1

I see why the 2Ls enjoyed this so much…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 10, 2010 in The 2L Life

…the whole “mentoring 1Ls” thing, that is :)

Over the last 1.5ish weeks I’ve had a handful of incoming Legal Eagles ask for insight into their professors, tips for Orientation, and other general advice on what they can expect in their first year at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

It’s been a lot of fun interacting with them over the past couple days — partly because I just enjoy being a teacher/mentor in general (the highlight of my time in Student Government next to saving students $25M+), but mostly because it brings back memories of the uncertainty and curiosity and excitement and general cluelessness that came with being a 1L myself ;)

I think the SBA is going to be compiling an FAQ on things we wish we would have known as 1Ls, so I may defer posting anything on that score until the FAQ gets wrapped up. But if you’re an incoming student at NCCU Law and you’ve got questions, feel free to ask! :D

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2

Shameless attention-whoring FTW

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 3, 2010 in Site Stats

You don’t have to be one of our long-time readers here at law:/dev/null to know that I like charts.

Facebook + attention-whoring = traffic spike!

And data.

And benchmarks. And tables. And trendlines.

And more charts just for good measure :beatup:

Grade distributions, tuition savings, site stats — I compulsively sprinkle data and tables throughout the blog. Besides, pictures spice up the text-only entries ;)

That also means I’ve started looking for more ways to spread the word in the hopes of attracting more eyeballs / readers / commenters :) There was political controversy in March, a new Twitter account in April… and a slight drop in May.

So to continue the outreach effort I borrowed a page from Huma over at TRPLS and created the Facebook page for law:/dev/null ;)

Apparently most of my Facebook friends never knew about this place, because after sending everyone invites the number of unique IP addresses we had visiting the site jumped by more than a third. Average pageviews per day climbed even more, at +37.7%.

Over a quarter-million pageviews!

And the really nifty thing for a guy who loves benchmarks? This past month we served up our quarter-millionth pageview! :D

I put together a chart (of course) that shows the cumulative number of pages viewed over time. For a blog visited mostly by spambots in its first few months, having real honest-to-goshness live bodies reading over 250,000+ pages is pretty doggone cool :spin:

Anyhow, enough on the statistics — I know the main reason y’all read these entries are for the search terms ;)

***

On the search query front, here are 20 of the 140+ unique search terms that brought folks here in June:

  • rick ingram sbp: I don’t know if this is the same person doing multiple searches or what, but this was our #2 most-frequent search result last month with a dozen queries (along with “rick ingram unc” and “rick ingram dth”). It’s a little peculiar since he’s only mentioned in one entry about his endorsement by the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel. Odd or obsessive? I’m not sure which… :crack:
  • when is 1l orientation for nccu school of law: Orientation for the night program starts on Monday, August 9th. The day program starts the next morning on August 10th. Double-check the start time the night before. Trust me.
  • cute bunny: nom nom nom :D
  • nccu law academic calendar 2010 2011: Can be found on TWEN at the Law School Registrar page. If you’re a pre-L, you’ll get your WestLaw registration info at Orientation. If you’re a 2L/3L/4LE, you should know to check there first before checking Google :P
  • when does nccu school of law give refunds from financial aid?: Around August 30th for the Fall, January 15th for the Spring, May 28th for Summer Session I, and July 9th for Summer Session II. Those dates change slightly based on the calendar and when financial aid actually hits your account with the University. Sometimes refunds happen early but don’t count on it.
  • ex con mother gets law degree: I’ve never been a fan of the adjective “ex con,” but yes I know one — she’s much cooler in person than you can tell from the news story ;)
  • nccu law grading: Sparked some controversy among the blawgs when I declared my support for NCCU Law’s strict-C model. It’s not all that great for getting a job, but I still think it contributes to making more competent attorneys compared to the alternatives :P
  • nc central law reputation: Depends on where you’re looking for a job. I’m not familiar with our national reputation (outside of HBCU’s), but within the state NCCU Law is known for producing highly-talented litigators. It’s one of the four key reasons why I made NCCU Law my first choice for law school — and I suspect it’s one of the reasons the NCCU Law 1L trial team excelled against dozens of teams from neighboring law schools ;)
  • what are acceptable 1l grades?: Whatever is high enough for you to get a job? ::shrug::
  • how long 25 page paper: 25 pages…
  • greg doucette myspace: MySpace? Eww :sick:
  • has anyone received an acceptance package from north carolina central state university school of law: NC Central State University School of Law? No. NC Central [notice there’s no extra word here] University School of Law? Yes. ;)
  • opening statement competitions: Are much harder than closing argument competitions :beatup:
  • received a rejection letter from nccu law stating to try again later: Assuming that language wasn’t part of the standard NCCU Law form letter, you probably should try applying sooner since we use rolling admissions like most law schools.
  • wanted one piece: Sounds like a challenge for the Reasonably Prudent Law Student :D
  • the pornstars in winston salem: I know the political hacks over at the Pope Center wanted UNCSA and its film school to be privatized, but I don’t think that’s what they had in mind…
  • it’s been a month and i still don’t have my law grades: You get no sympathy from me — welcome to the club :*
  • nccu law now tier two: Someone lied to you. The amount of $$$ the school would have to spend to climb to T2 would totally defeat the point of getting a T1 legal education at a T4 price ;)
  • dennis jansen birthday: Happens every year. When? You should probably ask him instead :P
  • nccu law section 103: Is the best section in the school, hands down. And if anyone tells you otherwise you tell them they can kick rocks. Then tell them TDot said they can kick rocks. Then send them to me so I can tell them in person they can kick rocks. B-)

I really get a kick out of the different search terms people use to get here each month… :spin:

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of June 2010, with a heavy leaning toward grades and cash:

  1. On Spring ’10 final grades: Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”) (06/08/10)
  2. On saving money: TDot’s Tips: More $$$-saving ideas (06/13/10)
  3. Also on saving money: TDot’s Tips: Tips for the pre-L’s on $$$ (05/29/10)
  4. On the legal effects of political cowardice: Unsolicited commentary on the legal clusterf*ck facing homosexuals (06/11/10)
  5. On my impatience: Where are my @#$%ing grades?? >:o (06/07/10)

Many thanks to all of you for supporting the blog, including the new folks who got here as a result of my shameless attention-whoring on Facebook :) I truly appreciate all of you! :*

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Past Site Stats entries:

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

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

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

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

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

—===—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…I am impressively awkward.

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

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

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

—===—

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

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

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4

Week 0 Retrospective Part II (or, “Good morning”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 17, 2009 in The 1L Life

First day of real class was today; I’m saving a summary of the experience for later on though, otherwise I’ll never get through this look back on Week 1 :) I did have the ignominious honor of being the first student’s name to leave the lips of my Civil Procedure I professor this morning (thankfully for not adding the TWEN course section in a timely fashion instead of having to brief the main case I didn’t read).

Oh and I successfully got a parking ticket.  Which undoubtedly amuses those of you who knew my less-than-stellar parking habits at NC State.

Before I continue yesterday’s entry, let me know if you find any decent and quick intros to WordPress.  I dived into the whole blogging thing before bothering to learn the software, so I haven’t gotten around to things like tweaking up the CSS for this template or editing the blogroll.  And I’m borderline afraid to touch the “Plugins” section…

—===—

But back to orientation.

I’m sitting in the back of the student lounge, feeling slightly obnoxious being dressed to the nines, and thumbing through the documents I was given at registration.  I glance over the orientation schedule.  Look at a pamphlet from the American Bar Association.  Read up on some of the historical sites in Durham.  And notice one of the first letters in the orientation folder is from a Dr. Psyche, the law school’s psychiatrist.

Not the university’s psychiatrist, the law school‘s psychiatrist…

Dr. Psyche works full time just for the law school, offering a whole array of counseling services (with friend- and spouse-related options jumping out, along with a reference to suicide prevention).  Compounded with the agitating but not exactly law school-specific annoyances I had already dealt with that morning, it was at that point I started to wonder what exactly I was getting myself into.  I guess God sensed my nervousness and mild amusement that suicide prevention is necessary in law school, because mere moments later I’d be lucky enough to experience a faux pas that made me want to shoot myself.

I notice folks are leaving the lounge, and we all headed upstairs to our respective classrooms for the day’s schedule; I had Room 102, where I’ll be for the rest of the semester.  NC Central has a pretty impressive array of technology services in their new law school, courtesy of a multi-million dollar cash infusion by the North Carolina General Assembly after the ABA raised concerns about facilities during its reaccreditation review (and also coinciding with Rep. Mickey Michaux, a NCCU graduate, becoming a co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee).  So my room had a large screen in front, and projected onto it was a live video feed from Room 202 upstairs where everyone would be speaking for the day.

Let me preface this whole experience by noting I have a long history in Student Government and “real world” politics.  One of the favorite rhetorical devices of almost every politician, student or otherwise, is to greet his audience with “Good morning,” receive a tepid response, then say something to the effect of “Let me try that again: good morning!,” at which point people laugh and more of them say “Good morning” in response even louder than before.  It’s such a widely (ab)used tactic that student leaders and political operatives instinctually respond “Good morning” the first time, in the hopes the second time won’t be necessary.

You can probably guess where this is going.

The Chief (Dean of the law school), a charismatic guy who clearly enjoys his position “getting to walk around and ‘be dean-ly'” as he later put it, stands next to the podium in Room 202, looks to the audience of 1Ls before him, and starts:  “Good morning.”  And on instinct, the past 11 years of politics and SG experience goes on full display with an automatic “Good morning” from me in response… even though the Chief’s upstairs, and there’s no microphone turned on in Room 102 for him to hear me.  And I happened to be the only one out of the group of 40 or so 1Ls in my room to say anything.

No sooner do the words leave my lips than I notice the lapse in judgment, right as about 10 of those 40 heads turn back toward me wondering who the ignoramus was trying to talk to the video projection.  A bullet to the brain would have been the only cure for the embarrassment at that moment.  Not sure if I successfully played it off by staring intently at the screen as though no one had said a word; I could feel my cheeks burning, but folks turned back around pretty quick so hopefully they never figured it out.

I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the day.

—===—

That’s it for now, have a few cases to brief for Contracts I and Property I tomorrow.  I’ll pick up with the look back after class.  Have a great night everybody! :)

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4

Week 0 Retrospective Part I (or, “Don’t panic. Really.”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 17, 2009 in The 1L Life

I said I’d let you know:  nope.  First day of class is tomorrow and I’ve successfully done -0- of the readings or case briefings.  I’d offer an explanation, but I’m a believer in that adage “excuses only satisfy those who make them”… and my excuse isn’t even that good.  May be tempting fate here, but I’m gambling that since it’s the first week of class the readings aren’t difficult and I’ll be able to knock them out tomorrow morning after a decent night’s sleep.

One more side note before getting into the rest of the post:  After going through the server logs for law:/dev/null it looks like I have a grand total of 3 regular readers at this point (excluding all of the web crawlers and bots and other inventions of the Information Age that artificially make it look like people actually care what I think).  Considering I only told 2 people about the blog so far, I consider that a 150% return on my investment and consequently an unmitigated success :)  Thanks to all 3 of you for supporting my random endeavors (and thanks to all the bots and web crawlers for making me feel more important than I really am ;)).

With the first full week of class about to start, I figured it’d be an opportune time to look back on the first week of class lite (aka orientation) and some of the oodles of fun I got to experience last week.

I didn’t think I was the type to ever get nervous about the first day of class or starting at a new school.  I certainly didn’t remember being nervous when I came to NC State for undergrad, although in fairness I skipped the first couple days of classes my freshman year on the advice of upperclassmen who swore it was standard practice (note for freshmen:  ignore upperclassmen who swear you can skip the first couple days of classes).  The intimidation factor of law school never really worried me either, largely because (i) I have a ridiculously huge ego and know I can handle it, and (ii) that ego originated in some crazy life experiences against which law school will simply never seem as threatening (e.g. being the #2 employee working for a former prison warden with a legendary temper back when I was an Assistant Clerk of Superior Court).

So I planned to go to bed around 10pm, wake up at 6am, cook breakfast, watch the news, read the newspaper online, shower, throw on my suit, and generally take my time getting to school at a leisurely pace.

But then for some arbitrary reason I started reading some law student blogs, most of which I noticed hadn’t been updated in 2-3+ years.  Which prompted me to find some more recent content, and before I knew it I had 20+ tabs open after going through everything I found in the first few posts at The Legal Underground.  Then I started going backwards through the posts at Above The Law, My Legal Fiction, Thanks, but No Thanks, and particularly  No634, including this entry on dressing for orientation (which, like a fool, I ignored).

By the time I finished I realized it was 2am.  Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, except that I had developed a bad habit of oversleeping during the summer if I didn’t get to bed at a decent time.  Aaannnddd… I overslept.

My eyes opened around 7:08am, and for reasons I still don’t know my mind was under the impression orientation began at 8am.  I jumped out of the bed, took a quick shower, ironed my shirt, threw on my suit, skipped breakfast and bolted out the door with a Diet Mountain Dew, putting my tie on in the car as I sped down Fayetteville Street cursing every time I hit a stop light (several) or got stuck behind someone doing 5mph under the speed limit (several more).  By the time I got to campus, the street alongside the law school was totally packed with cars and  I just knew I was ridiculously late. So I parked in the first space I could find near the law school (even though I wasn’t actually supposed to park there) and walked as briskly as one can walk in a suit to the closest entrance to the building.

I didn’t create a TDot’s Tips entry for this yet, but let me interject it here:  READ AND FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.  Even when you’re in a hurry.  Even if you can’t find them right away.  Trust me.

Apparently I wasn’t supposed to take that closest entrance, I was supposed to go in the front of the building like every other rational person.  So when I came in the side (essentially the basement, given the topography) one of the 2Ls helping with orientation assumed I was a non-1L and let me wander around.  After looking for a sign or something indicating where I was supposed to be for about 5 minutes, I confessed my 1L-ness to the young lady and asked her where to go.  She pointed up the stairs, and up I went… where a second 2L asked if I was here for orientation (“I am”) and said I was supposed to go downstairs and wait. Back down I went… just for the original 2L to ask me why I was back (“I was told to head down here and wait”), and tell me I needed to go back up the stairs to register first in the Great Hall.  I go back up the stairs, ask the second 2L to point me in the direction of the registration area, and head over there to register.  Along the way I notice (at the main entrance) all the signs I missed directing me where to go.

So I get to the registration desk, and notice there seem to be an awful lot of folders left at the desk for people who are checking in.  “These people can’t be more late than me” was the thought that ran through my mind… only to realize at that moment that orientation wasn’t slated to begin until 9:00am, and I was actually 50ish minutes early.  The night before I actually knew the right start time, since I texted that very information to the only other 1L I happen to know at NCCU Law (we’ll call him DMoff, since he may end up in later entries).  Yet somehow in the midst of oversleeping my brain decided I needed to be at school almost an hour early instead of just being on time.  My stomach grumbled its dissatisfaction.

Me. In a suit. Unlike all but 2 other people.

Me. In a suit. Unlike all but 2 other people.

After panicking to get to school, going up and down the stairs like a hamster, finally checking in and realizing I needlessly skipped breakfast to get to orientation insanely early, I went back downstairs to the student lounge to wait for things to get started.  Just in time to notice I was completely and totally overdressed.

As a preface to explain, I used to be a college dropout.  I spent 2 years at NCSU, couldn’t afford to continue, dropped out at the end of my sophomore year, and spent the next 5 years of my life working in the private sector in various law-related positions (since being a filing clerk or litigation paralegal doesn’t require a formal education if you’re able to learn on the fly).  Because of that experience, “professional attire” to me was a suit and tie; “casual Friday” around those firms meant you wore slacks and a polo shirt instead of a suit.  T-shirts, jeans, flip flops, etc were all verboten.

The letter for orientation indicated that “professional attire” was expected, so I put on a suit and tie (coincidentally in the school’s colors).  It just happened to be an order of magnitude over the top.

Now feeling like one of the priggish “gunner” types I read about on the law blogs the night before, I sat at the back of the lounge, tuned out the rest of the outside world, and started reading the materials we were given thinking there was absolutely no way the day could possibly get any worse.

I was absolutely wrong…

More to come tomorrow.  I’m heading to bed before I oversleep again ;)  Good night everybody!

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3

Why a T4 law school was my 1st choice (Part II)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 15, 2009 in Background

Disclaimer for any of you who become regular readers:  any time I write that I’m going to do/say/explain something “tomorrow” or “soon” or “shortly” or any other chronologically-oriented word that would indicate a time horizon in the relatively near future, add at least a week or two to it.  I’m one of those folks you hear about who get distracted easily by shiny objects, except in my case the “shiny objects” are random occurrences in life that remind me of random earlier occurrences in life and consequently prompt a story.  Consider yourself forewarned, caveat emptor, etc etc etc :)

Moving on…

A couple days ago in this post I mentioned one of my new 1L colleagues who apparently flagellates himself as restitution for his social awkwardity.  Still don’t know the kid’s name because I skipped the past 2 days of orientation (more on that later… maybe), but he essentially tried to demonstrate his Alpha Male-ness by terrifying a young lady I was conversing with about law:/dev/null.  I noted in response to his asininity that the ABA requires all accredited law schools to teach essentially the same material to 1Ls regardless of their “tier,” so theoretically my experience helps inform this blog about as well as anyone else’s informs their own.  I closed the post by posing this question:

…[I]f everyone is learning substantially the same material, why would anyone bother attending a Tier 4 school in the first place when it would seem (at least statistically) that a top school would give someone better odds at passing the bar and landing a job?…

Computer scientists like binary and powers of 2, the fundamental “on” and “off” that governs electrical circuits and spreads out to all CSC constructs like Boolean algebra, memory sizes, and so on.  My figuring is that there are only 2 types of people who go to a T4 law school:  folks who aren’t qualified on paper to get in anywhere else, and folks who could (or did) get into a higher tier school but had at least one logical reason for sticking with a T4.

There’s not much to say regarding the first group, so consequently I won’t say much ;)  For the folks who don’t have the paper qualifications to get into a top school — bad LSAT score or bad GPA typically, since often these are the only 2 values that matter regardless of how many reams of experience one accrues in a legal-oriented field — the T4s are providing them with a rare opportunity to prove through their work ethic they have what it takes to become attorneys.  In that capacity T4s perform a huge public service, because many of the best attorneys are the ones who work hard, meet filing deadlines, and take care of their clients because they know they may not be the brightest and have to make up for their deficiencies (by contrast, at least in my experience, many of the worst attorneys are graduates of top schools who are lazier than a quadriplegic sloth in a drug-induced coma).

The second group is a more difficult nut to crack because many of them have different and varying reasons.  This also happens to be the category I fall into — I actually applied to only three law schools (a T1/”T14″, a T2/”T100″, and T4 NCCU) and had already mailed off my acceptance and deposit to NCCU before I even got my letters from the other two.  I was lucky to do exceptionally well on the LSAT despite taking it “cold” with -0- studying of any kind, combined with nearly a decade of experience in the legal field during my time as a college dropout and after (more on that in a later post).

So why did I decide to go to the North Carolina Central University School of Law, a historically black college in the bottom tier, when I had two other higher ranked options?  Here are my reasons (which conveniently happen to count out to a power of 2):

***

(Before jumping in, I need to stipulate I’m ignoring the T14 school I applied to in these comments — I knew when I applied that I wasn’t going to attend because I didn’t want to move across the country :))

  1. Cost. In high school, I was one of only two students in my graduating class (so far as I know) who were actively recruited by MIT for their Computer Engineering program.  Instead I decided to attend NC State University in Raleigh because, even paying out-of-state tuition, it was a significantly less expensive proposition — MIT’s tuition and fees over a decade ago in 1998-99 was $6K+ more expensive than NCSU’s out-of-state tuition and fees *today* (let that marinate for a minute so you can fully grasp it).

    Cost of attendance was a similar motivator for picking NCCU.  My tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year come out to $9,097.16, less than half of the T2 school I applied to up the street (I don’t compare total cost of attendance for law schools since there’s so much variability in the housing and retail markets, but it’s worth noting many T1s are in outrageously expensive cities).

  2. Competence. Folks who have worked with me in NCSU’s Student Government or the statewide UNC Association of Student Governments will tell you that I am a notorious micromanager, an unapologetic perfectionist and overly obsessive about details (“anal retentive” is the pejorative most often thrown).  When I filled out each of my applications for law school, I quite literally checked, re-checked, re-re-checked, and re-re-re-checked everything before either filing documents online or submitting materials in person. In the case of the T2, I even had a friend from the campus go with me to drop off the application and had him check everything for me. We both confirmed all of the required documents were in the packet I dropped off, including my form declaring North Carolina residency. Yet magically, 54 days after that packet was dropped off, I received an email that the residency form was missing and I’d have to shelve everything I was doing in my life (like trying to graduate) to re-send a duplicate copy.

    Compare that to the response of the T4. When the LSDAS didn’t send my transcripts because one of my letters of recommendation had not yet arrived, I got an email from NC Central only about two weeks after they received my application indicating the transcripts were missing… then got a second email a week later as a reminder (fortunately I had more than ample notice to get in touch with the errant professor and get my LOR squared away, so I didn’t receive any further notices). Not only did NCCU not lose any of my paperwork, they promptly notified me multiple times when they didn’t receive stuff in the first place. That’s a level of competence and attention-to-detail that can only come from a school recognizing its rank and striving to improve.

  3. Character. My time visiting the T2 in-person to gather more information was about what you’d anticipate from a school that loses paperwork and doesn’t notify people until two months later. Trying to meet with the Dean to ask questions was a fruitless endeavor, and the low-grade paper-pusher who finally graced me with her presence acted like it was a burden to talk with me — as though I had just taken her away from the positively riveting experience of playing Minesweeper all day.  And this was as a student with an LSAT score well above the institution’s top quartile.

    The T4 experience was completely different. The Chancellor of North Carolina Central University met with me for about an hour to answer my questions about the University. The Dean of the School of Law met with me for about 20 minutes to answer my questions as well, even telling me he wasn’t sure I was qualified to attend because “[t]here are students who genuinely want to attend NCCU as their 1st choice instead of wanting to go to Carolina and applying to us as their backup” (which, though I was mildly insulted, I considered an eminently reasonable response from a Dean of a law school). They graciously offered their time to speak with me, provided me with their email addresses if I had further questions, and responded to those emails when I contacted them later. It was a “students first” mentality that comes with trying to build a legacy by taking care of its customers.

  4. Culture. In line with my earlier reference about T4s providing a public service by accepting applicants who are “sub-standard” on paper, the culture at the North Carolina Central University School of Law is one where every student is expected to learn the material and excel. This is reflected in the institution’s bar passage rate (81.9% in 2007, +7.9% over the state average) which is actually comparable to several T1 institutions and most T2s. My impression is that the intensity of the student body stems from the knowledge they are “underdogs” in the legal arena, competing with law graduates coming from schools with bigger profiles, resources and legacies.

    Graduates from top schools, by contrast, seem to lack that same level of intensity. That sense was actually summarized best during my experience working with the North Carolina State Bar (our state agency responsible for licensing and regulating attorneys). I was a college dropout at the time and working as a low-level staff member in the Grievance Division. When I mentioned to one of the staff attorneys my interest in law school and wondering where I should apply, I got this as a response (inflection and hand gestures translated visually by me):

    • If you want to be a lawyer who knows the law, go to Campbell (another T4 in the Triangle)
    • If you want to be a judge who knows the law, go to Central
    • If you want to be a politician who “knows” the law, go to Carolina

    (one of the newer attorneys who was still paying down his student loans also chimed in with “If you want to know the law but be homeless, go to Duke” :))

    I simply mesh better with an environment where there’s a feeling of “us vs them” and people are willing to help uplift each other because we’re all essentially a family. There’s still competition of course, but all the “gunner” talk you see on other law-related blogs doesn’t seem to apply to NCCU.

***

And although it wasn’t an actual reason behind my decision, I thought it was fitting that NCCU’s school colors of maroon and gray were just a slightly darker shade than NC State’s red and white ;)

I realize the length of this post has reached ridiculous proportions, so I’ll clip it here for the evening. At some point over the next couple days I’ll actually get into my other experiences during orientation this week… some of which I’ll admit now were more than slightly embarrassing. Good night folks :)

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Why a T4 law school was my 1st choice (Part I)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 13, 2009 in Background

One thing I’ve learned when starting a new project is to keep it secret until you’ve got a fairly decent idea of how you want the project to turn out. Ask someone for their thoughts on a vaporous concept alone and you’re likely to get a critical response — and sometimes you don’t even have to ask.

That was the case today, my 2nd day of orientation at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.  During a mid-day break while talking with a prospective friend (I’m shy by nature so on those few occasions the opportunity for conversation is thrust upon me I hang on for dear life) I was asked about my undergraduate background, which in turn led to a discussion about studying Computer Science, which in turn led to a discussion about social networks / blogs / Twitter / etc… which in turn led to me mentioning law:/dev/null.

At that point a kid who I can only conclude has a raging inferiority complex jumped in with “You’re going to a Tier 4 law school, what on earth can you know about being a 1L to justify writing a blog?” (emphasis his).

So many things with that statement that merit ranting, so little time.  So I figured I’d hit the main one.

Most people by nature are braggarts, and lawyers more so than most.  An outgrowth of that reality is the constant pigeonholing of people based on the law school they attend.  US News & World Report kindly contributes to this foolishness by ranking all 184 law schools in the country and helpfully chunking them into roughly equal-sized Tiers.  Your top schools like Harvard, Stanford, Yale and so on go into Tier 1, while your non-top schools like Appalachian, Duquesne, Ave Maria and their counterparts go into Tier 4.

The statistics about each school generally determine their tiers.  Higher tiers tend to have “more selective” admissions, higher bar passage rates, and better job placement percentages; lower tiers have “more permissive” admissions and lower percentages on both bar passage and job placement.  Although rankings might be useful to the braggart class, they can create self-fulfilling prophecies that don’t accurately reflect the quality of what students are actually taught — for example, higher ranked schools get more attention in books like US News Top 100 Law Schools, therefore they get more applications for a fixed number of spots, therefore they become even more “more selective” when most of those folks get rejected, therefore their rankings are reinforced or improved the next time around, and so on ad inifinitum.

What on earth can a student at a Tier 4 law school know to justify producing a blog?  The same stuff as everyone else — almost all 1Ls get taught the exact same material, primarily because groups like the American Bar Association have certain basic standards that have to be met for a law school to get accredited.

But that fact begs the question:  if everyone is learning substantially the same material, why would anyone bother attending a Tier 4 school in the first place when it would seem (at least statistically) that a top school would give someone better odds at passing the bar and landing a job?

I’d tell you, but it’s just past midnight (as in 2+ hours past my bedtime).  Keep an eye out for my answer tomorrow :)

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