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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 3 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 5, 2014 in Background

Most folks I meet don’t believe it when they find out I was once a homeless college dropout.1 I’ve mentioned it occasionally here at law:/dev/null but I generally don’t talk about it in person — it’s not exactly an uplifting topic! :beatup:

Well of course that ended up being one of the topics of discussion during my interview with the N.C. State Libraries as part of their Student Leadership Initiative (links to Part 1 and Part 2 are below).

We also chat about me helping to shepherd a few items through the Student Senate on my return, including the creation of a campus LGBT Center.2

Enjoy :)

Questions in this Clip:

00:00 – You’ve spoken about the challenges you faced while you were a student, specifically your time as a self-described “college dropout.” Can you talk a little bit about why you dropped out and what factors influenced your decision to return?

08:21 – As a Student Senator, you authored many bills including the Student Media Independence Referendum and a bill that supported the establishment of a campus LGBT center. Can you talk about your decision to support these bills?

I’m off for a weekly poker night with one of my mentors and his friends :D Have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

  • Part 1 of 9: The Backstory (05/03/14)
  • Part 2 of 9: In the Beginning… (05/04/14)
  • Part 3 of 9: Dropping Out (05/05/14) [this post]
  • Part 4 of 9: Prelude to Revolution (05/06/14)
  • Part 5 of 9: Party Time in Witherspoon (05/07/14)
  • Part 6 of 9: “Collaboration” (05/08/14)
  • Part 7 of 9: SSP Round Two and UNCASG (05/09/14)
  • Part 8 of 9: Law School (05/10/14)
  • Part 9 of 9: Traffic Tickets (05/11/14)
  1. Case in point: back during law school graduation, after NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms offered some kind words about me to the crowd, Top Gun asked me when I got in line for my diploma “Is all that stuff he said true?” in total disbelief. []
  2. Apologies to my friends who just went into shock to discover I was supporting the LGBT community before it was trendy ;) []

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 2 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 4, 2014 in Background

Happy Star Wars Day everybody, and May the Fourth be with you :D

Yesterday I gave y’all the background behind a 1.5-hour long oral history project I did with the N.C. State Libraries — if you haven’t read that entry yet, you’ll want to do that before watching the video below so you understand why they ask the things they ask.

Go ahead. We’ll wait. :)

The interview is broken into 8 snippets of around 10 minutes or so apiece. Here’s the first one, on my background and deciding to come to NC State:

And for those who like knowing what they’re about to watch, here are the questions they ask me and the timestamps for them:

Questions in this Clip:

0:00:19 – Before we begin talking about your time at State, we’d like to talk to you about where you’re originally from?

0:00:48 – Do you have any siblings?

0:00:58 – What factors influenced your decision to attend NC State?

0:02:11 – Did you live on campus?

0:02:31 – Can you describe what it was like to live on campus?

0:03:45 – What campus events or clubs did you participate in?

0:06:37 – What did you hope to gain from your involvement in Student Government?

0:07:55 – Following your first year as a Student Senator, you campaigned for Student Senate President. Can you describe that?

Next video tomorrow — good night folks!

—===—

From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

  • Part 1 of 9: The Backstory (05/03/14)
  • Part 2 of 9: In the Beginning… (05/04/14) [this post]
  • Part 3 of 9: Dropping Out (05/05/14)
  • Part 4 of 9: Prelude to Revolution (05/06/14)
  • Part 5 of 9: Party Time in Witherspoon (05/07/14)
  • Part 6 of 9: “Collaboration” (05/08/14)
  • Part 7 of 9: SSP Round Two and UNCASG (05/09/14)
  • Part 8 of 9: Law School (05/10/14)
  • Part 9 of 9: Traffic Tickets (05/11/14)

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 1 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 3, 2014 in Background

Out of the 561 published posts here at law:/dev/null, only about 9% or so are actually about me — who I am as a local internet legend ( B-) ), as opposed to my travails as a mediocre student / slightly-less-mediocre student politician / not-mediocre-but-broke solo practitioner.

Some of those T.-centric posts are squirreled away here in the Background category, while the rest mostly fall under the About TDot tag. Among them you’ll find the occasional disclosures like me being an extra in a Disney movie, thoroughly embarrassing myself academically in undergrad, and accepting my fate as a bald guy.

Well for the next week I’m going to take a break from writing about law stuff to share a smidge more about myself — and in video form! :D

Back in 2010, the N.C. State Libraries1 started a really cool project called the Student Leadership Initiative, where the Special Collections folks were gathering oral histories from past Student Body Presidents about their times at the University.

I’ve always had a visceral hatred of the office of the Student Body Presidency though,2 even going as far as writing a preemptive resignation letter to my Senate President Pro Tempore in case the SBP were ever removed. So I kindly impressed upon the Libraries staff the importance of getting other non-SBP leaders, ideally including folks from the Student Senate.3

They graciously agreed, and included one of my closest friends and political allies among the interviewees.

Then a year later, back during October of my 3L year, they invited me :spin:

The final resulted ended up being this snazzy page with some of my SG-related highlights (and lowlights4 :beatup: ) and a few video snippets of me rambling about campus life.

And if that wasn’t cool enough for me — certified Student Government geek with his geekery enshrined on one of his alma mater’s websites — they recently sent me a DVD with the whole doggone interview! :surprised:

So naturally I’m going to post it here :D

That’s it for this entry tonight. I wanted to give you the backstory on what to expect, and for the rest of this week I’ll be posting one chunk of the interview each day so you can learn a little bit more about your friendly neighborhood blogger :)

Have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

  • Part 1 of 9: The Backstory (05/03/14) [this post]
  • Part 2 of 9: In the Beginning… (05/04/14)
  • Part 3 of 9: Dropping Out (05/05/14)
  • Part 4 of 9: Prelude to Revolution (05/06/14)
  • Part 5 of 9: Party Time in Witherspoon (05/07/14)
  • Part 6 of 9: “Collaboration” (05/08/14)
  • Part 7 of 9: SSP Round Two and UNCASG (05/09/14)
  • Part 8 of 9: Law School (05/10/14)
  • Part 9 of 9: Traffic Tickets (05/11/14)
  1. A unit I absolutely love love love with all my heart, even though I hardly ever used them as a student. Librarian Susan Nutter and her staff are among the most student-focused administrators in the entire University, and their philosophy of doing things on “student time” — getting any changes done in less than 4 years so current students can actually enjoy what happens — is a complete upending of traditional bureaucratic decision-making. They’re examples who should be emulated by everyone at NCSU. Period. []
  2. I talk about that in one of the videos that will get posted this week :angel: []
  3. Specifically folks who were “pro-Senate” first — over the years we’ve had a number of Senators go on to be Student Body President, but I wanted people whose institutional loyalties were unquestioned ;) []
  4. Including the generously euphemistic “took time off from school following his sophomore year” :beatup: []

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Throwback [Sunday]: Wolfpack takeover of NCCU Law Graduation 2012

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 27, 2014 in NotFail

(I know the Twitter thing is to post pictures on Throwback Thursday, but I’m trying to get back in the blogging habit and needed something to write about tonight :P )

Back on Friday I had the high honor of presenting one of my good friends to the Court for her attorney oath of office.

Madame President1 made the smart play and had spent her post-graduation time making real money in the immigration department of a local corporate behemoth. Obscene wealth notwithstanding, she decided now was the time to get sworn in and dive into bona fide lawyer stuff.

Me introducing Madame President to the Court (Photo courtesy of Shutterbug)

Me introducing Madame President to the Court (Photo courtesy of Shutterbug)

As part of the process here in North Carolina, anyone wanting to take the oath of office that enables him or her to practice law first has to be introduced in open court by a member of the bar who can attest to the person’s good character (including uttering magic words like “has passed the bar exam”).

It’s also appropriate to highlight some of the applicant’s achievements, so I noted she had distinguished herself as a senior member of our Moot Court Board, the Articles Editor for our Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Law Review, and of course was elected by her peers to serve as the Class of 2012 President.

I also mentioned our shared alma maters and mutual love for all things North Carolina State University, which reminded me of a story the NCSU Alumni Association did on us (and our two valedictorians) back during graduation time.

I went through the law:/dev/null archives and realized I never actually mentioned it here, so I’m doing it now :)

From the the N.C. State University Alumni Association:

NC State alums make mark at N.C. Central’s School of Law

05.22.2012 | Posted by Bill Krueger | Filed under Alumni News, NC State People | Tags: Jeremy Adams, N.C. Central University, N.C. Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment, Sharika Robinson, Shauna Guyton, T. Greg Doucette

When the School of Law at N.C. Central University held its commencement earlier this month, four students were given seats on the platform and a chance to speak in recognition of their leadership and scholarship.

But they had more in common than their good work in law school — all of them are proud alumni of NC State.

Doucette, Guyton, Robinson, Adams

Doucette, Guyton, Robinson, Adams

None of the students knew each other when they studied at NC State, but they became friends during their time in law school.

“N.C. Central’s law school has a small, tight-knit student body, so all of us became friends over the past three years through our different activities,” said T. Greg Doucette, a 2009 NC State graduate who was president of the Student Bar Association at N.C. Central.

The others in the group are:

  • Shauna Guyton, a 2008 NC State graduate who was president of the senior class at the law school.
  • Sharika Robinson, a 2005 NC State graduate who was valedictorian of the three-year day program at the law school.
  • Jeremy Adams, a 2005 NC State graduate who was valedictorian of the four-year evening program at the law school.

All four of them will be busy for the next several weeks getting ready for the North Carolina bar exam in late July. But Doucette says everyone in the group already has plans beyond taking the bar exam.

  • Doucette is executive director of the N.C. Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment (NC SPICE), a nonprofit that provides mentorship, education and office support to new attorneys in exchange for pro bono legal service for those who can’t afford legal representation.
  • Guyton is hoping to be a law clerk at the N.C. Supreme Court, but is also considering becoming an assistant district attorney.
  • Robinson is moving to Michigan to become a law clerk for a federal judge.
  • Adams plans to start his own law firm in the Triangle, with a focus on employment law.

Some of the new law school graduates made it a point to include a touch of the Wolfpack in the commencement exercises at N.C. Central. Doucette wore a Wolfpack red dress shirt and an NC State tie under his robe, while Guyton wore her NC State class ring. “I never take it off!,” she said in a text message.

“State is just the best school in this state!!!” Robinson wrote in a text message. She said that NC State’s homegrown students are “the best talent, and it is evident in us.”

The whole NC SPICE thing has had a bumpier start than I expected back at graduation of course, but I still think this was a pretty cool story. And I’m honored to share it with some pretty cool people too :D

Hope all of y’all had a great weekend, and a great week ahead!

—===—

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

  1. The elected leader of the Class of 2012, who I relied on frequently my 3L year to help ensure events went smoothly and were well-attended during my overlapping term as SBA President. Definitely one of my favorite people from law school. :) []

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Yep, I’m still here

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 30, 2013 in The After-3L Life

Hey y’all :)

At least a couple folks felt “punk’d” by my last entry, where I mentioned there’d be more “tomorrow” (as in June 21st) and then disappeared for two months.

I had an actual defense this time though! I did have a plan for a “tomorrow” post, but life decided to intervene, put me in an eminently crabby mood, and I figured y’all wouldn’t want to read me ranting and raving about any of it until I had a chance to reflect ;)

Quite a bit has happened over the past two months:

  • More W’s: The law practice has been proceeding apace, with court appearances on a fairly regular basis and -0- new losses. In particular I thoroughly obliterated opposing counsel and saved a woman’s home from a wrongful foreclosure out in Wilson County back in June.1 For more details, see the second-from-last entry in this list. :D

  • The Chicago trip itself: We’ve all heard the word “clusterf*ck”.2 Well my Chicago trip was like a cluster*ck club, with several slices of awesome sandwiched between two pieces of near-unmitigated disaster — including yet another run-in with the TSA. I did get to catch up with several old classmates though, including one of my best friends from my UNCASG days during my layover in Atlanta, so overall it was a pretty great experience. I’ve got some notes and will (hopefully) work on an entry about it at some point down the road.

  • Church: A few weeks back I went to a Sunday service for the first time since 1999. Back over the summer I had a conversation with a former classmate who was studying for the bar and struggling with the daily grind of studying. Somehow the topic shifted to the more general issue of doing things we need but don’t necessarily like, which in turn shifted to a question asking when had been the last time I set foot into a church. So I agreed that I’d join him after he got past the bar exam, and that’s where I went the first Sunday after the exam.

    My odometer, as I sat in the parking lot of the first church I attended in 14 years (08/04/13)

    My odometer, as I sat in the parking lot of the first church I attended in 14 years (08/04/13)

    It must have been a day when folks were concerned for my soul, because as I was walking out the door that morning I got an email from a client inviting me to join her family at church too.

    Then a few minutes later, while I was sitting in the church parking lot waiting on my classmate and texting away on my phone, I looked up and saw my odometer had tripped over to exactly 170,000 miles. Which is also the first time I’ve ever noticed when it flipped over in the 11 years that I’ve had the car. :crack:

    I’m not saying it’s a burning bush or anything, but it was definitely an odd coincidence. So I went to my client’s church the week after, then went to one of the churches near NCCU the week after that. I still haven’t figured out where my church “home” is going to be yet, or even if I’m going to find one at all, but I’m thinking of making it a regular part of my weekly routine again.

  • Moral Monday defense: From my “This Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” files, I agreed to take on the defense of 20 folks arrested as part of civil disobedience in North Carolina’s Moral Monday protests led by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. While I agree with all of about 0% of what the protestors are protesting about,3 I thought the arrests were egregiously over the top and reflected the very worst of government abuses.

    And frankly I have a long-standing distaste and dislike of government, even if my “side” is in power.4 Especially when it comes to protests.5

    So I signed up to be part of the group of volunteer attorneys, and when asked “Can you take 20?” I replied with “sure”… without really thinking about the logistical implications of expanding my client base by 25% overnight without a commensurate increase in revenue or staff :beatup:

    A judicious use of technology picked up during my computer science years has helped me stay on top of things so far, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out when I’m trying to juggle 20 different trials on different days in October / November / December while still serving my pre-existing clients.

  • NC SPICE is official: 14 months after submitting the Form 1023 application, the IRS finally sent me a letter granting 501(c)(3) status to the North Carolina Small Practice Incubator and Collaboration Environment :spin: I have to figure out how to recover from the momentum lost by the year+ delay, but it feels damn good having all that work actually result in something.

  • Joined Class of 2016/17 Orientation: Way back in the halcyon days of 2009, back when law:/dev/null was in its infancy and people were still struggling to figure out what the blog’s name even meant,6 I mentioned in Part 3 of the Orientation Retrospective that we had a reception with the Day+Evening Programs and local alumni followed by a session on professionalism.

    Well now that I’m one of those local alumni I got invited to participate :D I knew the event was going to be fun anyway (there are few things I enjoy more than going back to the school and talking with the students), and it got even more fun when I discovered several of my friends from N.C. State are now part of the Legal Eagle family.

    But then it got downright surreal.7 One of the 1Ls came up to me and goes “You’re T.! My wife is gonna get such a kick out of me meeting you, we read your blog over the summer before I came here!” And then a young lady came up to tell me how she appreciated the entries from 1L year. Then two more came up to say hi and that they had read every entry here. And so on it went for the rest of the night, even until just before everyone had left when a guy walked up and shook my hand, saying “I just wanted to say ‘thank you’.”

    You want to turn me from a borderline-arrogant litigator par excellence to a near-blubbering bundle of emotion, just let me find out something I did actually helped someone else.8 Had to wipe away a tear or two when I got back to the car… but only after struggling to fit my now-even-more-overinflated ego inside :spin:

  • “I have to renew already??”: With 1L Orientation happening, that means I’ve actually been a player in this lawyer game for almost a year now — meaning it’s time to renew (and pay more for) my legal malpractice insurance :beatup:

    I’ve gotta pull some statistics together for the renewal app declaring what practices areas accounted for what percentage of my law firm’s income. It should make for an interesting look back, so I’ll post a pie chart or something when I hit the one year mark.

  • Collating 28 exhibits took forever...

    Collating 28 exhibits took forever…

  • New mega-suit filed: Speaking of practice areas, it’s no secret that I love litigation regardless of topic.

    And after saving a lady’s home from downright crooked mortgage practices, on her behalf I spent the better part of two months gathering info, doing research, interviewing folks, and typing up what is by far the biggest lawsuit I’ve ever played a role in drafting/filing. :angel:

    If you’re interested in reading the details, check out this PDF hosted on the TGD Law website: Hayes v. Self-Help Credit Union et al.

    I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out!

  • 2013 Bar results released: And this past Thursday the NC Board of Law Examiners mailed out the results for the July 2013 bar exam. Just like last year, some very close friends didn’t quite make it. But several of my mentees are now officially lawyers, and I’m told by folks who know that NCCU Law‘s overall pass rate went up this go-round — putting us ahead of both (far more expensive) Charlotte Law and Elon Law.9 :D

    I’ll have a new post up rehashing some of this entry to help walk the folks who passed through the process of getting sworn in and such :)

I realize this entry has gotten well past verbose, so I’ll wrap it up here. *THANK YOU* as always for reading and have a great night y’all! :D

  1. Beat him so bad that his last line of argument was, essentially, that I “must be” lying to the Court (no reference to the 100+ pages of unedited documentation in the trial binders I distributed). I ever-so-briefly thought about jumping over the counsel table and beating him down, but then the Judge ruled in our favor and I instead took solace in knowing he had a 3.5-hour trip back to Charlotte to marinate on his loss :angel: []
  2. If you haven’t, check Urban Dictionary. ;) []
  3. Politically they’re almost like an older, upscale version of the unwashed aspiring hippies who did Occupy Wall Street []
  4. See here and here and here, plus a new entry for the NC Department of Commerce and my “privilege license” last year that I never got around to writing about []
  5. See this entry from law school for insight into my views on governments restricting speech in so-called “protected areas” []
  6. If you’re still wondering, go to the first question in this Mailbag entry :) []
  7. And by “surreal” I mean awesome :D []
  8. Coincidentally the subject of a pair of old entries here and here []
  9. The official stats should be publicly released next week []

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TDot’s Tips: Your first 3 purchases as a n00b solo

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 14, 2013 in TDot's Tips

OK so the whole “hour a day for the business” thing has worked out better for the business than the blawg :beatup:

But there are now two (2!) entries posted within the past 30 days, so in a way the activity here has actually increased +100% :P

My still-sorta-hiatus has been the byproduct of the solo practice, which has somewhat-bizarrely produced more (paying!) work than I thought I’d have at this point.1

And that whole “Hey! T. hasn’t been evicted yet!” has in turn prompted some former classmates and law:/dev/null readers to ask for any insights I may or may not have on how they can get started themselves. Since I’ve been telling them all to follow the same first few steps — after paying your taxes of course — I’m throwing it into another one of these entries.

So are you a new or aspiring n00b solo like me?2 Here are the first 3 things you need to get started:

  1. Your own domain name:3 It’s 2013; the internet stopped being new years ago. There is now -0- excuse for you still using smartsexyesquire@gmail.com as your professional email address.4

    Domain names typically cost less than $1-per-month. GoDaddy in particular always has dozens of coupons you can find with a quick Google search, often letting you buy a domain name for $3 or less. I’ve got dozens of domains registered for my law firm that aren’t even being used yet, just because they’re cheap and I might find a use for them later.

    Finding a hosting provider (a company that gives you some hard drive space on a computer somewhere in the cloud, to which your personalized domain name will point) is cheap too. I’m currently paying $9.95 a month at DreamHost, which hosts all of my domains — including lawdevnull.com — and comes with an email server preconfigured.5

    So for a $11 a month and less than 10 minutes of startup time, you can have a much fancier smartsexyesquire@mylawfirmname.com. Clients expect a custom name over an Gmail / Yahoo / Hotmail email account, so don’t disappoint them. ;)

  2. Dedicated contact information: For clients to hire you, they first have to know you’re a lawyer. And for them to know you’re a lawyer, someone somewhere (probably you) has to tell them how to contact you.

    And the odds are good you don’t want to give them a home address or your mobile phone number, especially when they start referring others to you and those referrals refer other referrals. Before long you’ve got people from all walks of life knowing where you live, even if their legal needs and your practice areas don’t match up.

    Fix that problem before it starts by getting dedicated contact information for your law office. Lots of new attorneys use Google Voice for free and swear by it; I was one of the unlucky ones6 — folks who called my Google Voice number would sporadically get a message that my number was disconnected, which I discovered is a not-uncommon problem — but ported my Google Voice number over to Verizon Wireless and pay ~$20 a month for unlimited minutes using their Home Phone Connect service. Either way, a dedicated phone line is fairly cheap.

    Then you need an address. A Post Office box is fine starting out, and costs as little as $2 a month depending on where you’re located and what size you get. If you feel the need to get a physical office that works too, but until you get a stream of clients you’re usually fine meeting folks in a municipal library or a Starbucks or your client’s place of business (many clients love not having to go anywhere). The key point is not giving out your home address.

  3. Business cards: I don’t care what anyone else tells you about those .vcf files, QR codes, or whatever fancy new-fangled foolishness gets advocated as the latest “most awesome thing… ever!” for distributing contact information — nothing will ever beat the sheer versatility of business cards in your pocket.Keep a stack on you at all times, no matter where you are. Walking the dog? Have cards in your pocket. Going through drive-thru to get dinner? Have cards in your pocket. Filling up your car at a gas station? Have cards in your pocket.7

    On any given day you will visually cross paths with dozens of people, even if you don’t realize it. 20-30 people a day at least (unless you lead a very boring life). That translates to thousands of people you don’t know and have never met, somewhere within handshake-distance in any given year.

    500 of these raised-ink cards set me back $30 at T-Rex Cards

    500 of these two-color raised-ink cards set me back $30 at T-Rex Cards

    Now those folks might not even need a lawyer themselves; many of my cards get handed out to folks who just want to connect to talk about my alma mater or sports or my law school. But if just 1 of those thousands of people becomes a paying client, or sends a paying client your way, you’ve paid for your cards for the entire year.

    And they’re inexpensive too: you can get fancy raised-ink cards like mine from T-Rex Cards for as little as $10, or also-fancy full-color cards from Moo for a bit more.

Get these three things knocked out, and you’ll have everything you need to effectively market your nascent law practice :D

That’s it for this entry y’all — enjoy the rest of the week! :)

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Don’t confuse “paying” with lucrative of course — I’m still broke, I’m just not getting evicted or going deeper into debt at the moment :beatup: []
  2. And yes I realize it’s no longer hip to use “n00b” but (1) I don’t care and (2) I don’t care ;) []
  3. You’ll notice I didn’t say “your own website” — since the TGD Law site still hasn’t been substantively updated since I opened the firm back in October, I’m not entirely sold that having a fancy website is necessary to do well. Time will tell I guess. []
  4. Amazingly, I’ve actually been handed a business card (from a real lawyer!) listing “smartsexyesquire@somerandomdomainthatwasntgmail.com” as their email address. And folks think *I* have a big ego… []
  5. I’ve also started offering other attorneys a hosting plan through my law firm in case they’re intimidated by the geek-speak, using DreamHost on the backend. []
  6. Sound familiar? See here or here or here. :mad: []
  7. True story: I got randomly asked by another refueling motorist if I was an attorney just last week :crack: He saw the back of my car (which, admittedly, is bedecked with both NC State and NCCU Law stickers and a corresponding license plate cover) and wanted to know what area of law I practiced, because he advised entrepreneurs on how to start their businesses and they often needed an attorney. It was crazy. []

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TDot’s Tips: Bootstrapping your first law office

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 10, 2012 in TDot's Tips

I meant to post this entry back on Saturday night, but I got side-tracked by watching one of the 3 most-amazing NC State football games I can remember1 — as my alma mater came back from a 0-16 halftime deficit to beat the #3 Florida State Seminoles 17-16, scoring the game-winning touchdown with a mere 0:16 left on the clock (the first time we had the lead all game!) :spin:

Then of course life and the whole “needing to pay rent” thing got in the way, so you’re getting this entry 4 days later :beatup:

Since we’re now more than a full week into the new fiscal quarter, I wanted to share a few equipment-gathering tips for the entrepreneurial crowd in solo and small practice. If you’re like me just starting out — or a 3L heading that way soon — you’ve probably realized the practice of law is awfully damn expensive. And unfortunately you need to make certain expenses now so you don’t risk derailing your practice from the beginning.2

Luckily there are a few things you can do to create a functioning law office without breaking the bank in your first year. Here are four suggestions that can help:

  • Get a high-end laptop as a 3L: It’s not a widely advertised program, but the US Department of Education permits students to get an increase in financial aid once as an undergraduate and once as a graduate/professional student solely for the purchase of a computer and related accessories. If you’re still a 3L reading this, your financial aid office will have the details; to see how my N.C. State does it, check out the bottom of this Scholarships & Financial Aid webpage.3 Use your last year of law school to get something on the high end that will last you through your first few years of practice. Now realistically this means you’ll end up taking out more student loans, and I fully realize no rational person normally takes out a loan on a depreciating asset, but (i) when you start your practice preserving cash will be vital (landlords don’t like credit cards), and (ii) the terms of a student loan are almost always going to be better than the terms of financing the laptop on a credit card or some other form of credit.
  • Use a scanner + laser printer as your copy machine: The costs of a copy machine lease vary depending on where you are in the country, but dropping around $200-$250 per month is a typical expense — around $3,000 a year. The problem is that, in the start of your practice when you have comparatively fewer clients, you’re essentially paying for the machine to go unused.  A less expensive combination is to combine a solid laser printer with a standalone scanner, ideally one with an automatic document feeder (ADF) attachment. It will be a slower option than the copy machine but the cost savings are worth it early on until you’re making a lot of copies. Consider this: a Brother 2270DW (wireless+duplex) costs around $99, an Epson v500 scanner is currently $150, and the ADF costs another $200. That all comes out to $449 — one-sixth the cost of the copy machine lease, with no contracts or other hidden expenses after that initial purchase aside from toner and paper.
  • Government surplus == cheap furniture: I guarantee every single person reading this is within a 30-mile radius of a municipal, state, or federal government agency of some kind. Governments routinely upgrade equipment and furniture with each budget cycle (universities especially), and when the old stuff has to go it typically ends up at a government surplus department somewhere. Find the ones in your state and go do some shopping. Most of the items getting replaced aren’t in mint condition, but they’re still more than adequate. For example, I bought an ugly-but-comfortable office chair that had a broken left arm. Price from government surplus due to the defect? $3. Once I got it home all I had to do was break out my drill and screw it into a slightly different place on the frame to make it as good as new.4 In addition to chairs the surplus folks will also have fleets of desks, file cabinets, and just about anything else you’ll need for an office.
  • Negotiate for free office space: With the economy still in the doldrums, many landlords are sitting on space that hasn’t been leased in a very very long time. Take advantage of that opportunity by pushing the landlord to consider giving you 3-6 months rent-free while you get your practice off the ground. In exchange, you can even offer to help them out with any legal needs they might have. You’re not going to end up with the penthouse suite, but you’d be amazed the quality of office space you can get for pennies with just a little negotiation — and politely reminding them that unoccupied space doesn’t make anyone any money.

Hope those suggestions are useful to at least one of you out there! :) More to come later this week, including another entry in my “I’m a magnet for government incompetence” series ;)

Have a great night y’all! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. The others being the miraculous 27-point comeback over the University of Maryland last season, and the highlight-reel-worthy plays to beat the University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven the year before :D []
  2. CLEs are a key example: if you passed the bar in July, you have until Dec. 31, 2013 to log your hours — but some of the law practice management stuff is essential for new solos. []
  3. I couldn’t find comparable information online for North Carolina Central University, but I used the program myself just by talking to the financial aid folks in person and then providing them a receipt for the purchase. []
  4. I still haven’t actually done that of course, but that’s mostly because I grew accustomed to armless office chairs doing computer science work in undergrad :beatup: []

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I’ve been meme’d! O_o

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 17, 2012 in Randomness

Forgot to mention this a couple days ago when I first found out:  someone’s turned me into a UNCCH meme!  :crack:

Even though I haven’t been keeping up with law:/dev/null like I should, I still stalk Facebook on a near-daily basis. So I logged in Saturday night when I got back from the law school, figuring I’d scan through my timeline to see what was going on in the world…

The image I saw at the top of my FB timeline on Saturday

…and at the top of the timeline saw a picture of myself staring back at me :surprised:

One of the 1Ls here at NCCU Law went to UNC Chapel Hill for undergrad and saw the pic on the UNC Memes page that had cropped up on Facebook. The format is a blend of the Scumbag Steve meme paired with the traditional Advice Animals’ color wheel background.

At first I thought it was created by someone who didn’t like me from UNCASG, or maybe had an issue with my past trash-talking about UNCCH.1

But I didn’t recognize any of the names at TheBlackFalcon.net (the folks behind the initial meme) and now it just looks like a random coincidence:  after going through our server logs, someone Google’d “ncsu hat” a couple days ago and apparently we show up on the first page of the results — the photo is from this entry back during N.C. State’s Champs Sports Bowl appearance 2L year, where I bought my red NCSU hat to replace the old “traditional” black one I’ve had since late 1999.

Coincidence or not, I’m honored to be the face of the opposition for all you UNCCH lovers out there. Even the bandwagon Walmart fans who comprise the majority of the university’s support base  :*

And to the folks at TheBlackFalcon.net: well played y’all, that made my weekend ;)

  1. An example from this football-related entry last year: “I have no doubt the University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven is a fine upstanding academic institution 6 out of 7 days of the week. But the rest of the time they’re typical blue-blood white-wine elitists who got where they are today courtesy of mommy’s and daddy’s trust fund. Oh, and the wealthy white alumni $$$ that came with excluding blacks for 160 years.” :heart: []

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4

Greetings from Washington (briefly)!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 26, 2012 in The 3L Life

Hello from Reagan Washington National Airport!

Yes, I’m posting from the airport while waiting for a flight home :beatup:

Life the past week has been crazy and taken its toll. Backtracking to the previous law:/dev/null entry, the TYLA quarterfinals at Memphis Law last week came to an ignominious end. The UGA team went in on Shutterbug with some thoroughly bizarre objections during our case in chief, and the (bankruptcy lawyer) judge actually sustained them :crack:  And since I’m a smidge overprotective of people, I was pissed they hounded her and was determined to get our evidence in come hell or high water — which I eventually did on cross-examination of their expert witness, but only after giving the (bankruptcy lawyer) judge five (5!) separate rules allowing it in and still having to go through three separate sets of questions the (bankruptcy lawyer) judge felt I needed to ask as foundation. :mad:

Soooo I lost points for my demeanor…1

Bear in mind this was the same (bankruptcy lawyer) judge who decided to publicly berate Shutterbug for questioning the Defendant about a prior DUI… after the Defense opened the door on direct examination.2 Needless to say we lost that round, and EIC was less-than-pleased with me. But at least NCCU Law set the stage for an even better performance next year!

The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out with 雅雅, then afterwards I joined the team for drinks and relaxation. What happens in Memphis stays in Memphis of course; I’ll just say I had a blast and didn’t fall asleep until 4am3 :)

Group photo of NCCU Law's Howard Moot Court Teams: Me, Diane Carter '13, Nnenna Olu '13, and Kelvin Jacobs '13

Once we were back in NC my focus shifted to moot court and the competition at Howard Law this weekend in Washington DC. Enduring two weeks of averaging 4.5 hours of sleep a night finally caught up to me, and by the time we got into Washington this past Thursday I had come down with a full-fledged cold. I was chugging Theraflu like it was Kool-Aid and popping Halls cough drops like Skittles. That in turn affected my oral argument performance, which I thought was utterly disastrous despite my coach and El Presidente (who’s getting his LLM at American Law) both insisting it went well. I’m proud one of our two teams made it to the quarter-finals there, my team just wasn’t one of them and I feel responsible for it :(

The highlight to the trip was getting a chance to catch up with two friends from my NC State days. On Friday I got food and a drink with Shirley, someone I first met all the way back in 2005 when I came back to NC State and became the Treasurer of my Hall Council. I’ve always been guaranteed to have an abnormally insightful discussion with that one, and Friday was no different. Then Saturday I joined a former SG colleague Mr. QC for a couple hours to learn about all the big-time stuff he’s doing in the nation’s capital.4 He’s currently with a federal agency and actively dabbling in city politics, and I fully expect him to be running something major by the time I’ve gotten my law license.

Cool+random mural on the side of a DC building Shirley and I passed, with Presidents going back to Eisenhower

It was truly awesome talking with them both, and really helped put me in a better mental frame of mind after my competition :D  I can’t tell you how truly blessed I feel having crossed paths with all these really amazing folks. It gives me the cliché warm fuzzies inside… :spin:

Which brings me to today, sitting here about to board a flight back to the Bull City. I’m way behind on academic work — and made the mistake of signing up for 3 separate classes that have weekly assignments, so my grades are pretty much shot for the semester already — but fortunately will not be traveling anymore until after the bar exam, so I can go back to a somewhat normal life. Obviously I’m ready to be home and get things back the way they should be!

And, God willing, including a few more blog entries too ;)

That’s it from me, about to go board — have a great day y’all, and a great week ahead!

—===—

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

  1. Even though one of the jurors (who actually does litigation) described the cross-x and closing arguments as the “highlight” of my performance. []
  2. Our coach went up to the (bankruptcy lawyer) judge after the competition to ask wtf she was thinking, and she claimed to have never heard of the phrase “opening the door” or understanding what it meant :roll: []
  3. Before having to wake up at 6am to get to the airport :beatup: []
  4. His nickname for him here comes from the very first day we met, when he walked into my office when I was Student Senate President and told me “Charlotte does this, you need to get Raleigh to do it too” — a poor strategic choice, for those law:/dev/null readers who aren’t familiar with the hostility between North Carolina’s two largest cities ;) []

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3

“Where did all these people come from?”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 9, 2011 in Site Stats

Hey y’all! :)

It’s been half a year since our last Site Stats entry back in June, not for lack of time or interest but mostly because traffic tended to stagnate with my random disappearances all the time. Even with us passing 1,000,000+ pageviews back in September, there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy to merit another entry.

November '11 now holds the all-time attendance record :surprised:

Then a whole bunch of y’all appeared out of nowhere! :crack:

November 2011 was officially the single busiest month law:/dev/null has had since we launched back in August 2009!

And I have absolutely no clue why :beatup:

We had a +6.7% bump in daily readership to 2,041,1 likely resulting from my somewhat-less-sporadic posting over the month.

But the real craziness is the sudden +57.4% explosion in unique people coming to the site (8,144)2 — leapfrogging our previous record back in October 2010 of 6,716, and for reasons totally unknown to me.

There wasn’t a sudden bump in Google searches, no random spike in RSS readership,3 no particularly controversial posts that I’m aware of, and yet somehow we still had a whole bunch ‘o newcomers stop by this little piece of internet real estate. :surprised:

The war on spammers continues...

And what makes the unique IP number particularly odd is that it came alongside us blocking an unprecedented number of spammers that would otherwise be distorting the traffic figures.

In what has become my WordPress equivalent of the government’s War on Drugs, on a regular basis I go through our logs line-by-line and wall off this space from an ever-growing number of bots and spamdexers via our .htaccess file. It’s virtually eliminated comment spam (0.00479 spam comments per IP last month) but has the side effect of holding down the traffic figures.

Which is just as good since I don’t really count spammers as “real” visitors, but it’s still weird seeing such a jump in readership knowing there are about 2,000 URLs blocked from sending people here.

Anyhow, to the new folks: *WELCOME*, and thank you for visiting! :D  Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and keep coming back. :)

Doubt we’ll hit this level of traffic again any time soon but we’ll see what happens…

***

The main reason I started putting these entries together ages ago was to go through some of the search queries that send people to the site. So here’s a random selection of 20 out of the 580+ unique search terms that brought folks here in November 2011:4

  • can a footnote go under the signature on a legal doc: Depends on the document, and depends on the rule of construction the courts in that jurisdiction use; some courts allow it, others consider anything past the signature (including footnotes) as “surplusage” that has no legal effect.
  • nccu law bad neighborhood: Aside from a drug bust at the local Burger King and the occasional stuff that happen on every sizable college campus, it’s really not that bad.
  • can you petition your gpa if you are within less than 2 tenths away from cum laude: In the words of MDG, “LOL. no.” (at least not here at NCCU Law)
  • lawyers in state legislatures: Are a surprising rarity :surprised:
  • i’m panicking wording: Freaking out. Melting down. Losing your nerve. Having a psychotic episode. Taking a law school exam. Let me know if I should continue…
  • how often do people get kicked out for 2l grades: Not often compared to 1L year because people can self-select their classes, but it does happen. The frequency doesn’t matter, all that matters is whether or not your GPA is above a 2.0 ;)
  • how to get a job with bad grades in law: (1) Develop a personality, then (2) network. If you exclude me tutoring CrimLaw (where the grade for that single class was a smidge important), I’ve had exactly -0- employers care about my GPA for the various law jobs/internships I’ve had. Particularly in smaller firms, people care more about whether or not they can tolerate working with you every day than whether or not you were Top 10% academically. Make sure you have a solid LinkedIn profile, go to various law-related events, attend CLEs, get to know your professors and career services personnel, and so on — that way when openings pop up, people are willing to recommend you or at least clue you in to the vacancy.
  • american travel blog first impression toronto: I loved loved loved it! Awesome place. :D
  • dueces fingers with white background: You’d probably have more success spelling it correctly (“deuces”), but until then you can use the pic from this old UNCASG-related entry.
  • college students taking classes unrelated to their major: Yep, that’s how I made my way through N.C. State :beatup:
  • why do you want to go to nc central law?: Ummm… if you don’t know the answer to that question already, you probably don’t want to go here :P  If you want my reasons, you can read my “Why NCCU Law?” entry linked at the top of this page.
  • is law school still worth it: Nothing has happened to change my perspective (Part I and Part II) so I’d say “yes.”
  • can you fail duke law?: On a B+ curve? And risk the school losing $51K+ a year in tuition in fees per student? It might be theoretically possible, but I doubt it happens :roll:
  • 1l grades most important: I certainly hope not or I’m screwed. I prefer my own $.02: your 1L grades don’t matter.
  • va beach snowmageddon: Terrifying at the time, but pretty effing cool in retrospect B-)
  • sulc has too many white students: With budget cuts going on and minimum bar passage rates slated to rise, my guess is SULC has bigger things to worry about ;)
  • november mpre 2011 thoughts: It sucked. But I passed.
  • “closing argument” “let me try that again” good morning: Assuming you’re planning to try something similar to the Chief’s greeting back at 1L Orientation: please don’t. I’ve yet to find a single person who thinks this tactic is humorous or anything but annoying.
  • how to get caught up law school: When you figure it out, please let me know :beatup:
  • young lawyers division ridiculous: That’s actually not the first time I’ve heard this. Aside from the YLD’s incomplete approach to transparency in law school statistics, a number of them were downright rude during the ABA Annual Meeting this past summer. I guess being esquires entitles them to be pricks? Hopefully that won’t be me this time next year.

Nothing particularly risqué in this month’s batch of queries, but I still enjoyed digging through them :)

***

To wrap things up, here are the Top 5 posts from November 2011:5

  1. On NCCU Law’s strict-C curve: In support of the strict C: a year later (11/12/11)
  2. On thinking about going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part I) (11/27/11)
  3. On pros/cons for going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part II) (11/29/11)
  4. On the irrelevance of 1L grades: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/11)
  5. On the November ’11 MPRE: That was remarkably unpleasant (11/05/11)

And that’s it for this entry! *THANK YOU* as always for your continued support of law:/dev/null, it’s greatly appreciated! :spin:

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From the Site Stats archives:

  1. +23.4% year-over-year since November 2010, for those who like analytics :) []
  2. +57.1% year-over-year []
  3. We’re actually back down to 116 RSS readers, which is more in line with our historical average. Looks like the previous spike was an aberration. []
  4. Down -18.4% compared to last month, but up +81.25% year-over-year []
  5. An odd collection considering #2 and #3 were only up for a couple days before the month ended, and #3 was posted half a year ago :surprised: []

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