7

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

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 29, 2011 in The 3L Life

Sunday night I posted an entry outlining my rationale for seriously considering solo/SmallLaw practice after I (hopefully) graduate from NCCU Law on May 12th, 2012.

And yes, I keep a running countdown of the 165-in-151ish-minutes days until I’m done with school ;)

This entry goes over some of the pros and cons I’ve mulled over a bit as I tossed this idea around in my head these last couple weeks. It’s not intended to be an exhaustive list, and our commenters from the last entry had links I need to review with info I haven’t checked out yet (it’s on the post-exam to-do list).

I’m writing it down now to (i) get feedback from you readers and any current/aspiring solos who happen to stop by, and (ii) provide a record for myself so I don’t forget :beatup:

We’ll start with the risks/cons/downsides, because frankly right now they scare me more than the rewards/pros/upsides…

T.’s Initial Reasons AGAINST Going Solo After Graduation:

  • Risk of shortchanging clients due to inexperience: This is far and away my biggest worry — I don’t want to be doing “on the job training” when someone else’s interests are at stake and risk screwing up as a result. Maybe it’s just not-a-lawyer-yet naiveté that I’ll outgrow, but the risk of someone paying me for something and getting less-than-perfect representation just really unnerves me. It’s one thing to go solo after working in a firm where you’ve had a chance to have other people looking over your shoulder for a few years, but I’d literally have nothing but clinical experience to guide me if I went solo right out of the gate.
  • How are bills getting paid again?: Second issue priority-wise is finding revenue those first few months out. I know I could manage money frugally enough and hustle hard enough to build up a financially adequate client base over the long-term, but have no clue at all how I’d keep the lights on from August through February.
  • There’s a lot of @#$%ing paperwork: Incorporating. Insurance. Leases. Taxes. Contracts. Employees one day, with all the payroll stuff that goes with it. Making contingency plans for clients in case I die unexpectedly. There’s a lot of paperwork and related stuff that has -0- actual relation to the law part of practicing law, that I’d not only have to knock out up-front if I started my own firm but also monitor regularly for eternity. And after already becoming a criminal because I forgot a postage stamp, I’m not exactly enthused by those obligations.
  • The Triangle has several metric tons of attorneys: Although I’m not categorically averse to moving elsewhere in North Carolina, most of my network and support structure are here in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area… along with what seems like every other attorney in the state :beatup: Being a new entrant in an established marketplace is a difficult challenge without some kind of hook/niche I could stake out.
  • I’d need a secretary…: This ties in to the 2nd and 3rd issues above. Given my own personal shortcomings, I’d need someone on staff to look over my shoulder and make sure paperwork gets completed, calls get answered, appointments don’t get double-booked, and so on. But I have no clue how I’d be able to afford them until I’ve got a decent stream of clients coming in.
  • …but I’m a big teddy bear when it comes to critiquing/firing people: My management skills also apparently need work. I’ve been told that I’m stellar at motivating people, getting a team to get things done, that sort of stuff; I’m also brutal when people are so glaringly incompetent that they have to be canned. On the other hand, I’ve also been told I’ve let people remain in positions long after they should have been fired when they’re less incompetent and more just lazy, instead hoping they’ll shape up. Not sure I’m sufficiently dispassionate to make the tough decisions on disciplining/firing people.

So that’s the first batch of reasons why me going solo would be a bad idea. Now for the counterweight:

T.’s Initial Reasons FOR Going Solo After Graduation:

  • After 13 years in NC, I’ve got a fairly wide network: The main justification for starting a business of some kind, be it law or otherwise, is that I’ve been incredibly blessed to meet a boatload of people since I moved to North Carolina way back in 1998. I know folks from my first time at N.C. State, the places I worked over the 5 years I was a college dropout and political activist, my second time at N.C. State, and everyone I’ve crossed paths with in my roles as Student Senate President, UNCASG President, and SBA President here at the law school. These folks, and the folks they know, would be the first step in a potential client pool.
  • I’ve got a talent for building things: It’s something reflected thoroughly in my personality (at least in every personality test I’ve taken). Whether it’s my brief stint as a professional web developer back in the early 2000s, restructuring Student Governments, writing a blawg for a couple years, or something else — I greatly enjoy (and am at least marginally skilled at) building organizations. The whole “vision thing” hasn’t been a problem yet.
  • Excellent support at NCCU Law and NCSU: Part of my reluctance to leave the Triangle is knowing I’ve got a top-notch set of faculty and staff I can ask for information or ideas if I really need it. It’s an ironic by-product of being a less-than-stellar student academically but otherwise a reasonably acceptable human being :)
  • Free access to 3 different libraries: State law requires that library facilities at UNC-system institutions be open to the public during “regular” operating hours, which includes NCSU, UNCCH, and NCCU all here in the Triangle.  There’s also a requirement that the law libraries at NCCU Law and UNCCH Law have kiosks for public use of Wexis as well. I could save a ton on legal research just by using the resources made available through my tax dollars.
  • No significant monetary commitments right now: I don’t have a mortgage, my car’s paid off (even though it breaks down regularly), I’m unmarried, and the only dependent living in my apartment has four legs and barks at people. For the past 2 years I’ve lived off less than $30,000 and been more-or-less-OK financially. I’d certainly like to make more than that — especially with student loan payments coming up — but I’m not addicted to a huge salary so I’ve got some flexibility to take calculated risks right now.
  • I am my own IT Department: If there’s an upside to taking 6 years to get a 4-year computer science degree, it’s being able to handle tech needs on my own without hiring an IT guy :beatup:
  • Freedom: The biggest upside to going the solo/SmallLaw route is having freedom to do whatever. If I want to create a specialty practice, I can. If I want to go a general practice route, I can. If I want to randomly change what I’m practicing entirely, I can do that too. It ensures I’m never more than a single decision away from continuing to enjoy what I do for a living.

So that’s my initial set of pros/cons as of tonight. I’m sure there will be many more down the road, but for now if feel free to share your thoughts at your leisure! :D

Thanks and have a great night!

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From the law:/dev/null archives on me going solo after graduation:

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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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Things TDot Likes: Young Leadership

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 8, 2011 in Things TDot Likes

Good evening y’all! :D

This will be another abbreviated entry as I continue trying to climb out of the monstrously @#$%ing huge academic hole I’ve dug myself, but I wanted to highlight some of the election results from today’s municipal elections in North Carolina.

In particular, there are now at least 3 folks under 30 years old who got themselves elected to Town Councils across the state :surprised:

Out west in Boone (home of Appalachian State University), incumbent 29-year-old Councilman Andy Ball got himself reelected to a second 2-year term.  At the bottom of the group age-wise, the voters up the street in Chapel Hill (home of UNCCH) elected 22-year-old Lee Storrow to a spot on their Town Council. And down in Apex (20ish minutes from NCSU), 24-year-old fellow Wolfpack alum Scott Lassiter will be joining the ranks of that town’s government as well.

All three of these guys were active in the Student Governments of their respective campuses — I met Ball and Storrow in my role as UNCASG President, and served with Scott in the N.C. State Student Senate — and ran polished, idea-oriented campaigns. And although their respective political philosophies differ from my own, it’s pretty doggone cool to know they’ll now be making decisions that have a big impact on taxpayers in their respective towns.

Congratulations to the victors, and good luck for the next 2 years ahead! :)

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From the Things TDot Likes archives:

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Billing by the word (or, “Redundant Redundancy FTL”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 17, 2011 in Fail

Hey everybody! :D

I hope all of you have had an amazing weekend!  The crush of work I mentioned in my last entry is finally finished, so I’ve spent the past couple days reflecting on life,1 relaxing,2 and now working on a leadership development presentation for my undergraduate colleagues in the N.C. Central University Student Government.

And of course taking a break to throw one of these posts together ;)

It’s no secret that I’m generally not a fan of Contracts (see here and here and here if you don’t know why). The concepts aren’t exactly difficult, I’m just not aware of any field of law where people have gone to greater lengths to defile the meaning of perfectly functional English words.

Not even Capt. Picard approves of these Ks

Now most legal documents seem to have taken the old adage of “Don’t use a 10-cent word when a 5-cent word will do” and replaced it with “Don’t use a 10-cent word when an identical or substantially similar conveyance of meaning is articulable through the concurrent deployment of at least, but not limited to, a half-dozen or more $2 locutions.” :beatup:

So this entry is dedicated to those documents and to the lawyers billing by the word who wrote them.3

I’ve picked a quartet of clauses from actual contracts that have crossed my desk over the past few months for your reading pleasure, and underlined the language that irks me…

Honorable Mention:

This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of [RandomState], without reference to its conflict of laws principles.

Now I realize that this underlined snippet is actually designed to serve a purpose. Those of you who paid attention in CivPro might recognize this entire clause as a “choice of law” provision, indicating which state’s laws the parties want to use in enforcing the contract. And some of those states have enacted statutes — their “conflict of laws principles” — that say if a cause of action arises in another state, that other state’s laws should govern the conflict.

So, hypothetically, if a contract between a buyer in North Carolina and a seller in Virginia is construed under North Carolina law, but something happens in Virginia such that the seller defaults and the buyer files suit, a judge interpreting the contract might say “Construing this contract under North Carolina law, since this default happened in Virginia and North Carolina’s conflict of laws provisions say a contract must be governed by the law of the state giving rise to the cause of action, the Virginia law applies to this suit.” The underlined text would, theoretically at least, prevent that from happening.

[Note that I don’t actually know if what would actually happen in that particular hypothetical, I’m just trying to come up with a rational explanation for the underlined verbiage :beatup: ]

Then why, assuming this language really does serve a purpose, did it get included in my list?

Because one of the cardinal principles of contract interpretation is construing the contract in a way that effects the intent of the parties. It’s evident from including a choice of law provision in the first place that the parties wanted it governed by the law of the chosen state. For either party to then use the chosen state’s conflict of laws principles to wedge their way under the aegis of a different state’s laws would seem (to my feeble mind at least) to frustrate the signatories’ intent.

***

Third Place:

Notwithstanding any provision of this Agreement to the contrary, if any confidential information is required to be disclosed pursuant to an order of a governmental agency or by operation of law, the receiving party shall be permitted to disclose such confidential information in accordance with the order or law. Prior to the disclosure the receiving party shall, unless prohibited by law, give the disclosing party reasonable advance notice to contest the disclosure.

Is there any kind of notice “[p]rior to the disclosure” that would not be “advance notice”?

Is there any kind of “advance notice” to contest a disclosure that could happen after “[p]rior to the disclosure”?

Unless the meaning of those basic words has changed since I last took an English class, the answer to both questions is “no.” The redundancy is unnecessary surplusage.4

***

Second Place:

In the event of a breach of this Agreement, [OurCo] may demand from [YourCo] the sum of One-Hundred Thousand U.S. Dollars ($100,000.00) as liquidated damages and as reimbursement for expenses incurred and estimated to be incurred by [OurCo], which [YourCo] agrees to pay to [OurCo] within five (5) business days of the demand by [OurCo].

This one evidently originated in the Legal Department of a company that really likes seeing its name in print :roll:

This type of “break fee” provision is common in many contracts, designed to incentivize a party to avoid breaching the agreement. It’s obvious from the first sentence that the ability to demand payment in this clause belongs to OurCo, so the recitation of the rationale (“reimbursement for expenses…” blah blah blah) doesn’t need the “by OurCo” reference. Neither does the last line, since nothing in this clause gives YourCo the ability to make such a demand; we’re only talking about OurCo’s demand here.

And if OurCo is making the demand, why require in the contract that YourCo must “pay [it] to OurCo”? Maybe OurCo’s finance guys want YourCo to pay the money to some random charity so it’s not reflected as income on OurCo’s balance sheet.

Lots of redundancy all around… ::smh::

***

Before getting into our First Place winner, I have to confess up front that I bear some responsibility for any continued longevity this provision now has — I alphabetized the original and removed some of its duplicate listings.5 :beatup:

First Place:

“Document” means a physical embodiment of information or ideas of any kind or nature, including items that are handwritten, printed, mimeographed, lithographed, duplicated, typed, or contained in a graphic, photographic, film, video, tape or other electronic recording. Examples of documents include, but are not limited to: accounts, affidavits, analyses, answers to questionnaires, appointment books, balance sheets, bills, blueprints, book entries, books, cables, calculations, catalogs, charts, checks, computer files, computer logs, computer printouts, computer programs, contracts, correspondence, data, deeds, deposit slips, desk calendars, diagrams, diaries, drafts, drawings, emails, evaluations, expense reports, films, forms, formulas, graphs, income and/or investment statements, indexes, instructions, invoices, journals, ledgers, letters, license agreements, lists, logs, magnetic tapes and cards, manuals, maps, memoranda, microfilms, minutes, money orders, newspaper articles or clippings, notations, notes, offers, opinions, pamphlets, papers, periodicals, photographs, plans, publications, punch cards, purchase orders, questionnaires, receipts, records, renderings, reports, schedules, sheets, specifications, statements, statistical records, studies, summaries, surveys, tabulations, tax returns, telegrams, telex messages, text messages of any kind (including AIM, ICQ, MMS and SMS), transcripts, vouchers, warranties, web pages, websites, work papers, and worksheets. Documents also include, but are not limited to, reports and recordings of (i) telephone or other conversations, (ii) interviews or personal conversations, (iii) conferences, or (iv) committee meetings or other meetings, in addition to all other records or information kept by electronic, photographic, mechanical or other means, and things similar to any of the foregoing, however denominated.

This one actually takes up an entire page once it’s put in 12pt Times New Roman and doubled-spaced :crack:

For comparison, Black’s Law Dictionary defines a “document” as “Something tangible on which words, symbols, or marks are recorded.”

And Merriam-Webster’s goes with “a piece of written, printed, or electronic matter that provides information or evidence or that serves as an official record.”

Neither apparently feels it necessary to provide a page’s worth of examples.

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Have a good night y’all! :)

  1. Son of TDot turned 13 yesterday :surprised: []
  2. Saw Harry Potter 7.2 with 雅雅… and, the storyline notwithstanding, thought it was the worst film in the series :beatup: []
  3. Hat tip to Peter Romary of The True Verdict blawg for inadvertently suggesting the title of this entry :) []
  4. And yes, I realize “unnecessary surplusage” is redundant — that’s the point :P []
  5. Meaning the original was even worse, if you can imagine that… []

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25 things about… me

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 8, 2010 in Randomness

Hey y’all :)

I’ve actually got a TDot’s Tips entry ready to go that I was planning on posting tonight, but a couple hours ago one of my friends on Twitter tweeted about a portion of a Facebook note I had written what feels like an eternity ago.1 So I figured since many of y’all have been reading my (crazed) musings for quite awhile now, you deserve a copy/paste of the original note to help shed some light on the man behind the laptop ;)

And even if you didn’t, I’ve got classes starting at 8:30am tomorrow so I need to finish studying and go to bed :beatup:

You can read the original note (and ensuing comments) on Facebook here. Here’s the copy/paste, with footnotes added for the few items that have changed since starting law school:

ok I give up! — 25 things about TGD
by T Greg Doucette on Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 3:57pm

Back in late January, a friend of mine at UNC Pembroke tagged me in a note posting 25 random items about her and asking the folks tagged in the note to do the same — in what turned out to be the first salvo in the latest wave of Facebook “chain notes.” A couple dozen tags later, I still hadn’t written one myself mostly out of (i) laziness and (ii) hoping I would outlast the fad.

Despite the nagging inbox messages and IMs and texts, eventually folks stopped writing the notes in favor of whatever new thing was going around. And there was no note from El TGD. Victory was mine.

Then I guess people felt bad for not responding months ago, b/c the summer rolled around and they started sprouting up again. And again. And again. So after being tagged another couple times, I’m finally throwing in the towel, taking a break from work, and posting my own note so I can assuage my guilty conscience. I even went back and tagged all the people who tagged me originally — and threw in a few extra folks just to subject them to the same shame for not writing a note of their own when they got tagged months ago :P

====================
THE RULES
====================
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you. I may have tagged you even if you’ve posted 25 random things already. In this case I just tagged you because I love you!

[TGD’s edit: I didn’t write the rules, I just copy/pasted them :P ]

====================
25 THINGS ABOUT TGD
====================

1) The “T” stands for “The” (or “Thomas”, depending on who’s asking).

2) Before anyone ever used the phrase “larger-than-life ego” to describe Barack Obama, they were using it to describe me.

3) Loyalty is more important than competence. And I passionately despise incompetence. So you can imagine what I think of disloyalty :)

4) I also have issues with people who i) complain all the time, ii) always need to be taken care of, iii) are unreliable or iv) only contact you when they need/want something.

5) I am a firm believer in a benevolent and almighty God, although I generally keep my faith to myself and usually avoid theological conversations.

6) I didn’t have an alcoholic beverage until I was 25. And I still never touch the stuff in the presence of my grandparents.

7) My greatest contribution as a lobbyist was figuring out how to explain why I don’t smoke (one of our clients was the Cigar Association of America). Remind me to tell you some time if you haven’t heard it already.

8) My eyes are really, really sensitive to light. That’s why I usually keep my office fairly dark and always wear sunglasses outside. It’s also apparently earned me the nickname “The Vampire” among certain denizens of Witherspoon Student Center2 :P

9) It takes a *lot* to get me angry. And on the rare occasions it happens, I’m usually perfectly fine after a decent night’s sleep.

10) In tandem with #9, it kills me to upset people (intentionally or otherwise). Except when it relates to #3 or #4 ;)

11) I’ve learned more in the past 4 years at NC State than in the 7 years before it combined — and more in the past 11 years being in North Carolina than the previous 17 combined.

12) I was raised in Virginia Beach, but never really appreciated the ocean until I moved to Raleigh. As much as I love oak trees, I prefer the coast.

13) Women are my kryptonite. Of all the dumb things I’ve done in my life, the majority were done for a girl.

14) At some point about two years ago I was looking back on the path I took to come back to NCSU… and stopped worrying about failure. It’s a transformative and profoundly empowering realization, even though it also helped torpedo my GPA.

15) Despite #14 I’m still excessively competitive, especially when it comes to basketball, video games, and politics :)

16) There are only 2 decisions I’ve made in my life that I can genuinely say I regret. Few people know either of them. No one knows them both.

17) Once upon a time I was the youngest elected Vice Chairman in the history of the Wake County GOP… and have since been convinced that most of the “party leaders” in North Carolina are utter fruitcakes. Now I generally prefer local Democrats and national Republicans (except for those dumbasses in the House who equated themselves with Iranian protesters).

18) I’m a pretty good cook (breakfast is my specialty), and I’m very protective of my kitchen. But I’m also not terribly adventurous with food — the most exotic thing I’ve tried was alligator, and I wasn’t impressed.3

19) I’ve taken tap, jazz, and ballet classes, sang in chorus, and acted in theatre (and even a movie). And contrary to popular belief, none of it was to meet girls.

20) I’m open to pretty much any kind of music, but my iTunes library is overwhelmingly R&B, rap, and classical.

21) When I first came to NCSU, I couldn’t afford a computer. Looking back, I don’t know how I was able to pass my classes without one.

22) As much as I complain about being stressed, I’m a Type A workaholic and haven’t taken a bona fide vacation in years.4 And forcing me to turn off my BlackBerry for more than an hour is almost as painful as waterboarding…

23) Surprisingly, I enjoy being a teacher and mentor. I have no idea where life is going to take me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that ended up being my career after law school and the USMC.5

24) The most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life so far has been serving in Student Government at NCSU and in the UNC Association of Student Governments. I’ve met dozens of amazing people, worked with some of the best student leaders this state has ever seen, and learned more than I thought was possible — all while helping to improve people’s lives and having more than my fair share of fun :)

25) I am a hopeless romantic, an incurable idealist, and an unapologetic believer in American exceptionalism and the God-given rights of man. I bleed Wolfpack red. I’m allergic to bullshit. I hate cold weather. And I’m done with this note :*

Law stuff tomorrow :) Have a great night everybody!! :D

  1. Feels like eternity even though it was only 1.25 years ago :beatup:  It’s slightly disturbing how much 1L year has permanently warped my perception of time… []
  2. This is the building where the NC State Student Government is located, for my non-NC readers :) []
  3. Unsurprisingly, this is still true :beatup: []
  4. Officially outdated as of this past Independence Day weekend! :spin:   []
  5. Or just “after law school” in light of my cardiovascular shortcomings… []

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UNCASG Wins Student Tax Repeal!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 29, 2010 in Student Government

Hey everybody! :D

Earlier today the North Carolina General Assembly gave preliminary approval to the state budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year — and included among the provisions is a repeal of the 8% student tax that I’ve mentioned in several entries here at law:/dev/null.

With the repeal soon to be final (a 2nd vote happens tomorrow), I wrote up a Facebook note with a chart in it. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to check out the original entry here. You should be able to access it even if we’re not Facebook friends… and if in the process you get the sudden urge to become an FB friend, you’re more than welcome to do so ;)

The note appears below in its entirety:

[Note: by default I’m tagging the ASG President and senior leadership, the NCSU SBOs, and a few extra people on the side. If you don’t want to be tagged in future editions of T Greg’s Tomes, just shoot me a Facebook message :) -TGD]

====================
Past Editions of T Greg’s Tomes:

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T Greg’s Tomes: UNCASG saves students $8.6M+ (a 4,019% return on investment!)

Folks who regularly read T Greg’s Tomes know I don’t exactly get along with student media, particularly the perpetual (and perpetually sophomoric) foolishness-disguised-as-punditry that emanates from the conservative-leaning Editorial Board at the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B and Exhibit C and Exhibit D and Exhibit E and Exhibit F and Exhibit G).

I’m eagerly awaiting whatever backwards spin will get applied to this story now that UNCASG has saved students millions of dollars for the 2nd year in a row…

Earlier today the NC General Assembly gave preliminary approval to the 2010-11 state budget, which includes a repeal of the 8% student tax that was adopted in August 2009 (see line 32 on page 47 of the budget bill) — a repeal the delegates and officers of UNCASG spent most of our last session successfully getting enacted through in-person lobbying, phone calls, emails, and a Tuition Petition signed by over 22,000+ students.

Now even if we just count in-state undergraduates (since anything more complex wouldn’t fit into the graphic below), our work saved University students over $8,642,722.64. Compared to the $1/student fee that funds UNCASG’s budget, that’s a 4,019% return on students’ investment — meaning UNCASG could do absolutely nothing at all for the next 40 years, and students would still be better off financially than they would have been without the group’s work.

Or, put another way, the $1 fee could have been implemented on the very day UNCASG was created on September 22, 1972 and students would still be saving money.

I took the liberty of putting together the table below for everyone’s information and usage, compiling the tuition increase rates from the General Assembly, the Board of Governors alternative rates, and the FTE UG resident enrollment at each institution.

UNCASG wins $8.6M+ in savings

And remember the savings are actually more than this, because 100% of the tuition being paid will now go back to the universities where it belongs instead of going to the state’s General Fund.

For folks who question why I’ve dedicated the past 4 years to UNCASG and the NCSU Student Senate, this is why: in just the past 2 years alone — last year we helped repeal a similar student tax slated for 2009-10 — Student Government leaders have saved UNC system students over $25,730,590.64.

Overall, not a bad deal for the $2 apiece we each paid in. Remember that next time someone complains about your student leaders — and seriously think about becoming one of those leaders yourself ;)

And since I’m a big fan of data and tables, I also made another table showing those added-up savings over the past 2 years as a result of UNCASG’s work. Here are the results:

Savings over 2 years: $25.7M+

Now this isn’t a total victory of course. The authorization for an additional $750/student tuition increase I mentioned to y’all was included in the final budget bill, and odds are roughly 100% that every University in the system will jump on the chance to hike tuition under that authorization. So I don’t expect any UNCCH students, for example, to be grateful for paying $950 instead of $990.

But there are precious few total victories in life, and if that $40 (or $259.60 @ ECU) enables someone to stay in school who otherwise might have to drop out, I’ll consider it a success.

Especially when a budget of $215K saved students over $25.7M ;)

Have a great night y’all! :)

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A chance coincidence of coincidences…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 13, 2010 in Student Government

…or, perhaps, divine intervention. That was the theme of my first speech to the UNC Board of Governors, after taking my oath of office as the Board’s student member.

With my term as UNCASG President ending in the middle of final exams, I never really paused to realize how accurate a characterization that is of my life — and particularly my involvement in Student Government.

It’s a point that got reiterated a couple times over the past few days.

Comments from one of the forefathers of ASG

Earlier today I was getting ready to drive down to Fayetteville State University to run a parliamentary procedure workshop for their Student Government Association, when I logged into Facebook and saw this comment from a past President of UNCASG. This guy is one of maybe 2-3 people who were pivotal in making the organization into what it is today, so I consider it high praise :)

It’s praise I never could have gotten had I not been elected President. And that election was the end result of meeting the Pickle Princess three years ago this past Sunday. I was attending a reception for legislators hosted by the University system, my first event as Student Senate President at NC State. Even though I had been working for a lobbying firm for months I still felt profoundly out of place. So rather than continue trying (poorly) to blend in and mingle, I sat down at a table next to her and introduced myself. We ended up becoming friends, then competitors, then colleagues. Most of what I did in the Association when I was Senate President was to impress her, and she returned the favor by getting us elected a year later when folks loved her but loathed me.

And that UNCASG election itself never would have happened had I not first been elected Student Senate President, a freak election that hinged on my opponent’s taste for apparel touting our university’s athletic arch-rivals. This was after I served the preceding year as a Student Senator, appointed to a vacancy after first losing a 4-person Student Senate election to 3 seats… coming in 4th, to at least 1 guy who didn’t even campaign :beatup:

That appointment was actually my 3rd separate stint in the Senate. I was a Student Senator my freshman year, decided to run for Student Senate President that Spring (as a freshman), and — predictably — got totally obliterated. Yet the guy who beat me “agreed” to appoint me to a Senate vacancy, scheduled my appointment for confirmation, even had me show up to the Senate meeting where I’d be approved. Then, as I was walking to the front of the chamber… he withdrew my nomination, prompted by a pre-planned objection made by the Student Body Treasurer at the time.

The Treasurer happened to be… the same guy who wrote those remarks on Facebook I mentioned at the start of this post :surprised:

To this day that experience easily ranks among the most embarrassing moments of my life, but it taught me some valuable lessons. Most importantly: it motivated me to work harder to excel at what I did so I wouldn’t go through a similar experience again. That motivation led to my return to the Student Senate the next year (albeit briefly), kept me focused on returning to school after finances forced me to drop out, and reminded me to seek perfection in everything I do since.

Except, it seems, law school grades :beatup:

Anyhow, I’d go on with more examples but this particular post is already pretty long. Was it all a chance coincidence of coincidences? Divine intervention? A bit of both? Not sure, but I know it’s been an eventful journey… with an even longer road ahead :)

Have a great night everybody! :D

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DTH Editorial Board explains anti-ASG bias

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 28, 2010 in Student Government

Good evening folks! :)

I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, so rather than get a fresh entry y’all are instead getting a copy/paste of a SG-related note I published on Facebook earlier today.

If you’re on Facebook, feel free to check out the original entry here. You should be able to access it even if we’re not Facebook friends… and if in the process you want to friend me, you’re more than welcome to do so ;)

The note appears below in its entirety:

[Note: by default I’m tagging all of my ASG Vice Presidents, committee chairmen and senior leadership, the NCSU SBOs, and a few extra people on the side. If you don’t want to be tagged in future editions of T Greg’s Tomes, just shoot me a Facebook message :) -TGD]

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Past Editions of T Greg’s Tomes:

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T Greg’s Tomes: DTH Edit Board explains anti-ASG bias, endorses SBP candidate 10 months early

The UNCCH Daily Tar Heel’s Editorial Board has penned ever-more-delusional attacks on the UNC Association of Student Governments this past academic year, for reasons unknown to me. At first I thought it was because I was willing to regularly call out their incompetence (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B and Exhibit C and Exhibit D and Exhibit E and Exhibit F).

But now that my term as President is over, in their second-to-last paper of the semester, they finally explain: they’re upset over their relative lack of influence compared to UNCASG. So after delivering the electoral Kiss of Death for the last 2 years in a row, the DTH is endorsing an SBP candidate 10 months early in an effort to get back into the influence game.

You can read the editorial here.

As a quick prefatory note, it’s common knowledge among nearly everyone in or around the Graham Student Union at UNC Chapel Hill that Rick Ingram is running for Student Body President in February 2011 and Deanna Santoro is managing his campaign. It’s a point so frequently mentioned in conversation after conversation that someone like me — who’s not even a UNCCH student — has known about it for months now.

Their respective political aspirations are why they “leaked” to the Daily Tar Heel that there were alleged issues regarding Dakota Williams’s eligibility for Senior Vice President, when they (mistakenly) thought Williams was ineligible. It’s also why they encouraged the paper to conduct an exposé on my love life when they (mistakenly) thought it would be detrimental to one of Mr. Ingram’s potential opponents.

The fact they’ve been feeding stories to the paper is evident even in this most recent opinion piece. The DTH column claims, for example, that “[o]nly Ingram and Deanna Santoro… voted for the amendment.”

Yet the vote on the amendment, like votes on most amendments in most assemblies, was done by voice vote. In other words, there’s no record of who verbally said “aye” and who said “nay”. This wasn’t a roll call vote, where someone’s name would be tied with their opinion explicitly. This wasn’t even a standing counted vote, where those in the room could at least see who stood and who didn’t.

How then can UNCCH’s purported “newspaper of record” so definitively declare who voted for the amendment? Because they were fed the information by people with an agenda to push, and the DTH ate it up like a buffet.

That agenda was evident in an email Mr. Ingram sent me back on March 4th, where he outlined his plan to try and cut officer stipends and put the money into Campus Innovation Grants to “get some really good press” (you can read his email here). I told him in response that I disagreed with his plan for various reasons, but that he’d have the opportunity to raise his concerns in March when the budget came up for its initial vote. (You can read my response here).

So when the budget came up last month, after it was extensively and thoroughly debated by the Council of Student Body Presidents (see the DTH news coverage), did Mr. Ingram offer his amendment? No. Did he even say anything in debate? No.

In fact, unlike the DTH Editorial Board’s nonexistent “evidence” that Mr. Ingram and Miss Santoro were the only two people to support his shameless political stunt this past weekend, there actually is roll call evidence of Mr. Ingram’s position on the stipends… supporting them.

See the FB36 roll call vote here.

That kind of spineless, vacillating, Kerry-esque “I actually did vote for the $3,000 before I voted against it” style of “leadership” is the exact opposite of what UNC students need in a Student Body President. It’s even more disappointing that two political aspirants would go out of their way to elicit negative media coverage of a group they belong to just to promote their own political careers.

But I guess that’s what separates student politicians from student leaders.

The bigger issue is how totally divorced from reality the Daily Tar Heel’s Editorial Board has become over the past year.

The Editorial Board’s piece begins, for example, with the farcical assertion that “[t]he Association of Student Governments has yet again failed to demonstrate that it is dedicated to reform that would produce tangible benefits for students.” The Board has apparently missed the reforms that have already taken place — ASG’s reorganization, accountability measures, the transparent budget, among others — along with the “tangible benefits” that have come with it, including among others the $50+ per student in reduced tuition/fee rates compared to their $1 investment as a result of UNCASG’s work on the state budget, a near-complete revamp of the student health insurance program beginning this Fall, and the creation of the very Campus Innovation Grant program this same DTH editorial lauds.

A cursory review of the adjournment resolutions from the past 2 years (see last year’s resolution and this year’s resolution) shows a fairly extensive list of what’s been achieved with the “vision of reform” that my running mates and I brought to UNCASG when we took office.

But you don’t even have to look at the Association’s documents to know what it has achieved — you can just stick to reading the Daily Tar Heel’s own news coverage. The Editorial Board’s laughably ridiculous Tuesday editorial was bookended by a Friday news piece highlighting the record participation during my tenure, while a news piece on Wednesday noted the aggressive student lobbying of the General Assembly to repeal its 8% student tax.

So if the state’s key decisionmakers in higher education (the Board of Governors and the General Assembly) know UNCASG has completely turned around, other Student Governments in the University system know UNCASG has completely turned around, and the Daily Tar Heel’s own news staff know UNCASG has completely turned around, how on Earth could the Editorial Board be so willfully clueless?

The answer is: they’re not. They just have an agenda to promote, factual accuracy be damned.

Here’s hoping their choice to discard journalistic integrity in the name of attaining some level of influence on the UNCCH campus doesn’t prove to be a pyrrhic bargain.

[Edit @ 04/29/10 12:35am: I spoke with Miss Santoro at length by phone following publication of this note. While I told her I would not edit any of the original note contents, I did agree to put this disclaimer at the bottom. She assured me during our phone call that she was not involved in any way with Mr. Ingram’s SBP campaign, and also assured me that she had no personal involvement feeding information to the DTH. I have no reason to doubt her credibility and I take her at her word. -TGD]

Contracts exam in the morning, I’ll let y’all know how it goes. Have a great night everybody! :)

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A brief note of thanks

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 25, 2010 in Student Government

My apologies in advance to the regular readers here at law:/dev/null — most of you were never given the context behind tonight’s entry, and those of you who were in all likelihood won’t care :beatup: This particular post is dedicated to a (relatively) small group of people, the overwhelming majority of whom don’t even know this blog exists.

But this is one of those occasions where something needed to be said…

I don’t believe I’ve ever written a post on this blog while intoxicated. And I probably shouldn’t even admit that I drink on this site since I have -0- doubt that prospective employers have checked out this section of internet real estate on more than one occasion. But the glories of in-browser spellcheck (thank you Apple and its Safari development team!) have enabled me to exercise questionable judgment free of any technical obstacles ;)

It’s about 4am on Sunday morning, and for the past 5 hours I have had the incredible privilege and honor of being in the presence of (and yes, drinking with) about 30 of my closest friends — including quasi-adopted family — as we all celebrated my last meeting as President of the UNC Association of Student Governments, followed by our annual end-of-year awards banquet that was executed at the highest level of perfection.

And the success and smoothness of the meeting coupled with the banquet coupled with having these folks over tonight has truly meant an incredible amount to me :spin:

For better or worse, I’m actually a fairly stoic guy.1 It’s partly a bi-product of my upbringing, but it’s mostly the result of my chosen extracurricular vocation — being in charge means having to make tough decisions, having to make tough decisions usually means hurting people’s feelings, and hurting people’s feelings usually requires maintaining one’s composure in order to make a decision that’s in the best interests of everybody even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

So as a result of that well-cultivated stoicism, I rarely convey to the people around me how deeply appreciative and moved I am by their presence in my life. And when I do, frankly no one believes me :beatup: But I tell you folks — and this is one of those #truestory moments — I can’t fully articulate in words how grateful I am for all of you.

I’ve served on behalf of students in some capacity or another every year that I’ve been in college. I began my freshman year as a Student Senator, and I was absolutely abominable at it — I was arrogant, disrespectful, thought I had all the answers, the list goes on.  I actually ran for Student Senate President and got obliterated, coming in 3rd place out of 3 candidates.  I spent the next year in the campus equivalent of political exile, fought my way back into the Senate a year later… just to drop out of college entirely.

As utterly ridiculous as I’m sure it sounds, it ate away at me during the 5 years I was a college dropout to know I had ended on such a low note. I had been rejected by 26,000+ students because of my own arrogance, thought I had recognized the error of my ways and worked to improve, only to then get put out of school entirely.  So I fought my way back into N.C. State in August 2005, and I’d be lying to you if I said the thought of getting back into SG didn’t cross my mind all the way back then.

To make a very, very, very long story short, I thought God had other plans for me. I resumed writing an editorial column for the student newspaper, the Technician. I supported a friend of mine for the Student Senate Presidency. I ran for 1 of 3 Student Senate seats for seniors in the College of Engineering, and came in 4th out of 4 candidates — losing to a guy who didn’t even campaign.2 And I had resigned myself to the fact that at best I would be, as the Technician once quoted me, “the old guy in the back of the room who knew all the rules” and spent his time helping the other folks do their jobs.

Fast forward 3 years. I was elected by the campus of N.C. State to serve as Student Senate President — winning the position I had sought almost 10 years earlier — largely by virtue of the fact my opponent had questionable fashion sense. I was elected to a 2nd term as Senate President the following Spring, then a few weeks later elected President of UNCASG by a 1-vote tie-breaker cast by the presiding officer following a marathon 3+ hour political debate.

And as much as I’d like to pretend I had something to do with that latter victory, the truth of the matter is the Pickle Princess (my running mate) was a far more capable+likeable leader than I, and managed to pull votes from the campuses who didn’t like me at all :beatup:

I was privileged to serve a 2nd term — a rarity among Presidents — and over these 2 years have been blessed to take part in major efforts to refocus the organization, proactively address the costs of higher education, and serve the students of the University by tackling the issues that impact them most.

That all came to a close tonight when my successor and his own vice president were sworn in, both of whom have a lot of work ahead — but who I truly believe are the most capable people for their positions. Despite my official role as ASG President wrapping up, it’s still truly humbling to have been an out-of-state native, political washout, former college dropout, slightly-older-guy-with-slightly-thinnning-hair, and still be asked to work as a student leader with many of the finest such leaders the State of North Carolina has ever produced.

Anyhow, I know this entry is hitting the rambling side (word count in WordPress says I’m pushing 1,000 words), but I just wanted to say *THANK YOU* to each and every one of you with whom I’ve had the honor of serving in the N.C. State University Student Senate3 or in the UNC Association of Student Governments. I know I don’t say it enough, and I know when I say it you probably don’t believe me, but it has been the highest honor of my life to consider you my colleagues and friends. Your work has made an incredible and tangible difference to higher education and the students of the University of North Carolina, and I thank God every day for having the amazing opportunity to be a part of that and to serve alongside you.

Thank you for an incredible journey these past 4 years :) Your support and presence tonight has been incredibly humbling and deeply appreciated. I truly do love you all and look forward to serving with you (albeit in other capacities) for many more years to come.

Thank you all so much,
-T Greg Doucette

  1. Though you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t tell amid all the emoticons I throw into these entries ;) []
  2. Even though he later became one of the few people in my life who I would call if I were ever faced with imminent death and needed help :beatup: []
  3. The single most distinguished student deliberative assembly ever conceived in the State of North Carolina :) []

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Show me the [fee] money

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 15, 2010 in Student Government

It’s officially official: today marked my first day working as Treasurer of NCCU Law‘s Student Bar Association :)

Everyone on the group’s Executive Board seems like cool people who will get along well in the year ahead. Granted that might just be my irrepressible optimism talking, but I’d say it’s a reasonable belief so far.

More importantly than getting along: the other officers are big on getting things done.

Take the SBA website as an example. I think it’s fair to characterize our current web offerings as unacceptable, as we instead put most of our information through the clunky and poorly coded TWEN system.

So during our transition meeting on Tuesday, as the outgoing officers were giving their reports, the Secretary and I were sitting next to each other  getting things in place for a new website. By the end of the meeting the URL was registered, hosting provided, WordPress installed, new theme installed, and listserv up in the background for communication.1

There’s still a ton of graphic and content work that needs to be done over the summer, but it was a pretty solid improvement for 30 minutes’ worth of work ;)

Everyone’s got a ton of ideas: power strips in our Fishbowl,2 some kind of snack option during exams for students who stay here ’til the wee hours of the night, linking up with the undergraduate SG to build a coalition on issues like food services, my personal goal to make our appropriations process more rigorous, the list goes on and on and on.

The Secretary summed it up well earlier today when she remarked “This is gonna be one of those revolutionary type of e-boards, I can tell.”

Things do occasionally get awkward for me at times since I was the only 1L to get elected out of the 3 who ran. So the other 4 executive officers have known each other longer, had common experiences, etc, and every now and then I feel an obligation to “mind my place” in the law school heirarchy.

But the upside to a group sharing a common vision is that the interpersonal divide should melt away in favor of getting that vision implemented. Time will tell.

And until then, there’s work to be done… and haters to be proven wrong ;) Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. Truly never knew my degree would prove to be so useful in law school :spin: []
  2. This would be a huge help to those of us who prefer the student lounge to the law library. []

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