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Cognitive Dissonance at USC Law on the Availability of Legal Help

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 1, 2012 in Unsolicited Commentary

Good evening y’all! :D

One of the things I try to do every morning (before venturing out into the world with my bow and arrow) is running through the mini-feed of the NC SPICE Twitter account and looking for any useful or interesting stories that might be helpful to the solo and small practitioners we serve. It helps them out, and has the side benefit of keeping me informed about what’s going on in the world.1

And every now and then I come across stories that just kinda make me scratch my head…

The good folks over at Solo Practice University had one of those tweets this morning:

Seemed like an innocuous-enough tweet so I clicked the link, and was taken to this press release from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. It outlines the planned testimony earlier today of “Legal Trailblazer Gillian Hadfield,” a professor at the law school, who insists “the legal system’s regulatory approach needs to dramatically shift with less-expensive alternatives to attorneys[.]”

As part of her prepared remarks, the release claims:

“My main message for the Court is one rarely heard from the legal profession,” Hadfield said. “There is no way to generate the kind of legal help ordinary Americans need without fundamental change in the way the judiciary regulates the practice of law… We cannot possibly solve the access to justice problem without changes in our regulatory approach.”

Now I don’t know who Gillian Hadfield is; I’m sure she’s a great lady and a sage scholar of the law. And I’ll even go a step further and accept at face value the claim that her “message” of needed regulatory reform “is one rarely heard from the legal profession.”2

But she teaches at USC Law.

A school with annual tuition and fee rates of $51,490.00 in 2012-2013.

The 6th most-expensive law school in the nation.3 :crack:

Take a minute to juxtapose Hadfield’s view promoting non-lawyer lawyers with the long-standing lamentation law schools flooded the market with too many graduates. I think those complaints are wrong — the problem isn’t too many lawyers, it’s too many lawyers trying to bill out $250+ an hour so they can repay student loan debts in excess of a quarter-million dollars apiece — but the contrast highlights how completely backwards the discussion over the legal market has gotten.

If you want to promote deregulation of the legal industry, say on the notion that more competition would induce more innovation and produce a better product, then go for it. At least that’s a plausible argument and frankly one I’d support.4

But to promote deregulation on the mind-numbing theory there’s an undersupply of legal help available, all while enriching yourself via (and thus contributing to) one of the top drivers behind inflated legal rates, is beyond farcical. :roll:

The press release closes by noting Professor Hadfield’s valiant efforts to tame her employer:

She is part of a growing movement to reform legal education. Her mission is to teach law students to be problem solvers.

“Many law professors come to law school thinking that our job is to be the expert at the front of the class imparting information,” she said. “But one of the most important things we can do for our students is to get them actively engaged in problem-solving together to generate workable solutions to client problems. As I see it, my job as a professor is to design the materials and opportunities for them to do that and then to take myself out of center stage as much as possible.”

With due respect to the esteemed Professor Hadfield, if you really want to “take [yourself] out of center stage as much as possible” I’d suggest you encourage USC Law to lead by example and slash its tuition and fee rates.

Approach that objective with even a fraction of the zeal you’ve devoted to deregulating the entire legal profession, and I suspect you’d discover there is a “way to generate the kind of legal help ordinary Americans need”: producing lawyers ordinary Americans can actually afford to hire. ;)

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From the law:/dev/null Unsolicited Commentary archives:

 
2

First case == win!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 24, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Hey everybody!

I know it’s been ages since I last updated, and any hopes of getting through the May/June backlog have been dashed. I’ve got a lot to update y’all on but an 8am meeting tomorrow so not a lot of time to do it tonight :beatup:

But I WON MY FIRST REAL CASE!! :spin:

Some (duly anonymized) details are over at this entry on JD Oasis, a blog-ish/forum-y spot where I’ve been contributing pieces once a week.1 Here’s an excerpt:

When we were all in law school, each of us probably heard the century-old lawyer’s adage “When the law is on your side, hammer the law; and when the facts are on your side, hammer the facts” (typically followed by “and when neither is on your side, hammer the table”).

It’s a magical experience seeing it play out in person.

Earlier today I served as local counsel at a foreclosure hearing on behalf of a mortgagor. I’d had some trial experience under North Carolina’s 3L Practice Rule, but this was my first hearing since becoming a bona fide attorney as well as my first involving real estate law.

And, at least on the legal merits, it was a dog of a case.

I’ll let you head over to JD Oasis for the rest, but it was pretty unexpected and exciting and awesome all rolled together (and obviously not something likely to happen again any time soon).

More updates on life — including some positive NC SPICE-related news — some time in the next few days!2 Have a great night! :D

  1. Yes I realize I really should be updating law:/dev/null at least once a week too since it’s my own site — I promise I’m working on that! :beatup: []
  2. For now I’m just relishing the unblemished a 3-0 record ;) []

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TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 11, 2012 in Mail

Good evening y’all :)

We’re just shy of the 3-week mark since I took the North Carolina bar exam, and one of the things on my disturbingly long to-do list1 has been re-engaging with all the social media outlets I let wither over the past couple months. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and of course law:/dev/null updates have finally been getting some long-overdue attention.

As I started easing back into the blogging routine, I also realized I haven’t done a TDot’s Mailbag entry in over a year :crack:

So I figured it’s a good time to knock out some of the questions I’ve gotten asked since the bar exam a couple weeks back…

***

Q: Olivia2 asks:

When preparing for the bar did you actually use materials from school? I think I’ve managed to keep every paper from every class thinking that I will need to look at it again one day. Now I’m running out of room and I’m trying to throw things out but I’m afraid lol. What were the things you needed? Any advice would be great!

A: Don’t hate me for saying this, but… I didn’t consult a single paper from law school in prepping for the bar exam :surprised:

In terms of what you’ll need, whatever bar prep company you choose will send you oodles of stuff to get you through the exam. You’ll likely get around a dozen textbooks, access to an online database with thousands (!) of sample multiple choice questions, and a string of video lectures re-teaching you the core snippets of law in all the subjects that can be tested.

Many law schools also have supplemental programs of their own, such as NCCU Law‘s Invest in Success program that focuses on the essay portion of the exam.

And honestly, you’ll probably also be surprised / a little weirded out at how much law you’ve remembered over the years. Even though I won’t know if I actually passed the bar exam for another couple weeks, I never had writer’s block while taking it like I worried I would — I read the prompt, realized the area of law getting tested, and could spit out at least something vaguely resembling a coherent rule without much second-guessing.

Now even though your papers might not be any use to you, I’m one of the (apparently few) folks who have kept all my textbooks and found myself referring to several of them during different internships: specifically my Contracts book (bluelining), my CrimLaw and Evidence books (larceny and hearsay respectively), my Employment Discrimination book (Title VII), and my ConLaw book (time/place/manner restrictions on speech).

You could probably find all of the same info in a Google search, but having read through the material in class once already I have a mental image in my mind of where what I’m looking for can be found. Your mileage may vary on that one, but I hope it helps :)

***

Q: Savannah asks (after I blew up her Twitter timeline participating in the recent #1LTools tweet-up hosted by the Law School Toolbox):

So is twitter the new gig? I’ve been scouring your blog for info about your 2L classes and profs!

A: Yyyeeeaaahhh that’s not Twitter’s fault, I just did a bad job with blog updates most of 2L/3L year :beatup:

There are a few entries on here under our 2L tag, and for the list of classes I took you can check out this entry on Fall 2010 and this one on Spring 2011.3 Beyond that feel free to send me an email or message over Twitter/Facebook with questions until I get more material posted!

***

Q: Tim asks:

Now that you’re no longer a law student (and hopefully an attorney soon), what’s your plan for the blog? Are you going to keep it? Change the title? Change the focus?

A: We’ll see / Yes / No / Maybe.

I’m definitely planning to keep law:/dev/null live and updated, if for no other reason than it gives me an opportunity to help spread the word about my law school. I know at least a dozen people who applied to NCCU Law because of what they’ve read here — the “Why NCCU Law?” page is still one of the most-visited on the blog — and even though a dozen is a drop in the bucket of what they get each year, every little bit of publicity helps.

Plus it’s kinda cool being on the first page of Google results when people search for the school ;)

The name will also probably stay as it is; even though I’ll hopefully be licensed by the end of the month, we don’t stop being students of the law just because we’ve graduated from law school right?4

As for the plan and focus of the blog, we’ll see what happens. I’ve still got a lengthy backlog of law school-related topics to go through — not just the May and June entries that are half-written, but posts I never got around to writing in the first place (like my 2L/3L grades) — and will probably continue offering my $.02 on law school-related developments in the news. Then there’s the whole wide world of law-outside-of-law-school to comment on, with the occasional update on my dog Samson5 and NC SPICE and various other projects thrown in.

The key, of course, will be whether I find the time to actually keep things up to date :beatup:  But stay tuned!

***

Q: Patrick asks:

Where do things stand with SPICE?

A: NC SPICE is still in its start-up phase, so we’re doing a bunch of things simultaneously as we work to get off the ground.

Our first Board of Directors meeting was the Friday before the bar exam where we adopted our bylaws, mission, product matrix, and related items. I’ve fired off grant requests to a couple foundations with more in progress. The NC SPICE Facebook page got fleshed out a bit, I’ve started working on the NC SPICE Twitter account,6 I added a LinkedIn company page, and at some point this coming week I’ll get to work on the main website itself.

One question mark looming over the group is what relationship (if any) we’ll have with NCCU Law. Our new Dean talked about building a traditional incubator “in house” during her search committee interview — which was my original idea for NC SPICE before the Chief told me there was no money to make it happen — so if the administration sees us as competitors it’ll be difficult to build a collaborative partnership. I’m still holding out hope for a consortium-style approach modeled after the Center for Child and Family Health, where you have an independent entity that multiple schools help support. We’ll see what happens on that end in the months ahead.

But until then, I’m still going full steam ahead! :D  Once we’ve got funding we’ll get our first SPICE Center open, and once the website is operational we’ll get the SPICE Rack in place.7

If you or someone you know might be interested in the services that NC SPICE offers, feel free to send an email to info [at] ncspice.org! :)

***

Q: Vanessa asks:

So how does it feel being DONE??

A: Weird. :beatup:

The first few days after the exam, I still kept waking up at the crack of dawn and falling asleep early like I had in the week leading up to the test. Then during the day I spent a lot of time reading the news, Facebook-stalking people, cleaning and re-cleaning the apartment, working out, basically anything that didn’t involve thinking in any capacity. There were a couple times where I almost felt inclined to do some practice multiples just so I’d have something intellectually stimulating. Most of my classmates had left town to relax, my 2L-turned-3L friends typically had summer internships or summer school, and folks from undergrad were like “Oh, you’re finally done? Welcome to the real world I entered 3 years ago”  :roll:

The only real structure to my days are breakfast, lunch, dinner, and taking the dog out at various times in between. The rest of the time gets spent working on NC SPICE, surfing the web, and trying not to think about the bar exam. It’s a very useless feeling that I’ll look forward to ending one way or the other in a couple weeks.

***

Q: Alex asks:

T. Greg, you didn’t seem stressed at all during bar prep, and you certainly don’t seem stressed now. What’s your secret?

A: Faking it well ;)  (Kidding!)

A year and a half ago Kaplan asked me to write a piece for their Beyond Hearsay blog, and my first entry was on my experience as a college dropout and subsequently learning that fearing failure stalls success. It’s a personal mantra I force myself to remember whenever I get stressed out.

Now I still had occasional moments where I felt sick from nervousness, especially after some of my initial essay grades during NCCU Law‘s Invest in Success program. And I still made sure to put in the work needed to pass, including sitting through every single mind-numbingly slow lecture and running through well over 1,000+ practice questions.

But if you know you’ve put in the time and effort, what more can you do? Worrying about it just throws you off your game right at the very moment when you need to be focused the most.

That was all pre-exam. Post-exam, there’s really no point in stressing out because you can’t go back and change the test results! Pass or fail, my outcome was predetermined the minute I turned in my papers and there’s nothing else I can do about it. So I’ve turned my attention to doing something useful with my life — which is a great stress reliever in itself :)

***

Q: Natalie asks:

You knew I was going to ask this lol: do you have any bar exam study materials?

A: Yes ma’am — I’ll upload them at some point in the next few weeks and we’ll post them alongside the 1L and 2L/3L Outline files  :P

***

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

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From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v8.0: Post-Bar Exam Edition [this post] –
    • What materials did you use for bar prep?
    • Are you bailing on law:/dev/null for Twitter?
    • What are your plans for law:/dev/null post-graduation?
    • Where do things stand with NC SPICE?
    • How does it feel being done with everything?
    • What’s your secret to not being stressed about the bar exam?
    • Do you have any bar exam study materials?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition –
    • You made Dean’s List… but grades don’t matter?
    • Why is NCCU Law’s curve so low?
    • What is the rationale for NCCU Law’s dismissal policy?
    • How does the dismissal policy work?
    • What are NCCU Law’s GPA cutoffs for Dean’s List and academic honors?
    • Do you get notified if you made Dean’s List?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition –
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like –
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0 –
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0 –
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0 –
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0 –
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Trying to figure out how to make a living is a lot more involved than studying for law school! :beatup: []
  2. As a FYI for any new folks who’ve found us over the past year, I keep the names on these submissions anonymous (picked at random from the Social Security Administration’s Popular Names database) so feel free to send me an email if you’ve got a question but don’t want to risk having your name in print :) []
  3. The only changes from that class list: I dropped App Ad and re-enrolled 3L Fall, and I ended up with Judge TP as my Trial Practice professor. []
  4. Yes, I realize that’s probably a cheesy explanation. For an alternative reason, I’m just stubborn and don’t want to change the title :P []
  5. I got him a year ago as of this week! :eek: []
  6. Though I fumbled by committing a classic error: following a couple hundred people all at once. To most folks NC SPICE now looks like a spam account, with a disproportionate following:follower ratio and a low tweet count :beatup: []
  7. SPICE Centers are what we’re calling our physical offices in each county, and the SPICE Rack will be an online clearinghouse for attorneys with unused office space for lease/sale — giving new graduates instant access to counties across North Carolina until we’re able to expand out to those areas! :D []

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NC Bar Exam 2012 Postmortem

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 25, 2012 in The After-3L Life

[CORRECTION (07/28/12): Madame Prosecutor informed me that the +$125 extra that computer users get charged is actually the ExamSoft licensing fee, and not extra cash going to the NCBLE as I surmised near the end of the Day 1 rundown. I’ve left the original blog entry as-is for posterity but wanted to ensure the wrong info was corrected. :) ]

***

And that’s a wrap: after 3 years of law school — including extra summer sessions both summers, plus bar prep every day since graduation — I’m officially done with the 2012 North Carolina Bar Examination! :D

It was also apparently an unprecedented clusterf*ck :beatup:

 

DAY 1: “Electricity? You mean, that’s important?”
Things started out pretty well on Tuesday morning. I had taken Samson down to a pet-sitter in Raleigh on Monday night, checked in to a hotel a few minutes away from the test site, and took the evening to relax.1 As I left my room the next morning2 I saw a guy all the way down at the opposite end of the hall getting ready to leave as well.  I hate waiting for the elevator myself, so I decided to hold the elevator for him. He got on, asked if I had any exciting plans for the day, and when I told him I was taking the bar exam he goes “Just remember, there is no failure. The only failure is not doing it.”

It was a random encounter, but good vibes heading over to the test site. :D

When I got to the NC State Fairgrounds around 7:15am there were already hundreds of other test-takers already lined up at various entrances to the Jim Graham Building, sorted by starting letter of everyone’s last name. I wandered around until I saw some NCCU Law classmates and we waited in line for an hour or so as folks eventually got checked in. Most of our professors were there talking with Legal Eagles in the different lines, including The Chief and our new Dean,3 encouraging all of us not to stress out and to do well. :)

After checking in — and getting fussed at because I had inadvertently kept my NCCU Alumni hat on4 — I found my seat near the back side of the Jim Graham Building and waited through nearly an hour of instructions on the documents we were being given, what needed to get filled in where, and all the other oodles of stuff the NCBLE is required to announce to ensure everything is done fairly (even though most of it was in printed material sent to us before we showed up). Then we got to open our essay packets and get to typing.

The essays were split into four parts, with two parts per session (AM and PM). For the morning session we were tested on:5

  • Civil Procedure:  π files a wrongful death suit against a company on the day the SOL expires, then later amends to add that he’s suing as representative of the estate and names two additional ∆s; lawyer for ∆ company opposes arguing they’re futile due to SOL lapse. Which, if any, of the 3 amendments should be allowed?
  • Contracts:  Underage ∆ (claiming he’s 19) enters into referral agreement with temp employment agency π, who gets ∆ a job as a photographer for a child porn syndicate. Can π recover the referral fee ∆ was due to pay?
  • Evidence (2-part):  ∆ charged with second-degree murder following accident while intoxicated says during interrogation “I’m not drunk”; ∆’s lawyer tries to get the statement in during cross-examination of the police officer, and prosecutor follows up by trying to introduce ∆’s prior DWI to prove malice. Which, if either, of these two items should be excluded?
  • Family Law (3-part):  ∆ and wife separate; wife has 1 child not adopted by ∆ from prior marriage, 2 more children with ∆, and doesn’t work because she and ∆ agreed at time 3rd child was born that she’d be a housewife until child starts kindergarten.  Does ∆ owe support for unadopted child, can he force wife to go back to work to support kids, and what of ∆’s various items of income will be used by the court in determining child support?
  • Professional Responsibility (2-part):  Prosecutor loses bond hearing against defense counsel; within minutes he finds a state statute (partially quoted) after returning to his office, then approaches judge ex parte to ask for new hearing under the statute, and gets original bond reinstated. Did he violate the RPC in asking for the new hearing and/or getting the bond reinstated?
  • Property: Easement on parcel of land recorded 75 years ago; BFP acquired parcel with no mention of easement in deed. Can successors in interest of owner of the dominant tenement enforce the easement?

I finished the first set of essays about 45 minutes ahead of time, then we had a break for lunch until 1:45pm. The law school had a particularly tasty selection of deli sandwiches, sweets, fruits, drinks, and so on. It was unexpectedly good, and filling — I’d been expecting something low-budget in light of the state’s budget cuts but was pleasantly surprised. :spin:

After lunch we all filed back into the warehouse for the afternoon session. In that one we were tested on:

  • Criminal Procedure: DV victim consents to search of apartment for abuser boyfriend; officer discovers marijuana in cigar box under the bed and charges DV victim with possession. Should the cigar box contents be suppressed?
  • Torts: π loses medical malpractice case against doctor. What does he need to prove to succeed in a legal malpractice claim against ∆ lawyer?
  • Constitutional Law: Kelo v. City of New London question; city condemns π’s property under eminent domain as part of economic development project getting turned over to private developer. What are π’s odds of successfully enjoining the condemnation?
  • Agency: President of ∆ corporation enters into contract to buy expensive equipment from π, even though bylaws prevented her from doing so, π knew of bylaws restriction, and Board voted to defer all equipment purchases until next year. Is the contract enforceable?
  • ZombieLaw: Pastor owns rental properties as tenants by the entireties with mentally incompetent wife, joint checking account with right of survivorship with one son, life insurance policy naming both sons as beneficiaries, and modest home; son holding durable power of attorney changes life insurance policy to name himself as sole beneficiary; pastor’s will splits estate between both sons; pastor dies with mountains of debt. Who gets what?
  • Secured Transactions: Creditor 1 finances ∆ company in exchange for security interest in all of ∆’s after-acquired personal property; Creditor 2 finances piece of equipment in exchange for Purchase-Money Security Interest, but doesn’t file a UCC-1 until months later; ∆ defaults on both loans. Who has priority over the piece of equipment?

It was in the middle of this second session when things went to hell in a handbasket testing-wise.

You see, this part of North Carolina has a long-standing history of late afternoon summer thunderstorms — even confirmed scientifically by my alma mater NC State and the State Climate Office back in 2001.6 The day starts out great, then around 4pm the clouds form, you have 20 minutes of the worst rain, wind, and lightning that you’ve ever seen, and then the sun’s out again.

Well in the middle of my ZombieLaw essay the power went out the first time. It lasted for about 7 minutes before things came back on, and the proctor announced that everyone would get an extra 7 minutes of time. I’d ensured my MacBook Pro battery was fully charged the night before the exam so I wasn’t phased by the outage and just kept on working.

Then, as I’m a paragraph away from finishing my Secured Transactions essay around 3:30pm, the power goes out again. And stayed off this time :beatup:

I finished my essay and turned in my forms about 5 minutes later, but found out that night that power stayed out for nearly an hour and folks were given an extra 45 minutes to finish; the essay portion that was supposed to end at 5:11pm stretched out until just before 6 o’clock. Bear in mind no electricity also meant no air conditioning — on a summer day, in 90º+ heat, housed in what is essentially the livestock barn for the State Fair each year. :crack:

Maybe it’s just because I was a computer scientist before I was a law student… but contingency plans for a loss of electricity seems like something you’d have for an event like this. I can only imagine the number of threatened lawsuits that are going to crop up when results are released and people who failed the test argue it was/is because of the stressful testing environment.

Did I mention that the NCBLE makes us pay an extra +$125 to use our laptops? Multiplied by the number of laptop users, that’s well over $100K going to the NCBLE just from laptop users alone. Surely they could drop $5K (or more) on a durable industrial generator. :roll:

After leaving the building I continued my non-diet indulgences by getting Zaxby’s for the first time in ages, went back to the hotel and swam for a bit, then did a hundred practice MBE questions while watching television.

 

DAY 2: “What the hell is that sound? And did that rat just piss on your foot?”
Wednesday was the Multistate Bar Exam multiple choice questions, covering ConLaw, CrimLaw/CrimPro, Evidence, Ks, Property, and Torts in two 100-question chunks. Things started around 8:15am and it was as dull and mundane as 100 multiple-choice questions sounds.

I’d been averaging around a minute per question practicing all summer, and did about the same on the exam wrapping up a couple minutes after 10am. The lunch break was absolutely dreadful the second time around because it was so… @#$%ing… long. It was already slated to last two hours, and me finishing an hour early added to it. Most of the time I was debating whether or not I should do more practice multiples, and didn’t eat lunch until the tail end of the break because I was still full from breakfast.

Oh and I forgot to point out there was a rat running around a quadrant of the testing area in the morning session, that staff captured on the lunch break by throwing a trash can over it :beatup: One of my classmates had the misfortune of it running across (and peeing on) her foot.

Things got back under way just after 2pm for the next batch of questions. Throughout most of the afternoon I kept hearing a loud noise outside, wondering if there was another thunderstorm going on — and turns out there was a wood chipper running full blast for hours. :surprised:

I tuned out the noise and kept grinding on the questions, finished about 3:55pm, then picked up the dog and headed home.7

 

So how did it go?
I have no clue :(

On the essays, I thought they were a lot “easier” than I expected. That word’s in quotes because I have -0- clue if I actually got the answers right; it just wasn’t nearly as difficult coming up with words to put on the paper as it had been during bar prep. I know for sure that I railed the Agency, ConLaw, and CrimPro questions, had only a partial clue on the CivPro and Prof Resp questions, and was somewhere in the middle on all the rest. NCCU Law has a supplemental bar prep program called “Invest in Success” that exclusively focuses on the essay portion of the exam and I’m thinking that was instrumental in getting me prepared.

The MBE, on the other hand, was inordinately difficult across the board.

My practice scores jumped, but the MBE was still far more difficult

My scores had improved dramatically on the practice multiples I’d been taking from BarBri so I went into Wednesday expecting it to be a piece of cake. But wow. I could narrow most questions down to two choices fairly quickly but would have no idea which of the two was correct.

Taking everything overall, and the 60-40 split NC uses on the essays-vs-MBE, if I were a gambling man I’d put my odds of passing somewhere around the mid-60% range. I feel OK but not comfortable. And now I have to find a way to put the test out of my mind for five weeks until we get the results…

That’s it from me for tonight y’all! Now that I don’t have class or studying I’m going to try to get law:/dev/null up-to-date (seriously!) and work on getting NC SPICE off the ground. Thanks to all of you for your support the past couple months, and have a great night! :D

  1. Dropped my diet for a 72-hour window by eating McDonalds, then sitting in the bathtub for an hour reading through some essays and collecting my thoughts, then sleeping. []
  2. After indulging on a delicious breakfast from room service :spin: []
  3. I’ll come up with an adequate nickname for her at some time down the road :) []
  4. Trying to make sure my bald scalp didn’t get sunburned! :beatup: []
  5. I’m using the delta symbol and pi symbol for defendant and plaintiff respectively; these should show up regardless of your browser and operating system, but if they don’t let me know and I’ll revert to D and P. []
  6. They suspect it’s because of the geological makeup of the region. []
  7. Didn’t get to celebrate being done though, because Samson puked shortly after dinner which prompted me to take him to the 24-hour emergency vet. :cry: Instead I got home just after 11pm, ate Bojangle’s for dinner, and working on this blog entry. []

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Musings on Bar Prep

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 23, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Good afternoon y’all :)

If you couldn’t tell, my efforts at getting law:/dev/null back up to date during the summer have been a categorical and abject failure — I still have that May backlog to finish, and now have a June and July backlog tacked on to it :beatup:

But now that bar prep is winding down and the North Carolina exam kicks off early tomorrow morning1 I figured I can unwind a little bit with this brief entry on the summer. Yes, I realize up-front that griping about the bar exam triggers roughly -0- sympathy from the legal profession; after all, just about every single lawyer in the country had to study for and take a bar exam somewhere at some point.

But I also don’t care: bar prep is a miserable, tedious, stultifying experience… :crack:

True, it’s not difficult per se. After spending 3-4 years of learning to “think like a lawyer” — and hopefully remembering at least a smidge of the courses you’d already taken — very little of bar prep is “new” and most of the new stuff can get picked up fairly quickly. The lack of cognitive difficulty doesn’t make it any easier though.

There are 3 things about bar prep that have been driving me nuts all summer:

  • Breadth trumps depth: In nearly every single class since kindergarten, we’ve been conditioned to take a subject and master it thoroughly before moving on. You focus on one thing; you master all the nuances of that one thing; you take a test. Your Social Studies tests didn’t include Algebra questions, and you didn’t take Algebra tests before getting through pre-Algebra.

    That’s all completely and totally upended when it comes to the bar exam. You have well over a dozen substantive subjects to learn (18 here in North Carolina) but will only be tested on small parts of a small number of them (12 essays in NC). This puts a premium on knowing a little bit of every subject rather than everything about any subject. You’ll also be looking at all the subjects concurrently so that the knowledge of any given subject doesn’t get too stale. And even if you don’t grasp parts of a subject — the Rule Against Perpetuities being the cliché example — you’ll still need to learn all the rest of that subject just in case you get tested on it.

  • Daily time management: If there was one piece of advice I heard over and over before and during bar prep, it was the importance of having a daily study schedule. I’ve completely failed at doing that, so if I end up having to retake the exam in February we’ll all know why ;)

    Separate and apart from scheduling your day-to-day studying though, it’s difficult trying to keep life in order with bar prep going on. The bar review lectures are mind-numbingly slow2 and occupy your entire morning and mid-afternoon. Then you review notes, read outlines, do practice multiples and essays, make sure to eat breakfast / lunch / dinner somewhere in there, and then it’s time for bed. For most of the past two months I haven’t done laundry until the lack of undergarments reminded me it needed to be done. I completely forgot to pay my July rent until nearly 2 weeks after it was due. And I’m pretty sure my kitchen could have been declared an EPA Superfund site had I not finally gotten it cleaned up yesterday.

    I suspect the only reason my dog still wags his tail when I get home is because we both tend to eat at the same time… :beatup:

  • Life goes on: We all have daily routines, and we all have things that occasionally upend those daily routines. Supposedly we’re supposed to ignore them during bar prep — but I think that’s kind of silly.

    I’ve spent however many hours this summer working on stuff for NC SPICE, simply because if it didn’t get started now I’d be broke in a few months waiting for it to get off the ground; better to be sheltered without a law license than homeless with one. In late June I learned my blood pressure had skyrocketed from all the weight I’ve packed on these past 3 years, so I had to watch what I eat and start working out more than 1x every couple weeks.3 I missed a day of bar prep for a good friend’s memorial service; I missed another day for another friend’s birthday; I’ve probably missed more in between that I don’t remember for things that were important at the time, and that doesn’t even include the hundreds of text messages sent back and forth with dozens of folks I should have stopped talking to a couple months ago to study.

    Simply put: there are dozens (and dozens) of things in life that are more important than the bar exam, but we’re supposed to pretend otherwise until this process is all done.4

Sorry for the rant, just had to get that off my chest…

There are of course some bright sides to it all. It’s kind of cool “knowing” multiple areas of multiple subjects, and reflexively envisioning your outline contents when reading basic news stories like this absurdity out of Kentucky.5

It’s also given me the occasion to reconnect with old friends from undergrad who I discovered are about to take the exam too. :beatup:  And I can never overstate how privileged we all are to spend the day studying and learning things without having to juggle a full-time job on the side.

But in general… I’d rather not do this again, and in any event I’m glad this particular piece of it is all coming to an end one way or the other by this time Wednesday ;)

So GOOD LUCK to everyone taking the bar exam in your respective jurisdictions, especially my NCCU Law Legal Eagles!6 See y’all in a few days! :D

  1. We’re supposed to arrive at 7:15am :eek: []
  2. I routinely fell asleep in BarBri lectures and didn’t start really learning the substantive material until I ditched class, used VMWare Fusion to rip the lectures to my laptop, and used the Mac version of VLC to play them back at 2x speed. I think BarBri is doing a huge disservice to its students by not having this option built into their web software… []
  3. Down 12.4lbs since June 30 :spin: []
  4. And folks are surprised when surveys show most attorneys aren’t happy? :roll: []
  5. The judge’s gag order would be an unconstitutional prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment, since the compelling government interest in a fair trial that could justify it is extinguished after the plea bargains are entered. Plus, the guys’ names will end up on the sex offender registry anyway… []
  6. And all my other friends who haven’t had the privilege of attending my law school ;) []

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NC SPICE 501(c)(3) app: DONE!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 13, 2012 in The After-3L Life

It’s been a pretty awesome day :D

I’m now only 1.5 lectures behind the bar prep schedule, and finally feeling like I’m at least making some progress.

Before today I’d been doing horribly on the MBE practice questions except for two subjects:  ConLaw (which I’ve been “studying” since high school), and CrimLaw (which I’ve taught to 1Ls as a TA the past 3 semesters).

My BarBri MBE performance from 05/19/12 through yesterday 06/12/12

Torts in particular had been horrible, followed closely by Evidence.

But after doing a couple hundred multiples and trying to absorb the rationales for the answers, I’ve managed to bring up my percentages into the mid-50s or higher (except Torts :beatup: ) and should be able to boost that a bit more before the MBE part of the exam on July 25th.

Speaking of the bar exam, my character and fitness interview for the State Bar was earlier this morning and wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I expected: two attorneys went through every page of my bar application, asked me a couple questions about some of my previous jobs,1 and then talked a bit about the North Carolina Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment I’m working to pull together.

The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes in all, and they seemed to like the NC SPICE concept. Hopefully other attorneys will too…

On the NC SPICE side, the first meeting of its Board of Directors is officially set for July 20th, 2012.

And, most importantly, the 501(c)(3) app to the IRS is DONE! :spin:

If you’re not familiar with the nonprofit world, the IRS’s Form 1023 is a (very) thorough document helping them scrutinize whether or not a group can qualify as a charitable organization. The final version of ours came out to 56 pages and outlines what’s planned as we get off the ground. We’re required to make it available for public inspection so I’ll likely upload a copy here once I get caught up on bar prep stuff — if you want to take a look before then, just let me know :)

I’m off to go resume watching this Property lecture then heading to bed. Good night y’all!

  1. It amazes me how my work at the State Bar all the way back in 2002 (!) actually came in handy as a conversation starter, because several of the folks I worked with are still there a decade later :surprised: []

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Bar prep sucks… so here’s some humor for you

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 12, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Hey y’all! :D

Bar prep has been underway for a couple weeks now at NCCU Law, and is sufficiently voluminous — not difficult per se, just voluminous — that I’ve had to put off working on the May blog backlog because evidently I remember just about nothing from my first year of law school. :beatup:

(I actually have an entry in the backlog on that very topic, including my first BarBri “assessment” quiz a couple weeks ago where I successfully missed 9 of 10 negligence questions… :crack: )

But I am determined not to let this stuff run my life all summer, so I switched gears and spent today working on the IRS 501(c)(3) app to for NC SPICE and going through some entries in the blogroll1 — and came upon this entry at The Human Lorax linking to this list about bar prep over at Legally Noted.

And it’s hilarious :)

The list is a bit profanity-laden, but anyone studying for the bar has probably thought most of these at least once. Check it out when you have time!

Legally Noted: Studying for the bar?! This will make you laugh [h/t The Human Lorax]

  1. Which itself desperately needs an update; I’ll hopefully get to that by the end of the week! []

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Speaking of NC SPICE: New FB page and Twitter feed

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 2, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Getting some paperwork for NC SPICE filed yesterday prompted me to work on the technology side of things too…1

…so now we officially have a NC SPICE Facebook page and a NC SPICE Twitter feed! :D

There’s nothing substantive up there yet of course — it’ll still be a couple months before we’re even organized enough to start raising money — but I figured I’d give y’all the links now if you want to keep an eye on them down the road :)

Have a great night!

  1. Anything to avoid studying for this PR exam… :beatup: []

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Law Day Fun with NC SPICE

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 1, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Did you know today was “Law Day”?

I’d never heard of this before, but after seeing a tweet by the ABA I consulted Google… and apparently this has been an ongoing thing since Eisenhower was President :surprised:

Coincidentally, I ended up spending the day “celebrating” something I didn’t even know existed —  I spent the afternoon traipsing around the Triangle area getting more stuff lined up for the North Carolina Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment:  we now officially have our federal Employer Identification Number, and I went ahead and filed Assumed Name Forms (enabling us to conduct business under the acronym NC SPICE) with the Registrars of Deeds in Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties :D

There’s still a lot more I have to knock out before graduation so I can focus on bar prep, but things are slowly falling into place!

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Maybe one implied the other?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 22, 2012 in The 3L Life

Good evening y’all!

Tonight was our annual 3L Graduation Dinner at NCCU Law, one last chance for the Class of 2012 to get together and enjoy good food, revel in the fact we’re about to graduate, and otherwise have a good time :D

No surveys taken to determine if being a politician qualifies as being in the public sector...

We also announce the winners of our Class Superlatives, things like “Most Likely to be Late to Graduation” and that sort of thing.

And I ended up with two :crack:

Now I’ll concede up front: I don’t think anyone was surprised that I was voted “Most Likely to be a Politician.” Between 1L year as UNCASG President, 2L year as SBA Treasurer, and 3L year as SBA President (plus being Student Senate President and UNCASG President at N.C. State), it’s obvious by now that I really enjoy this stuff and being in a position to help folks.1

The stunner was getting called back up to the stage a second time as the people’s choice for “Most Likely to Work in the Public Sector” :surprised:

Sure, it’s shaping up that will probably be the case — NC SPICE is coming together slowly — but for other folks to think it was a surprise, especially with my not-infrequent rantings against Big Guv’mint (see here and here and here for examples).

I’m a little flattered, very appreciative, but mostly just shocked. Even though it’s “just” a superlative, I’m hoping down the road I’ll be able to live up to them both :)

Until then, have a great night y’all!

  1. Even though I’ve already noted that the odds of me getting elected outside of a college campus are nil… :beatup: []

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