-

Ugh

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 25, 2012 in Fail

When political commentators talk about the presidential election race every four years, have you ever heard them talk about a candidate’s “path to victory”?

I always thought it was a silly phrase to use. I’m not really sure why; maybe because I always saw the President of the United States as a “national” leader that I briefly forgot about the state-by-state nature of the election.

Well this week I’m learning first-hand about the concept  :beatup:

We got back our last-set-of-grades-before-the-final in NC Distinctions, NCCU Law‘s course to help immerse 3Ls in the key distinctions between North Carolina and other states in Future Interests, Criminal Procedure, Real Estate Finance, and Family Law. The course features one test every couple weeks in each of those subjects, worth 20 points apiece, and a final exam covering all four subjects also worth 20 points. Every test except the final can be retaken — the overall score is determined by taking the best of the two scores on the multiple choice portion, and adding the average of the two scores on the essay portion — and there is a curve of no more than +8 points.1 It’s a class the 3Ls before me always complained about and is a renowned GPA killer.

So I’ve been studying my butt off trying to get an A in here now that the best I can do in Arbitration is a B+.

I’d done sufficiently well on the first test (Future Interests) to escape a rewrite entirely, did well on the CrimPro essay so I decided not to risk my score dropping by doing a rewrite for that one, and voluntarily did the rewrite in ReFi to juice my score when I realized the trajectory my grades were taking. I needed roughly an 18 apiece on the FamLaw test and the final; not easy, but not outside the realm of possibility with enough studying.

Me after seeing my latest Distinctions grade

I botched the first FamLaw test multis, earning me a 16. Under the Distinctions scoring model, though, I could bring that up to a 19 on the rewrite.

Then I did the rewrite (the grade we just got back)…

…and got a 16.5 :beatup:

My guess is Prof Distinctions was feeling sympathetic, because she rounded my overall average on the subject to 16.5 from 16.25.  As appreciative as I am, the bigger issue for me now is that I need a perfect 20 out of 20 on the final exam to get that A. Miss a single point and I’m down to an A-; miss 3 or more puts me in B+-and-below territory.

I feel like I’m back at N.C. State, where I spent my Christmas breaks doing academic work and was still doing assignments to graduate in July even after I had “walked” in May.

This is entirely too much effort during what should otherwise be the relaxing downhill coast to graduation… and my “path to victory” is mighty doggone narrow. Grrr.

The final Distinctions exam is tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me y’all! :)

  1. Meaning if someone aces the course the curve will be less than +8, but if we all fail we’re not getting more than +8 no matter how the curve turns out. []

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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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5

In support of the strict C: a year later

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 12, 2011 in Randomness

Waaayyyyy back during the halcyon days following 1L year, I wrote this entry explaining why I supported the “strict C” curve we use at the North Carolina Central University School of Law. “Setting the middle grade in the middle of the grading scale,” I wrote back then, “provides law professors with a full range of options to give you — and gives you the student a full range of feedback so you know where you’re weak and need to improve.”

In the subsequent comments I expanded on that theme a smidge more, but basically my philosophy on the curve was/is this: we’re attending law school to become proficient in the law (not simply to become employed as lawyers), grades are the best opportunity for professors to give feedback to students on where they’re strong or weak, and anything short of what we use at NCCU Law encourages “innovation”/inflation in grading to the point where that feedback becomes functionally useless.

Nothing I’ve seen or experienced in the 17 months since writing that post has prompted me to change my mind or otherwise reconsider my position.

Well now the faculty are contemplating some tweaks to the curve — whether or not to explicitly codify it in a new publicly-distributed document and, if so, whether to inflate where it’s centered — and I’m in a bit of a pickle as SBA President as a result. Literally 100% of the classmates I’ve spoken to about the issue over the past 2 years have expressed unconditional hostility toward our grading system…

…and I still think they’re all wrong :beatup:

The main argument given to me is that inflating the curve will make our people more competitive in the job market, especially with bigger employers who don’t bother to read the paragraph of text atop our transcripts explaining we use a C curve.

It’s an understandable theory, but (to the extent people pay attention to rankings or “brand name”) we’re still a regional Tier IV law school that simply cannot expand much beyond where we are without spending a ridiculous amount of money. Consider: Campbell Law‘s tuition and fees ($33,910.00) are downright obscene compared to what NCCU Law charges ($5,207.49) and they’ve only just now broken from Tier IV to the very bottom of Tier III — still only regional in reach, with graduates still facing the same challenges as us Legal Eagles if they try to venture beyond the borders of North Carolina.

Then there’s my personal suspicion that NCCU Law just plain doesn’t tell it’s story very well. Judging by the search queries and the emails I get, apparently law:/dev/null is one of the main sources of information for prospective students looking to attend the institution. Now as much as I love (love love love) the attention and visitors, it’s downright crazy that a one-man blawg can have any marketing reach at all relative to an established law school with decades of alumni. If you’re concerned about employability of the portion of our graduates going to other states, let’s get our branding and outreach up to par before we start tinkering with the grading system.

While the potential benefits to re-centering the curve are hypothetical at best, I’d argue the things we lose as a result are far more concrete.

The family atmosphere at the law school (see #4 on why NCCU Law was my first choice) is rooted on the shared experience of trying to overcome such a gruesome curve; being one of the survivors of 1L year is A Big Deal™. And our graduates are practice-ready on Day 1 because we don’t sugarcoat incompetence — if you do something poorly, the curve let’s you know you do something poorly. I can’t help but feel a little nauseous every time I hear Jack Boger (Dean at UNCCH Law) talk about all the “innovative” things they’re doing to make UNCCH Law grads practice-ready — stuff NCCU Law has been doing literally for years through our clinical programs, rigorous grading, and willingness to kick out people who come up short.

Is it worth sacrificing our identity as a no-bullsh*t law school just for a boost to some folks’ GPAs? Sacrificing graduates who are practice-ready on Day 1? Sacrificing the “we’re in this together” mentality?

Personally I vote no.

I know I’ve got a roughly 0% chance of convincing my colleagues to concur though, so I’ll just have to grab a bag of popcorn and see what happens next :beatup:

Good night folks! :)

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1

Class Rank Results, 2011 Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 22, 2011 in The 2L Life

Happy Almost-the-Weekend everybody! :D

There’s been a lot going on this past week and all sorts of news in the legal arena that I’ve been wanting to comment on but just haven’t had the time. The internship at I-Cubed has been a lot more enjoyable than I thought corporate work would be,1 grades for Summer Session I courses have all come in,2 it looks like I’ll be the CrimLaw tutor next Spring for the 1Ls and this Fall for the 2LEs,3 I was invited to give a leadership development presentation to the NCCU SGA earlier this week4 — there’s just been a lot going on in a very short amount of time!

Which brings me to the topic of this post: the 2011 class rank charts that we finished gathering data for over a week ago :beatup:

Before diving in to the data, I want to give a huge *THANK YOU* to everyone who participated! We had nearly two-dozen people submit their anonymous information, including folks from the upper and lower ends of the spectrum.  Coupling those with some data points provided by the Registrar we’ve got what should be fairly accurate models for each of the 3 classes submitting information.

Now for some charts…

===================
CLASS OF 2012 (Day Program):  ONE YEAR LATER
===================

We’ll start with my class, since it’s my blawg :P

Class of 2012 Rankings: the top is 2011 (after 2L) and the bottom is last year (after 1L)

The NCCU Law cohort that started in August 2009 began with 169 students, which had whittled away to 157 by the time our 1L year was finished.

Factor out the 18ish folks who fell below a 2.0 and another handful who enrolled in the 4-year JD-MBA program (pushing them into the Class of 2013), then add in folks who transferred in from the Evening Program or are from the August 2008 cohort who are now “in sync” with our class (either from being in a dual-degree program or being readmitted after falling below 2.0 in the 2008-09 year), and we’re down to 152 people.

You can see the impact of students being able to self-select their courses as each of the percentile cutoffs have climbed since last year.  The biggest jumps have come at the lower end of the ranking spectrum; for example, the 50th percentile cutoff is actually higher than my GPA last year when I was at the 40th percentile.

You can also tell from my class rank that there’s a decent amount of fluidity in the rankings. I jumped from #62 to #32 in the span of a year,5 with only a just-over-three-tenths-of-a-point bump in my GPA (e.g. a hair’s breadth greater than the difference between a B- and a B).

Not to continue beating the same dead horse, but that data point tends to reaffirm my argument that your 1L grades don’t matter. ;)

===================
CLASS OF 2013 (Day Program)
===================

Based on the incoming class profile, this year’s 1Ls were an interesting mix.

On the similarities side of the ledger, their class started out slightly larger than mine (174 for them compared to 169 for us) but had shrunk the same amount (-12 students apiece by the end of 1L year). The 75%ile/median/25%ile LSAT scores were also practically identical between the two cohorts.

Class of 2013 Rankings

But on the differences, the Class of 2013 was more polarized. The median age was almost the same (25 to our 24) but the Class of 2013 had more “really young” students in the 21-24 range and more “not as really young” students in the 40+ range. On the GPA side, they also had more students who did better than us in undergrad (75%ile GPA was +0.11) and more students who did worse (25%ile GPA was -0.12).

That polarity also shows up from two points in the 1L ranking data: (1) both their 15%ile and 25%ile GPAs are higher, meaning their high achievers racked up comparably more of the high grades than ours did; and (2) it looks they’ll have a lower number falling below a 2.0, meaning their low achievers soaked up comparably more of the low grades than ours did. Really high and really low grades were more broadly distributed in the Class of 2012.

You can also see the effect of the C-curve to an extent. Even with the low-ranked students taking up more of the bad grades, the median is still almost two-tenths of a point below a B-. And even with their higher-achieving high achievers, no one in the Class of 2013 scored above a 3.78.

===================
CLASS OF 2014 (Evening Program)
===================

When I started this data gathering operation I really didn’t expect anyone from the law school’s Evening Program to send me their information. They were extended the invitation of course, but I only know maybe 3-4 people in the entire program who I know have been to law:/dev/null at least once so I figured the odds of someone seeing the call for submissions were a bit low.

Class of 2014 (Evening) Rankings

You can imagine my shock when I ended up getting just as many submissions from the Class of 2014 evening students as I did from the Class of 2012 day students :surprised:

The Class of 2014 Evening Program started out with 34 students in Fall 2010, which has since shrunk to 32.

They’re also ranked separate and apart from their Day Program colleagues so the data isn’t quite as useful for analysis except on a year-over-year basis. For example, on a percentage basis the 1LE 15%ile and 25%ile cutoffs are markedly higher than the corresponding 1L cutoffs.

But there are also only 8 1LE’s at a 3.1 GPA and above, when there are twice as many 1L’s at 3.2+. In other words, to borrow an over-used cliché, comparing the Evening Program to the Day Program is akin to comparing apples and oranges.

One commonality that can be culled from the data is that the Evening Program is obviously bound by the same curving process since their median GPA (even with fewer students) is similar to the median for the day program.

***

So that’s the class ranking data for the academic year ending May 2011! And it concludes what I can now officially designate as my first successful use of this blawg as a crowd-sourcing app :spin:

Hope all of you have a good night and a great weekend ahead! :D

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

  1. :surprised: []
  2. :D []
  3. :spin: []
  4. B-) []
  5. Roughly 19%, going from the 40th percentile cutoff to a smidge over the 21st percentile. []

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Legal Eagles: I need your help plz :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 7, 2011 in The 3L Life

Good evening folks! :)

I hope all of you had an amazing Independence Day weekend — the 235th celebration of my favorite holiday evah — and a solid start to the abbreviated-and-soon-to-end workweek :D

On my end I made my annual trip with 雅雅 up to Virginia Beach to see Nan and Pops, though the festivities this year were somewhat dampened (literally and figuratively) by thunderstorms that spanned Virginia and North Carolina… and the start of Summer Session II classes this past Tuesday :beatup:

Class this week plus that trip plus the preceding week helping with NCCU Law‘s Legal Eagle Law Camp was the reason for my most recent extended hiatus from the blawgosphere.1 The Law Camp in particular was an interesting experience that I’ll hopefully have time to write about in a later entry — it included everything from sitting in on an actual arson trial (featuring extensive vulgarity and sexual innuendo) with ~35 7th-10th graders, to witnessing the Durham PD’s drug interdiction unit arrest two people for trafficking in cocaine2 in the parking lot of a Burger King where I happened to be getting lunch with about 20 of those same campers, to watching my group successfully put on a full mock trial even after the group’s star witness was a no-show on trial day, to a bunch of other randomness in between :crack:

But that’s not the reason for tonight’s entry ;)

Those of you who have been reading law:/dev/null for awhile3 might recall the pie chart of class ranks I put together last year for the Class of 2012 day program.  I’m hoping to create new ones this year for all the classes, so we can (i) gauge how much the average GPAs have climbed between 1L and 2L year now that students can self-select their electives, and (ii) compare the GPAs across classes / programs / years. Did this year’s 1Ls perform significantly better or worse compared to last year’s?  Does the evening program really have higher median GPAs as rumored?  What are the odds of a now-3L reaching #.## GPA based on the curve and colleagues’ grades? Those are the types of questions I’d like answered.

However I’ve got two problems: my source for grade info last year is no longer around, and my new class rank doesn’t have the serendipitous function of being a cutoff for a round-number percentile like it was when I was the 40% guy last year.

And that’s where you come in…  :angel:

I know folks are über-secretive about law school grades, even though we all find out something anyway.  Taking that preference for discretion into account, I’ve created a temporary page on the blog (linked at the top) called “2011 Data4 that includes a comment field where you can anonymously enter your own GPA and class rank.  By entering in a fake name and using a fake email address, your comment will go into the WordPress “moderation queue” we have here behind the scenes, I can then harvest your GPA/rank without ever knowing who you are, and then delete your comment without it ever appearing to the outside world.

As of this entry I’ve got 14 people who’ve already shared their data — 4 from the class of 2012, 6 from 2013, and 4 from 2014.  That’s a solid start, but most of the folks who have commented are in a fairly narrow band rank-wise and I need folks across the spectrum to get accurate charts. So if you don’t mind taking a few seconds to shoot me your info I’d really really really appreciate :)

Once I’ve got enough data points to put the charts together, I’ll delete the 2011 Data page and put up a new entry with the approximate grade distributions.

Thanks in advance for your help, and feel free to recommend that a classmate send in their info too ;) Have a great night! :D

  1. And yes I realize I’ve had roughly the same excuse for randomly disappearing for most of the past two semesters now. Cut me some slack! :beatup: []
  2. One of whom made the unwise decision to resist arrest and was restrained with force as a result. []
  3. *THANK YOU* btw! :* []
  4. UPDATE on 07/13/2011:  Got all the data we needed so the page has been modified to remove the comment form and all the comments that were submitted have been deleted. Thanks for your help! :D []

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4

TDot’s Mailbag v7.0: Legal Eagle Grading Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 22, 2011 in Mail

I know y’all, it’s been well over a week since my last entry where I said I’d have this entry ready to roll  “on Monday or Tuesday this coming week” — I’d give you an excuse, but you can probably already guess what it is.1 :beatup:

So can we all just pretend that when I said “this coming week” I meant the week after the week that was actually coming at the time? Yes? Great. :*

Although I’ve gotten a smattering of questions from current and prospective students in the 10 months since I last put one of these entries together, the bulk of them were so über-fact-specific that they weren’t really suitable candidates for including on the blawg. But with end-of-1L grades getting released and folks experiencing the same shellshocked reactions I saw firsthand last year, there’s been renewed interest in how NCCU Law handles grading, curving, dismissal and so on.

So, without further ado, here are your questions — answered.

***

Q: William2 asks:

Just read your entry on making Dean’s List again. But grades don’t matter right? :P

A: If you read that Dean’s List entry, then hopefully it meant you also read this footnote written in anticipation of an email just like the one you sent  :angel:

Needless to say, I stand by my earlier commentary. Most grades at most law schools get determined by a single final exam, or a combination of a final preceded by a midterm.  These aren’t like grades in undergrad or high school or even how you’d be “graded” on a job, where you’re given multiple assignments over a given timeframe and tested on things like time management and ingenuity in addition to raw knowledge.

Now I realize there are few absolutes in life — in some cases good grades are genuinely a sign that someone’s a legal genius who will make a phenomenal attorney, and in some cases bad grades are genuinely a sign that someone just doesn’t “get it” and would end up as a Joseph Rakofsky-grade incompetent if they were given a law license.

But for the overwhelming majority of the however-many-thousands of people graduating law school every year, including here at NCCU Law, a string of subjectively-scored 1-time 3-hour exams is a meaningless measurement of someone’s skill and potential as a lawyer.

That rule applies to me too. My excitement over making Dean’s List this past Fall and again in the Spring had nothing at all to do with some misplaced belief that I’ll make an amazing litigator as a result. I just derive great joy from getting to disabuse people of their mistaken beliefs, including the higher-ranked classmates, friends at other schools, and occasional professors who all made the mistake of concluding I was an inept buffoon because I spent my 1L year saving students millions of dollars instead of worrying about my classes ;)

***

The answers to the next two questions are rooted in the same background, so I’m pairing them together –

Q: Danielle asks:

Why is our curve so ridiculously low? And we don’t have A+’s?

Q: And Kevin asks:

What’s the rationale on the dismissal policy?

A: NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve and its 2.0-or-out dismissal policy are both byproducts of being what the administration labels “a school of opportunity.”

Remember that NCCU Law was created by the N.C. General Assembly way back in 1939, an era when de jure segregation was the reality across the country.3 The politicians created the law school specifically so that aspiring black attorneys could get a “separate but equal” legal education without trying to attend a white law school.4

The only other public law school in the state, UNCCH Law, wouldn’t accept black students until forced to do so by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a 1951 lawsuit challenging its admissions practices.5 Private Duke Law and WFU Law wouldn’t desegregate until the 1960s. Campbell Law, Elon Law, and Charlotte Law didn’t exist. And even if a black student managed to graduate and pass the bar exam, they were still categorically denied admission to influential industry groups like the N.C. Bar Association.

This second-class status for black attorneys and black law students was reflected in the Legislature’s second-hand funding for “the Negros’ law school,” as NCCU Law grappled with an inadequate building, a minimal law library, few faculty and related problems. As an example, for a good chunk of the law school’s history its law library was stocked with the out-of-date books discarded by the neighboring law schools at UNCCH and Duke.  :surprised:

The point of noting all that background is to highlight that NCCU Law was created to educate students that other schools wouldn’t take; it’s part of our law school’s DNA. That legacy is reflected in the admissions data: even today our GPA and LSAT scores of admitted students are among the very lowest in the country (we’re functionally tied at the bottom with 2 other HBCUs, FAMU Law and Southern Law). The law school views its job as providing an opportunity to people who are willing to take advantage of it, regardless of how they “measure up” on paper.

Which finally brings me around to the questions at hand :beatup:  From a philosophical perspective, the strict-C curve exists because the faculty believe (and I agree) that it’s the best way to gauge student performance. And from a practical perspective, law schools bumping their curves use the Lake Wobegon defense6 as a smokescreen — something that can’t credibly be done with our mission and legacy.  The curve ensures students have earned the grades they get.

Working in tandem with the curve but serving a slightly different purpose, the law school’s policy of dismissing students if they fall below a 2.0 at the end of any year is designed to “separate the chaff from the wheat” as the Biblical saying goes.  Since it’s statistically possible for every student to make a 2.0 or above, and the school is taking what it considers a “calculated risk” by admitting students whose quantitative credentials wouldn’t get them in elsewhere, the assumption is that someone who doesn’t hit a 2.0 (and hasn’t already withdrawn before Spring final exams) must not be taking their educational opportunity seriously enough to continue. So those folks get a letter telling them they’ve been dismissed and then have to wait at least a year before they can petition to return.

***

Q: Nina asks:

How exactly does the dismissal policy work, as far as coming back goes?

A: The dismissal policy and petition process can both be found in the Student Handbook distributed to 1Ls each year (in the 2010-11 edition it’s in §1.09).  Basically only 1Ls who have between 1.8-1.999 are eligible to petition for readmission; if a student’s GPA is below 1.8, their only option is to reapply as a completely brand new student at least 2 or more years after their dismissal.

For eligible students, they get 1 chance to submit a petition to the Standards Committee for readmission the year after they are dismissed. To quote from the policy, the petition must “demonstrate that extraordinary circumstances resulted in his/her substandard academic performance.  Extraordinary circumstances are those that do not ordinarily occur.  Financial concerns, employment obligations, family illness or commuting distances normally involve no element of extraordinary circumstances.  The petitioner must demonstrate that the extraordinary circumstances have been resolved and that, if re-admitted, he or she will be able to successfully handle the rigors of legal education.”

Following review of the petition and an optional presentation by the petitioner in person, the members of the Committee vote on whether or not the student should be reinstated the following Fall semester. Decisions on reinstatement are usually released in mid-June.

***

Q: Susan asks:

What are the GPA cutoffs for honors? Dean’s List? Do we get notified?

A: You can find the listings for academic honors on this page of the NCCU Law website.  Cum laude requires a GPA of 3.000 to 3.299, magna cum laude is from 3.300 to 3.499, and summa cum laude is 3.500 and above. All of those are of course based on your GPA at the time of graduation.

The Dean’s List is compiled on a per-semester basis, and includes all students who earn a 3.0 and above. Students on Dean’s List can get a certificate from the Registrar’s Office upon request, a lapel pin from the NCCU main campus in the week before Convocation, and will have their name included on the massive posters created by main campus listing everyone at the entire University who made Dean’s List each semester.

And it’s up to each student to know whether or not they made Dean’s List on their own; there is no individualized “Hey btw you made Dean’s List!” emails or anything like that :P

***

That’s it for this entry y’all :) Thanks again to all of you for your continued support of law:/dev/null, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an email to tdot [at] lawdevnull.com! :D

—===—

From the Mailbag archives:

  • TDot’s Mailbag v6.0: 1L Questions Edition
    • Do we really need to study 60 hours a week?
    • My study partners study all day; am I missing something?
    • How time-consuming is being an SBA Representative?
    • Should I use “canned” briefs or create my own?
    • Is law school really just a big head game?
    • What’s the biggest difference between 1L year and 2L year?
    • What made you pursue law after having done computer science?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like
    • Admissions?
    • Bar Exam?
    • The Work?
    • Professors?
    • Electives?
    • Extracurriculars?
    • What would you do differently?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v4.0
    • What really made you dislike BigLaw?
    • Why were 2 of the top 4 teams in the K-S competition from T4s?
    • What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by?
    • How did your CivPro I final exam turn out?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v3.0
    • What’s your email address?
    • Do you really send/receive thousands of text messages in a month?
    • How are you adjusting to a historically black university?
    • Are you really a Republican?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v2.0
    • Did you have a bunch of study materials for the LSAT?
    • How well did you do on the LSAT?
    • How did you do in your election for 1L SBA Rep?
    • Who is in the Gang of Eight?
  • TDot’s Mailbag v1.0
    • What does law:/dev/null mean?
    • Did your entry about That Guy really happen?
    • Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?
  1. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with “fool.” Totally coincidental. :beatup: []
  2. For the new folks, I keep the names on these submissions anonymous (picked at random from the Social Security Administration’s Popular Names database) so feel free to send me an email if you’ve got a question but don’t want to risk having your name in print :) []
  3. A point politely ignored by nearly every law school nationwide even as they dole out admission to legacy applicants of alums who benefited from segregationist admission policies. []
  4. As otherwise would have been required by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938), which held that states providing education for white students either needed to admit blacks or provide a “separate but equal” education for them. []
  5. McKissick v. Carmichael, 187 F.2d 949 (4th Cir. 1951), reversing Epps v. Carmichael, 93 F.Supp. 327 (M.D.N.C. 1950). And even then UNCCH only accepted students who had already completed their first 2 years at NCCU. Admitting blacks as incoming 1Ls wouldn’t occur until later, and the rest of campus wouldn’t be desegregated until a post-Brown decision handed down in Frasier v. Board of Trustees of Univ. of N.C., 134 F.Supp. 589 (M.D.N.C. 1955).  []
  6. They admit students with higher GPAs/LSATs, and therefore “all of our students are above average.” Even though we all know the main motivation behind bumping curves is to artificially make graduates appear more competitive in the job market. :roll: []

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6

Queries queries everywhere

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 11, 2011 in Site Stats

Good evening folks!

I haven’t compiled one of these Site Stats entries since January, owing largely to the fact law:/dev/null has been slowly atrophying during my chronic absences and I didn’t feel the urge to memorialize it in a blog post ;)

The number of visitors atrophied a bit over the Spring

But despite the chronic disappearances we still had two interesting developments in the statistics department, so I figured I’d go ahead and cobble an entry together.

First, we somehow inexplicably had a +35% spike in folks subscribing to the RSS feed in the past month. That’s the largest month-over-month increase — both in terms of % and # of raw subscribers — since we started publishing via RSS back in November ’09 :surprised:

I have no clue where y’all came from or what prompted you to start reading law:/dev/null via RSS, but welcome! :D

The other surprise was that my disappearances didn’t seem to impact the number of people reaching us via search engine. There were over 1,800+ unique queries made by folks visiting this site since that December entry (9,100+ searches total, with ~400K impressions), setting a record for us in January and setting the #2 and #3 marks in May and April.

We’re currently averaging 350 unique searches a month (compared to 80 this same time a year ago), a perk of producing original content even if it is a bit on the infrequent side :)

***

Here’s a random selection of 20 out of the 360+ unique search terms that brought folks here in May 2011:

  • which t4 law school is the best to attend: NCCU Law. Duh. :P
  • nccu law is hard: That’s generally the idea. If law school was easy, everyone would be doing it ;)
  • suicidal thoughts after law school exam: ok it’s hard, but it’s not that hard. Seriously, your grades don’t matter and there’s -0- point in stressing about what you can’t change.
  • law school, got a c in a class where the median is a b+: Can you change it? No. So stop worrying about it and just do better next time. :*
  • 1l student failed out+someone help me: Talk to your professors and to your mentors. Between the two of them, you’ll know what options you have open to you.
  • do 3ls ever fail: Yep.
  • when will nccu law school grades for 2010-2011 be posted?: They should all be finally online for everyone as of this past week. Though apparently some of my almost-3L colleagues are still waiting to learn whether or not they’ve passed ConLaw :beatup:
  • nccu law unfair grading: 1Ls (and some 2Ls/3Ls) complain about this every year when grades don’t turn out how they want. It’s a myth. Go get your exams from your professors and you’ll see sometimes you really do get things wrong ;)
  • if my final grade is b+ and my midterm was b+ what was my final: It depends on the curve. For example, in CivPro II during my 1L Spring semester there was a +19-point curve on the final exam to get the grade distribution we had.
  • law school c- curve: Doesn’t exist, at least if this well-cited Wikipedia entry on law school curves is to be believed. NCCU Law is among the lowest at 2.0.
  • why is nccu’s law school curve so low?: I’m actually covering this question (and a related one on why we kick people out) in a Mailbag entry I’m hoping to have posted on Monday or Tuesday this coming week — keep an eye out for it :)
  • definition for “madame prosecutor”: This is a loaded query so I’ll plead the Fifth on this one :beatup:
  • i missed my deposit deadline with campbell law: Give them a call and see if you can still pay it. And if not, go somewhere else :angel:
  • unranked law schools worth it: I think so, both here and here.
  • preston mitchum, nccu law: El Presidente, he is my predecessor as SBA President, kicked Harvard Law’s butt in the Luke Charles Moore Invitational, served as President of his 1L and 2L classes, and is an all-around cool guy.
  • has anyone gotten into duke law with a 2.7 gpa and a high score on the lsat: Depends on how high your “high score” is ;)
  • attrition at nccu law: Was #2 highest in the country for a public law school the last time NLJ put a chart together (scroll down), and around #7 highest among public and private law schools combined.
  • unc asg constitution: It’s been shuffled from location to location since I left the organization in April ’10, but you should (hopefully) still be able to find a copy at this URL on iwantmydollarback.org. I have no clue if it’s been amended since then though.
  • t. douchette, nccu law grades: There’s no “h” in my last name :P  But you can find my grades in the transcript at the bottom of this entry.
  • does the the law a pickle is not a pickle unless it bounces to be considered a pickle stand today: Wait… what?? :crack:

Not as exotic as some of the entries from months past, but still fun to dig through :spin:

***

We also have a whole new set for the Top 5 most-viewed posts of the month, including one that vaulted to #2 in just a couple days:

  1. On me nearly missing my CrimPro final: Dear Future 2Ls… (05/04/11)
  2. On my $.02 about 1L grades: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/11)
  3. On closing arguments at TYLA’s Southeast Regionals: Wrong man. Wrong place. Wrong time. (05/05/11)
  4. On slogging through the end of 2L Spring: 2L Year: 1 more exam to go… (05/03/11)
  5. On my 1L Spring grades and NCCU Law’s attrition stats: Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”) (06/08/10)

*THANK YOU* to all of you for continuing to check out law:/dev/null despite my chronic disappearances — I truly appreciate you! :heart:

—===—

From the Site Stats archives:

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-

3.077 (or, “I MADE DEAN’S LIST *AGAIN*!!!”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 8, 2011 in NotFail

Most of the 1Ls and 2Ls at NCCU Law finally got their last grades a couple hours ago, and I am totally stunned to report that somehow by the grace of God Almighty I managed to squeak my way onto the Dean’s List for the 2nd semester in a row! :spin:

At a 3.077 semester GPA, I’m not sure I could have cut it any closer than I did. But after a ridiculous 2L Spring semester featuring family drama, too many professional commitments, 2 trial teams, losing all of my Gmail for days, a campaign for SBA President, and academic obligations stretching longer and longer than I expected, I figured last semester was going to be a one-and-done aberration anyway.

Full semester breakdown coming at some point in the future — including one for 2L Fall since I just now realized I never actually did one of those.1  :beatup:

Until then, good night folks!

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

  1. And since I know someone somewhere will make a smart-ass remark in light of my post that 1L grades don’t matter, I’ll note that (i) these are 2L grades and (ii) there’s a difference between being ecstatic over doing well and thinking doing well signifies anything other than an unhealthy quantity of studying :P []

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16

Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 29, 2011 in Unsolicited Commentary

The first batch of 1L grades got posted Tuesday here at NCCU Law… in turn prompting the first batch of telephone calls from panicked 1Ls worried about their performance :beatup:

First, breathe.

Second, repeat after me: “My 1L grades don’t matter.”

Yeah I said it. Your 1L grades do. not. matter.

I’ve mentioned before that NCCU Law is one of the few law schools that still follows a strict-C median, and also academically dismisses any student who falls below a 2.0 at the end of any year (all the way up through 3L/4LE). Although I’m not a fan of the dismissal policy, my personal $.02 is that the low C-curve helps produce better-prepared attorneys; apparently I’m part of an “old school” worldview that looks at grades as providing feedback primarily to the student, not to the outside world.

Unfortunately the C curve also means folks who coasted through undergrad with no serious criticism and near-perfect GPAs (often thanks to B+ curves that are becoming the norm nationwide) are only now learning they can’t be superior at everything (cue the :eek:  faces).

 

“But TDot, you don’t understand! I made the top 10%!”

Congratulations! I really, truly, seriously am proud of you (seriously)… and it still doesn’t matter ;)  Yes, you now get to grade on to law review without having to do these agonizing BlueBook exercises. But they don’t give out bonus points in 2L and 3L classes just because you did well as a 1L. The material you’ll be learning is more expansive, the training wheels are taken off, and in the electives you’ll be taking as a 2L you’re going to be held to the same standards as everyone else — including us 3Ls in class with you :*

 

“But TDot, you don’t understand! I’m only at [some number ≥2.0] and I will never get into BigLaw and my life is ruined and omg omg omg!”

A few points here: (1) it doesn’t matter; (2) 90% of us didn’t make the top 10% either (and are doing just fine might I add); and (3) if the blawgosphere is to be believed, there are Ivy League kids with perfect GPAs who still can’t get into BigLaw… yet we’ve got several classmates and graduates doing just that, including at least one out West whose 1L GPA was below mine. The position was advertised on the jobs board, she submitted her résumé and an impeccably-edited writing sample, snagged an interview and took it from there.

While some firms will ignore applicants below a certain threshold GPA, many provide interviews based on factors beyond raw metrics.1 If you really do want to work in BigLaw (I’m judging you for it, jsyk :P ) then your work experience over this summer, coupled with your willingness to network and prepare an immaculate writing sample, will play a bigger role in the 2L job hunt than your 1L GPA.

Oh, I forgot: you also have 2 more years to bring your GPA up ;)

 

“But TDot, you don’t understand! I’m only at [some number <2.0] and I will never make it through law school and my life is ruined and omg omg omg!”

OK so in your case your 1L GPA will have a bit more of an impact, something I saw first-hand as most of my good friends during 1L year didn’t make it back for 2L year. But, if you still want to become an attorney and you’re dedicated to making it happen, these 1L grades still don’t matter.

First, figure out what happened; some of you had difficult personal or family situations that were beyond your control, some of you dug a hole in the Fall that was too deep to climb out of, some of you just had a bad day. Whatever the reason, use this upcoming year to get things squared away. Pick up your exams from your professors and see where things went wrong; if writing was a weakness, work with a writing coach. If it was something personal, do what you can to resolve the situation(s) or at least minimize the impact they’ll have on you in the future. Tie up loose ends. And generally position yourself to make a compelling case to the Admissions Committee when you appeal for readmission next year.

—===—

The main thing to remember, regardless of which of these categories you happen to be in, is that nothing is impossible. You’re reading a blog written by a guy who was booted from college as a sophomore, boasting a 1.x GPA and a $16K-ish debt to my future alma mater. I got back, got graduated, got into law school — and had an almost-criminal amount of fun along the way once I stopped fearing failure :D

And I still found a (well-paid) law job even after my 1L grades were safely below the Top 10%. Don’t believe me? Check my transcripts for yourself:

There’s nothing any of us can do to change any of our grades — so why stress about them? :P  Instead of letting your grades run your life, do what needs to be done so you run your life.

Trust me: if I can do it you can too ;)  Good night y’all!

  1. As counterintuitive as it sounds, this is particularly true in a bad economy. It’d take a whole ‘nother entry to explain the rationale, but the short version is that information asymmetry between applicant and employer gets worse as the ratio of applicants-to-jobs goes up, pushing employers to rely on non-quantitative criteria like recommendations from existing employees or other people of trust. []
  2. More F’s than A’s: 13 A’s, 12 B’s, 11 C’s, 4 D’s, 16 F’s. Plus a 4:3 pass/fail ratio in my credit-only classes. And I still had a trio of options for law school. []

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2

I MADE DEAN’S LIST!!! ::happydance::

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 18, 2011 in NotFail

I did it y’all! :eek:

Ever-so-slightly lower than what I was hoping to get, but high enough to get me where I wanted: 3.333 for the semester, bringing me up to 3.026 overall — and making the NCCU Law Dean’s List! :eek:

On a C curve! :eek:

For the first time since 2005!1 :spin:

Sorry I’ve been gone y’all, life’s been crazy — a bunch of semi-drafted posts to upload at some point this week2 including a thorough semester review too. Have a great night! :D

  1. And only the 2nd time since my junior year of high school… in 1996 []
  2. Assuming any of you are actually still around to read this entry :beatup: []

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