TDot’s Tips #7: Own your awkwardity

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 23, 2009 in TDot's Tips

Law school, in many respects, reminds me of kindergarten. Your entire grade is divided up into a few groups. You stay in one room for the entire day and different teachers come to you instead of the other way around. Several professors have you fill out index cards with basic info and facts about yourself (I even had to buy a glue stick for 2 of them — first time I’ve used glue in well over a decade). You have your teacher’s pets in the front of the room (not me), your cool kids in the middle (not me), and your miscreants in the back (me).

And awkwardity seems to be everywhere you look.

My guess is that it’s a result of everyone being in a foreign environment studying foreign material and not knowing what answers to provide to the professor’s foreign questions, but even the suave kids find themselves thrown off their game.  And I, being the incredibly suave guy I am (no snickers please), seem to have already enjoyed my fair share of awkward moments.

The first week of school was kind enough to continue that trend.  On Friday mornings we have a lab section for Legal Reasoning & Analysis, which is the only class where our 60ish students are divided up into groups of 20 or so.  Professor LRA announced the sections we were in on Wednesday and passed around an attendance sheet that included info on it.  I signed it, then dutifully wrote down the room number I was to report to on Friday.  Friday morning arrives, I get to class on time (barely), see DMoff and M.P. (both part of the Gang of Eight) in the back, go to join them… then get quizzical stares from several people.  DMoff asks if I’m in the right section, pulls up the roster on his computer, and sure enough it says I should be in a different one than I am.

The professor, ready to start class, wants to know what we’re talking about.  Now with the light shined firmly on me, feeling like a goober (again), I note that it appears I’m in the wrong section, re-pack my stuff, and walk myself across the hall.  Come in to the new class late, hand the professor in there my homework assignment, and tell her it seems I wrote down the wrong section info yesterday and should have been there instead.  She starts class as the attendance sheet is going around.  The attendance sheet gets to me… and my name isn’t on it.  Turns out I was right the first time, and that the roster which was posted online was an older edition.  So I gently raise my hand, tell the teacher about my  now-2nd screw-up, grab my assignment from her and go back to the class I was at the first time.

Ordinarily I would have been beet red from embarrassment before walking into the other class, but I realized after orientation last week that I was/am destined to end up being “that guy” (not to be confused with That Guy).  So before I left that first class the first time, I cordially announced that knowing my track record I was probably wrong and would be back shortly (which of course I was), and upon my return intentionally waved in an idiotic fashion to the professor and the other students in the room.  Apparently at least a few folks thought it was endearing.

I suspect the overwhelming majority of us are socially awkward creatures, and the reason we laugh at someone else’s faux pas is out of a nervous gratitude that “at least it’s not me!”  So the easiest way to preemptively cope with that reality is to take ownership of your awkwardity. Make a joke out of it.  Self-deprecating humor is a staple of lawyers and politicians alike precisely because it disarms people and builds a bond between you and them.  It conveys to the other person that you know exactly why they’re laughing, and it’s OK because you agree that it was pretty damn funny.

That’s my take on it at least, and it seems to be working well so far :)

I’m off to read Civil Procedure and Torts cases for the rest of the night.  Have a great evening folks! :D

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TDot’s Mailbag v1.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 20, 2009 in Mail

Before jumping in, I’m going to try and write these daily posts in the middle of the day from now on. I’ve noticed that when it gets late and I haven’t typed something, I’m more inclined to put off case briefs in order to write an entry. Although I’ll probably post less content as the semester grinds on and I have less time, I’m trying to keep with Jansen’s advice of posting daily so I don’t abruptly give up on it ;)


As odd as this might seem to the non-CSC folks out there, I actually forgot I had an email address for this blog that had been passed around in a couple places (and evidently forwarded on from there).  I created it right before running the WordPress installation, but I maintain just shy of 20 different websites for various groups with dozens of email addresses so I just forgot about it afterwards.  When I randomly remembered it last night and added it to my list of accounts in Mail.app, I had a few dozen emails from WordPress and surprisingly a few emails from folks I don’t even know.

So I’m bundling that with recent Facebook and text messages into a quasi-“Reader Mail” segment :)

Q: Alice1 writes:

What does law:/dev/null mean?

A: On any Unix-based operating system (e.g. MacOS X, Linux, etc) the word(s) before the “:/” is the name of the volume (the disk).  On Windows it’s probably called something like “Local Disk” or “C” or something similar; Mac and Linux users get to personalize theirs (despite my age I’m a fan of Pokémon video games so my laptop drive is named “Umbreon”).

Those same Unix-based operating systems have a folder at the root of their filesystem called “dev” which is shorthand for “device”, which includes files that are used for interfacing with programs.  Input is done by writing data into those files; output reads data from those same files.  So, for example, input from your keyboard is typically routed through the stdin file (“standard input”), output to the console/terminal/screen goes through stdout (“standard output”), disk0 is the file representing your hard drive, and so on.

null is the “null device”, which basically is a “fake” device used for discarding input as soon as it’s received and not displaying to anything or sending it anywhere. If you ever go to the office of a grouchy IT worker, you might see a sign that says “All complaints will be filed in dev/null” or something similar, which roughly translates to “Don’t bitch because you’re going to be ignored and anything you write down will get thrown in the trash.”

I’m pretty egregiously oversimplifying all of that for those who aren’t technically inclined, but putting it all together in a nutshell law:/dev/null would be the null device on the volume named “law” where you’d send any input you want discarded as soon as it’s entered ;)


Q: Bob from my alma mater writes:

Did your entry from yesterday about That Guy actually happen?

A: Oh yes. Ooohhhhh yes.  I wrote it as a quasi-judicial opinion to be mildly humorous, but That Guy was very real and the withering-but-deserved tirade he endured from Professor Torts happened as I laid it out.

If any of my Section 103 folks happen to read this, feel free to jump in and vouch for me :)


Q: Cici writes:

Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?  Are you OCD?

A: (1) Yes.  (2) Maybe.  I just counted the lights because it seemed every morning I was late I’d hit a majority of them, so I figured I’d test my theory :P

There are 16 total from the apartment to the parking lot by the way…


I’ll add more as I go through them, I’ve still got a few left but may save them for whenever I run out of something worthwhile to say ;)

Enjoy your evenings everybody! :D

  1. All of these names will be pseudonyms, so don’t worry if you write in :) []

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Professor Torts unleashed!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 19, 2009 in The 1L Life

I wasn’t even going to write a second entry today given my sadly predictable start to the morning.

But it’s not every day you get to personally witness a homicide…


Supreme Court of TGD, 2009
10 F.2d 747

TDOT, CHIEF JUSTICE.  The victim was the self-esteem of a 1L student (hereafter dubbed “That Guy”), mercilessly decapitated in plain view of about four dozen witnesses.  The accused claims self defense and accordingly has filed a Motion to Dismiss, citing the deceased’s attempted assault on her intelligence.  The incident took place at approximately 2:15pm in Room 102 of the Turner Law Building at NC Central University.

Defendant was teaching her course in Torts I, and had selected That Guy as the student responsible for debriefing the second case of the day (Spivey v. Battaglia, 258 So.2d 815 (1972)).  That Guy sat in silence for at least 45 seconds, to which the Defendant indicated he could “begin at any time.”  That Guy replied he was just trying to open his brief on the case.  Students adjacent to and behind That Guy noticed he was pulling up an incomplete brief provided by the 2L students to 1Ls as a supplement, containing minimal case information.  That Guy proceeded to recite the information contained in the 2L-originated brief.

Defendant asked the victim a series of questions relating to the case, whereupon it became evident That Guy had read none of the material and was simply trying to bluff his way through his experience with the Socratic method of teaching.  Defendant continued questioning, receiving in response the same minimal information reworded in various ways.

Upon realizing the cluelessness of That Guy, the Defendant proceeded to ask a variety of trick questions.  For example, in an incredulous tone she asked if Battaglia did indeed paralyze Spivey with just a one-armed hug around the neck (he had), to which That Guy replied that he “thought she might have fallen down or something afterward that caused it.”  Defendant corrected That Guy and continued with similar questions.

Defense Exhibit A - Note the different colors for Torts (blue) and Property (red)

Defense Exhibit A. Note the different colors for Torts (blue) and Property (red).

After roughly 10 minutes of questioning, That Guy replied that he was sorry and should have been more thorough with his brief.  Defendant replied that he should ignore what is written in his brief and consult his textbook.  The Court notes at this point that the covers of textbooks for 1L students are in different colors as apparent in Defense Exhibit A.

That Guy turned a couple pages in the open book on his desk and began to speak.  Defendant interrupted the deceased before he could utter a word and noted the book on his desk was (by virtue of its red cover) not the Torts textbook.  In a menacing tone Defendant inquired if That Guy was reading for another course in her class, on the second day of said class, when he was clearly unprepared.  Defendant further interrogated That Guy by asking what exactly he was thinking or how exactly he was expecting to get away with responding to Defendant’s questions with text from another book. The verbal exchange between That Guy and Defendant continued for an unknown period of time until That Guy placed his Property textbook in his bookbag. His face as red as a baboon’s hindquarters with a sunburn, the deceased stammered various indeterminable utterances before the Defendant moved on to the next case.

None of the facts entered into evidence in this matter are disputed by the State.  It is apparent to this Court that the deceased read none of the material required for his class.  It is further apparent that he attempted to mislead the Defendant by reciting information from an incomplete brief that he himself had not completed.  It is still further apparent that he did, in fact, attempt to assault the Defendant’s intelligence by then reading the text of a different course’s textbook in search of suitable answers to Defendant’s questioning.

Based on the record before this Court, the cause cannot be sustained.  The Defendant’s Motion is granted.  Charges dismissed.


Advice to current and future 1Ls:

  • Read the material in the syllabus.
  • If you haven’t read the material, confess your sins and accept the penance imposed upon you.
  • Never try to bluff a professor.  They know more than you do.
  • If you’re going to roll the dice and try to bluff a professor, don’t use a canned/incomplete brief… and make sure you have the right textbook on your desk ;)


Good night everybody! :)

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