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TDot’s Tips: “A penny for your [outlines]?”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 15, 2011 in TDot's Tips

In addition to law school Orientation — if you’re a NCCU Law 1L, make sure to  read yesterday’s Orientation entry — this is the time of year where the 2Ls and 3Ls start hitting up everyone they can to accumulate outlines for the upcoming year :beatup:

Starting last year I’ve tried to compile as many of those as I can and bundle them into a ZIP file hosted here on law:/dev/null. If you’re looking for outlines, follow these steps:1

  1. In your browser’s address bar, type in the base URL for this blog; if you came to this specific entry’s page and don’t know the base URL, just click this link to go to the law:/dev/null main page ;)
  2. After the “.com/”, if you’re a 1L you’re going to type in “docs/1LStuff.zip” (without the quotation marks), or “docs/2Land3LStuff.zip” (also without the quotes) if you’re a 2L or 3L.

If you have any trouble with that, send me an email (address at the bottom of our About page) or contact me on Twitter.

Now for some obligatory caveats and 1 contractual obligation on your part:

  • On the contractual obligation side:  in exchange for downloading this file, you’re agreeing to help spread the word to your colleagues at the law school about its existence; I want everyone to have access to the outlines, even if they don’t necessarily take advantage of the opportunity to download them.
  • These files are large, and they come from a lot of different sources so there are some duplicates. If you’re on a Mac, the easiest way to find what you need is to use Spotlight; if you’re on a PC… well… I don’t know how to help you on that one :beatup:
  • Many of these outlines will need updating. The 1L classes introduce new cases, and many of the 2L and 3L classes have either new cases (CrimPro) or new statutes (ZombieLaw) or both.
  • These outlines are for NCCU Law classes, so if you’re one of my non-Legal Eagle readers and download them you probably won’t get much utility from them.
  • Most importantly:  the benefit to briefs and outlines is in creating/editing them, not in getting them from someone else. You’ll still need to read for class, and you’ll still need to study. Don’t come back to me in December crying because you have all these outlines, did no work on your own, and then failed your classes. :*

Hope that helps! I’m heading to bed so I can go help with the first day of 1L Orientation for the Day Program in the morning. Have a great night y’all! :D

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Sorry for being so tedious about it, but spambots like to link to file URLs so I’ll end up with folks in Russia or China downloading these over and over again without actually using them if I posted the links directly :mad: []

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TDot’s Tips: “Don’t Be Evil”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 23, 2011 in TDot's Tips

Obligatory hat tip to the folks over at Google for providing the alternate title for tonight’s entry :)

Back in February, my first guest post over at Kaplan’s Beyond Hearsay blawg went live offering my $.02 on how to succeed at life.  And for reasons that I still have yet to fully understand…

…they asked me to write for them again :surprised:

My new entry went live earlier today :spin:  Here’s a sample:

At some point in our lives most of us have heard the cliché “it’s not what you know but who you know that matters.” While etymologists might not know its origins, they know this particular saying has been around for nearly a century — and, depending on your perspective, embodies either (a) an uncontroversial realization that our networks influence what we can obtain, or (b) a jaundiced worldview that individual merit is meritless.”

So for those of us still in law school, which approach [“what you know” or “who you know”] will matter more when it’s time to find a job? Which perspective should we be focusing on before we graduate?

Neither.

Hopefully your curiosity is at least piqued a smidge — if you want the explanation, you’ll have to check out the full entry at Beyond Hearsay ;)

And remember, there are no emoticons over there so you’ll have to imagine the ones I’d throw in as you read :D

Hope you enjoy it, and have a great night y’all!

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

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TDot’s Tips: How to Succeed at Life

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 15, 2011 in TDot's Tips

Yes, I realize the post title is pretentious — I had to get your attention somehow.1 :P

Last week I mentioned that I’d have a column going live over at Kaplan’s Beyond Hearsay blawg. It got posted today, and you can check it out at this URL.

Here’s a snippet from the opening:

Do you remember that person in undergrad who always declined going out to dinner because they had homework to do? Who always walked around with a venti nonfat organic quintuple shot caffè macchiato frapp-o-death because they needed the caffeine to balance out repeated all-nighters? The one who had a nervous breakdown when grades were released because the lone A- they got in Über-Advanced Multivariable Calculus IV hurt their otherwise flawless GPA?

Most of us had at least one classmate in that category, likely several (and if you don’t remember anyone like that, he or she might have been you).

But think about where those people are today. Do you think they’re successful? Do *they* think they’re successful? And more importantly, are they enjoying their lives, successful or otherwise? Odds are good that the answer to at least one of these questions is “no.”

Be forewarned:  Beyond Hearsay is an almost-emoticon-free zone. And they like proper grammar and syntax :surprised:

So I tried to make up for my lack of graphics and contractions and run-on sentences by coming up with at least moderately-compelling content ;) I promise you there’s good stuff in the rest of that post, but you’ll have to head over to Beyond Hearsay to read it :)

Have a great night y’all! :D

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. And I’d like to point out this is my 3rd post in 3 days, for the first time since early January :beatup: []

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A half-million pageviews later

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 3, 2011 in Site Stats

I bet y’all never thought you’d see one of these entries again :D

2nd month of 6,000+ visitors!

law:/dev/null crossed the 500,000 pageview milestone back in mid-November and I’ve been meaning to do another one of these entries ever since. Then studying and taking finals and working and vacation snuck in and I never got around to it :beatup:

But December 2010 was our 2nd-best-trafficked month since we started — despite two 5-day absences — so I figure that calls for celebration! :spin:

Quite a bit has changed on the server backend of the blog since July, including an increasingly aggressive (and thus far successful) effort at stomping out spammers.

Take a look at one of the new graphs I created below, which shows the number of spammy visitor sources I’ve added to the .htaccess file for banning. I recently started throwing in some keyword bans just to reduce the number of directives the server is processing; for example, instead of banning every spammer coming here from a buythisrandomdrugplz.com address, I’ve just decided to ban all the referers with “buy” in the URL.1

The net result? While July featured an almost comically-absurd abundance of spam comments and we had a couple recurrence spikes in August and October, we’ve “purified” the traffic enough that December had the lowest number of spam visitors in the entire history of law:/dev/null :D

The downside is that the bans kill our pageviews-per-day and Alexa traffic stats, the latter of which are used for determining things like avvo.com’s Top Legal Blogs.

Over 1,000+ spammy domains banned!

Our ranking has steadily dropped like a stone over the past two months while sites like Bitter Lawyer — which has become spam-blasted and hasn’t had fresh content in 3+ months — actually find their stats going up over that same timespan :crack:

But, just between you, me, and the interwebz: I’d prefer having 6,000+ flesh-and-blood visitors a month actually reading this stuff instead of tens-of-thousands of spammers just crawling for comment forms ;)

We’ll see if we can keep our current anti-spam success going in the new year. Honestly I’m just pretty amazed / impressed / blown away that we had as many visitors as we did in December, especially given my infrequent posting. So thanks to all of you :*

***

On the search query front, we’ve had over 1,000 new queries since the last time I did one of these lists :surprised:

Here are 20 of the 240+ unique search terms that brought folks here in December 2010:

  • time magazine decade from hell picture: the picture was more thoughtful than the story itself ;)
  • 1l grade wait: will be at least a month for most law schools, sorry
  • human shooting target: didn’t survive my concealed carry qualification shooting :D
  • nccu law school grades: aren’t due until January 12th :beatup:
  • badass eagle: was briefly considered for my new gravatar — but I decided to stick with my current colonial eagle instead
  • is law school worth it: yes
  • is law school really worth it: yes
  • t4 law school worth it?: probably
  • essay explaining why i would attend north carolina central university: here’s a tip: if you can find it on Google, the admissions staff can find it on Google too ;)
  • if you turn in your tag for lapse in north carolina can you turn around and get a 30 day temporary tag: I could, so you probably can too
  • gpa ncsu computer science: hopefully yours is higher than mine :beatup:
  • final exam advice: check out this entry and this entry — and GOOD LUCK!
  • 1l gpa for top 10%: depends on where you’re going to school, but for the NCCU Law Class of 2012 it was around 3.28
  • hey tar heels… kick rocks: please :angel:
  • people v andrew madison mock trial keys to win: villify the Queen of Hearts :D
  • first kid movie: was my first/only foray in a Hollywood movie (check #19 on that list and see my FB profile for the pics :) )
  • how can a 24 year old get money for law school: apply for students loans. Lots of loans. :beatup:
  • do classmates know your 1l grades: usually no, unless they do really well
  • grading curve nccu law: follows a strict-C, which I’m apparently the only one supporting
  • can’t stand law students: then you’re probably reading the wrong blog ;)

I missed going through these monthly… :spin:

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of December 2010:

  1. On tackling finals: TDot’s Tips: More Final Exam Advice (11/30/10)
  2. On Fall 2010 grade expectations: Halfway done! (12/12/10)
  3. On combating spammers: Fight WordPress comment spam with .htaccess (08/04/10)
  4. On law students around the web: Law School Roundup #247 (12/19/10)
  5. On figuring out what to do with my life: Straddling the fence (12/13/10)

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

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Past Site Stats entries:

  1. On the ever-so-slim chance you happen to get here from a legit source with “buy” (or any other banned keyword) in the URL and you get one of our lovely error pages, just reload law:/dev/null manually and you should be able to see everything :) []

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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

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

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

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“Yes, but…”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 11, 2010 in The 2L Life

Good evening folks! :D

I’ve got a draft entry with a cost-benefit analysis of law school that I’ve been meaning to finish, and depending on how tomorrow turns out it might (maybe?) finally get done. But tonight’s entry is on a somewhat-related variant that I think (hope?) might be useful to someone (anyone?)…

…and at the very least I promise I’ll link you to someone else worth reading if you think this post is subpar :P

Last night I was one of seven students at NCCU Law to serve on a panel entitled “What is law school really like?” — similar to the panel I was on at N.C. State back in the Spring — where we spent a couple hours answering law school-related questions from about two dozen undergrads.

In the middle of the Q&A, a young lady asked if she should just go straight into law school once she graduates from undergrad, or if she should take a few years off to work first. And the first three responses to her question were all along the lines of “I can’t answer your question. You have to know yourself to decide that. Etc.”

It was a perfectly legitimate response, but one that I think strikes too much of a balance — to the point of not being useful. If it’s what you really want to do, my $.02 on the “should I go to law school right away?” question is of the “Yes, but…” variety.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Life doesn’t stop for law school. When we’re in undergrad slaving away in classes, it’s easy for us to discount just how much freedom we have to do what we want. As we get older we not only rack up bigger financial obligations — cell phone payments segueing to car payments segueing to mortgage payments (segueing to student loan payments) — but we also tend to fall in love with a spouse or children or a combination of the two. None of that stuff goes away when you decide to go to law school. I’ve got a number of Legal Eagle colleagues with families and/or sizable monetary responsibilities, forcing them to skip class in an emergency or work a side job to keep the bills paid or take time from studying to be parents / husbands / wives. It’s a testament to their tenacity that they can pull it off, but many folks also conclude the wall is too high for them to scale so they never go to law school at all.
  • “Now” money is more alluring than “later” money. Dove-tailing off the previous point, having readily-accessible cash flow is a comforting feeling. I didn’t make much money during the five years I was a college dropout, but I was making enough that I could keep the lights on in the apartment and food on the table. Any time something went wrong I knew a payday was coming up that could replenish whatever I’d have to pull from savings (or, more often than not, pay on a credit card :beatup: ). Giving that up for a lump-sum financial aid refund twice a year coupled with a ban from the ABA on working more than 20 hours a week is a big lifestyle shift, and makes the transition from the real world back into the academic world more challenging than it needs to be.
  • Law school’s not getting any cheaper. Speaking of challenges, the combined cost of law school tuition / fees / books isn’t going down. You’ve not only got basic economic inflation but also two sets of market pressures driving up rates: the war between law schools to boost their rankings, and the inflated volume of applicants caused by the deflated economy. Even public law schools, the bargains of the legal education arena, will find their tuition rates going through the roof over the next few years as federal stimulus money runs out and states look for ways to balance their ledgers. The longer you wait, the more money you’ll be paying up-front and through student loan interest over the next 20+ years.
  • It’s not getting less populous either. Law schools are also churning out thousands of newly minted lawyers every single year. That’s not going to change — the population might grow or shrink a smidge around the margins, but it’s safe to conclude they’ll continue to churn out thousands of new lawyers. every. single. year. These are the folks you’ll be competing with for jobs in the legal marketplace. Time spent in between undergrad and law school could just as easily be time spent as one of those newly minted lawyers, building experience in what’s going to become your career.

As for the “but…” part, despite everything I just told you, if you’re the type to get burned out it’s probably better to wait.1 Assuming you did a straight run through undergrad (instead of pulling a TDot) you’ll be in school for at least 7 straight years from the start of undergrad through getting your J.D. Remember having that feeling right around the 5th grade that you couldn’t possibly imagine having to go all the way through the 12th? That’s what you’ll be going through.

I also don’t want y’all taking this entry as a knock on the folks who decide (or don’t have a choice) to wait on getting their law degree. There’s a tremendous amount of value in the overly-clichéd topic of “life experience”; The Prophet actually penned an entry on that very subject just a couple days ago. And I can vouch for that reality: even though I absolutely hated being a dropout at the time, when I finally got back into school it definitely made me more appreciative of the education I was getting.2 The work experience I racked up has been a great help with finding employment and deciding what I want to do for a career.

And it gave me all sorts of colorful true-life stories to regale people with at parties :beatup:

But as beneficial as my experience was in hindsight, I’d never wish it on anyone. It wasn’t fun. There were many many days where I felt far-less-than-enthused with my life, where I was, and where I thought I was heading. And you can get just as much “life experience” as an attorney as I got being a random guy who only had a high school diploma ;)

So that’s my $.02 on going to law school now versus doing it later. Take it with the usual caveats, your mileage may very, I could be wrong, no express or implied warranties of any kind, etc etc etc — and have a good night! :)

  1. You could also avail yourself of a 4-year evening program, where you’d go to law school part-time at night and keep the rest of your day for working or being with a family. []
  2. In fact my first semester back was also the first (and only :beatup: ) time I made Dean’s List. []

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A sneak peek at 2L Spring

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

Good evening y’all! :)

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

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

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

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

And people have gotten very good at it…

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

But this morning I made a fatal mistake :beatup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—===—

From the schedule-related archives:

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

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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

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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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TDot’s Tips: Highlight the headnotes

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 9, 2010 in TDot's Tips

Greetings from ConLaw! :D

Now some of our longer-term readers might be wondering “What on earth is TDot doing writing a blog entry during his self-professed favoritest class evah?” — to which I’d reply “That’s a very good question!”

The truth is… I’m not :beatup: This was/is the almost-finished TDot’s Tips entry I mentioned yesterday, but given how ConLaw has gone today I figured it was a serendipitous time to post the post ;)

Specifically, I’m surprised by how many of my classmates at NCCU Law — and law students I’ve talked with at other schools too — deeply and truly hate Constitutional Law!1 :surprised:  The most common complaint I’ve heard is that it’s tough to wade through the SCOTUS-ese to find “the law” when reading cases in our (newly-issued and highlight-free) books, particularly the opinions from the Court’s early years.

It’d be a legit complaint… if “the law” wasn’t already spelled out for us :P

Maybe it’s a 2L version of “getting stuck on the dot“, but folks seem to forget that LexisNexis and WestLaw make everything easy by providing headnotes for each case. This is “the law”2  — and should be one of the things you highlight any time you’re reading an unhighlighted law school text :)

For me, studying for a class where I’ve been assigned casebook readings is a 4-part process:

1) Read the case. This one (hopefully) is obvious, but you need to actually read a case to get a real understanding of it. It’s easy to grab a LegaLines supplement or pre-cooked case brief and go from there, but odds are good the summaries you read will miss some of the important nuance in every opinion. Besides, some of the facts are just plain crazy and worth reading on their own :D

Some headnotes from LexisNexis

2) Highlight the law, a.k.a. the Wexis headnotes. WestLaw and LexisNexis both make oodles and oodles of money off law firms that use their services, so they use an oodle or two to make attorney life easier by extracting the main parts of the holding and throwing them into the headnotes. After you’ve read the case, pull it up online using your unlimited-access law student account, and go through each headnote and highlight it in the book. Now if a professor ever asks “What’s the take-home point in this opinion?” your eyes will naturally spot the highlighted section(s) of the opinion.

3) Highlight the loopholes, a.k.a. the legally significant facts. There’s an old lawyer’s adage that if the law is on your side you argue the law, and if the facts are on your side you argue the facts.3 Every court opinion is issued in response to an underlying case, and every underlying case is composed of key facts that led the court to its conclusions. You need to recognize what those key facts are so you can either harmonize or distinguish your case’s facts with those a court has already considered.

4) Put the holding in “normal people” terms. Judges aren’t normal people. Period. It’s like folks who voluntary spend their professional lives doing taxes — sure it might be an important job, but let’s not pretend like it’s a “normal” interest.4 And since judges aren’t normal people, they don’t write like normal people. And since they don’t write like normal people, it’s easy to get lost in the thicket of legalese that comprises judicial opinions. Fix that problem by writing a few notes to yourself about the court’s holding in regular terms.

For example, there’s a lot of talk about “nexuses” in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968). This is the rhetorical description the Supreme Court decided to use in explaining its opinion, and if you focus on that (obtuse) language you may end up missing the point of the holding — that generally taxpayers can’t file suit in their capacity as taxpayers to challenge Congressional spending (nexus #1) , except in the narrow exception where it involves a purported violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (nexus #2).

***

My process for reading a case probably isn’t the most efficient or even the best use of your time, so take this with the normal disclaimer that your mileage may very. It’s worked out phenomenally for me though, so hopefully you might get some use out of it too :)

Have a great night y’all! :D

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. This is the foundational cornerstone stuff to our entire legal system here in the U.S., how can any aspiring lawyer not like it?? :crack: []
  2. Disclaimer: it’s actually an ever-so-slightly generalized version of the law — never quote a headnote directly in a brief, and instead quote the court’s own language ;) []
  3. The adage continues: And if neither is on your side, you malign the opposition :beatup: []
  4. When was the last time you heard a 3rd grader say he wanted to become a tax attorney when he grew up? Exactly ;) []

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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

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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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