from the cable box, and got über-spoiled by essentially having a 110″ TV in the living room.

I found a couple who had just moved from California to Chapel Hill, and because of the configuration of their new place there wasn’t a suitable place to put their projector and still get a decent-sized picture. Their loss turned out to be my gain :D

Retail price for cheapest projector with comparable specs: $700 + tax
eBay price for similar style and use: $400 + shipping
My CraigsList price: $300 cash
Savings: $100+ (25%)

The risk with CraigsList is its popularity among scammers, and the fact you typically end up visiting the house of someone you don’t know… who could conceivably be a serial killer or stalker or something. So if you’re nervous grab a buddy and bring them with you.

And like the surplus offices, finding the really sweet deals require a certain level of diligence and luck — check the listings regularly throughout the day, and if you find something you want contact the seller ASAP.

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4) SEE IF YOUR MOBILE PHONE PLAN IS OBSOLETE
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I stumbled onto this one by accident, so you’re forgiven if you didn’t know about it already ;)

Mobile phone companies adjust their calling plans frequently, usually at least twice a year. They usually feature capacity increases for minutes (and data usage if you’ve got a smartphone), changes to other calling features, and occasionally price reductions.

If you’ve got a plan that’s been phased out, your mobile phone company will happily continue letting you keep that plan and continue taking your money without ever telling you. But they also like getting rid of obsolete plans when it makes sense for them to do so, since it cuts down on operational expenses the more people are in a “one size fits all” arrangement.

Periodically check with your mobile phone provider and see if your current plan is obsolete. If it is, see if they’ll let you change to the new plan without requiring a contract extension (or if you really like the provider, extend your contract with them).

Two years ago, back when I was both NC State‘s Student Senate President and UNCASG President at the same time, I needed to upgrade my phone plan so that I’d have more than the 900 minutes I was originally using. I found out my current plan was no longer offered and I upgraded to 1350 minutes a month for less money than I was already paying.

Now that I’ve retired from both positions, I actually need to downgrade… and lucky for me it turns out the 1350-minute plans are no longer offered, so I can downgrade back to 900 minutes, pay less $$, and don’t have to extend my contract :spin:

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5) CHECK FOR YOUR UNIVERSITY’S DISCOUNTS
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While we’re on the topic of mobile phones, this one is a potential gold mine :)

Almost every school of law in the country is affiliated with a public or private university. And almost every university in the country works out special deals with all sorts of vendors so their students and employees can get discounts on a variety of products and services — anything to help lure people to the institution.

For example, back when I was at NC State everyone affiliated with the University was eligible for a discount on their Verizon mobile phone service: 20% per month, for the life of their account. All I had to do was present my student ID and a University-affiliated email address.

My mobile phone savings: ~$300/year

NCSU had a large variety of other discounts too, I just never used them. It seems very few students actually know about the discounts, especially in the graduate/professional schools where you didn’t have the opportunity to go through the university’s orientation they give the undergrads. Check with your University’s student affairs folks or the business office to see if they have anything similar, or just ask the companies you use if they have student discounts for your university.

The worst they can do is say no ;)

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6) ALSO CHECK FOR GROUP-RATE DISCOUNTS
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Similar to the discounts that universities negotiate as perks for their students and employees, many state/national fraternities, sororities and trade organizations have similar discounts as well.

Consider car insurance.

Back when I used to work as a paralegal for a personal injury attorney, I saw entirely too many cases where accident victims were left with debilitating injuries and future medical expenses that would never be covered because the tortfeasor was uninsured or had a low policy limit while the victim had minimal underinsurance coverage (used when the tortfeasor’s policy is nonexistent or maxed out; you make a claim against your own policy).

Out of paranoia I amped up the limits on my auto policy to the max most companies offer in North Carolina “over the counter” without drafting special contracts: $100K/$300K personal injury, $100K damage, $5K medical payments, etc etc etc.

The problem is that much coverage is @#$%ing expensive, even when you have a flawless driving record :mad:

Turns out the North Carolina Farm Bureau, an advocacy group I’ve been a member of for the better part of a decade, has its own insurance company. In exchange for the mere $25 a year in dues I was paying to the organization, I was able to cut my auto insurance bill in half for the same policy limits.

Your mileage may vary (pun intended) depending on where you live and your group affiliation, but it can’t hurt to check :)

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7) ADJUST YOUR THERMOSTAT TO YOUR STUDY HABITS
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We’ve all probably seen or read at some point the various public service announcements on TV or in magazines about the money you could save by tweaking the temperature in your house up or down a couple degrees depending on the weather.

If you haven’t done that before, law school is the time to start ;)

Particularly if you’re the type of person who will spend a lot of time at school, you won’t be in your apartment all that much during the week. Set your temperature a few degrees cooler in the fall/winter months so your heat comes on less frequently when you’re not at home to enjoy it. Do the opposite in the spring/summer.

How much you save will depend on a number of variables (including living space, type of heating/cooling, the weather, etc) but using my own apartment as an example I’m running about $15/mo less than the previous tenant. It’s not much, but it adds up.

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8) WATCH YOUR EATING HABITS
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Food tends to become an afterthought when you’re trying to read through dozens of cases a night. My (admittedly unscientific) observations suggest the overwhelming majority of law students I’ve met fall into 2 groups: (1) folks who forget to eat and then grab fast food on the way home, and (2) folks who get bored out of their minds while reading and frequently snack on junk food to break up the monotony.

My stomach and I happen to span both groups :beatup:

In addition to the unpleasant health side effects — I’ve got several classmates who ballooned during the semester, dropped a ton of weight during winter break, gained it back during the spring semester, and are now starving themselves to lose it again — constantly eating fast food and junk food will eat up a lot of cash (pun intended here too :* ).

Now I’m not going to parrot other folks and tell you to eat fruits and veggies and all that jazz. It’d be great if you did, but I’m not gonna give y’all advice that I don’t follow myself ;)

You might want to learn to cook at least a little bit; see this TDot’s Tips entry for more, and also check out TDot’s Treats for some recipes. In terms of food-per-$, that’s the cheapest route to go by far.

But if you don’t have time to cook or forget, try to stick to the low-cost value menus if you go to a fast food place. Not only is the food cheaper, the portions are usually smaller but still filling (limiting the 1L weight gain).

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9) AND WATCH YOUR OTHER VICES
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All of us have our own “guilty pleasures.” Some folks like to buy shoes, others prefer video games, still others hit the bar every night of the week. In my case it’s DVDs — you could probably guess from the projector :beatup: — an unnecessary expense I justify to myself as a reward for being amazing.

No matter how well-deserved that reward may be ( ;)) the costs add up quickly.

Try to keep a close eye on how much you’re spending to indulge those habits. You might even want to put a line item in your monthly budget for the occasional splurge.

Especially in the beginning of the semester when cash is plentiful, it’s real easy to dig a financial hole without realizing it… and one you’ll have to fill in right around the time final exams get here. Not a good situation, but one you can easily avoid :)

***

That concludes my list of things to help save you money!

Hopefully all of you will find at least 2-3 items on this list that might be useful — and if you’ve got tips of your own, share them in the comments! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. I need to change Delta’s tag btw; I’ll knock that out some time soon. For now just remember she’s officially a 3L. []
  2. The office in Raleigh once had a diamond-encrusted pool table from a drug dealer. The diamonds alone were worth $50K+ :crack: []
  3. Work which I concede I still haven’t done because I just don’t care enough to fix it :beatup: []

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7

TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 14, 2010 in Mail

This was originally a TDot’s Tips entry titled “Tips for the Pre-L’s” — until I started writing it Monday afternoon, when Delta the 2L sat down next to me in the Fishbowl and wanted to know what I would be doing at 7:00pm that night.

I’ve learned the only acceptable answer when she asks me that question is “What would you like me to be doing Delta?” :beatup:

Turns out the Pre-Law Students Association at my alma mater was holding a panel discussion titled “What is Law School Really Like?” and she wanted a partner from the N.C. Central University School of Law to help rep for the Legal Eagles.

Since I came at law from a non-traditional angle I had to say yes. Besides, y’all know how I am about competition :angel:

There were about 30 undergrads in the audience, and the panel turned out to be a solid mix of folks with 3 students from Campbell Law, 3 from UNCCH Law, 2 from Duke Law, an alum from Wake Forest Law, and of course Delta and I from NCCU Law.1 I think 6-7 of us were 1Ls, but the 2Ls/3Ls/post-Ls were represented by at least 1 person apiece.

The questions covered a wide range of topics that you’d expect from aspiring law students: workload, types of classes, “gunners” and competition, and so on. But some panel members did tend to commandeer the discussion and recognize new questioners before folks had a chance to answer the previous question, and yesterday one of the sophomores in attendance shot me a message.

Rather than do the usual Q&A format for past mail entries, I figured I’d post what he sent me and offer my $.02 from there.  Here’s what I got:

Overall, I enjoyed listening to the panel and attending the event. I do wish the the questions/answers had been more organized so that each student from each law school could have given a more direct answer and that every student could have been given the chance to answer each question.

I would have liked to have learned more about the admissions process from the students also. I believe the bar exam was only mentioned once or twice in the whole forum; from what I have heard the bar exam is one of the top things that law students are trying to make sure they pass, that was one dimension that was almost forgotten about….and I’m not quite sure why?

It seemed like the whole time all of the students were all up tight and bashing the amount of work load and la la la the whole time. I was like okay I get the point that law school is a lot of work, I’m aware of that now, I am more than willing to put in the time and effort, enough with the talks about how much work it is, tell me more about WHAT LAW SCHOOL IS REALLY LIKE – tell me about the professors, tell me about the elective courses you can take, tell me about the mock trials you can participate in, etc etc.

I fully understand, and *commend* every single law student out there for the amount of work they have to put into law school; but this forum was not meant to whine about the work load if you get my gist.

Let me preface my thoughts by pointing out I’M NOT NORMAL. You hopefully figured this out at some point amid (i) Student Government being my preferred hobby, (ii) picking a T4 as my first-choice law school despite higher-ranked options, or (iii) deciding to go the law route at all after getting a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I’m strange, I’m upbeat about my own law school experience, and I’m even optimistic about the future prospects for the legal industry.

I’m also apparently one of the very, very, very few who feel that way :beatup:

So before reading on, I’d encourage you to check the other bloggers in the list at the right of this page. Dennis Jansen in particular has a ton of advice well worth reading — I read it myself before starting law:/dev/null, that’s how legit it is.

Now back to that email…

Admissions
Admissions was actually something I studied quite a bit as a side project when I was an undergrad.2 I’m not an expert by any means, but here’s some of what I’ve learned both in NC and nationwide:

  • The admissions process is going to vary by school of course, but pretty much everyone uses some form of indexing in their decisions.  Essentially take your undergraduate GPA and multiply it by a given fraction, take your LSAT score and multiply it by a different fraction, take whatever “special” factors your chosen school considers (e.g. legacy status, socioeconomic status, etc), add all those numbers up and you get your Academic Index score. Students above a certain number get in automatically, below a certain number get rejected automatically, and the folks in the middle get a closer look at your actual application to decide if you should be accepted, rejected, or waitlisted.
  • Any school that tells you they read all the applications is lying to you. There are simply too many applications for every school, and your typical admissions committee is roughly 3-5 people — usually 1 or 2 administrators, and the rest senior faculty. In other words they’re all busy people, and are simply not going to read 1,000+ essays or more per person. Period.
  • Apply early! Most schools also use “rolling admission,” which means they start accepting students throughout the application cycle — including those folks with the high Academic Index scores.  Typically that means by the time the advertised “deadline” approaches for a given school, all of the seats have admitted students filling them and you’re competing for spots that only open up when the accepted folks go somewhere else. The odds already are not in your favor; they get precipitously worse by the deadline.
  • Consider applying at public law schools in your state (if they’d be a good fit for you of course). Most state-supported institutions have caps on out-of-state students, making it comparably easier to get in if you’re in-state. For example, UNCCH Law limits out-of-state students to 25-30% of the student body even though out-of-staters typically make up 75%ish of the applications received. Private Duke Law, by contrast, had over 80%+ of its Class of 2012 coming from outside North Carolina.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I call this the “nontraditional” approach to admissions: if you know someone who’s an alum from your school, or back when you were a kid you used to mow the lawn for one of the professors, or one of your parent’s coworkers knows a friend of a friend who plays golf with the Dean, see if they have any advice they can offer to help you be as competitive as possible. The era of a well-placed phone call to the right person securing your acceptance has largely died off, but there are always “intangibles” in every process and there’s no harm in trying to line up as many as you can in your favor.

Bar Exam
At most undergraduate universities, when you finish all your required courses you’re usually entitled to graduate, get your degree, and start working in whatever field you studied.

Not so with law.

After you graduate, you’ll sit and take a bar exam for the jurisdiction where you want to practice. This is essentially a 2-3 day affair featuring multiple choice questions, essays, and similar tests on a variety of subjects to verify your competence to become a lawyer. Pass the bar, and you get to jump through the next set of assorted hoops to get your law license (“character and fitness” reviews, etc). Fail, and you get to wait 3-4 months to try again while desperately trying in the interim to find some way to pay your bills.

Training you to pass the bar, enabling you to become a competent attorney, is the #1 job of a law school. It’s also not easy — so make sure you pay attention in your law classes, because that info will be coming back in a few years.

The Work
There’s not much I can say here that will be useful to any of you, since I honestly don’t think the work in law school is that hard.

Why? Because I was horrible at my undergraduate major :beatup:

As a result I was/am already accustomed to sitting in one place in perpetuity (e.g. at a desk) doing the same thing for hours non-stop (e.g. debugging code) and giving up certain necessities of life (e.g. sleep and a social life) to get projects done on time. Law school has been a cakewalk by comparison, since the only “project” is generally a midterm and final exam — and reading case law for a few hours is infinitely easier than tracing Java code looking for an elusive bug.

Trust me ;)

Law school is a sizable volume of work, for certain. You’ll want to read all the cases you’re assigned so you’re able to understand the discussion taking place in class, which in turn will make it easier to digest the material and study for finals.

But law school is also a huge mind game. If you go in knowing you’re going to have a large volume of work and you take a disciplined approach to getting that work done, you’ll be fine — and should even have time for sleep and a social life :D

Professors
They’re all different, and it shows. MDG and Professor CrimLaw both have witty and disarming personalities — and are merciless graders who force you to know your material. Professor Torts takes a more disciplinarian approach. Professor Ks represents the “new school” and is more laid back than the others, while The Traveling Professor holds it down for the “old school” with her regal demeanor.

One unifying characteristic of the professors is that they’re all smart people. And the vast majority are friendly, approachable, and go out of their way to help students succeed at learning the law. After all, even these folks were 1Ls once upon a time.

The key is to not let yourself get intimidated — as your legal elders they’re entitled to a certain level of deference, but not to the point where you’re afraid to talk to them.

Electives
I’m not really qualified to say much here, simply because for almost all law schools your 1L year will be set in stone for you and cover “core” classes like Property, Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law and Constitutional Law.

If you want to browse around, NCCU Law has most of its electives posted online. Typically law schools will have electives on a huge range of topics (intellectual property, bioethics, veterans law, etc) and offer law clinics for students to experience first-hand different areas of the law where they might be interested in practicing.

But given the breadth of offerings and the differences between each law school, the best I can recommend here is to check out the individual offerings for every school you’re interested in.

Extracurriculars
This is another area where the philosophies of law schools tend to differ,3 but at many schools 1Ls get to participate in most of the exact same stuff as their upper-level colleagues.

Speaking for myself here at NCCU Law, I took part in 3 different mock trial competitions just for 1Ls, signed up for the 1L Moot Court competition (before realizing it conflicted with a UNCASG meeting), participated in an ABA-sponsored client counseling competition, played on the 1L basketball team in the annual Law Week tournament, attended several events for the Black Law Students Association, and got elected Treasurer of the Student Bar Association.

And there are literally dozens of other groups and activities that I could have done if I had other interests (or more time).

Most law schools will have class councils that throw parties, hold forums, host speakers, and so on. You’ve got legal fraternities like Phi Alpha Delta and Phi Delta Phi. You’ve got BLSA and HLSA and undoubtedly other LSAs I don’t know about. You’ve got liberal orgs promoting things like workers’ rights, conservative ones promoting things like constitutional originalism, and everything in between.

So as far as extracurriculars go — at least in my admittedly limited experience — law school is as much a full-spectrum experience as college.

“What would you do differently?”
If I could change one single thing about my experience here at NCCU Law, I wouldn’t be as nervous.

Those of you who are long-time readers at law:/dev/null might recall the comedy of unforced errors that was my orientation experience. I’ve taken my Socratic beatings too. But you know what I found out over the course of the semester?

Everybody experiences the same thing at some point.

All the 1Ls are going through the same trials and tribulations. Some folks are more adept at it than others, but there isn’t a single person out of the 50ish in my section who haven’t been flummoxed by a professor. Rather than the “gunner”-filled atmosphere you read about, most of your classmates will be on Facebook or Gchat or “whispering” hints at a slightly-above-whisper level,4 all trying to help you succeed — because they’ve either (i) been there too or (ii) will be soon.

So don’t be nervous. Go in confident, know you’re going to slip up at some point, and take it all in stride. It’ll make your law school experience far more enjoyable ;)

—===—

That’s my $.02 on what law school is really like, at least on those few topics :) Feel free to hit me up if you have any other questions!

Until then, have a great night everybody! :D

  1. The other 2 law schools in North Carolina are fairly new and only provisionally accredited: Elon Law and Charlotte Law. []
  2. Particularly the relative weights given to racial minorities (which are routinely criticized or banned) and “legacy” children of alumni (which are routinely not criticized or banned) and the effect of those weights among institutions of the 17-campus University of North Carolina… most of which were segregated until 50 years ago, giving a de facto race-based advantage to the white children of white alumni. []
  3. For example, the Campbell Law panelist said they don’t allow 1Ls to participate in extracurricular activities so they can focus on their studies. []
  4. The folks MDG fondly calls “the drunk whisperers” []

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3

Weekend Update

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 1, 2010 in NotFail

Hey y’all! :D

Sorry for missing my self-imposed weekend deadline for writing. My monthly UNCASG meeting was Friday-Sunday on the NC A&T State and UNC Greensboro campuses, so the evenings when I usually write were instead spent enjoying the company of some folks I hadn’t seen in awhile. Hopefully y’all will forgive me :)

Here’s a quick 5-point update on the past few days:

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MBP BRAIN TRANSPLANT SUCCESSFUL
====================

Last Monday my 4-year-old MacBook Pro got shipped off to Texas for a new logic board, and wasn’t slated to be back in my hands until tomorrow.

Apple somehow got everything repaired and sent back to the Southpoint Apple Store by Friday — I got a text on my phone from FedEx around 10am when it was dropped off, and promptly skipped out of class to go pick it up :beatup:

I’m pleased to report the surgery was a success! :D In addition to the logic board it needed, the folks replaced the RAM chips, the fan assembly, the SuperDrive, and cleaned both the keyboard and the screen… all for the same price :surprised:

I already officially :heart:’d Apple. But all that made me :heart: them even more.1 :lovestruck:

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WHITE GUY WINS BLSA TRIVIA CHALLENGE
====================

No one was surprised last semester when I joined the NCCU Law chapter of the Black Law Students Association. I was active in the black community at my alma mater, had 3 roommates for years who were even more active than I was, etc.

And even if I wasn’t active, Delta the 2L was going to shake me down for dues anyhow :beatup:

So when BLSA had a trivia contest for Black History Month,2 I sent in an answer on a whim.  Turns out I was the first one to reply with the correct answer on that particular day, which prompted a pair of challenges: a nice “Now you know I expect you to win this right?” from Delta, and a snarky “What do you think you know about black history?” from a colleague I’ll leave nameless.

I don’t know much, but I do know I got declared the winner on Friday ;)

Here’s how the final scorecard turned out:

  1. T. Greg Doucette @ 7 points
  2. Melanie Bates @ 3 points
  3. Whitney Frye @ 2 points
  4. LaKeeshia Austin @ 1 point (tie)
    Lori Hale @ 1 point (tie)
    Stephanie Locke @ 1 point (tie)
    Alyssa Moore @ 1 point (tie)
    Ashleigh Parker @ 1 point (tie)
    Demetria Watkins @ 1 point (tie)
    Oluseun Williams @ 1 point (tie)

The contest had a $25 gift card as a prize, but I’m getting more joy out of proving a point :angel:

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UNCASG COLLECTS 22,000+ SIGNATURES
====================

That meeting I mentioned was one of our busier ones of the year as I try to wrap up everything I want done before my term ends April 30th. 3

The Tuition Petition stack... and this is without a handful of universities!

One of the highlights has been the UNCASG Tuition Petition campaign, where we’ve been getting students across the state to petition the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal a mandatory 8% tuition increase (with $$ going to the state’s budget deficit) and replace it with lower rates set by the UNC Board of Governors (with $$ staying on each campus).

We gathered up the petitions from most of the universities this weekend, and it looks like we’ve gathered over 22,000 signatures — well over our goal of 21,500 :D

Now comes the “fun” part: verifying names, erasing contact information, duplicating petitions, getting them bound into volumes, then distributing them to key legislators.

I think I’m gonna delegate that part to someone else ;)

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MIDTERM PANIC SETS IN
====================

Midterms start on Wednesday with Property II. CivPro II and Torts II are next on Thursday, then we wrap up on Friday with Ks II and CrimLaw I.

Thought I was freaking out before finals? Imagine what I’m like after not having my outlines for a week :beatup:

If my posts over the next few days sound more and more like the rantings of a delusional mind, I’ve probably gone crazy :crack:

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AND MORE @#$%ING SNOW…
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Oh and it’s scheduled to snow again starting tomorrow. This will be the 2nd time in less than a week, and at least the 5th time in 5 weeks.

Last I checked North Carolina is still firmly part of the South and Durham is still part of the generally snow-free Research Triangle. I love snow — once or twice a year. This is getting a bit excessive… :mad:

—===—

That’s the past week of my life in a nutshell :) Hope all of you are doing well, and enjoy the rest of the week! :D

  1. On an unrelated side note, I see why so may Mac users dislike Windows and vice versa. It’s incredibly un-intuitive going from one OS to the other. My efficiency on the PC laptop I was using in the interim was less than a third than on the Mac, at best. []
  2. Each day featured a trivia question relating to someone famous from the black community, and the first person to provide the correct answer got a point. Most points at the end of the month wins. []
  3. I can already tell letting go is going to be a challenge… :cry: []

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1

The Waiting Game (Law School Edition)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 20, 2009 in The 1L Life

It’s Sunday. I’m fairly certain no one is working at the law school. And several of my fellow 1Ls (see Really? Law? or Catatonic Storm Clouds) still have exams looming.

And yet I can’t resist the occasional impulse to log in and see if my grades have been posted :beatup:

I know there’s nothing there. Delta the 2L even forewarned me that we probably wouldn’t get grades back until mid-January.

But it’s driving me batshit crazy not knowing how the first semester turned out.  If things went well, I want to know so I can celebrate accordingly (e.g. by getting thoroughly plastered with friends). If things went not-so-well, I want to know so I can wallow in my own self-pity (e.g. by getting thoroughly plastered by myself).

Either way, I see -0- benefit in having to wait until well after the new year. If you were a professor, wouldn’t you want to get the grading knocked out so you could enjoy the next 2-3 weeks without any obligations hanging over your head? And how on Earth do they manage to process grades in only a few days when it comes to notifying graduates that they’ll get to participate in Commencement?

Dear NCCU law faculty: we’ve been done for almost two weeks now. I want my grades plzkkthxu :P

Grrr…

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2

Snark FTW

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 19, 2009 in The 1L Life

My friend Delta the 2L is taking the Trial Practice course this semester, and asked me a few days ago to be a witness for a mock trial that was held earlier today. I enjoyed myself. Immensely :)

The fact pattern for the trial centers on a high school delinquent-turned-professional baseball player with a cocaine addiction, who bumps into me (an old friend and fellow delinquent) at a rock concert and asks me to procure some illicit substances on his behalf. He robs a jewelry store to pay the $16K expense I quote him for a half-kilo. The cops find the drugs in my car after I’m pulled for suspicion of DUI, so I offer details I know about the jewelry store heist in exchange for only getting straight probation on the DUI.

Since this is a mock trial for a class, the “witnesses” are either fellow Legal Eagles or the parents thereof. We were all given three basic directives: 1) be truthful in all your responses; 2) where the fact pattern is silent, feel free to improvise; and 3) be as uncooperative with opposing counsel as possible.  The lack of “uncooperative”-ness wasn’t terribly exciting though since most of the witnesses read straight from their fact pattern materials on the stand.

Not I… ;)

Since I was doing this for Delta the 2L — a person who’s helped guide me through law school thus far — I figured I’d have some fun with it for her benefit. That led to a handful of exchanges that were mildly amusing for the jury, mildly annoying for the defense counsel, or a combination of the two.

An example:

[From the fact pattern: I’ve been convicted of filing a false police report, included in the fact pattern to provide an opportunity for the defense to attack my credibility]

Defense Counsel: On January xx, you were convicted of filing a false police report, were you not?

Me: I can explain that. ::turns to the jury:: I was doing my Christmas shopping, see, and I had this lady friend. Gorgeous. And she had this kid. So I figured I’d buy her kid the last Tickle Me Elmo they had at Wal-Mart. And then this porcine-looking guy pushed me out of the way and grabbed the last one off the shelf. So I was mad and told the police he threatened to kill me. It was a mistake. But for her it was worth it.

::laughter::

And…

[From the fact pattern: I’ve previously been in prison and don’t want to go back]

Defense Counsel: You have an intense incentive to lie today don’t you?

Me: No sir. If I testify untruthfully I get sent back to prison.

Defense Counsel: And you don’t want to go back to prison, do you?

Me: Hell no I don’t want to go back. Last time I was in there were these 2 guys, Bubba and Pookie. Those guys were hungry, and I don’t mean for Big Macs.

::laughter::

And…

[From the fact pattern: I occasionally read the Sports section of the local newspaper]

Defense Counsel: Do you read the Courant sir?

Me: Every now and then I read the Sports section, yes sir.

Defense Counsel: So you read the news story about the robbery in which my client was identified? Could that have influenced your identifying him today?

Me: I don’t think they print robbery stories in the Sports section…

::laughter::

Part of me felt like an ass afterwards for subjecting the defense counsel to it, but technically it was my job. And it was fun :D

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9

Reflections on Week 1 of “real” class

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 22, 2009 in Weekend Roundup

Thanks for the handful of panicked text messages I got from folks wondering if something was wrong because I hadn’t posted an entry for the night, I’m alive and well :)

Sorry for not posting something in a more timely fashion — my friend 雅雅 and I decided to try and replicate my grandmother’s recipe for spaghetti, and after eating a very large and tasty dinner (the experiment was a success) I ended up falling asleep.  Last thing I remember was watching “Locked and Loaded with R. Lee Ermey” on the History Channel, wondering where I put my laptop so I could write my post for the day… then my cell phone alarm going off at 6am >_<

 

Now that Week 1 of “real class” is finished, there are a few things I’ve realized so far:

  1. Law school isn’t nearly as bad as I expected.  I’m sure it will get worse throughout the semester, but looking at the reading lists the volume of material is easily readable and comprehensible for a typical law student (I can’t speak for non-traditional students like folks raising families or students working 20-hour a week jobs — y’all are better people than I am!)

  2. It’s also a lot of fun.  Having worked in a variety of law-related areas back when I was a college dropout, finally understanding the intricacies of the legal arguments I used to read in briefs or hear in oral arguments is like a bunch of little lightbulbs turning on in your head.  And having classmates who I know are smarter than I am makes the debates that much more fun because of the challenge.

  3. Legal Reasoning & Analysis is going to be my “love/hate” class.  The smaller class size in lab is great to see people’s thought processes up close (including who comes at things from a prosecutorial vs a defense mindset), but the way we’re being taught to break down the applicable rules and case law is totally conflicting with the Computer Scientist in me.  It reminds me of this Dos Equis commercial and “speaking French… in Russian.”  More on LRA in a later entry.

  4. Not sure if it was total coincidence or fate, but having the Gang of Eight in the back with me makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.  If you’re a 1L, find some friends before everyone cliques up — you’ll be glad you did :)

  5. Even though a few more-seasoned students have told me I’m strange for it (including Delta the 2L), I genuinely like all of my professors. They’ve all got strikingly different personalities: Professor Contracts has a ton of energy for an early morning class and an excellent sense of humor, Mean Dean Green has a sarcastic streak almost as wide as mine, and you’ve already read about Professor Torts and her no-nonsense attitude. Throw in the Traveling Professor (my Property I teacher) and Professor LRA, and the group is providing a well-meshed experience for all of us.

  6. The mere possibility of being a good student again is an intense incentive to perform.  By my last couple semesters at N.C. State, I had so many credit hours between my Computer Science major and minors in Economics and Political Science that I could have failed every class and it wouldn’t  have significantly impacted my GPA… and could have gotten an A+ in all of them with similarly negligible effects.  That’s a recipe for the most hellacious case of senioritis one can experience.  Now I actually enjoying studying again (for now).

 

That’s it for this entry.  Going to take Saturday off and try to clean up the apartment a bit… including the spaghetti sauce I left on the stove after falling asleep last night.  Have a great day everybody! :D

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-

Week 0 Retrospective Part III (or, “You can breathe now.”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 18, 2009 in The 1L Life

First let me say these OFF! PowerPad lanterns are a big bundle of fail.  I bought one for the deck where I usually type these blog posts and I swear the mosquitos must be hungrier than a hobo with the munchies because I’ve been getting eaten alive.  Moved it so it’s now right next to me, which probably can’t be good since I’m basically breathing in the fumes… but I figure it can’t be worse than dying of West Nile Virus right? :)

Second note:  these server logs are just plain fun to look at.  I’m still 75% of the site’s traffic, but it looks like I’ve got about a dozen people who aren’t me willing to visit the site on occasion.  And seeing who gets here via a Google search is interesting, with 1 visit apiece from people querying “ncsu” (my alma mater), “tgd 1l blog” (TGD being my nom de guerre), “ave maria law” (noted in this entry), “duquesne university school of law” (ditto), and some poor soul who found me while searching for “mountain dew” (I pity them for ending up here but salute them for our shared caffeinated beverage of choice! :D ).  There are also quite a few folks getting referred from the Facebook Inbox page, meaning the URL is getting passed around in private messages… which kinda worries me since I know who at least a few of the folks sending it are :P

Speaking of Facebook, some of you have been harassing me for current details now that both Day 1 and Day 2 of “real class” are over, so this post will finish the look back on orientation so there can be something fresh here for tomorrow.  I’d skip the rest of orientation entirely, but a certain someone has demanded I explain the rocking chair comment so she can stop trying to figure it out.

—===—

After very firmly planting my size 12 white Adidas with Wolfpack red highlights in my mouth and then pretending like I never said a word, I think the Big Guy Upstairs took some pity on me because the rest of orientation wasn’t that bad at all.  There was a lengthy discussion on financial aid that included questions from a few folks that were the same as ones I had (“Do we count as first-year students as 1Ls with respect to the Dept of Education’s 30-day delay on loan disbursements?”), some questions that lacked a bit of common sense (“On this table there are disbursement dates each week, does that mean you pro-rate our refund and give us a portion of it each week throughout the semester?”), and some that were just plain funny (“You have our money on the 7th but refunds aren’t until the 28th.  Do you think we go home to our mamas or something?”).

And although my memory’s a little bit hazy, I think I knew the guy who asked that last question.  The lady from financial aid looked like she was about to jump over the podium and smack the taste out of his mouth.  I don’t live by many personal rules, but one of them is this:  there are 3 types of people in this world you simply do not try to piss off — people who clean up after you, people who cook your food, and people who control your money.  Had it been someone from the Bursar’s Office standing in front of him, I’d wonder if he’d get his refund on the 28th…

Dr. Psych spoke with us briefly about learning styles and gave us a quiz on the topic, prompting the purchase of that aforementioned rocking chair.  Turns out I’m heavily-tilted toward “tactile” learning (“learning by doing”) with a secondary preference for “visual” learning and no interest at all in “aural” learning.  In talking with Dr. Psych afterwards I found out that’s a likely reason for why I’m good at remembering faces but forgetting names, like being outside on rainy days, and tend to fidget when sitting still (my right leg bounces so bad it shakes the desk and makes it damn near impossible to type on the Mac mini). She suggested a possible solution to my lack-of-furniture-in-the-domicile problem would be to get a cheap rocking chair and put it out on the deck, giving me a chance to study in an environment that lets me enjoy the light movement of the trees out back while also employing that “nervous energy” in a non-distracting pursuit since the laptop screen would end up moving in tandem with the chair.

So far I think she was right.  This has probably been the highlight of my day, carnivorous mosquitoes notwithstanding :)

We also had a presentation by the Police Chief, who happened to be wearing the same NC State polo shirt I have.  One of his memorable comments:  “The odds of you getting a ticket during your 3 years at NCCU are 100%.”  To which I thought “I bought my permit way before school started, I’m good.”  (see the start of yesterday’s entry for the twist).

And then there was the smug joy of watching the IT staff scurry around the room for about 20 minutes trying to coax all the new Lenovo / MS Vista-based laptops the students get to borrow to recognize the wifi network… while my MacBook Pro had been connecting fine since before orientation ever started (yes, I’m one of those sanctimonious Apple-loving bastards you’ve heard about and quite proud of it ;)).

The second day was fun and had me almost convinced law school wouldn’t be that bad at all.  We had an introduction to civil procedure that basically outlined stuff I had picked up during my years as a paralegal and assistant clerk of court, an intro to briefing cases that I probably should have written down in my notes but didn’t when Professor Contracts said he’d post the slides online, and had our pictures taken for what I’m guessing will be a book of the incoming class.  I got my Student ID with a picture that looks like I just got caught doing something illegal.  There was the reception that prompted this exchange on starting law:/dev/null, and a night workshop on ethics and professionalism that prompted my other major realization of the day…

…I am impressively awkward.

If you did a union on a pair of tuples with [large venues, small venues] and [structured format, unstructured format], my natural home is in the [small venues, *] area.  With only comparatively few people to face, folks naturally interact at some point and I have the opportunity to utilize my limited but occasionally witty sense of humor to make friends and win arguments.  I can also handle the [large venues, structured format] as a secondary preference (e.g. speaking in front of a large group of people), a learned skill from spending the past couple years as a student politician at NC State.

But put me in a room with a couple hundred people and no real expectations on what to do or who to talk to, and I tend to gravitate to the edge and talk to people… on my BlackBerry.

The upshot is that I’ve got a few folks now who I can shadow and are far more people-oriented than I am (DMoff) or far better known (Delta the 2L — I’ll talk about this angel of mercy at greater length in a later entry).  So slowly but surely things are coming together :)

—===—

That’s all I’ve got on the orientation rundown — I ended up skipping the last 2 days due to obligations I had to a non-profit board I work with on higher education issues.  That’s a good thing though: imagine how many more entries I’d have to post if I had more… ;)

Off to brief cases for the rest of the night — Wednesday is my hell day in terms of scheduling, with 4 classes I’m thoroughly unprepared for back-to-back-to-back-to-back.  Good night everybody! :D

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