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TDot’s Tips: “The Walking Dead” as Career Advice

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 22, 2014 in TDot's Tips

Yesterday I mentioned The Walking Dead had become one of the shows I watch regularly when I really should be working or writing here at law:/dev/null.

Well today I discovered it’s possible to do both :surprised:

Over at Solo Practice University, Suzanne Meehle has a piece entitled “Everything I Need to Know About Solo Practice I Learned From ‘The Walking Dead'”. Be forewarned, it’s a bit heavy on spoilers from the Season 4 finale. But overall it’s a good column.

Here’s a snippet –

Lesson 5: Protect your people, especially those more vulnerable than yourself.

We see Michone befriending Carl, telling him about her life before and after the Apocalypse. We see her being motherly toward him: letting him sleep with his head in her lap after he was nearly raped, hugging him after he confesses to being a “monster.” She is a bit of a super hero, defending the defenseless. She will take on a hundred hungry zombies before she will let anything happen to Carl.

That is our job: defending the defenseless. At our very best, lawyers serve others who otherwise will be abused. We take on lost-cause cases, do our best to get the best outcomes for our clients no matter what. We can’t all be bad asses like Michone. We can all be bad ass lawyers.

They all seem to be good and accurate points to me, based on my (admittedly brief) 1.5 years as a solo practitioner and 0.75 years binging on episodes of The Walking Dead. :D

I’d also append five more points of my own, though, focusing on the mid-season finale from Season 4 instead:1

  1. Don’t take half measures: When the Governor is standing outside the prison fence with a tank and a dozen armed clowns at his side,2 he gives Rick Grimes and crew an ultimatum to leave by sunset before the Governor’s group takes the prison by force. Rick first tries to talk the Governor down, then tries to convince the Governor’s minions, then offers a compromise where everyone can stay in the prison together. The Governor promptly proceeds to chop off Hershel Greene’s head, they storm the prison, and a bunch of people from both sides die.

    Rick’s problem was that he couldn’t decide what to do. In Hamlet-esque fashion he quickly went from fearless bravado to witless speechifying to practically begging his adversaries to please be nice (because children!). He was negotiating against himself and doing it poorly. We all kinda knew how that scenario would inevitably end.

    As lawyers, we’re trained to be risk averse; we learn to love half measures and call them “risk mitigation” to make ourselves feel better. But I’d argue they’re just an effective way at being ineffective. Spending your day doing doc review and running your solo practice “on the side.” Paying exorbitant amounts for a virtual office instead of a real one or none at all. Treading lightly in litigation hoping the other side will reciprocate. The list goes on.

    To quote Mick Jagger, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”3 Try going full tilt on something and see how your results turn out. Focus on your practice full time; try a brick-and-mortar office; carpet bomb the other side with a multi-count Complaint and a full array of discovery requests served with it.

    You’ll still need to be observant and willing to reverse course if it looks like something is starting to go catastrophically wrong, but I suspect in nearly every situation you’ll end up being a better and more successful lawyer than you thought possible. To borrow another quote, this one from former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George: “Don’t be afraid to take a big step[.] You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”

  2. Some losses are inevitable: In reading the post-episode reviews around the web after The Wallking Dead’s mid-season finale aired, a lot of commentators seemed downright shocked that Hershel got killed off (and in a paticularly brutal fashion too). Personally I was shocked they were shocked — I hated seeing him taken out, but I figured that was always going to happen once he and Michonne were captured by the Governor. We all knew the Governor was a crazy sumb*tch; anyone who could gun down his Woodbury followers last season can chop off an old guy’s head without a second thought.

    While hopefully you won’t have clients die or get killed on you (or turn into zombies), you’re going to have losses as a solo practitioner. You’re going to lose some cases, you’re going to lose some clients, and you’re going to lose money even on some of the cases you keep. It sucks. Sometimes it’s downright painful. But the world keeps moving on and you need to do the same. Dust yourself off, recuperate from your wounds if needed, and get back to the battleground of the courtroom.

  3. A fortress is only as strong as its perimeter: Anyone else watch that episode and think at one point “I sure hope they’re not expecting the fence to stop that tank!”?

    It’s true, a fence can’t stop a tank. And once the fence is knocked down, things that a fence normally could stop don’t get stopped anymore. Soon your prison is overrun with zombies.

    Treat your law practice the same way. The cliché “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” seems particularly apt here since we’re talking about a fence — if you’re weak at returning clients’ phone calls, or calendaring deadlines, or managing staff, your practice is only going to be as good as the thing you do worst. And if you don’t fix what you do worst, more things at more points will go bad as your time is constantly diverted trying to prop up the fence.

    Focus on improving every single aspect of your practice, be it through learning more, being more disciplined, or bringing in outside help.

  4. Even tanks have weaknesses: With the prison getting destroyed around them, folks getting blown away left and right, and survivors scattering to the four winds, Daryl Dixon somehow had the sense to take a grenade and shove it down the tank’s turret. In seconds the most fearsome weapon in the Governor’s arsenal was neutralized, and the momentum of the fight shifted (as much as it could at that point anyway).

    If you’re doing meaningful work as a lawyer, you’re going to go up against tanks on a regular basis. Your opposing counsel will probably come from a big firm and make more in a month than you’ll bring in all year. The party you’re up against will likely be bigger still (especially if you do criminal defense; they don’t get much bigger than The Government!). Even a tank has a weakness though, and if you can ferret out what that weakness is you can win even unwinnable cases and causes.

  5. Justice will (eventually) prevail: I don’t know about any of you, but I let out a duly satisfied “Yessssss!” when the Governor finally got killed. I was disappointed Rick didn’t beat him down, and I thought a bullet to the brain was an awfully humane end compared to the evil he wrought (writhing in agony for awhile after his getting skewered by Michonne would have been more fitting).

    But damn if I wasn’t glad he finally reaped at least some of what he had sewn.4

    With implaccable foes around us, tanks in every courtroom, and inevitable losses that range from infrequent to more-common-than-we-care-to-admit over any given period of time, it’s easy to forget that we still live in a country with a judicial system where justice still prevails. It might not be obvious when it happens, it might not even happen until years or decades have gone by, but it will eventually happen. Justice will prevail. So keep your head up and know that you’re doing meaningful work for your clients :)

That’s my take on how The Walking Dead relates to life as a solo practitioner, along with the other great points Suzanne made. If you disagree — with my analysis of solo life or the show — feel free to let me know :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. The episode where the Governor and his people overrun the prison — hopefully you’ve seen it already, because there are spoilers in the rest of this post! :P []
  2. I really hope I never end up that gullible in life, post-zombie apocalypse or otherwise. []
  3. I have no clue at all if Mick Jagger actually said that, but Google tells me he did so it must be true :beatup: []
  4. Aside from the Governor, Shane and Lizzy were the only two The Walking Dead characters whose deaths felt downright satisfying. []

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The Wild Roller Coaster of Solo Practice

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 21, 2014 in The After-3L Life

Happy Monday y’all :)

It’s become a bit of a habit with these posts to note it’s been ages since I last wrote one, I’m not keeping up with my New Year’s resolution to write more, “zomg life is soooo busy!” and so on.

The underlying premise, of course, being that I really really really want to write something but I just haven’t had the time.

That’s still true — there’s been a bunch of cool stuff going on in life over the past 2 months that I wanted to write about1 — but a big chunk of the reason for my absence is that life overall has… well… kinda sucked :beatup:

If you’re one of our long-time law:/dev/null readers2, you might remember how I’d stress out as we got near the end of the semester, building up to the don’t-sleep-for-a-few-days exam week followed by a reprieve for a few weeks before things started all over again.3

6.5 calls per business day: good! Turning cases away: not so much

6.5 calls per business day: good! Turning cases away: not so much

Well running your own law firm is a bit like that. Except you never really get the reprieve (unless you’re slowly going out of business).

Things at TGD Law have been beyond busy; we’ve been averaging 6-7 calls every single day each month, there are over 1,300+ fans of the TGD Law Facebook page, and a growing number of those incoming phone calls / emails / etc have been from folks who’ve heard I kick @ss in a courtroom.

But I’ve also got more work than I can handle, and I’ve been turning away cases left and right because I refuse to let my work product slip for the folks who have already hired me.4

The catch to turning away cases, of course, is that there’s very little money coming in. That, in turn, means no staff. Which in turn means I’m stuck spending time on menial work that I’d really like to farm out to a paralegal or file clerk. Which in turn means no matter how much I work, I feel like nothing gets done.

The sense of complete and utter futility I’ve had the past few weeks is actually pretty well encapsulated in a graph of my weight loss efforts: past progress has been undone, and now I’m treading water until I can out-think my problems.

That 27lb drop? Bar prep

That 27lb drop? Bar prep

It’s led to me sleeping an awful lot, watching TV when I’d probably be better off working or blogging,5 and finding it beyond difficult to focus on things instead of my usual unproductively-trying-to-multitask-across-a-dozen-things-at-once.

So rather than blog about being blah, I figured I’d spare y’all the bellyaching until I got my sh*t together ;)

I can’t guarantee that’s happened yet of course, but fingers are firmly crossed! This past Easter weekend I brought some work home with me when I went up to visit my grandparents, and made some headway on several cases. I’ve started doing a list of a few high-priority items a day that simply must get done, and that’s helped me wrap my mind around things a smidge better.

Anyhow, I don’t have much more to write about at the moment — just wanted to let y’all know I’m not dead and I haven’t forgotten about you! :D

More blog posts sooner than later (certainly in less than 60 days).

  1. I was invited to be a guest at a professionalism dinner at my alma mater, served on an ABA-LSD panel on going solo, coached two NCCU Law moot court teams, judged the 1L Mary Wright Competition and the Clifton Johnson Moot Court Competition, had a trial of some of my Moral Monday folks, did a bunch more stuff I can’t recall at the moment, and at some point in the middle turned 33 years old. Life has been crazy! :crack: []
  2. **THANK YOU** btw! :* []
  3. It’s a testament to how long I’ve been away from blogging regularly that I can’t actually find the old links to the appropriate entries for that :beatup: []
  4. I’d rather be an amazing poor lawyer than a substandard rich one. []
  5. Not sure what my list of shows included before, but it’s now got The Walking Dead, Suits, Turn, Scandal, Mythbusters, and Psych reruns on it []

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“Now, therefore, be it resolved…” (2014 Edition)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 27, 2014 in Randomness

Maybe it’s because 2012 turned out so well and a correction was due.

Maybe it’s because my goals for 2013 were too ambitious.

Maybe I’m just overly optimistic.

But I definitely went 0-for-3 on my New Year’s resolutions this past year :beatup:

For a quick recap on the resolutions themselves, you can read the entry from a year ago today. The reasons for the failures are numerous, but in a nutshell: NC SPICE wasn’t approved for 501(c)(3) status until late in the year and is (temporarily) dead in the water, I stopped exercising and regained every. single. pound. I lost the year before,1 and the number I picked as a revenue target for my law firm in Year 1 was a wild guess with no relation to anything even vaguely resembling reality.

Now normally I’d take all that as a signal to stop with the resolutions entirely. Not worrying about something certainly trumps failing at it.

But I also hate going out on a loss (something you might have noticed from past entries).

Soooo once again throwing caution and impulse control to the wind, here are my three resolutions for 2014:

  1. Blog more. Across all of 2013, I only updated law:/dev/null a mere 14 times :surprised: — barely over once a month (and 4 of those entries were last January alone). Granted, I like to think most of those 14 entries have really good stuff in them; I’ve gotten several comments on the tips for first-year solos, and a barrage of emails on the entries detailing my first-year finances and then responding to questions about those finances. But at the same time, as great as those entries were, there’s a bunch of other stuff I wanted to rant about and just never got around to it.2 So I’m going to try and do better than once a month on the blog front.
  2. Fix the TGD Law website. My law firm’s website has suffered from the same neglect as the blog. I set up the basic framework two Thanksgivings ago now, and other than finally adding a bio and a contact page I haven’t really done much of anything with it. I’ve somehow gotten to nearly 200 clients in a year3 without a single page really detailing the stuff I actually do. I need to get on it before Thanksgiving #3.
  3. Finish TGD Law’s 2nd fiscal year with $140K+ in revenue. I had just picked a random number when I threw out $70K last year as a revenue target, and then promptly missed it by 37%. I don’t actually expect to reach $140K this time around, but I figure if I miss it by 37% too I’ll have actually had a pretty good year ;)

And now that they’re committed to writing, that means I’ll actually have to work on them (ha!).4

Have a great week y’all! :D

—===—

From the New Year’s Resolutions archives:

  • 2014: “Now, therefore, be it resolved…” (2014 Edition)
    • “Blog more”
    • “Fix the TGD Law website”
    • “Finish TGD Law’s 2nd fiscal year with $140K+ in revenue”
  • 2013: “Now, therefore, be it resolved…” (2013 Edition)
    • “Wrap up the weight loss” (Failed)
    • “Open the first SPICE Center” (Failed)
    • “Finish TGD Law’s fiscal year with $70K+ in revenue” (Failed)
  • 2012: Mission Accomplished (or “T., Esq.”)
    • “Graduate with honors” (Done!)
    • “Don’t f*ck up my commencement speech” (Done!)
    • “Pass the North Carolina bar exam on the first try” (Done!)
  • 2011: [combined with 2012 post] –
    • “Push my GPA above a 3.0” (Done!… then Failed)
    • “Get back in some semblance of shape” (Failed)
    • “Win something” (Done!)
  • 2010: “Now, therefore, be it resolved…”
    • “Finish 1L year with at least a 3.0 GPA” (Failed)
    • “Make it to, and through, Marine Corps OCS” (Failed)
    • “Finish [UNCASG] strong” (Done!)
  • 2009: [combined with 2010 post] –
    • “Graduate from N.C. State” (Done!)
    • “Win reelection as UNCASG President” (Done!)
    • “Get into law school” (Done!)
  1. Which has made wearing my suits an experience (and not in a good way) — I got them all tailored midway through the weight loss, and now they’re all insanely tight around the waist and I can’t afford to buy new ones :beatup: []
  2. Ranting is a great stress reliever, and spares folks from having to listen to me do it in person ;) []
  3. And only lost 3 cases! []
  4. Post #1 of at-least-15 down btw :D []

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“Now, therefore, be it resolved…” (2013 Edition)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 27, 2013 in Randomness

Good evening y’all! :)

Last year’s resolutions turned out pretty well at 3-for-3, so against my better judgment I decided to keep the practice going for one more year.

I’m a few weeks behind in committing them to writing, but here’s what I’ve got as my top objectives for 2013:

  1. Wrap up the weight loss. I know, I know: cliché alert. After being one of those people who (gently) teased the folks who chronically make “I’m really going to get in shape this year! Really!” resolutions they never try to follow for more than a week, I’m now one of the folks making said resolutions :beatup: In my case I’m serious though! I’d already put in a consistent effort, dropping -27lbs in 4.5 months, but “fell off the wagon” back in late November because I thoroughly despise exercising in the cold. Once it warms back up I’d like to finally get down to my target of 175lbs so I can lighten up a smidge on the low-calorie lifestyle.
  2. Open the first SPICE Center. Forward momentum on NC SPICE was building pretty well at the end of last year… until things with the law firm started picking up and I had to scale back splitting my time between the two. I certainly don’t want the law firm business to slow down (especially since it’s my only avenue for paying bills!) but I’m pushing to get the doors opened on our first SPICE Center so the ball will start rolling on that too.
  3. Finish TGD Law’s fiscal year with $70K+ in revenue. This one’s the least likely of the group — not least of which because 1/12th of the year is already over and we’re not even close to that rate — but I figure it never hurts to dream, right? :D

Any of y’all have resolutions you’re trying to keep? If so, here’s hoping 2013 is a successful year for all of us! :)

More to come this week, have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the New Year’s Resolutions archives:

  • 2013: “Now, therefore, be it resolved…” (2013 Edition)
    • “Wrap up the weight loss”
    • “Open the first SPICE Center”
    • “Finish TGD Law’s fiscal year with $70K+ in revenue”
  • 2012: Mission Accomplished (or “T., Esq.”)
    • “Graduate with honors” (Done!)
    • “Don’t f*ck up my commencement speech” (Done!)
    • “Pass the North Carolina bar exam on the first try” (Done!)
  • 2011: [combined with 2012 post] –
    • “Push my GPA above a 3.0” (Done!… then Failed)
    • “Get back in some semblance of shape” (Failed)
    • “Win something” (Done!)
  • 2010: “Now, therefore, be it resolved…”
    • “Finish 1L year with at least a 3.0 GPA” (Failed)
    • “Make it to, and through, Marine Corps OCS” (Failed)
    • “Finish [UNCASG] strong” (Done!)
  • 2009: [combined with 2010 post] –
    • “Graduate from N.C. State” (Done!)
    • “Win reelection as UNCASG President” (Done!)
    • “Get into law school” (Done!)

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Going out on a W

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 1, 2012 in NotFail

It’s been a great night!

This past week has been our annual Law Week activities at the North Carolina Central University School of Law,1  capped tonight with our annual Law Week Banquet where “The Big Five”2 announce the winners of their respective competitions and the SBA elections, praise their outgoing executive boards, listen to the outgoing President give his remarks, and so on.

The banquet this year was notable from the start for completely and totally shattering every single attendance record in existence at the law school over its 73-year history :D

Best-attended banquet in 73 years!

Last semester my Vice President and I came up with some new ideas for improving the event,3 she then put together a stellar agenda/program for the event then she and her planning committee made things happen. With over 210+ people in attendance, we had about 70 or so more people than the previous banquet attendance record.

We were charging folks $20 apiece for tickets ($35 for alumni/faculty/staff) and still had to turn people away! :crack:

The student speakers ran a bit long so a good chunk of those 210+ were gone by the time I gave my (abbreviated) farewell address at the end of the night, but it didn’t matter because my night was made earlier that night…

BECAUSE I FINALLY WON SOMETHING! :spin:

After 2.5 years, I finally got 1st place!

After coming in 3rd place my 1L year with my “Alice in Wonderland” closing, then clawing up to 2nd place last year despite a horrible ambulance-chaser-inspired fact pattern, I finally made it to the top of the dog pile in our 3L closing argument competition (even after screwing up a guy’s last name)! :D

And I didn’t just make it to the top in the trial advocacy stuff — I somehow also got the best oral advocate and best overall awards for our Fall moot court competition, named after Judge TP…

…yes, that’s the same guy who held me in contempt during my final trial in trial practice :beatup:

I’m probably one of the few people who has honestly enjoyed his entire law school career, but after my grades last semester I was bitterly disappointed that I probably won’t be able to graduate with honors. As shallow as it probably sounds, coming in 1st in both of these competitions coupled with having an incredibly successful year at the helm of the SBA helps to lessen the sting ;)

The dog’s pestering me to go outside so I’ll have to cut this entry here, but more to come at some point in the near-term future now that my SBA obligations are winding down. Have a great night y’all! :D

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

  1. A crazy week indeed — my birthday on Monday, a rally that same day about the Trayvon Martin homicide attended by about 250 people from both the law school and undergrad, our annual 1L/2L/3L basketball tournament, nearly a dozen different student organization events including Speed Networking II and symposiums for both of our law reviews, our SBA and class elections on Thursday, and more stuff I’m probably forgetting… :crack: []
  2. The Student Bar Association and the 4 organizations who provide academic credit to their participants: our “regular” law review, our biotechnology and pharmaceutical law review, our Moot Court Board, and our Trial Advocacy Board. []
  3. Including bulk table sales for student organizations: selling 10 seats as a block to the organization itself, then letting the organization resell the tickets to their members at whatever price point they want and keeping whatever they can raise. Capitalism works y’all! []

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Hi! I’m alive, thanks for checking

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 29, 2012 in The 3L Life

Yes, I’m still here :D

When I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was sequestered in my own personalized version of 3L Hell, I wasn’t joking. For most of January my schedule’s followed a pattern: Wake up at 6am, feed/walk dog, bathe, get dressed, go to class then work then trial team practice, come home around 10pm, feed/walk dog, do homework until midnight-ish and go to bed. For a time I had briefly hit the point where I was downing five 20oz bottles of Diet Mt Dew a day and living off Pop-Tarts, animal crackers, multivitamins, and anything else I could eat in the car  :sick:

Which of course didn’t leave much room for updating law:/dev/null :beatup:

I don’t have *too* much time to write tonight, but I miss talking with y’all so here’s a quick bullet list on some of what’s happened since mid-December:

  • Fall semester continued in perpetuity; finally done. With the different extracurricular activities I was engaged in, plus a job on the side, the Fall semester didn’t actually end until a couple weeks ago. I had papers due in Employment Discrimination and another for Constitutional Law II, so I had flashbacks of undergrad and never really got a substantive break during the winter. It was basically a mini-mester trying to clean up what didn’t get finished and spending more hours than I care to admit in the law building.1
  • Wolfpack won the Belk Bowl. But I did take a few hours from the ongoing academic tedium to go with 雅雅 to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, where the NC State Wolfpack dismantled the Louisville Cardinals :D  Didn’t have the time or money to stay overnight like we did for the Champs Bowl last year, but I needed the break and the game was only a few hours away. Watching another win in person was worth the freezing temps and packed stadium :)
  • Most un-Christmas-y Christmas evah. Christmas is my 3rd favorite holiday of the year, following Independence Day at #1 and Thanksgiving at #2… but this year there basically was no Christmas at all :beatup:  With the academic stuff due I couldn’t take the time to go visit anyone (and didn’t have the money for it anyway), but then on top of it I couldn’t even put up my own tree because Samson tried eating the ornaments — the stuffed ones apparently looked like toys worth chewing apart, and the ceramic ones evidently looked like dog treats. So it was easily the most un-Christmas-y Christmas I’d ever “celebrated.” Not sure what the plan will be for next year, but I need to figure something out to stop the dog from destroying things.
  • Samson nearly died before New Year’s. Speaking of Samson, he nearly died right before New Year’s :cry:  He was given one of those big raw pork bones as a Christmas gift, because they’re allegedly great for dogs, but somehow the snippets of bones he managed to chew off clogged up his insides. He wasn’t able to poop and howled in pain when he tried, then woke me up at 4am to go outside and puke. So I freaked out and rushed him to the vet; they took an x-ray and discovered he had backed up fecal matter running nearly the length of his body. They put him in the pet hospital, gave him an enema and an IV and some special food, and a few hundred dollars later he was miserable but alive. Though you can’t tell he nearly died from the way he acts now, as he still tries to eat every damn thing in sight… :mad:
  • Got myself a Christmas present: fixed TV. I can’t remember if I mentioned it in a past entry, but what seems like an eternity ago the bulb in my bought-cheap-on-CraigsList projector television finally burned out so I’ve been working for the past couple months either (i) in dead silence or (ii) with video-less music on in the background. So while Christmas itself wasn’t particularly festive, in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve I decided to give myself a Christmas present and finally fix the burned-out projector in the name of being more productive.2 With bulb costs being what they are for a projector that was/is 5 years old, it was actually cheaper to get a brand new projector with better specs. Money I couldn’t really afford to spend given the mortgage payments I still owe BarBri, but I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way through to August without a TV :beatup:
  • Finally completed NC Bar application! On January 3rd I finally got my monster-of-a-bar-app mailed off. The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners likes knowing every single thing you’ve ever done in your life since you’ve turned 18 — and, in the case of my last name changing when I was adopted at 3-years-old, the stuff before 18 :crack: — to the point where starting the app back in September wasn’t even early enough for me to get all of it done before the last possible moment. I had to request documents from the Social Security Administration to make sure I listed every single place I’ve ever worked, go rummaging through my Bucket-o’-Files to find residential records from the period right after I dropped out of college,3 go to the Clerk’s Office to find out all the cases I testified in back when I worked as the Clerk’s Office ombudsman down in Wake County, come up with 12 different character references, make three copies of everything, and on and on and on. Then include the $700.00 fee to apply, and set aside another +$125.00 to use my computer on the bar exam.4 But fortunately — it’s all done. So yay. And to anyone even older than me: START NOW or you’ll regret it!
  • 1Ls won Kilpatrick-Townsend competition. I’ve already talked about this one at length so nothing much more to say. I’m just glad it validated my philosophy that people produce a better work product when they’re forced to develop it themselves :) Very proud of these folks!
  • Any guesses on which team is mine?

    Submitted brief for Howard moot court competition. A couple months ago I mentioned making the moot court team, the end result of an ill-conceived experiment to see if I had been avoiding it out of fear the past two years or if I really had the skill to do it if I wanted. I was slated for the Howard Moot Court Competition taking place in Washington D.C. at the end of February. Making the team and getting the Howard brief done both came at a high cost — days spent brief writing and editing, that probably should have been spent on classwork instead — but I’m proud of the end result. Feel free to review the briefs if you get bored and guess which one is ours ;)

  • Got a position with the Durham DA’s office… I also somehow convinced the Durham County District Attorney’s Office to bring me in as an intern :surprised:  First day was about 3ish weeks ago. The sheer volume of work — and the… mmm… unique folks who come through the courthouse (especially in traffic court) — have made it a pretty awesome experience so far. I could definitely see myself working there after graduation.
  • …and won my first case! I’m also officially 1-0 on my “real world” trial record! :D I’m slated to work on Tuesday afternoons, and typically there’s absolutely nothing going on in District Court so I end up working on subpoenas and other administrative stuff. So last Tuesday I decided to be a good little intern and show up to work 15 minutes early, get sent down to misdemeanor criminal court… and get handed two shucks and told “Go interview your officer, you’ve got this next case” :eek:  I had no expectation of trying a case, so I didn’t have any notes, my North Carolina Crimes book, nada. I was so absolutely terrified I quite literally forgot what it was I was supposed to prove in a criminal trial; as I’m out in the hallway going through the shucks trying to ascertain what’s going on, I grab an ADA who helped us with trial team last year and plead for a smidge of guidance. She replies “Well what are your elements for the offense?” and suddenly “DING!” my inner lightbulb finally clicks on. I find the officer, read his police report, get asked by him what he can expect on cross, and somehow came up with a quasi-intelligent and spot-on answer. I don’t think I’m allowed to go into too much detail, but it involved two Defendants (and their respective attorneys) charged with minor-but-serious firearms offenses.5 I went through my direct a bit fast due to the nervousness, but the more opposing counsel objected to a response — or asked something ridiculous on cross-examination6 — the more I got into my zone. Neither Defendant took the stand, and a few closing arguments later they were found guilty and sentenced to active time, a fine, probation, and a prohibition from owning firearms. Not bad for my first go-round :)
  • Rewarded myself with a new laptop. In exchange for getting the DA gig, I “rewarded” myself by finally upgrading my trusty 5-year-old MacBook Pro. The Department of Education enables students to get a one-time financial aid boost once in undergrad and once in graduate/professional school for a computer purchase, and it was hitting the point where I’d need something I could use for the first couple years when I start practicing. So I’ve now gone from an original Core Duo with a self-upgraded 250GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM to a new quad-core i77 with a 750GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM :eek:  Seeing how much the hardware has advanced in the past half decade is crazy. I don’t like some of the changes (e.g. there are new function keys to play/pause/rewind/fast forward, so I have to press the Function key to use Dashboard and such) but overall it’s nice being back on the leading edge of technology for another couple months.
  • Fall grades were a disaster. While everything else was going smoothly, my grades turned out better than anticipated but worse than I wanted (if that makes sense). I’ve now fallen back below a 3.0 for the first time in a year and will have to pull off a miracle to graduate with honors. And in all likelihood I won’t be able to finish the Civil Rights & Constitutional Law concentration I’ve been working on for the past 2.5 years. We’ll see what happens.
  • Debating giving up internship to focus on grades and SPICE. The grade situation has prompted me to reassess what I’m doing this semester, and I’m giving serious consideration to dropping the DA internship and some other activities to free up time to focus on grades and the SPICE proposal. It’s not an ideal situation, especially with the economy, but doing the jack-of-all-trades thing clearly isn’t working. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s it for tonight y’all, thanks for still reading :) Hopefully more posts in the days ahead. Good night!

  1. Including 2 separate occasions where I got thrown out by Public Safety because the building was supposedly closed :beatup: []
  2. I am, for reasons unknown to me, more productive when I have Law & Order reruns on in the background… []
  3. Note to the Board of Law Examiners: homeless people generally don’t have files or records of their homelessness. Nowhere to put our file cabinets and all… ::smh:: []
  4. As a point of comparison, the Marine Corps only wanted 10 years of documents back during my 1L year to make sure I passed the security check, and didn’t charge me for the application. Completing those docs was a cakewalk compared to this. []
  5. City code violations (hence the “minor”), but just about anything involving the discharge of an assault rifle qualifies as serious when it comes to prosecuting people. Especially in Durham. []
  6. “Didn’t my client tell you it was his mother’s assault rifle?” No bullsh*t on that one, that was the actual question! :crack: []
  7. Meaning 8 total virtual processors :surprised: []

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Happy Independence Day! :D

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 4, 2010 in Randomness

The vacation to Virginia Beach continues, spending today celebrating the 234th birthday of these United States… my favorite holiday of the year :D

雅雅 and I first spent the afternoon unsuccessfully trying to find parking somewhere near the Oceanfront, eventually giving up 2 hours later. I’m so accustomed to being at the beach either early in the morning or late at night that I totally forgot how insane it gets in the middle of the day :beatup:

The Hurricane

We made up for it by heading to Wild Water Rapids for a few hours1 B-)

Moving around was a little difficult due to quarter-sized blisters I got on the balls of my feet Friday, but a pair of bandages and some flip flops solved the problem. I even took the opportunity to ride The Hurricane, the crazy high-speed contraption in the photo.2

I chickened out back in 2008 but figured I’d give it a shot this time around. It was an experience ;)

Then we headed back to the grandparent’s house for the usual Independence Day grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and various other summer food… and ice cream :spin: After that we took the 10-minute walk to Mount Trashmore Park for the annual fireworks show.

I know y’all couldn’t be there with me, so I recorded a bit of video on my phone and posted it on YouTube so you can pretend ;)

Hopefully all of you had a fun and festive day! :D Have a great night y’all!

  1. Our 3rd theme park in 3 days: we went to Busch Gardens with the family yesterday, and to Water Country USA by ourselves the day before. Crazy expensive but sooooo much fun :spin: []
  2. For my NC-based readers, the Hurricane is similar to the Dragon’s Den ride at Emerald Pointe… except you’re not on an inner tube. It’s just you. :surprised: []

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“Now, therefore, be it resolved…”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 6, 2010 in Randomness

A pair of readers noticed that my kk-inspired run-through of the 2000s assiduously avoided any reference to New Year’s resolutions.

It’s not that I don’t like them or don’t make them, I just intentionally set the ball so laughably low that they’re not really resolutions at all so much as statements of things that will happen (barring an utter catastrophe). A quote that Jansen posted here pretty much sums up why I haven’t had “real” resolutions.

Last year was a case in point, when I only had 3 “resolutions”:

  1. Graduate from N.C. State
  2. Win reelection as UNCASG President
  3. Get into law school

The first one was going to happen come hell or high water — the only question was whether it would be in the spring, summer session I, summer session II, or fall :) I couldn’t let myself come into 2010 as a perennial undergrad.

Reelection was also a relatively foregone conclusion, since a majority of the voting delegates asked me to run again. The only catch was that I had to be enrolled in a UNC institution, and I wasn’t sure either NCCU Law or UNCCH Law would accept me — so I just planned to pick up a Master’s in Econ at NC State as a fallback. Sad, I know, but I love my job :beatup:

“Get into law school” was intentionally worded that way too: even if I didn’t get in where I wanted to go, I was going to get in somewhere even if it meant applying to some JD farm :D Luckily I got my first choice.

So 3 “resolutions,” 0 of which were actually in doubt.

Since setting a low bar worked so well last year, I was going to take it a step further this year and set no bar at all. But I felt bad when I was talking with some friends who were sharing their own resolutions, expecting me to do the same… and then I said I had none. So after that I came up with a few for 2010. Here goes:

  1. Finish 1L year with at least a 3.0 GPA. A friend of mine who graduated from a T2 law school this past May said that law school grades were 1 part your effort, 2 parts your classmates’ efforts, and 3 parts random chance. Even if his aphorism turns out to be true, I’d really really really like to finish the year with at least a B average. Considering my grades in undergrad, I’d like to be considered a “good student” again :)
  2. Make it to, and through, Marine Corps OCS. Last July I started the application process to become a JAG officer in the USMC, got to the Physical Fitness Test… and discovered I was more out of shape than I thought. I’ve been doing physical training since then but progress has been slow, especially last month when I was on crutches. Getting to Officer Candidate School this June is going to depend on getting to 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and 3 miles in 18 minutes. I’ve got a long way to go and only 3.5 months to get there.
  3. Finish strong. My term as UNCASG President ends on April 30th, which also marks the last time I’ll be involved as a Student Government official of any kind at the campus- or state-wide levels. Even you new readers to law:/dev/null know I take SG seriously — for reasons I’ll elaborate on in a later post — so I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to adjust :beatup: But if this is going to be the end, I want to finish on top. After breaking so many records in a year I’d like to knock down a couple more in the few months that are left.

So that’s my list of resolutions for 2010. They’re a little more difficult than the resolutions from last year, but hopefully when I write a post like this a year from now it’ll turn out the bar was still set pretty low :)

Off to bed, UNC Board of Governors meeting in the morning. Have a good night folks! :D

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Merry Christmas from law:/dev/null! :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 24, 2009 in Randomness

We’ve got a fairly multicultural audience here at law:/dev/null, undoubtedly owing to the multicultural nature of the country, the internet, law school, and so on.

And since I’ve been wished both a happy Eid and a happy Hannukah in the months since I started blogging — and know next to nothing about either holiday — I figured it’s finally my turn to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! :D

As everyone gets ready for tomorrow’s festivities, church services (Midnight Mass for us Catholics), delicious food, or just having the day off, I hope all of you have a safe and happy holiday with friends and loved ones :)

And although most times I assiduously refrain from religious references, in light of the holiday I’ll leave you with what is probably the most quoted passage of the Bible, the Gospel according to John, Chapter 3, line 16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

Merry Christmas everybody :D

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Distractions

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 9, 2009 in The 1L Life

I can’t study :beatup:

You’d think being less than 24 hours away from the last exam of the semester (Torts) would have a way of narrowing one’s mental faculties, but I just can’t seem to focus.

The weather’s no help: it’s currently gorgeous outside, about 70º with the sun shining after we’ve spent most of the past week at near-Arctic temperatures accompanied by chronic rain. We’ll be back to that overcast frigidity tomorrow, but for now Mother Nature decided to bless/torment me with a nice day.

But the bigger issue? I’m actually excited about the semester ending :)

You’d have to go all the way back to my sophomore year at N.C. State — December 1999 — to find me in a similarly jovial mood. After I dropped out there was no “Christmas break” from work outside of the couple days around the holiday itself, and when I got back to college in 2005 I spent literally every one of my last few breaks in undergrad stressing out trying to finish a Computer Science project of some fashion or another that I didn’t complete during the semester itself (the professors who read law:/dev/null are currently nodding their heads :beatup: ).

My law school experience was a fresh start, and the clean slate prompted me to work harder so there’s no unfinished academic business. I’ve still got stuff to do over the holiday break, including the ABA Client Counseling Competition and 1L oral argument competition (plus I may take Jansen’s advice and work on the blog design — thoughts?).

But the important thing is that it’s all voluntary stuff I’m doing because I enjoy it, and once it’s over… I basically can occupy my time with whatever I want from then until classes start again on January 11th :D

So yeah, I’m a little excited/distracted as a result.

I’m going to head back to the books and try to focus for another hour or so, then probably take another break :beatup: Have a great day everybody! :D

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