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“I fought the [Zombie] Law and the [Zombie] Law won”…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 6, 2010 in The 2L Life

Ugh.

I’m usually pretty good about gauging how I perform on an exam after I leave the room.  For example, I knew within minutes that I got thoroughly mauled on my Contracts II final.1  Conversely, I figured I knocked the ConLaw midterm out of the ballpark before I left the room.

My impressions of ZombieLaw fall more toward the KII side of the spectrum than the ConLaw side :(

The cover to my class binder. Clearly I wasn't ready...

I’ve spent most of the past 72 hours studying non-stop for this exam. For someone who can’t stand sitting still for any protracted length of time, and who (successfully) finds a million different reasons to avoid doing schoolwork,2 somehow managing to sit still in my living room with the North Carolina General Statutes and the Uniform Probate Code and class notes and outlines and etc etc etc all strewn around me while actually reading them was quite a big accomplishment.  I thought I knew the material reasonably well.

And then I turned to the first page of the exam, and felt like I spent the ensuing 3 hours being repeatedly violated by a few sheets of paper :crack:

The exam was 3 hours long, comprised of 30 multiple choice questions worth 60% and a multi-faceted essay worth 40%.  And just like in the KII final, it took me an exorbitant amount of time just to work my way through the multiple choice — 2.5 hours.

For those of you who are math whizzes, that translates to 83.3% of the exam time spent slogging through 60% of the points…

In the 30 minutes that were left I frantically typed as much as I could conceivably type on the essay topics. There were issues with failed devises from a will, figuring out where the residue goes under the fictional jurisdiction’s anti-lapse statute, testamentary libel, partial revocation by physical act, an attempted holographic codicil, dependent relative revocation, latent ambiguity with a devise, the list goes on and on.

I think I maybe got about two-thirds of those issues covered in some minimally-competent fashion, and there’s no telling how many other issues were there that I missed. It was a mess.

The only potential upside is that most of my colleagues had similar concerns, so either (1) we all did equally bad and I can eke out a passing grade, or (2) the extra time I invested on the multiples will put me in the top echelon of the class and I can ride the curve on the essay to a better-than-passing grade.

Or (3) I really didn’t know wtf I was doing and I end up with a C like I did in KII :beatup:

We’ll see how it turns out :)   Spending tonight and tomorrow studying for Evidence, my last exam of the 2L Fall semester :D Good luck to everyone who still has exams left!

  1. Notice both that entry and this entry start the exact same too. That’s what literary folks call “foreshadowing” ;) []
  2. One of my occasional diversions from ZombieLaw was finding a functioning PSone emulator that I could either run in VMWare on the Mac or boot into Windows and load directly so I could play my old Final Fantasy Tactics game again  :spin: []

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TDot’s Tips: More Final Exam Advice

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 30, 2010 in TDot's Tips

Good evening y’all! :D

Let me preface this entry by giving a quick shout-out to the folks at FAMU Law down in Orlando, one of the ~40 historically black public institutions in the country alongside NCCU. I was told earlier today that some 1Ls down there found some helpful information here at law:/dev/null and I just wanted to thank y’all for reading! There’s no higher praise I can get than someone liking what I’ve written :)

Today was Reading Day at NCCU Law and final exams start for our 1Ls tomorrow morning with Property I. So it seemed like a timely opportunity to point the 1Ls back to a handful of final exam tips I wrote back in December, along with some recent additions I added in October :angel:

There are so many blawgs with so many exam tips that I don’t want to pile on more beyond what’s already out there — after all, you should be learning rules of law instead of this random 2L’s suggestions on how to do better at exams.

But I also had a few more ideas that I’m also using myself, and I figured it’d be selfish of me not to share. So take this with the requisite grains of salt, your mileage may vary, there are no express or implied warranties of any kind that any of this will actually help your exam grades, etc etc etc ;)

  1. Do as many practice multiples as you can get your hands on. I’ve been banging the “do more multiples!” drum pretty zealously every time I talk about exams, because (for some reason that escapes me) I still have folks swear to me that it’s a misapplication of time and energy :crack:  Y’all, please just trust the computer scientist on this one: your multiple choice questions are more important than your essays. Multiple choice questions have finite answer options that are objectively either right or wrong. If the answer for a question is A, bubbling in “A” on a Scantron is the only way to get points for that question. It’s objective. There’s no room for interpretation. That means multiples can’t be curved. If your law school grades on a curve, for example like the strict-C curve we use at NCCU Law, the professors have to find some subjective way to sort your grades — and since multiples can’t be curved, that subjectivity has to happen on the essays. In other words, no matter how stellar you do on your exam essays, for that portion of the exam you are inevitably at the mercy of your classmates. (Cue the :surprised:  looks.) If you do well, but everyone else does well too, that makes you average; the professors will then start looking for über-nitpicky justifications to shave a point here, a point there, etc. On the other hand, with multiples you stand on your own; you either got them right, or you didn’t. A student with a stellar essay score and a barely-passing multiples score isn’t going to do very well, but a student with a perfect score on the multiples and a less-than-stellar essay can ride the curve to a decent grade.
  2. Start exploiting your bar prep company now. I can’t speak competently about Kaplan’s PMBR because I don’t use them, but I signed up for Thomson Reuters’ BarBri my 1L year and I’m in the process of paying $$$$$ to take their bar review course after I graduate. Not only does BarBri provide a huge “First Year Review” book to 1Ls, they have free practice tests online with their “StudySmart Law School” web application — an app that has more multiple choice questions than you can shake a stick at, and a timer to go with it. I don’t remember if I had as much access to this stuff as I had last year, but right now I can take practice exams on CivPro, ConLaw, Ks, CrimLaw, Evidence, Property, and Torts. You’re already paying money to these folks to provide you with a service, why not start using it now? ;)
  3. See if any 2Ls/3Ls will let you look at their old essays. Just about everyone you ever talk to will tell you to find old tests to practice on, but that doesn’t do you much good if the test is really old or your professor isn’t available to offer their $.02 on your practice work. If you’ve already attached yourself to a 2L for their textbooks and happen to have the professor they had last year, see if they have their old graded essays and would be willing to let you look at them. It will give you a sense of how someone did in your shoes, and if the professor provided any useful commentary on the essay it will also provide some insight into what that particular professor might be looking for in an answer. Your hypo is going to be different of course, but every little bit of insight helps. As an example, for NCCU Law 1Ls the Traveling Professor likes having every single possible detail thrown in about the tested area of law in her Property essays; MDG, by contrast, takes off points if you mention extraneous CivPro law that doesn’t actually apply in his particular hypos.
  4. Visit Academic Support. I never went to our Academic Support office last year, because I routinely fled the law school as soon as class was over to escape the high-stress super-Type A personalities roaming the halls.1 Over the past week I’ve been in there more than all of last year as I was trying to snag this CrimLaw tutor gig…  and I just now realized these folks have scads of supplements, flash cards, practice tests, and all sorts of other stuff to help you pass your classes :eek:  I guess in my mind I really already knew that, but it didn’t really “click” until seeing all of it there in front of my eyes. Definitely pay a visit to Academic Support and use the tools they have available for you (especially since you’re already paying for it).
  5. Pace yourself. You’re going to hear the saying “law school is a marathon and not a sprint” at least a half-dozen times between now and when you graduate. That applies to exams too. Definitely study aggressively, practice frequently, and so on and so forth. But also make sure you take time to relax, sleep, get out of your apartment (or study carrel), exercise, bathe, waste time on Facebook, or whatever else you do in your free time to stay sane. If you’ve got 48 hours of potential study time between now and your next exam, there’s no harm with using 16 of them for sleep and taking an hour or two of the 32 left to relax. You’ll be happier for it, and more inclined to remember the stuff that you studied :spin:

This entry’s running a bit long so I’ll cap it here, but I hope it helps! Make sure to read through the other tips too — and GOOD LUCK! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Apparently prompting some people to think I looked down on them… []

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Fall ’10 Status Update

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 7, 2010 in The 2L Life

Hey everybody :)

One of my friends at a law school on the other end of the country sent me a FB message pointing out I haven’t posted a mid-semester update for my 2L Fall semester at NCCU Law like I had done back in 1L.

The reason is that 2L year grade-wise is markedly different from 1L — where first year grades were 20% based on a midterm and 80% based on a final exam, only two 2L classes have midterms (ConLaw and Business Associations, which I’ll be taking in the Spring). The rest either make the final exam 100% of the grade or require various papers throughout the semester.

That lack of information makes grade entries like this one a lot less interesting ;)

But given how totally riveting my recent commentary on daylight savings time and Verizon’s mobile phone selection has been, I’ll go ahead and bow to the peer pressure :beatup:

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CONSTITUTIONAL LAW I
====================

There’s not much for me to say on this one that I didn’t already say after the exam. Constitutional Law is my favorite course and one of my favorite topics in general — even outside of the law school context — and it showed on the midterm. I ended up getting 35 out of 40 questions correct on the midterm, tying for 2nd place in the class (high was 36 of 40).

Haven’t had a chance to meet with Prof ConLaw yet to figure out what I missed, but maxing out the total points I can get on the midterm puts me in a good position heading into the final.

Expected Midterm Grade: A
Actual Midterm Grade: B+ (raw) / A (curved)

Synopsis: Just need to keep studying and make sure I can knock out the essays on the (4-hour) final exam. Given my track record last year, I doubt I’ll pull an A in this class — but I’m still going for it ;)

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: HISTORY, LAW & PRACTICE
====================

The subject matter in DV Law has been a challenge since the beginning, but as the semester has gone on it’s gotten slightly less agitating. There was even one class where we joined a section of Advanced Torts for a joint lecture on defamation vis-à-vis allegations of domestic violence, and I was comfortable enough to hold my own against the lecturing professor playing the other side.

On the grade front, this is one of those classes with numerous assignments for fractional parts of the final grade. The good news: I’ve gotten the max points so far for the community observation, class participation, and the annotated bibliography for my motion in limine. The bad news: the preliminary research memo for the motion was turned in late, so the A grade I had on that was dropped to a B+. And the “::shrug::” news: the remaining 75%ish of the course grade is still to come, based on the first draft of the motion last week, the oral argument on it next week, and the final motion due the week after that.

Expected Grades To-Date: A
Actual Grades To-Date: A-

Synopsis: Now that the preliminary draft of the motion in limine is done, the final should be easy to knock out. Not sure what’s going to happen with the oral arguments though. Hoping to finish strong.

====================
LEGAL LETTERS
====================

The grading for this class is unique. We have 4 papers due — a client letter, a research memo, an opinion letter, and a settlement proposal — with each one worth a total of 100 points. At the end of the semester, whoever has the most points gets the A and it scales down from there. So even though I got a 95/100 on my first letter, I have no clue how that breaks down compared to the rest of the class; I’ve seen both higher and lower in roughly equal proportions, and it makes me slightly nervous.

As for the memo and opinion letter that were both turned in awhile ago? No clue, because we haven’t gotten them back yet :beatup: We also haven’t gotten the required background info (medical expenses and such) for the settlement proposal, so this class is basically on hold for now.

Expected Grades To-Date: A
Actual Grades To-Date: ????

Synopsis: I’ll be glad when this class is over. The professor is interesting and I enjoy talking to her (she’s an adjunct who works as a public defender full-time), but this is one of those classes no one likes and we’re all required to take just because the ABA says so.

====================
EVIDENCE
====================

I’m totally lost in this class. It’s straight lecture-style with no assignments, no Socratic method, no midterm, nothing — basically the exact opposite of my learning style. I’m terrified about the final, and more importantly I’m terrified about how I’m going to perform in Trial Practice next semester when I feel like I’ve got only a minimal grasp on the Federal Rules of Evidence.

If anyone has any suggestions on an effective way to learn this material on my own, I’d appreciate it!

Expected Grades To-Date: N/A
Actual Grades To-Date: N/A

Synopsis: I have three weeks to figure out wtf I’m doing. Prayers are welcomed. :beatup:

====================
ZOMBIELAW (DECEDENTS ESTATES I)
====================

This class is just like Evidence, except in addition to being a lecture-style course with no assignments or any real class participation, it’s also BORING AS @#$%. Prof ZombieLaw is hilarious and tries to keep it as interesting as possible, but I seriously find nothing interesting about divvying up property after you’re dead. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a poor family that doesn’t have much to divvy, but it’s (1) boring, (2) tedious, and (3) depressing.

I’m basically doing the bare minimum to keep track of where we are in class, then will be using our pre-final review time to learn enough substantive material to eke out a C in the class. As long as I don’t have to take it again, I’ll be happy.

Expected Grades To-Date: N/A
Actual Grades To-Date: N/A

Synopsis: Caffeine can’t even keep me awake in here anymore. At least I know I won’t be a probate attorney after law school? :lol:

***

That’s where things stand with me y’all.  My first final exam is ConLaw on December 3rd, only three weeks and my second-favorite holiday away :eek:

Hope all of you are having an excellent semester, and that you’re in better shape going into finals than I am! ;)

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From the grade-related archives:

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TDot’s Tips: 1L Midterms “Quick Hits” Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 11, 2010 in TDot's Tips

This entry is devoted primarily to my 1L colleagues at the N.C. Central University School of Law, so if you’re not a Legal Eagle you can probably skip it :)

And if you’re not a 1L you can definitely skip it ;)

I also planned on making this a longer and more-detailed entry, but I didn’t realize the midterm schedule got switched up this year: instead of 2 days of regular class followed by double-stacked exams on Wednesday and Thursday, 1Ls this year get one midterm a day at 8:00am :surprised:

So with CivPro behind y’all and most of you asleep already heading into Ks tomorrow, here’s a few quick points to keep in mind:

  1. Get the 1L Stuff. If you haven’t already, make sure to download the 1L Stuff ZIP archive I put online for y’all. This is basically a collection of every 1L outline and brief I could get my hands on last year; it includes everything from the 1L folder folks pass around, along with stuff other folks gave me. There are probably quite a few duplicate files, but there’s also a wide breadth of outlines to study from1 :)
  2. Focus on the multiple choice. We use a strict-C curve at NCCU Law, which means (i) the median grade has to be a C2 and (ii) professors usually have to use some kind of subjective criteria to ensure that distribution. That subjective component is unavoidably your essay, since multiple choice answers are either right or wrong. And because it’s subjective it means a stellar essay may not net you as many points (comparatively speaking) if everyone else in the class does well on the essay too. So if you can ace the multiple choice, you’ll have a significant advantage before your professor even grabs your essay for grading.
  3. Watch the clock. Hopefully you’ve read the Final Exam tips and you’re knocking out the multiple choice questions first. If you’re not — or if the multiples seem to be taking longer than you think they should — make sure to keep checking the clock sporadically so you know how much time you have left. Otherwise you’ll end up like me on my CivPro II final :beatup:
  4. Sleep! For some unknown reason, 1Ls seem to think law school is like college and all-nighters are an effective way to do test prep. Don’t do it! You need to be able to decipher complex hypos on the multiple choice, spot the issues in an even longer hypo for the essay(s), and write coherently about it as well. You’re only going to be able to do that on a decent night’s sleep, and ideally a good breakfast before you head to the test.
  5. Read the Final Exam tips too. The same stuff I mentioned then applies to midterms too ;)

Oh, and be prepared to not get your grades until the end of the month :beatup:

That’s it from me y’all — GOOD LUCK on your exams!! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. And if you happen to be a Mac user like me, having this folder indexed by Spotlight makes it easy to pull up case briefs on the fly later in the semester ;) []
  2. See the bar graphs in some of the older grade-related entries for distributions from my 1L year. []

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When internet memes attack…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 15, 2010 in Site Stats

What do “nom nom nom”, “::headdesk::”, and “#fml” all have in common?

Lots of people looking for nom-ing bunnies...

They’re all internet memes I’ve been using here on law:/dev/null for months now… and they’ve turned into a real headache when it comes to site maintenance :beatup:

I first noticed something was amiss when the blog got hit by a massive wave of spam comments back on July 11th. The pageview spike was so massive I had to leave out that entire day when updating these bar charts, otherwise the “Pageviews per Day” bar would be about 50% higher than it is now.

To highlight the spike, I created a new chart below graphing the number of spam comments against the number of unique IP addresses we had in a given month (higher bars == more spam comments per capita).

As I spent the next couple weeks re-acquainting myself with .htaccess directives for this spam prevention entry, I noticed something else odd in the log files: we had a trio of referrer URLs showing megabytes upon megabytes of data being transferred but with -0- corresponding pageviews. After poking around I realized the bunny picture from this old Contracts entry was being hotlinked all over the place for reasons I couldn’t figure out.

So I logged in to Google’s Webmaster Tools for the first time in months, and figured out what was going on — over 15,000+ searches on 30 different variations of “om nom nom” :crack:

July brought lots of spam...

Apparently when I switched how WordPress sets post URLs last month (from the old numeric “?p=1234” to the current setup), the search index for that Contracts entry went up high enough that the bunny picture became the #1 result for anyone doing a Google search with “nom nom” in it.

Not the entire entry of course. Just the bunny pic. :beatup:

Things have calmed down a bit now that I’ve started banning spambots and limiting the hotlinks. My guess is traffic will go back to a more-linear growth pattern for August. We’ll see what happens :)

***

On the search query front, we had a bunch of duplicate searches but also some fresh ones. Here are 20 of the 100+ unique search terms that brought folks here in July:

  • chazz clevinger: worked with me as the Vice President of Legislative & Public Affairs for UNCASG two years ago. I haven’t kept in touch with him much since law school started, but he did good work for the students of North Carolina.
  • nc dmv 30 day tag for insurance lapse: cost me $63, and I didn’t even need one :mad:
  • nccu lsat score evening program: for 2009-10, was 151 for the evening program, with the 25th percentile folks at 148 and the 75th percentile folks at 155 according to the class profile.
  • blackberry messenger group nccu school of law ’11: exists, but I’m not a part of it since I’m in the Class of 2012 ;) Hit up one of the 3Ls for more info.
  • tdot surplus vehicles: HA! I wish I had surplus vehicles…
  • does duquesne law school give midterms?: I don’t know about Duquesne Law, but NCCU Law does :spin:
  • letter demanding payment from ex girlfriend: is probably not going to accomplish much of anything…
  • negative things about nccu law: vary depending on who you ask. I’m a huge NCCU Law fan, and my only real complaint is that the wi-fi can be spotty in certain areas of the building (like the Great Hall and the Fishbowl). Hopefully they improved that over the summer.
  • 2010 11 tuition north carolina: is unfortunately still going up by almost $1K at several universities, since state legislators decided to balance the budget on the backs of students :mad:
  • nccu law fall 2010 class calendar: can be found on the Law School Registrar’s TWEN page, or downloaded from the NCCU Law “Academics” page.
  • nccu school of law’s grading curve: follows a strict-C median, which I happen to enthusiastically support ;)
  • mary wright 1l advocacy competition: takes place every Spring semester for 1L students. You can watch the video of my 3rd place performance here.
  • daryl wade unc: is probably not the same guy as Daryl Wade, the former Student Body President at UNC School of the Arts who served as Vice Chairman of the UNCASG Council of Student Body Presidents last year. I’m sure the other Daryl Wade is still cool though… even if he goes to UNCCH :sick:
  • are 1l’s included in the 30 day delay for financial aid?: For the vast majority of 1Ls, no.1 This was actually one of the questions we had at my 1L Orientation last year, so you’re not alone in wondering :)
  • what percentage of nccu law school are white law students?: roughly 35-40% each class year. Another 45-50% are black, and the remaining 10-20% are spread across other races. We’re routinely ranked among the most diverse student bodies in the country.
  • nccu minority scholarships for white law students: “No, officer…”
  • nccu law fall 2010 book list: can be found above the academic calendar on the NCCU Law “Academics” page.
  • acpi:system state: could signal a dead motherboard :(  Take it to get looked at ASAP.
  • which computer apple or pc for law students: Apple. Hands down. Trust me. ;)

Definitely a different mix of search results getting here this month… :)

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of July 2010, quite a bit different from past Top 5s due to the new indexing changes:

  1. On avoiding contract enforcement: Mmm Ks nom nom nom (02/16/10)
  2. On inexpensive résumé websites: Things TDot Likes: Persona Non Obscura (12/08/09)
  3. On post-1L class ranks: Learning what I already knew (07/12/10)
  4. On having a shadow: Spreading the (Law School) Gospel (02/17/10)
  5. On saving money: TDot’s Tips: Tips for the pre-L’s on $$$ (05/29/10)

*THANK YOU* as always to each of you for your continued support of us here at law:/dev/null! :D

—===—

Past Site Stats entries:

  1. My understanding is that some international students who have never attended a U.S. school previously get included, but I don’t know enough people (translation: none) who fall into that category to know if that’s accurate :beatup:   []

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Revisiting class rank

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 5, 2010 in The 1L Life

Last month I posted a pie chart for y’all with class rank info on the Class of 2012 at NCCU Law, except that there wasn’t really much class rank info actually in it. The only thing I knew for certain at the time was that my GPA was the cutoff for the 40th percentile… because I happened to be the guy at the 40th percentile1 :beatup:

Fast forward a month, and several of my Legal Eagle colleagues were wondering if I had gathered any additional details given my penchant for graphs, tables and other data.

Slightly more 1L class rank data

And of course the answer is: of course ;)

After talking with about a dozen folks about their own grades/ranks, I tweaked the class rank chart to what you see here.

I know the GPA cutoffs for the 15th and 25th percentiles are solid. The Top 10% minimum GPA is just an estimate though; I haven’t really mingled with the super-smart folks in law school, and the only one I know 100% for certain who’s in that group decided to be coy and would only say the chart data “might be pretty close” :beatup:

I also added in my estimate of how many people fell below NCCU Law’s strict-C threshold and got academically dismissed at the end of the semester. It’s a very rough guess on my end, basically just taking the number of people I know personally who didn’t make it multiplied by the number of sections, taking a multi-year average of our historical 1L attrition data minus the folks who had already dropped, then weighting each of those two separate numbers and adding them together. I have -0- confidence that it’s an accurate count but I’m reasonably sure I’m ±5, so I included it anyway for informational purposes.

In the unlikely-but-possible scenario that my guess is a close approximation to the actual number of folks who will be gone, the attrition data highlights the challenge those of us in the middle of the pack academically are going to have trying to improve our class ranks this upcoming year. For example, being 62 of 157 puts me at the 40% mark now, but starting next week I’ll be 62 of ~139 (or less) — instantly dropping me down to 45%. It’s definitely a steep hill to climb.

Upside: at least I won’t have Contracts anymore :spin:

Have a great night y’all! :D

  1. Even though it’s not going to net my any academic excellence awards, I do appreciate my class rank being a nice round number :beatup: []

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Learning what I already knew

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 12, 2010 in The 1L Life

Class ranks got released today, and I got to re-learn what I already knew from my 1L GPA: I’m a decisively average student :beatup:

I rank 62 out of 157 1Ls. That puts me at a hair’s breadth inside the top 40%.

At least it's better than undergrad ;)

The chart to the right shows where I’m at, though not much else. I’m not sure if the registrar will be allowed to provide us with the GPA cutoffs for a given percentile, or how many of those in the bottom 50% are folks going home for not making above a 2.0 — if I can get that info I’ll update the chart to something more meaningful.

I did notice that if we were at 157 1Ls in April (I think this # excludes the evening students), that means we had already lost 12 of the 169 folks who started in the day program back in August. My assumption is that we’ll lose about 20 more students due to the GPA cutoff, putting our cumulative 1L attrition near the historical 20%ish mark. That’s all just speculation though.

On the bright side, I consider this a remarkable improvement over my undergraduate career :D

When I finally made it through N.C. State my 2.612 GPA placed me firmly in the bottom 25% of our 166 graduating seniors in the Computer Science Department, a byproduct of my spending far more time advocating for students through the Student Senate and UNCASG than I did writing code in front of a computer. My chronic bad grades were sufficiently legendary that I was even introduced to someone at a CSC function as “the George W. Bush of N.C. State’s Computer Science Department” — because I “can successfully run the world, but can’t successfully pass [my] classes.”1  :beatup:

One year and a strict-C curve later, and I’ve vaulted from the bottom quartile to just short of the top third with a mere +0.066 change in GPA.

It might not net me any BigLaw job offers or a spot on the law journal, but I’m gonna go ahead and call that a success ;)

Heading to bed so I can get up early for some hearings tomorrow — observing and/or co-mediating a pair of Medicaid appeal cases from the NC Office of Administrative Hearings ::joy:: Have a great night y’all! :D

  1. Though, for the record, I still considered it a compliment because I’m still a W fan :P []

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In support of the strict C

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 22, 2010 in The 2L Life

Tonight’s post is another one of those cut-and-paste “Don’t have time to provide you with any incisive analysis” type entries :beatup:

The writers up at the New York Times seem to have finally realized that grade inflation is rampant in law schools, a problem noted regularly by the good folks over at Above the Law. The piece, titled “In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That”, highlights the retroactive inflation taking place at Loyola Law and other law schools to “make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market” — since employment is a significant factor in the US News’s law school rankings.1

I realize I’m probably in the minority here, given the modern push toward this “Everyone’s a winner! Let’s all hold hands and sing kumbayah!” mentality, but I’m personally a big fan of the strict-C curve we use at NCCU Law. Setting the middle grade in the middle of the grading scale (cue the :eek: faces) 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.

Consider my grades from the Spring semester. Clearly, Contracts is not my thing (at all). CrimLaw, on the other hand, might be.

Yet if we used the B+ median common among T1 institutions, my grades for both classes would be pretty close. There’s certainly more of a “you suck at this” signal sent when you’ve got a C in one class compared to an A- in the other, versus an inflated B+ compared to an inflated A.

It doesn’t look like grade deflation will ever happen if the data is any guide. And God knows my non-inflated grades won’t be netting me any NLJ250 jobs any time soon. But my lingering 1L naïveté tells me I’m going to be better off being given the brutally honest assessment of my deficiencies rather than being deigned competent by the retroactive stroke of a Dean’s pen.

Read the article at your leisure, and feel free to share your thoughts :) Until then have a good night! :D

==> New York Times: In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That

  1. The rankings are, in my opinion at least, worthless bullsh*t. []

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6

Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 8, 2010 in NotFail

Pretty much ever since I started law:/dev/null — back when I decided to take a quantity-over-quality approach to these posts ;) — it’s been a challenge thinking of something to write about each night that at least a handful or so of you will actually enjoy reading.

Then this week happened. And I had three (three!) separate topics enqueued. Three! Topics that, I concede, got briefly postponed so I could rant about my missing grades. But topics that I fully intended to resume writing about tonight. (Three of them!)

And then the missing grades materialized. And the bodies started piling up… :beatup:

So in deference to the requests I’ve already gotten,1 I figured I’d spill the beans on my grades now rather than knock out those other entries and post grade info on Friday.

That’s how much I :heart: y’all ;)

We haven’t actually gotten any of the physical exams back yet so I’m not sure how my performance broke down in terms of multiples-vs-essays, but I’ll share my guesses where I can.

Without further ado, here’s the rundown for Spring 2010:

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

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

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

CivPro II Final Exam Grades

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

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

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

Lesson learned :headdesk:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis: I passed :surprised:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note to the pre-Ls: read directions!

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

Then after that: re-re-read directions!

Trust me :beatup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis: At least I’m consistent :beatup:

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

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

But I know enough to know I blew it :(

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

Meh. Was never a fan of this class either…

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

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

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

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

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

*****

So that’s the rundown on the 1L grades.

But one wrinkle added to the mix over the past 24 hours has been NCCU Law‘s strong adherence to the strict-C grading model: we have a policy that any 1Ls who have fallen below a 2.000 at the end of their first year are academically dismissed from the school (hence my reference at the start of this post to “the bodies piling up” once grades came out).

The policy is essentially a trade-off in exchange for the school giving a shot to folks who might not be academically qualified to get into other law schools, providing a level of access that I personally think does wonders for the legal profession (at least in North Carolina) because many of the best lawyers I crossed paths with when I worked for the State Bar were less-than-stellar students as undergraduates.

The 2.0 model forces students to perform. It produces good attorneys. It’s why so many judges in North Carolina are NCCU graduates. And it’s why many of my classmates and I have a huge chip on our shoulder when we listen to trash-talk from students at other law schools.

But the dark side of that 2.0-cutoff is that NCCU Law ranks #2 in the nation for 1L attrition at a public law school (we’re edged out by FIU Law). We’re around #7 among both public and private law schools combined.

1L attrition is the red bar on the right-hand side

Take a look at this PDF chart from NLJ if you need a visual. The picture to the left is North Carolina’s section of the report.2)

That means roughly 1-in-5 of my colleagues will not be returning this coming August, and I’ve already gotten messages that a couple very close friends who’ve been mentioned here at law:/dev/null are among the casualties :cry: It kinda kills the buzz from being able to officially declare myself a 2L…

I’m not sure where those folks will end up down the road, but if they happen to read this entry I’m hoping they’ll keep in touch and let me know if I can help. We might not all be destined to be lawyers, but I’m a firm believer we’ll all end up where we’re supposed to end up.

*****

I completely and totally *hate* ending posts on a sour note, so I do want to formally say *CONGRATULATIONS!!* to everyone in the Class of 2012 — both at NCCU Law and elsewhere — who can officially call themselves 2Ls! :) Good luck to all of you in your summer endeavors, and I hope you’ll keep coming back to law:/dev/null next year now that I get to officially keep chronicling this experience :D

Have a great night everybody!

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

  1. Including from classmates who said they were looking forward to tonight’s blog entry — that inflated my ego at least two-fold apiece ;) :D []
  2. To my Duke Law readers, I assure you its absence from the pic isn’t a sign of ill will — since Duke Law is a T14, they’re on the NY page of the report and I didn’t have time to do a Photoshop splicing of the pages together. If you want to know about Duke Law just download the PDF ; []

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2

Apparently we’re nomnom-licious?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 2, 2010 in Site Stats

That’s the only reason I can think of to explain the search results from last month :beatup:

I wasn’t surprised when “law:/dev/null” turned out to be the most frequent query leading people to law:/dev/null, used by 20 separate visitors from across the web last month. But what was the #2 most frequent search term, used by over a half-dozen?

law:/dev/null Pageviews and Unique IPs over time

“nomnom”

Yeah. I don’t understand it either :crack:

But before we get into the amusement that is our monthly search queries, I wanted to give an über-huge *THANK YOU!!!* to y’all for helping May outpace April as our busiest month yet! :D

An updated graph is on the right for those of you who are visual people.1)

The data this month is interesting, because we had a -2.2% drop in unique IP addresses served — not a surprise given the summer break from school — but somehow still had a +13.6% bounce in average pageviews per day and a +17.3% jump in total pages overall.

I could be wrong here, but to me that means we’ve got more regular visitors who actually enjoy reading this stuff :eek:

Assuming I’m right on that, to all of the new folks I just wanted to say: 1) welcome!, 2) read the disclaimer!, and 3) thanks for visiting! :*

# of unique search terms

Also on the “this was unexpected but still pretty cool” front, we had a real explosion in search queries used to find this site — jumping +76.2% from 84 to 148.

I made a graph for that one too… :beatup:

I’m not entirely sure what prompted the search spike, since most of the terms go to entries that have been indexed by search engines for awhile now. If any of you happen to work for Google (our #1 referrer again) feel free to share some insights!

***

And now for those queries. Here are 20 of the 140+ search terms that brought folks here in May:

  • nomnom: Maybe the folks who tried this one were hungry for Contracts?
  • what is taking nccu so long: There were literally about a dozen different variations on this search, including “how long did it take to receive a decision from nccu law?” and “north carolina central university school of law admissions taking a long time” and “still no decision from nccu law”. All I can say to you folks is this: try not to think about it. In my case I got my acceptance letter from NCCU Law on 05/04/09, one week after I received an email that my application was “complete” and that I’d receive a decision “six to eight weeks” thereafter.2 The admissions staff are dealing with the recurring issue of having thousands more applicants than there are seats, and this year they have an added wrinkle with politics: the N.C. General Assembly has a provision in the House version of its budget currently being considered that would severely restrict enrollment growth at all institutions in the University of North Carolina… which means available fewer seats than anticipated. I know that’s approximately -0- solace to those of you who are waiting, but the admissions folks have a tough and thankless job so it takes awhile :beatup:
  • when does the nccu law packet come in the mail?: I got my packet around June 22nd or so.
  • conservative corporate taglines: Not sure what you’re looking for, but the only mention of taglines here is this entry on Men’s Wearhouse. Sorry.
  • segregated lunch counters: Are thankfully a thing of the past. I wrote some thoughts in this entry on the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins.
  • nccu law school section 102 grades: I’ve been told y’all have 3 of your 6 grades in already :mad: Be thankful you’re not §103 — we’re still waiting
  • mock trial: people v andrew madison: There were several searches related to this one too, looking for opening statements. Can’t help you with the opening, but feel free to check out my closing in the #4 entry of our monthly Top 5 list below.
  • nccu law summer reading list: If you haven’t gotten it already, you should get it around June 30th. I read To Kill A Mockingbird but didn’t read a single other book on the list. In my opinion you’re better off spending your time enjoying your summer ;)
  • blogs about north carolina central university school of law: There are 3 I’m aware of: us here at law:/dev/null, one by Madame Prosecutor, and one by the Prophet. If you find any others let me know!
  • does nccu school of law have midterms?: Yes we do, and with few exceptions they make up 20% of your final grade. That’s not always a good thing :beatup:
  • 3.0 gpa as a 1l: I need to know what school you’re at to give you any meaningful commentary. If you’re attending a law school with a 3.333 curve (like UNCCH Law or Duke Law), that means you’re not doing so hot. If you’re attending a law school with a 2.000 curve (like NCCU Law), it means you get a 100% tuition scholarship.
  • nccu law school trial team: Kicks ass — and that’s just the 1Ls :D
  • ashley yopp: Has been dubbed the Pickle Princess here on the blog. She worked with me last year running the UNC Association of Student Governments after she basically created the Student Senate at East Carolina University.
  • what states still elect clerks of superior court: Don’t know the answer to that question, but I know 100% for certain that North Carolina is one of them :)
  • unc asg stipends: Have been slashed to the lowest point they’ve ever been, and are now at a level where I’m worried it’s going to negatively affect the effectiveness of the organization if they’re not increased. See entry #5 in the monthly Top 5 list below for details.
  • why does nccu school of law have first year orientation: Because when it comes to law you’re not going to know your ass from your elbow when you start school, but you’ll be reading dozens of cases in every class every night for the first several weeks starting on Day 1. Orientation lets you get familiar with the school first, so you can get your locker, grab your ID card, buy your books and such — that way there are no excuses for you when the work gets piled on ;)
  • is nccu law accredited: Yes, as it has been since it was founded in 1939. The better question is: are there any law schools the ABA won’t accredit? :beatup:
  • law school student mental breakdown: Those apparently happen on occasion. NCCU Law has its own full-time psychiatrist for that very reason. Remember to breathe and everything will be fine…
  • how to answer contracts ii final exam: Not like this :cry:
  • people that start drama and then expect apologies: are insane. Just my $0.02.

It’s been an interesting month. Now I kinda want July to hurry up and get here so I can see how the June queries turn out… :spin:

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of May 2010, including two repeaters at #4 and #5:

  1. On my product-purchasing pathologies: Some signs you might be a law student… (05/04/10)
  2. On last month’s site stats: “You like me, you really like me!” (05/02/10)
  3. On LRP reducing me to tears: Illiteracy FTL (04/22/10)
  4. On my first ever closing argument: Alice in Wonderland (03/24/10)
  5. On political hacks-in-training writing commentary: On UNCASG, $1, and the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel (03/30/10)

*THANK YOU* again for your continued support of this blog, I truly do appreciate it :) I’m heading to bed so I can wake up on time to knock out some class work — have a great night y’all!! :D

—===—

Past Site Stats entries:

  1. Or folks like me who just get a kick out of making graphs and charts and stuff ; []
  2. But I also had a high LSAT score to balance out applying so late in the admission cycle. Long-time readers of law:/dev/null may recall I’d gotten several emails from NCCU Law about a missing reference letter, so my application wasn’t ready for them to review until early April. []

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