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Well that sucks…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 18, 2012 in The 3L Life

With the end of my last semester of law school (ever!) bearing down and final papers coming due, I’ve started worrying about…

…my grades. :surprised:

Now before I get accused of being a flip-flopper or hypocrite after penning entries like “Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter,” let me explain. I stand by my argument that law school grades are irrelevant; I’ve seen enough people with GPAs lower than mine to be convinced legal employment is largely a game of networking and not being a prick, with jobs going to socially adept people who outwork their competitors regardless of artificial scholastic achievement.1 My 1L grades were sufficiently low that graduating with academic honors was always a stretch, so graduating without them hasn’t been a big deal to me.

My family sees things a smidge differently though :beatup:

Nan has been pushing me to drop the extracurricular stuff and focus on my grades for years now. And my mom still has a tendency to bring up National Honor Society inductions in high school — 15+ years ago! — when I needed a 3.5 GPA for admission and only had a 3.492.2 Now that law school is my “last hurrah” academically, and especially with my GPA so close to the cum laude borderline (currently at a 2.934 on NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve), I’m basically facing the either-or dilemma of graduating with honors or… giving my mom yet another story with which to embarrass me in front of people decades from now.

You can guess which option I prefer ;)

I need a 3.667 semester GPA3 in order to reach a 3.004. One-half of one letter grade below that threshold — a single B+ in a sea of A-‘s — and I’d drop down to a 2.996 with all the parental (and grandparental) disappointment that comes with it.

So it was in that spirit I talked to Prof Ks yesterday, explaining my situation and asking for advice on how to gently twist professors’ arms for insight on how to get better grades. I was/am particularly vexed by Arbitration, where the Professor doesn’t seem to be a T. fan.

Not that she’s without justification. We have weekly journal entries to submit based on the readings for class, designed to ensure we’re sufficiently versed in the material to discuss the cases, and not surprisingly I’ve missed 2 this semester.4 We were also supposed to observe one particular arbitration in person, but the day of that arbitration became the day I ended up on the phone all morning with Sallie Mae trying to explain away getting screwed by the Department of Education; I basically stood in the foyer to the courtroom all morning in my suit, missing everything but the verdict, and earning an incredulous look from the Professor when I explained why I wasn’t in the room.

Like I said, she’s not a T. fan. Anyhow, the bulk of our grade is based on a final research paper and in talking with Prof Ks his suggestion was just to ask Prof Arbitration after class how amazing I had to make this paper to snag an A-.

So I did.

And it did not go well…

Favoring the direct non-poker face approach, I just came to her office and asked the question: what can I do to get an A-?

Prof Arbitration’s response: “Oh you’re beyond that.” Her tone of voice made it clear that “beyond that” meant “too low for it to ever happen,” but just in case I misunderstood she made sure to clarify by adding “And what I mean by that is that it’s just not possible.”

Me, to myself: “Well d*mn.”

It definitely put a damper on the rest of the day. Now I’m stuck in this worst-case scenario where I have to go all-out in Arbitration (an elective) to make sure I get at least the B+, and somehow swing an A in one of my other 3 classes.

It’s gonna be a long couple weeks…  :roll:

  1. Or, as Prof Ks aptly put it back during 1L year: “When your competitors are sleeping, you’re hustling. When they’re hustling, you’re hustling harder.” []
  2. No attention paid to the fact I had -0- actual interest in joining NHS, since a good number of the members looked down on folks like me who spent the day playing either basketball, RPGs, or video games. But I digress… []
  3. A-‘s across the board, and what would be my highest GPA ever in law school :beatup: []
  4. Even so, I’m one of only a quintet of students who regularly participates in an often-silent class discussion. I always do the readings, they just typically get done the night before class when I don’t have time to write a journal entry. []

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1

Incorporated!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 16, 2012 in The 3L Life

Hey y’all!

I know I disappeared again, and school still sucks, and I can’t really write much on this entry because I’ve got a paper due in Professional Responsibility at 9am and another NC Distinctions test at noon (right before a presentation in Arbitration at 10am on Wednesday on a topic I haven’t even started researching yet :beatup: ).

But I wanted to post something so y’all don’t think I’ve pulled the plug :)

And I also wanted to let y’all know that we filed Articles of Incorporation for the North Carolina Small Practice Incubator & Collaboration Environment earlier today! :D

In addition to class, over the past couple weeks I’ve been immersing myself in the world of business plans and revenue streams and figuring out how to create a 501(c)(3) and then get it financed and off the ground. I’ve managed to convince some heavy hitters to take the first few slots on the Board of Directors: Peter Romary over in Greenville (the same Peter Romary mentioned here and here), Donald Thompson Jr down in Raleigh (CEO at the tech company I interned for 2L year), and Prof Ks here at the law school (this guy).

Now while the AOI paperwork gets processed I’m shifting back to classes, then after knocking out a couple more papers I’m transitioning back to writing the corporate bylaws, a handful of policies on things the nonprofit is going to need to address (conflicts of interest, personnel, etc), and figuring out how we’re going to fund the thing.

The more I work on it, the more I’m convinced we can turn this into a statewide economic engine… and maybe even expand nationally.  :surprised:

We’ll see what happens.

But first I have to graduate, so that’s it for tonight — good night folks! :)

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4

Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part I)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 27, 2011 in The 3L Life

Good evening folks! Hope all of you had a very festive and delicious Thanksgiving holiday! :D

On my end I made the (academically questionable) decision to go visit Nan & Pops for a few days, followed by lunch with 雅雅 on Saturday and dinner with one of my former colleagues/employees from UNCASG on Saturday night. The times in between have been spent steadily working on law school homework1 but I haven’t gotten nearly as much done as I needed to get done.

But frankly I also needed the mental break so I’ll accept the scholastic consequences :beatup:

Part of the holiday conversations included the $700.00 I have to shell out to the NC Board of Law Examiners on the 1st of this coming year,2 my current lack of paid employment for the Christmas break, and figuring out what I’m going to do after I’m graduated and licensed. Long-time readers of law:/dev/null might recall I was hoping to join the USMC JAG Corps before breaking my leg and failing the physical fitness test, with backup plans to go to Officer Candidate School during 2L summer getting shelved when I immersed myself in activities like SBA, trial team, and earning a decent GPA. I still like CrimLaw and could make a decent living as an ADA, but North Carolina’s finances are a mess and because of it there’s a glut of qualified applicants for few ADA openings.

So while I still plan on looking into the criminal prosecution route, I’ve recently found myself seriously marinating on something I had never seriously entertained before this year (seriously): should I just go solo after graduation?

The seed for that idea got planted in the week before the phenomenally successful (and first-ever) Speed Networking event that EIC and the SBA put together here at NCCU Law. Prof Ks asked when I was going to run for Governor because he was impressed with the stuff SBA had been doing; Prof PILO thought becoming a politician would be a waste of potential, and instead suggested I should “go be a CEO for one of these big corporations and make a ton of money” then become a philanthropist.

Both perfectly acceptable options… but neither involved being an ADA :crack:

Then about 3 weeks ago came the water, when over the course of that week I ended up getting 7 different requests for legal help that I had to forward to our legal clinic (2 drug arrests, a speeding ticket, a landlord/tenant dispute, a juvenile issue, a car contract / lemon law question, and patent/business idea inquiry). That’s on top of roughly a dozen or so various other requests I’ve referred to the Clinic over the past 2 years, along with the true oddities like getting calls for legal help from Mexico.

Granted, I know I wouldn’t have been competent to handle all of those issues even if I was licensed. But after years of meeting people through Student Government, UNCASG, and now the SBA, it reminded me that there are a lot of people with legal problems on any given day who need someone competent to advise them.

I’ve gotta get back to studying so I’ll clip the entry here, but I’ve designated it as “Part I” because I’ll be looking for feedback over the next couple months. Part II is in the queue, outlining some of the pros and cons I’ve already scribbled out when it comes to me potentially hanging a shingle after graduation.

Have a great night y’all, and good luck with the week ahead! :)

  1. Even foregoing watching the biggest comeback in NCSU football history  :cry: []
  2. And the extra +$125.00 to take the essay portion on the bar exam on a computer :roll:   []

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Revisiting 1L Spring Grades

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 14, 2011 in NotFail

Good evening y’all :)

As law:/dev/null exhibited the occasional sign of life over the past couple weeks, I had a trio of people ask me the same question: aside from my obvious elation at the ending GPA, how did my individual classes turn out during 2L Fall?

I’ve been meaning to post an entry explaining exactly that… but then realized I never gave y’all a final update on 1L Spring, or any update at all on 1L Summer :beatup:

So to properly bolster my reputation of being totally open about my law school grades, I’ve copy/pasted my previous Spring grades entry and revised it with the exam info :D The textual updates are [bracketed], bolded, and preceded by “Update:” for readability.

I’ll post a separate entry on summer school grades some time this week, and then 2L Fall grades after that — I thought about rolling all that info into this one entry, but considering I haven’t managed to string 3 consecutive entries together for awhile now I wanted to make sure I’ve got easily-editable stuff in the queue ;)

Without further ado…

********************
1L SPRING REVISITED
********************

[Everything below is a copy/paste from this entry except for the updates and the final exam grades. You’ve been forewarned, so any resulting confusion is your own fault! :P ]

====================
CIVIL PROCEDURE II
====================

MDG switched things up from the usual final, giving us a set of multiples but then providing documents from a mock court case to review for the essay. Our objective was to review the documents and craft a letter to the client discussing the numerous FRCP-related concerns that existed.

It was during that portion of the exam that I stopped watching the clock and had time called before I got anywhere near finishing it :beatup:

CivPro II Final Exam Grades

The multiples were a challenge, with MDG describing them as “nuanced” and mentioning that even a fellow CivPro instructor missed a couple. The highest correct was 15 out of 20 multiples (75%) with the class average at 12 (60%) — high enough to pass the Bar, which is definitely a good thing given the difficulty.

The chart to the right shows how the final exam grades broke down. There was a +19-point curve.

My final grade for the course turned out slightly higher than anticipated, so my guess is I did well on the multiples. But I’m kicking myself for choosing a UNC Board of Governors meeting over an extra credit assignment we were given shortly after midterms though — the extra 5 points would have bumped the final grade to a B, bumping my 1L GPA above a 2.7 (eligible for some NCCU Law merit scholarships).

Lesson learned :headdesk:

[Update: I found out from MDG that I tied for top score on the multiple choice, which let me know I completely bombed the essay — so I didn’t bother picking it up :beatup: ]

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: C
Expected final grade for class: C+
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: Worse performance than last semester, but given how gratuitously I choked on the essay I’m satisfied with how it turned out. And now I know to do all available extra credit in the future :beatup:

====================
CONTRACTS II
====================

Not a whole lot to say here: Contracts clearly isn’t my thing.

The downside is that I now have to explain to future employers how I barely passed a core class two semesters in a row.

The upside? I never have to take Contracts again until the bar exam ;)

[Update: This was the first (and thus far only) exam where I’ve underperformed on the multiples compared to the essay. According to Prof Ks, I got 33 of 50 possible essay points and was comfortably above the class median. But I somehow had the 3rd lowest score on the multiple choice :crack:  Still glad the class is over…]

Midterm exam grade: C-
Final exam grade: C
Expected final grade for class: C-
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: I passed :surprised:

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CRIMINAL LAW
====================

If my perpetual flailing in Ks killed any briefly-nurtured dreams I had of going the intellectual property route, CrimLaw coupled with 1L Trial Team have convinced me to follow my heart and go the criminal prosecution route professionally. It’s something I had wanted to do for years, but never seriously considered since public employees don’t make much salary-wise.

But based on my grades it seems like the only thing I’ll be qualified to do :beatup:

The really crazy part? This was my best grade all year, and it was in the one class where I didn’t study for the final exam because I had a UNCASG meeting that weekend :crack:

Professor CrimLaw sent me an email making sure I knew that (i) I earned the grade I got but (ii) I shouldn’t make any professional decisions based on one course. He’s got a valid point but I don’t feel like I’m doing that here — I really, truly, and deeply hate Contracts too so technically it’s based on three courses :spin:

[Update: I missed a trio of the multiple choice, and had a few points taken off on the essay. For an ever-so-brief period of time I thought about arguing with Prof CrimLaw over some of the missed points — including a section where he wrote that I misread the fact pattern, even though myself and every other classmate I spoke to “misread” the same thing — but I was sufficiently happy/stunned to have at least 1 A-range grade that I didn’t bother contesting it.]

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: A-
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: A-

Synopsis: I’m 90% sure Professor CrimLaw isn’t a TDot fan, but I still enjoyed the course. And I’m glad I finally have something other than B’s and C’s populating my transcript ;)

====================
LEGAL RESEARCH & PERSUASION
====================

Along with not watching the clock in the CivPro final, this was my other instance of taking a strong starting grade and pissing it away through truly stunning incompetence.

Note to the pre-Ls: read directions!

Then when you’re done: re-read directions!

Then after that: re-re-read directions!

Trust me :beatup:

[Update: The professor said my final memo was excellent and would have earned me an A- had it not been days late. Le sigh. #kanyeshrug]

Cumulative grade after midterm: A-
Final memo grade: C-
Expected final grade for class: C
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: It could have been worse I guess. At least the research skills we learned actually turned out to be useful. ::headdesk::

====================
PROPERTY II
====================

This was the only final exam where I didn’t have a gut feeling one way or the other on how it turned out. I’m not sure if it was from the stress of the looming Contracts final two days later or what.

My performance was worse than the midterm, but high enough that I ended up with the exact same grade I got in the Fall.

And I don’t remember any of it already :beatup:

[Update: The final for Property II was “meh” all around. Lost a few points on the multiples. Lost a few points on the fill-in-the-blanks covering future interests. Lost a few points on the essay. If anyone has any particularly compelling insights to glean from that performance, let me know :) ]

Midterm exam grade: A- (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: B
Expected final grade for class: B+
Actual final grade for class: B+

Synopsis: At least I’m consistent :beatup:

====================
TORTS II
====================

Professor Torts is currently in Costa Rica with our Study Abroad folks, so I won’t know how the final exam turned out for a long while.

But I know enough to know I blew it :(

Back on the midterms I ended up with the #1 score out of the class on the multiples-only exam, so to end up with a final grade below even last semester’s I must have quite thoroughly FUBAR’d the final. And I feel fairly certain I did well on the essay, meaning I can only assume I botched the multiples.

Meh. Was never a fan of this class either…

[Update: Didn’t do as well on the essay as I thought, completing missing 1 of the issues and losing a point or two on a pair of others. Also didn’t do as bad as I thought on the multiples… but someone nailed everything so there was no boost at all in the typical curving of grades :surprised: ]

Midterm exam grade: A (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: C+
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: This was the only bona fide disappointment for the semester, but at least it’s over. I will most definitely not be taking Advanced Torts ;)

====================
FINAL SCORE: SPRING 2010 FINALS
====================

Expected End-of-Semester GPA: 2.756
Actual End-of-Semester GPA: 2.733

Actual End-of-1L GPA: 2.678 (Law school median: 2.000)

*****

So that’s the final word on 1L Spring.  Info on 1L Summer coming soon (really! ;) )

Have a great night! :D

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

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1

When “honesty is the best policy” goes awry

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 24, 2011 in The 2L Life

Hey everybody! :D

I promise y’all I really truly do have a bunch of entries to get posted. Really. It’s just been an über-insane couple weeks and the backlog just kinda keeps growing.

But I figured tonight’s entry is sufficiently brief and/or fail-worthy that it merited posting in a timely fashion ;)

One of the few character traits I closely guard is my reputation for candor. Love me or hate me, most folks I know will agree that I’m a “no bullsh*t” guy — I’ll tell you exactly what I’m thinking, even if it means you’re not gonna like me afterward as a result. I’d rather have an honest enemy than a fraudulent friend.

99.9% of the time that works out in my favor, like it did with my late critiques in my ADR Clinic class this summer.

Today was the other 0.1% :beatup:

I’d fallen behind in the reading for Business Associations, and I know from experience that if Prof Ks calls on you and you’re unprepared, you’ll be called on again — needless to say, not a 1L experience I care to repeat. And it’s not like I was going to miss anything terribly riveting in Trial Practice. We’re going over how to create a closing argument, something I’ve got a little experience doing already.

So I decided to skip Trial Practice to catch up on the readings. Easy decision.

For whatever reason, I thought it would be appropriate to stop by the Judge’s office after class to see what I had missed. The conversation started like this, verbatim:

Judge TP: “What happened to you?”
TDot: “Well, sir, I was behind in Business Associations and I didn’t want to insult your intelligence by showing up to your class and not paying attention.”
Judge TP: ::blank stare::

And of course there were a pair of 1Ls sitting outside a professor’s office barely a foot away to watch the whole thing :beatup:

After looking at me like I was batsh*t crazy for a solid 30 seconds, he asked me if I knew the next assignment and then walked off. Here’s hoping I didn’t just nuke my Trial Practice grade…

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Here we go again

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 10, 2011 in The 2L Life

Good evening y’all! :)

First day of the my 2L Spring semester was today, and I’ve got a feeling this is going to be one rollercoaster of a semester. As one might expect from some of my past entries, it wouldn’t be the first day of class without a mini-disaster of some kind :roll:

Usually my car doesn’t like to start up in the cold weather, so I get up early and crank it until it starts, then sit there until it warms up, then leave for class. Well this morning it started on the second try (which was weird) so I let it warm up and headed to class a bit earlier than usual… and no sooner do I get into the inner lane of the major thoroughfare outside my apartment, in the middle of morning rush hour traffic, when the whole car just randomly dies.

No gas. No brakes. No steering. Nada.

Luckily for me I wasn’t going that fast and coast to a stop, so with cars barreling down on me I frantically hit the hazard lights switch, open the door and jump out of the car to start flagging other drivers to go around. I eventually get the car to start again and make my way to school…

…but not before I’m solidly late for Trial Practice class :beatup:

In hindsight it was probably a good thing though, because the first day of class was about as exciting as watching grass grow. It covered the basic mechanics and stages of a trial from voir dire through final judgment, stuff I had already picked up between my past professional experience and spending last year on the 1L trial team.

But the class is taught by a judge though and is practically-oriented (all future classes involve different pairs of us going through different parts of the trial) so I’m hoping the excitement level will crank up soon :)

Then I talked with Professor FRE about the Evidence exam and found out I deserved the grade I got, but for totally different reasons than I expected. I’ll save the details on that for the grade rundown once I get all of mine in (still missing 3 :mad: ).

And then I had Business Associations, which will have me terrified for at least the near-term future. Prof Ks (who also teaches BA) got his timeslots mixed up and was late for class, and for whatever reason I decided to do the responsible student thing and go get him — then got rewarded by being the first person called on to brief a case :beatup:

I feel like I held my own so there’s an ever-so-slim I might actually do well with the material this year, but let’s just say I’m glad the class period only lasted about 50 minutes ;)

While I was in class I got a handful of emails from my internship, including docs I need to get reviewed ASAP. The schedule was posted for my tutoring gig so I’ve gotta get rolling on that. Plus there’s a 15-minute closing argument to write for trial team practice tomorrow night, and somewhere between now and then need to read about 80 pages for BA and Criminal Procedure ::headdesk::

The only real upside to today? We’re currently in the middle of a snow + freezing rain + ice storm, so morning classes got canceled :spin:

Expect me to have no hair left by the end of the semester ;) But hopefully it’ll be some fun :D

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5

A sneak peek at 2L Spring

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 27, 2010 in The 2L Life

Good evening y’all! :)

This morning was class registration day for the 2Ls at the N.C. Central University School of Law, meaning all of us were up at the crack-o’-dawn with fingers curled over the keyboard frantically refreshing a TWEN page around 8:00am.

Different from undergrad,1 where we got our PIN numbers weeks in advance and our custom-built registration system was inaccessible until a certain day/time, the Banner registration system at NCCU is up for everyone and instead the PIN numbers get automatically posted at 8am via the Registrar’s TWEN page. So folks have realized the most efficient way to snag classes involves a bit of computer know-how:

  • Look them up in Banner in one browser window
  • Click the “Register” button (which takes you to the PIN screen)
  • Then in another browser window open the Registrar’s TWEN page
  • Hit refresh until the PIN spreadsheet link appears
  • Open the attachment within TWEN as an HTML preview
  • Use Ctrl/Cmd+F to find your Banner ID
  • Highlight and then copy your PIN
  • Alt/Cmd+Tab to go to the other browser window with Banner in it
  • Then paste the PIN in the box and click “Register”.

The whole process from start to finish takes maybe 5 seconds at most.

And people have gotten very good at it…

Last time around that included me. It’s why my Fall 2010 schedule only included 1 elective, as I tried to knock out as many required courses as possible so I could spend 3L year learning interesting stuff.

But this morning I made a fatal mistake :beatup:

After opening the PIN window and clicking the spreadsheet attachment, I accidentally clicked the “Download spreadsheet” link instead of the “Open as HTML preview” option. In the less-than-3-seconds it took me to (i) realize wtf I had done, (ii) frantically click back to the browser, and (iii) open the HTML preview instead, I had given up priceless registration time.

By 8:00:xx, three of the classes I had planned on taking were filled :cry:

So now my 2L Spring schedule is an inverse of the 2L Fall schedule: only 1 required course this time around, with a boatload of electives to go with it.

< 3 seconds == near-total schedule change :cry:

Business Associations is the required course and will be taught by Professor Ks. After my poor showing in both semesters of Contracts last year I’m a little terrified of taking another class with him, but every 3L I’ve talked to has told me he’s better than our other BA professor so I’m gonna try again ::fingers crossed::

Trial Practice I isn’t required but just about everybody takes it, given NCCU Law’s reputation in North Carolina for producing top-rate trial attorneys. I haven’t had this professor before so I have no clue how that’s going to turn out. If I’m lucky enough to make it onto one of our trial teams I’ll be using the class to prep for competition.

Scientific Evidence is taught by Professor DVLaw, which is actually the only reason I’m taking it because I hate pre-9am classes :beatup:  It goes into deeper and more-practical detail on some of the CSI-esque forensics that lawyers see in a courtroom nowadays (DNA, emails, digital photos, etc) which should be cool to learn. But the main motivator is the professor: like MDG she’s tough on the workload and grading, but you leave her classes actually knowing stuff and how to apply it.

Criminal Procedure is a prerequisite for both our Criminal Prosecution and Criminal Defense clinics that folks can take their 3rd year, so I signed up for it now instead of taking Taxation like the vast majority of 2Ls. The downside is that I’ll be stuck taking both Tax and Sales & Secured Transactions during 3L Fall — too many #s in one semester for my taste — but it should give me a leg up in snagging an ADA-ship after graduation. It’s taught by Professor CrimLaw so at the very least it should be entertaining :)

And then Appellate Advocacy I is my throwaway class. The Professor teaching it is the same guy who runs the Criminal Prosecution Clinic during 3L, and it’s a required course if for some reason I decide to try Moot Court in my 3rd year despite my total lack of current interest. Most of the 3Ls have told me taking App Ad and Trial Practice in the same semester is suicidal, so I’m fully prepared to drop it and take it next year if it gets too burdensome.

So that’s what next semester is going to look like :) I’m excited! :D

And the crazy part? I only register for classes 2 more times before becoming an attorney… :surprised:

—===—

From the schedule-related archives:

  1. Not sure about other law schools — how do your schools handle registration? []

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4

T[K]O’d…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 29, 2010 in The 1L Life

Ugh.

Sound familiar? It should :beatup:

I mentioned yesterday that the final exam for Contracts II was this morning at 9:00am. After studying extensively, feeling fairly comfortable with the material, I turned to the first page of the exam this morning…

…and was promptly stumped :(

@#$%

It took me just over an hour to work my way through 30 multiple choice questions, most of which were decided by me narrowing down to what seemed like two equally-plausible answers and just randomly guessing between them.

@#$%^&@ #$!#

I then spent the second hour trying to put together something competent on the essay, my response for which (I learned after consulting Madame Prosecutor post-exam) likely left out several chunks of analysis.

@#$%^&@ #$!# $%^#$% &**!@ #$#% :mad:

There’s at least a chance that the curve will lift me up to passing.  But after my barely-passing performance last semester, followed by my equally barely-passing performance on this semester’s midterms, this makes #3. It certainly looks like an unpleasant trendline…

But the past is in the past, and I’ve got roughly -0- ability to change it now. So I’m taking the night off, then back on the studying grind with Torts tomorrow in preparation for Saturday’s exam. I’ll keep y’all posted on how it goes :)

Good luck to everyone still going through exams!  And have a great night everybody! :D

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7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now back to that email…

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

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

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

Not so with law.

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

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

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

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

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

Trust me ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody experiences the same thing at some point.

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

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

—===—

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

Until then, have a great night everybody! :D

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

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2

Fall ’09 Grades: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugh-ly

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 26, 2010 in NotFail

An anthropomorphic analysis of 1L Fall

::headdesk::

If I had to pick 1 word to describe my 1L Fall semester, that’d be the one :beatup:

Even though NCCU Law takes pride in sticking with its strict-C curve, I figured things couldn’t get that bad.  Between midterms going well and studying my socks off for finals, surely the 3.0 GPA I want wasn’t unrealistic, right?

::headdesk::

So with several of my law school colleagues last week posting their own tales of joy, not-quite-joy, and not-quite-anything-yet, here’s my own report card for the 1L fall semester.

====================
LEGAL REASONING & ANALYSIS
====================

My grades were erratic, my distaste emphatic, and my mood post-completion? Ecstatic.

The only positive thing I can say about this class is that it’s over.

Grade at midterm: C+
Expected grade pre-memo: C
Actual grade post-memo: C

Synopsis: No surprises here. I hated this class and thought the material we were taught was completely useless… a point publicly echoed by at least one of the other professors. Hopefully Legal Research & Persuasion will be better.

====================
CIVIL PROCEDURE I
====================

This was hands-down my best class of the semester, and the grade still hurt.

After thinking I nearly failed the final, the curve boosted my exam grade by 22 points. Combining that with the midterm grade I ended up with a B+ overall… an unfortunate (and painful) 0.5 points away from an A- :mad:

I jokingly emailed MDG asking if I could successfully argue for that half-point. His 2-word response: “LOL. no.”

Midterm exam: A
Final exam: B
Expected grade pre-final: A
Actual grade post-final: B+ (0.5 points away from an A- :beatup: )

Synopsis: Still kicking myself a month later for being so close and blowing it. This is still my favorite class, and I’m determined to do better this semester.

====================
CONTRACTS I
====================

Ever heard the phrase “like an albatross around your neck”? Instead of thinking about the Mariner and an actual albatross, think more like my GPA and good ol’ Contracts :beatup:

I got the grade for this class a few days before the final exams were returned, and even though I figured I got thoroughly mauled minutes after finishing… I didn’t think it would turn out as bad as it did. I went to talk with the Professor about the exam, and the conversation went something like this:

TDot: Professor Ks, I was wondering if I could talk with you about my exam.
Prof. Ks: Sure TDot. What’s your exam number?
TDot: [####]
Prof. Ks: ::flipping through Scantron report:: Hmmm. You did better than the class average on the multiples, so that must mean your essay…
TDot: (in unison) …must have been really bad…
Prof. Ks: (in unison) …must have been really bad.

At this point Prof. Ks starts flipping through a stack of essays.

He goes through the 70s… and keeps going.

Goes through 60s… and keeps going.

Goes through 50s… and keeps going.

Finally he pulls one from a stack of 40s, flips through it, pulls up his Excel gradesheet, and goes “Ohhhhh yeah I remember this one”… not a good sign

Prof. Ks: So this spreadsheet is my rubric where I break everything down, so we’re going to go through it section by section and hopefully you’ll see what you missed.
TDot: OK.
Prof. Ks: ::points at essay:: You mention here that you’re going to talk about promissory estoppel. Show me where you actually talked about promissory estoppel.
TDot: ::flips pages::   ::blank stare::
Prof. Ks: Exactly. OK so here ::points:: you mention that you’re going to talk about fraud in the inducement of the contract. Show me where you actually talked about fraud in the inducement.
TDot: ::flips pages::  ::blank stare::
Prof. Ks: Yep. And then ::points:: here you mention needing to analyze which meaning of [term in contract] should apply. Show me where…
TDot: [expletive]

The conversation shifted to ways I could improve this upcoming semester, but basically I totally FUBAR’d the essay by not re-reading my material closer before turning it in. Maybe it’s time I start overanalyzing after all…

Midterm exam: B
Final exam: D+
Expected grade pre-final: B
Actual grade post-final: C-

Synopsis: ::headdesk::

====================
TORTS I
====================

Nothing much to say here. I came in needing a strong final exam to counteract a disastrous midterm and I got it.

Torts Final Exam Scores

Just like the Contracts final though, there were some really obvious blunders that I should have noticed — for example, detailing the differences between the local, same-or-similar, and national standards of care without ever discussing which standard would apply in the jurisdiction contained in the hypo :beatup:

But after coming off that C+ on the midterm, I’m more than happy with what I got.

On an unrelated note, one of the cool things about Professor Torts is that she provides statistics for her exam scores. Her essays are “auto-curved” (she picks the best one and grades all the others against that top essay) but the multiples are raw, so graphing the final scores you can tell by the trendline that folks really stepped up their studying between midterms and finals — compare the chart at the right to the graph from midterms.

Midterm exam: C+
Final exam: B+
Expected grade pre-final: B
Actual grade post-final: B

Synopsis: Recovered nicely from the midterm, now getting ready to (hopefully) breeze through Round 2.

====================
PROPERTY I
====================

Basically the same thing that happened with Civil Procedure happened with Property.

Same issues on the essay too, e.g. detailing the factors affecting a Statute of Limitations calculation without actually analyzing what the SOL would ultimately be for that particular segment of the hypo.

So after nailing the midterm, I ended up with a mid-range B on the final — and keeping the A’s out of reach as a final grade.

Midterm exam: A (and in Top 3)
Final exam: B
Expected grade pre-final: A-
Actual grade post-final: B+

Synopsis: This one hurt, though not as bad as CivPro. I’m already lost in Property II with all the concurrent estates discussion but hopefully I’ll be back on track by midterms.

====================
FINAL SCORE: FALL 2009
====================
Expected Fall GPA: 3.071
Actual Fall GPA: 2.619
T1-inflation-adjusted Fall GPA1: 3.833

—===—

So that’s the rundown :beatup:

I know it could be much worse and I’m not in a position to complain — after all, I already know at least 1 classmate who’s dropped out as a result of their midterm grades, and another 3 who are on their way out at the end of the year without a miraculous turnaround.

But even with my good fortune, it’s frustrating having to explain to Nan that even though my undergraduate and professional GPAs are only a few hundredths of a point apart, the former meant I was in the bottom third of my class while the latter means I’m safely in the top third.

And it’s almost equally difficult to accept that I can’t really freak out about my grades and overhaul my study habits, because I objectively learned+recalled the material. Yet at the same time I can’t not freak out about them, because had I done comparably sloppy work in actual practice I’d likely be facing a malpractice claim and a grievance filed with my former employer.

Sooooo… yeah.

::headdesk::

Here’s hoping 1L Spring brings some improvement… along with warmer weather ;)

Off to bed so I can be up for Ks on time in the morning. Have a great night folks! :D

  1. JUST KIDDING! I don’t seriously inflation-adjust my grades, and I know the academic environment is different, “the students here are better” (allegedly), blah blah blah — I just put this in to antagonize my friends at UNCCH Law :* []

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