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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 5 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 7, 2014 in Background

So what would you do if you suddenly found yourself elected to public office with a huge mandate… and no platform?

That’s the question-behind-the-question of this next snippet of my interview with the NCSU Libraries Student Leadership Initiative.

Here’s a hint: we did a lot of things for the first time ever, and didn’t give three-tenths of half a damn what the University Administration thought about it :D

Questions in this Clip:

00:00 – So following your election to the presidency, did you make an effort to instate Hankins as Student Senate President?

02:23 – So you just mentioned the fee referendum, so we’ll talk about that if you don’t mind. Can you describe the student fee referendum and how your administration implemented it?

08:45 – As Student Senate President, you called for Congressional repeal of a bill that limited financial aid given to students with drug convictions. What inspired you to advocate for that issue?

Hope all of you had a great Wednesday! More tomorrow :)

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From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

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Cognitive Dissonance at USC Law on the Availability of Legal Help

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 1, 2012 in Unsolicited Commentary

Good evening y’all! :D

One of the things I try to do every morning (before venturing out into the world with my bow and arrow) is running through the mini-feed of the NC SPICE Twitter account and looking for any useful or interesting stories that might be helpful to the solo and small practitioners we serve. It helps them out, and has the side benefit of keeping me informed about what’s going on in the world.1

And every now and then I come across stories that just kinda make me scratch my head…

The good folks over at Solo Practice University had one of those tweets this morning:

Seemed like an innocuous-enough tweet so I clicked the link, and was taken to this press release from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. It outlines the planned testimony earlier today of “Legal Trailblazer Gillian Hadfield,” a professor at the law school, who insists “the legal system’s regulatory approach needs to dramatically shift with less-expensive alternatives to attorneys[.]”

As part of her prepared remarks, the release claims:

“My main message for the Court is one rarely heard from the legal profession,” Hadfield said. “There is no way to generate the kind of legal help ordinary Americans need without fundamental change in the way the judiciary regulates the practice of law… We cannot possibly solve the access to justice problem without changes in our regulatory approach.”

Now I don’t know who Gillian Hadfield is; I’m sure she’s a great lady and a sage scholar of the law. And I’ll even go a step further and accept at face value the claim that her “message” of needed regulatory reform “is one rarely heard from the legal profession.”2

But she teaches at USC Law.

A school with annual tuition and fee rates of $51,490.00 in 2012-2013.

The 6th most-expensive law school in the nation.3 :crack:

Take a minute to juxtapose Hadfield’s view promoting non-lawyer lawyers with the long-standing lamentation law schools flooded the market with too many graduates. I think those complaints are wrong — the problem isn’t too many lawyers, it’s too many lawyers trying to bill out $250+ an hour so they can repay student loan debts in excess of a quarter-million dollars apiece — but the contrast highlights how completely backwards the discussion over the legal market has gotten.

If you want to promote deregulation of the legal industry, say on the notion that more competition would induce more innovation and produce a better product, then go for it. At least that’s a plausible argument and frankly one I’d support.4

But to promote deregulation on the mind-numbing theory there’s an undersupply of legal help available, all while enriching yourself via (and thus contributing to) one of the top drivers behind inflated legal rates, is beyond farcical. :roll:

The press release closes by noting Professor Hadfield’s valiant efforts to tame her employer:

She is part of a growing movement to reform legal education. Her mission is to teach law students to be problem solvers.

“Many law professors come to law school thinking that our job is to be the expert at the front of the class imparting information,” she said. “But one of the most important things we can do for our students is to get them actively engaged in problem-solving together to generate workable solutions to client problems. As I see it, my job as a professor is to design the materials and opportunities for them to do that and then to take myself out of center stage as much as possible.”

With due respect to the esteemed Professor Hadfield, if you really want to “take [yourself] out of center stage as much as possible” I’d suggest you encourage USC Law to lead by example and slash its tuition and fee rates.

Approach that objective with even a fraction of the zeal you’ve devoted to deregulating the entire legal profession, and I suspect you’d discover there is a “way to generate the kind of legal help ordinary Americans need”: producing lawyers ordinary Americans can actually afford to hire. ;)

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From the law:/dev/null Unsolicited Commentary archives:

 
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“Where did all these people come from?”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 9, 2011 in Site Stats

Hey y’all! :)

It’s been half a year since our last Site Stats entry back in June, not for lack of time or interest but mostly because traffic tended to stagnate with my random disappearances all the time. Even with us passing 1,000,000+ pageviews back in September, there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy to merit another entry.

November '11 now holds the all-time attendance record :surprised:

Then a whole bunch of y’all appeared out of nowhere! :crack:

November 2011 was officially the single busiest month law:/dev/null has had since we launched back in August 2009!

And I have absolutely no clue why :beatup:

We had a +6.7% bump in daily readership to 2,041,1 likely resulting from my somewhat-less-sporadic posting over the month.

But the real craziness is the sudden +57.4% explosion in unique people coming to the site (8,144)2 — leapfrogging our previous record back in October 2010 of 6,716, and for reasons totally unknown to me.

There wasn’t a sudden bump in Google searches, no random spike in RSS readership,3 no particularly controversial posts that I’m aware of, and yet somehow we still had a whole bunch ‘o newcomers stop by this little piece of internet real estate. :surprised:

The war on spammers continues...

And what makes the unique IP number particularly odd is that it came alongside us blocking an unprecedented number of spammers that would otherwise be distorting the traffic figures.

In what has become my WordPress equivalent of the government’s War on Drugs, on a regular basis I go through our logs line-by-line and wall off this space from an ever-growing number of bots and spamdexers via our .htaccess file. It’s virtually eliminated comment spam (0.00479 spam comments per IP last month) but has the side effect of holding down the traffic figures.

Which is just as good since I don’t really count spammers as “real” visitors, but it’s still weird seeing such a jump in readership knowing there are about 2,000 URLs blocked from sending people here.

Anyhow, to the new folks: *WELCOME*, and thank you for visiting! :D  Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and keep coming back. :)

Doubt we’ll hit this level of traffic again any time soon but we’ll see what happens…

***

The main reason I started putting these entries together ages ago was to go through some of the search queries that send people to the site. So here’s a random selection of 20 out of the 580+ unique search terms that brought folks here in November 2011:4

  • can a footnote go under the signature on a legal doc: Depends on the document, and depends on the rule of construction the courts in that jurisdiction use; some courts allow it, others consider anything past the signature (including footnotes) as “surplusage” that has no legal effect.
  • nccu law bad neighborhood: Aside from a drug bust at the local Burger King and the occasional stuff that happen on every sizable college campus, it’s really not that bad.
  • can you petition your gpa if you are within less than 2 tenths away from cum laude: In the words of MDG, “LOL. no.” (at least not here at NCCU Law)
  • lawyers in state legislatures: Are a surprising rarity :surprised:
  • i’m panicking wording: Freaking out. Melting down. Losing your nerve. Having a psychotic episode. Taking a law school exam. Let me know if I should continue…
  • how often do people get kicked out for 2l grades: Not often compared to 1L year because people can self-select their classes, but it does happen. The frequency doesn’t matter, all that matters is whether or not your GPA is above a 2.0 ;)
  • how to get a job with bad grades in law: (1) Develop a personality, then (2) network. If you exclude me tutoring CrimLaw (where the grade for that single class was a smidge important), I’ve had exactly -0- employers care about my GPA for the various law jobs/internships I’ve had. Particularly in smaller firms, people care more about whether or not they can tolerate working with you every day than whether or not you were Top 10% academically. Make sure you have a solid LinkedIn profile, go to various law-related events, attend CLEs, get to know your professors and career services personnel, and so on — that way when openings pop up, people are willing to recommend you or at least clue you in to the vacancy.
  • american travel blog first impression toronto: I loved loved loved it! Awesome place. :D
  • dueces fingers with white background: You’d probably have more success spelling it correctly (“deuces”), but until then you can use the pic from this old UNCASG-related entry.
  • college students taking classes unrelated to their major: Yep, that’s how I made my way through N.C. State :beatup:
  • why do you want to go to nc central law?: Ummm… if you don’t know the answer to that question already, you probably don’t want to go here :P  If you want my reasons, you can read my “Why NCCU Law?” entry linked at the top of this page.
  • is law school still worth it: Nothing has happened to change my perspective (Part I and Part II) so I’d say “yes.”
  • can you fail duke law?: On a B+ curve? And risk the school losing $51K+ a year in tuition in fees per student? It might be theoretically possible, but I doubt it happens :roll:
  • 1l grades most important: I certainly hope not or I’m screwed. I prefer my own $.02: your 1L grades don’t matter.
  • va beach snowmageddon: Terrifying at the time, but pretty effing cool in retrospect B-)
  • sulc has too many white students: With budget cuts going on and minimum bar passage rates slated to rise, my guess is SULC has bigger things to worry about ;)
  • november mpre 2011 thoughts: It sucked. But I passed.
  • “closing argument” “let me try that again” good morning: Assuming you’re planning to try something similar to the Chief’s greeting back at 1L Orientation: please don’t. I’ve yet to find a single person who thinks this tactic is humorous or anything but annoying.
  • how to get caught up law school: When you figure it out, please let me know :beatup:
  • young lawyers division ridiculous: That’s actually not the first time I’ve heard this. Aside from the YLD’s incomplete approach to transparency in law school statistics, a number of them were downright rude during the ABA Annual Meeting this past summer. I guess being esquires entitles them to be pricks? Hopefully that won’t be me this time next year.

Nothing particularly risqué in this month’s batch of queries, but I still enjoyed digging through them :)

***

To wrap things up, here are the Top 5 posts from November 2011:5

  1. On NCCU Law’s strict-C curve: In support of the strict C: a year later (11/12/11)
  2. On thinking about going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part I) (11/27/11)
  3. On pros/cons for going solo: Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part II) (11/29/11)
  4. On the irrelevance of 1L grades: Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter (05/29/11)
  5. On the November ’11 MPRE: That was remarkably unpleasant (11/05/11)

And that’s it for this entry! *THANK YOU* as always for your continued support of law:/dev/null, it’s greatly appreciated! :spin:

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From the Site Stats archives:

  1. +23.4% year-over-year since November 2010, for those who like analytics :) []
  2. +57.1% year-over-year []
  3. We’re actually back down to 116 RSS readers, which is more in line with our historical average. Looks like the previous spike was an aberration. []
  4. Down -18.4% compared to last month, but up +81.25% year-over-year []
  5. An odd collection considering #2 and #3 were only up for a couple days before the month ended, and #3 was posted half a year ago :surprised: []

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The Chief announces his retirement

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 8, 2011 in Randomness

After spending the past 7 years at the helm of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, the Chief is stepping down when his 5-year contract expires at the end of this academic year.

From today’s article in the Durham Herald-Sun:

Pierce to leave NCCU law school
By Neil Offen
noffen@heraldsun.com; 419-6646

December 8, 2011

DURHAM — Raymond Pierce, who has lead the N.C. Central University School of Law to increased funding and national prominence, is leaving his post as dean to take a position with a Raleigh law firm.

Pierce, who has been dean at NCCU since 2005, will join Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough as a partner at the end of the academic year.

“It has been a great honor and pleasure to have worked with so many outstanding people at NCCU,” said Pierce. “Although I will greatly miss being at the university, I look forward to being at Nelson Mullins and returning to the practice of law.”

Before becoming dean, Pierce was a partner at the firm of Baker Hostetler where he represented clients in the steel, energy, banking and private equity business.

During Pierce’s tenure, the law school has seen increased applications, enrollment and alumni giving. The school twice has been rated No. 1 for best value Law School and has been included in a top 10 list of most popular law schools.

In 2008, Pierce led a successful effort to equalize state funding between the law school at UNC Chapel Hill and NCCU, the state’s only two public law schools. Pierce also has elevated the prominence of the law school by securing visits from dignitaries such as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Lots more info in the Durham Herald-Sun article, so make sure to check it out when you have time.

Many of us have known this was coming since at least August when the Chief all-but-announced the news at the first SBA Presidents’ Roundtable meeting. Even so, it makes me incredibly nervous for the next few years at NCCU Law.

Any time you’ve got a transition of leadership at a public institution it creates a window for slashing budgets and making other changes that established leaders had previously blocked. See, e.g., what’s happened to the consolidated University of North Carolina the instant former University President Erskine Bowles stepped down, with billions (with a ‘B’) slashed from the University budget and multiple 4-figure tuition increases at constituent institutions across the state slated to take effect next academic year.

It’s also commonplace for educational institutions to alternate between more “business”-oriented leaders and more “academic”-oriented leaders. The UNC system is a good example with academic Bill Friday followed by businessman Dick Spangler followed by academic Molly Broad followed by businessman Erskine Bowles followed now by former Davidson College President Tom Ross.

If NCCU Law follows that pattern, we’re likely to get someone academically oriented as our next Dean… and I’m uncertain (at this point at least) if that’ll be a wise decision in a period of budget austerity. Students want someone friendly toward them who will focus on polishing the academic credentials of the school, but money is what helps make all that happen. We need someone who can twist arms at the General Assembly, convince alumni to open their wallets, and make sure tuition stays low so NCCU Law can continue honoring its historical mission to reach out to underserved communities and dominating the cost-conscious sector of legal education in North Carolina.

But that’s just my $.02, and I could be wrong.1 :beatup:

Congratulations to the Chief on his new job! And let’s hope whoever determines his successor doesn’t screw up ;)

Have a great night y’all!

  1. On a completely and totally unrelated side note, this continues the weird pattern of my time in Student Government coinciding with people leaving their jobs :crack:  NC State‘s Chancellor Jim Oblinger stepped down at the end of my time as Student Senate President, UNC-system President Erskine Bowles stepped down at the end of my tenure as UNCASG President, and now the Dean will be stepping down at the end of my tenure as SBA President. Not sure if that’s good or bad timing on my part… []

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Are all California police just nuts?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 21, 2011 in Randomness

I surfaced briefly from under the pile of end-of-semester homework to catch up on the news, and just now stumbled upon this whole UC Davis pepper spraying incident via a friend posting this YouTube video on Facebook:

Now I’m no fan of the Occupy movement and Occupiers’ tendency to willfully violate the private property rights of others to try and make a point.1 Even so, this is downright insane :crack:

The university’s claim that the pepper spraying was prompted by a “hostile” situation is thoroughly debunked by the video. There’s nothing here but a bunch of wannabe hippies sitting there linking arms thinking it’ll make a difference in tuition increases.2

They weren’t preventing the ingress or egress of vehicular traffic, presenting a safety hazard, or causing any other public disturbance to a level that demanded the use of force. Totally, shamelessly, incontrovertibly outrageous — what seems to be a recurring theme among California law enforcement agencies.

Remind me not to visit California again any time soon…

  1. I’ll concede I wholeheartedly agree with the Occupy folks with respect to crony capitalism bearing some responsibility for the economic mess we’re in — but they don’t seem to grasp that the reason crony capitalism persists is because it’s incredibly lucrative when the federal government has its tentacles in every cookie jar available. A regulation costing you or I a nickel apiece might cost a given industry millions of dollars, which prompts companies to buy legions of lobbyists to push for special favors from the government. That’s why things turn into a mess. End crony capitalism, but also end the government overreach that promotes crony capitalism. []
  2. Though I suspect most of them aren’t registered to vote, and I doubt they’ve tried any of the tactics we successfully deployed in UNCASG. []

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In support of the strict C: a year later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personally I vote no.

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

Good night folks! :)

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A conservative’s [brief] case for higher education funding

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 9, 2011 in Unsolicited Commentary

After more than 2 years of writing here at law:/dev/null, I’ve done a reasonably decent job of keeping the “real world” politics to a minimum1 — not because I’m averse to talking about those sorts of issues, but because law school is enough of a headache without me going into AN ALL-CAPS RAGE2 about the latest controversy du jour.

Even so, every now and then I feel a slight urge to rant ;)

Earlier tonight I took a break from drowning in homework to visit Chapel Hill for “An Evening with Five Presidents”, an event put together by the UNC Board of Governors featuring a panel discussion with the 5 folks who have led the consolidated University of North Carolina since it was established in 1972. Former BOG members were asked to attend as “special friends” of the University — and since I’m more likely to find a job lead from one of these folks than anything my GPA will get me, I figured making the academic sacrifice was a rational choice :beatup:

Anyhow, the wide-ranging discussion included more-than-a-few remarks about the proper way to fund the University and the totally absurd tuition increases being discussed behind closed doors (e.g. $4K+ increase at UNCCH for in-state undergrads over the next couple years :crack: ). Unfortunately those are the kinds of conversations that happen when newly-Republican-led state legislatures gore the higher education system and nuke $1 of every $7 overnight.3

It’s obvious from the General Assembly’s actions that legislators have a dim view of the university system, I’m just thoroughly flummoxed as to why. It’s always made intuitive sense to me that the education sector is one of the few options that are a sensible and eminently capitalist choice for investing taxpayers’ money.

Yes, I just said “eminently capitalist.” Maybe I’m biased because of the modest upbringing and former dropout status, but consider two brief reasons:4

The Social Network Effect:
Folks who’ve spent time in a computer science class have probably already heard of the “Metcalfe Effect”, named after Ethernet founder Robert Metcalfe. He argued that a critical mass of users was necessary to create any value in any particular network; for example, one person having a telephone is worthless, but as more people get telephones all current telephone users benefit.5 Economists refer to this as a positive network externality.

The Metcalfe Effect in computer science: for a network of (n) nodes, the total number of possible connections is (n * (n - 1)) / 2

You can see a visual depiction in the photo on the right. The Metcalfe Effect can actually be expressed as a mathematical formula — (n * (n-1)) / 2 — indicating the total number of possible connections between n nodes in a network. 2 nodes: 1 connection. 5 nodes: 10 connections. 12 nodes: 66 connections. And so on.

Universities are essentially big incubators for a human-centric Metcalfe Effect, creating what I’d describe as a Social Network Effect. Thousands of people voluntarily choose to come into a given geographic area, sharing a common institutional affiliation for 4 years at a stretch, and in the process inevitably form connections (their social network) with those around them.

Now is every one of N.C. State‘s 33,000+ students going to connect with the other 32,299+? Of course not. But in the aggregate, more connections are formed than would be otherwise.

I’ve seen this Social Network Effect get routinely derided by conservative pundits for years — “We’re supposed to be teaching kids to get jobs! Not to have fun!” blah blah blah rabble rabble rabble.

But the criticisms overlook basic realities of how economics works: information asymmetry is an impediment to maximum economic efficiency, and our personal networks help to distribute information and reduce that asymmetry as a result. This is the reason why the extent and quality of your personal network influences the resources you can obtain.

To make a long story short (these kinds of debates can get über-long), basically with the Social Network Effect at universities you get more people forging more numerous and economically higher-quality connections with more other people, producing a greater quantity and quality of economic interaction — better matches between employers and employees, producers and consumers, new business ventures, and so on.

The Foundational Knowledge Effect:
I couldn’t come up with a cool-sounding name for this one :beatup:

One of my minors at N.C. State was in economics, and to get there we had to read a lot of different books / essays / writings / etc. Out of everything economics-related that I’ve read, economist William Easterly’s The Elusive Quest for Growth ranks among my Top 2 favorites.6

A former economist with the World Bank, Easterly’s book discusses the various “panaceas” touted by the developed world for trying to improve third-world countries (things like debt forgiveness, building schools, and the like) and why most of them simply don’t work. While the book overall is excellent, what particularly jumped out to me in reading it was Easterly’s thorough exploration of the role of knowledge in the economy.

In a nutshell: knowledge is cumulative and builds off of itself.

This is why, if you look at the economic growth rates of various countries over the last century, countries tend to hit a certain point where their per capita GDP accelerates exponentially rather than just linearly — the “core” level of knowledge among the populace hits a threshold point where it can then take greater advantage of new advances and discoveries, accelerating growth further and leading to even more such discoveries.

As an example, you couldn’t simply teleport back to California in 1900, give someone the laptop you brought with you, and expect Silicon Valley to spring up decades ahead of time when the country hasn’t seen a radio or TV yet. Easterly discusses this reality in the context of African tribes cut off from the outside world, suddenly immersed in modern tech innovations when approached by missionaries: they pick up on it eventually, it just takes a long time when that foundational knowledge doesn’t exist.

Just like universities are great voluntary creches for nurturing social networks, so too are they among the most-effective means for building “core” knowledge in the populace. The widespread ubiquity of technology, access to the latest research, the exposure to knowledge that comes from building a social network in itself — all of this contributes to everyone’s foundation of knowledge, enabling a higher degree of economic growth at a faster pace than we’d have otherwise simply from mere exposure to it (and even more if it’s retained).

***

I have to cut this entry here because WordPress says I’ve already hit 1,300 words, but my main point is this: the Social Network Effect and the Foundational Knowledge Effect, taken together, lead to a situation where the economic loss that comes from taxing away private money and diverting it to a public purpose is recouped and then outweighed by the economic gain from reducing information asymmetry and increasing the scope and speed of innovation in the marketplace.

In other words, just looking at the economics alone and ignoring any other incidental benefits, funding the University of North Carolina is a net benefit for the State and its taxpayers.

The conservatives in the North Carolina General Assembly should take notice and give embodiment to the words written in Article IX, Section 9 of the State’s Constitution: “The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.”

And I might be going out on a limb here, but I’d guess cutting 15% of the University’s budget and prompting 4-figure tuition increases don’t really mesh with that.7 ;)

Have a good night y’all! :D

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From the law:/dev/null Unsolicited Commentary archives:

  1. A mere 2.5% of our 467 entries. Even less when you consider 5 of the 12 Unsolicited Commentary posts are exclusively law school-related, and another 2 of 12 are predominantly law-oriented. []
  2. Hat tip to Ray William Johnson for the phrase :) []
  3. A hair’s breadth under $2,000,000.00 at NCCU Law completely gone. :crack: []
  4. I concede at the outset I haven’t gone searching for empirical studies to back up my arguments here; I’m sure they exist and I could found them if I felt like spending the time to do so, but I don’t need empirical confirmation to know when something basic makes sense ;) []
  5. Or, for the younger generation of folks reading this entry: the more people who join Facebook, the more each individual Facebook user benefits :P []
  6. The other, read during the time I had dropped out of school, is Henry H. Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson — hands down the greatest economics tome I’ve ever read, and one I strongly encourage everyone to read from cover-to-cover regardless of your political philosophy :D []
  7. That’s not to say I think all tuition increases are per se bad. I firmly believe students should be expected to fund a portion of their education (and even take out loans :eek: ) so they have some “skin in the game” as it were, and universities should have flexibility to deal with inflation and other cost issues. But I’ve also advocated for years that any tuition increases need to be predictable and capped. Better to have a 6.5% increase every year like clockwork than no increase one year and a 40%+ increase out of the blue the year after. []

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4

Most expensive. semester. evah.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 20, 2011 in The 3L Life

Hey everybody :)

Unlike my past disappearances, I actually intentionally left law:/dev/null un-updated the past few days so the new folks could find outlines without a problem.1

Which is probably a good thing because otherwise I would have spent the past 4 days complaining about how f*cking expensive my penultimate semester of law school is getting :mad:

Now some of this stuff I knew was coming even back when I was a 1L, like the $2,667 I still owe BarBri for my bar review. And some of it I didn’t know about my 1L year (like the MPRE) but the cost isn’t that significant ($63).

The rest may just be my own ignorance, but $700 just to submit an application to the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners??  :surprised:  And textbooks!

I’ve already spent $729 on books this semester — more than I’ve ever spent at any point in the 24 separate semesters I’ve been buying them2and I’m not even done yet! :crack:  The bookstore is still missing the casebook for my Employment Discrimination class, and the statutory supplement for my Tax class :(

I’ll be a hair’s breadth under $1,000.00 (just on textbooks) by the time 3L Fall is over…

Then there’s the $310 tuition increase requested back in December by NCCU (not the law school), approved by the UNC Board of Governors in February, and then skimmed off the top by NCCU (not the law school) as part of a 14% budget reduction handed to the law school a couple weeks ago.3 And of course the unexpected costs of getting old, like (in the case of my car) spending half a grand to fix something in the engine block earlier this week or (in the case of me) dropping just-under-a-grand to get a cap put on one of my molars last week :beatup:

Sorry for venting y’all, the past couple days with these textbooks have just crystallized my general frustration with being a broke law student and watching everything I saved up over the summer vanish paying for unexpected expenses. I’ve got no earthly clue how I’m going to get everything paid for by the time I’ve got to pay it, but I’m ready to graduate, pass the bar, get my license, and start making real money.

Hope all of you are having a less-expensive start to your school years! Have a great night! :D

  1. If you’re a 1L, copy and paste www.lawdevnull.com/docs/1LStuff.zip and if you’re a 2L/3L copy and paste www.lawdevnull.com/docs/2Land3LStuff.zip — send me an email if you have any trouble! []
  2. 6 years of undergrad, 2.5 years of law school, and 7 sets of summer sessions between them. []
  3. Which, coincidentally, is the exact same percent as the 14% budget cut the UNC BOG gave NCCU as a whole. Looks conspicuously like an “across-the-board” cut by NCCU despite the BOG’s explicit instructions not to engage in across-the-board cuts… []

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1

Über-huge mini-update on life

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 7, 2011 in The 2L Life

Evening y’all! :D

I’ve been gone from the blawgosphere for what seems like an eternity — I looked at the little calendar thing on the right for January, and for the first time since I started law:/dev/null there were more days without entries posted than with them :beatup:

As you can probably guess, I had totally overcommitted myself this semester. But I’ve started paring back and hope to get back into the swing of things here starting now ::fingers crossed::

Here’s a quick update on my life, which encompasses most of the dozen-ish entries I had queued up but never got around to posting:

====================
I. ACADEMICS
====================

The academic vibe this semester is totally different from last semester. Thus far I’ve got no real interest in any of my classes… plus I’m behind in pretty much all of them :(

Trial Practice is boring because all the stuff we’re going over — openings / closings / directs / crosses / objections — has already been beaten into my brain from trial team practice (see Part II below). Business Associations would probably be a fun class, if not for the fact I’m about 4 lectures behind in the reading.

Same deal with Scientific Evidence; I’ve got high hopes for enjoying it as the semester progresses, but between falling behind in the reading and class being at 8:30am, I’ve been very “blah” every day. As for Criminal Procedure, I finally managed to get caught up last week just to fall behind again by the next class.

I’ve basically been keeping my head down in all of my classes praying I don’t get called on :beatup: God willing I’ll be able to get everything caught up tomorrow and Tuesday…

====================
II. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M IN
====================

Trial team has essentially consumed my life. Back in early January during our first practice I was worried I’d be blown out by my teammates in our draft closing arguments, so I did a lot of prep on mine… and ended up giving the best one :surprised:

That netted me the team captain spot for the 2Ls with the designation as “swing” counsel. Since TYLA teams are either 2 or 3 people, in our case we’ve got 1 person solely doing prosecution, 1 solely doing defense, and the “swing” (me) doing both :crack:

So there have been multi-hour practices 4-5 days a week for a month now. On the off days I’m tweaking things and updating my trial binder and thinking about possible curveballs that could be tossed at us by the competition. Add in the fact I’d never actually questioned a witness before — abjectly failing on the first couple attempts as a result — and you get what’s been an awful loooong month.

For several days I’d get to the law school at 8am and not leave until 10pm, a scenario I assiduously avoided during 1L year and now can’t escape :beatup:

On the SBA end, Treasury work has been a mess too. All NCCU Law school students pay a fee to the main campus student union, which goes into a programming fund to which different organizations can submit requests for event funding. At some point years and years ago, the administrators on main campus decided it would be more efficient to just give the SBA that $$$ paid by law school students and letting us distribute it (since our folks almost never use main campus facilities) instead of having the law school groups submit a boatload of requests to main campus.

Turns out this was all a totally unofficial arrangement. With catastrophic budget cuts looming, the folks on NCCU’s main campus decided a few weeks ago they’re not going to give the SBA that money — months after the fiscal year started and we had adopted a budget including it. So I got to spend a good chunk of late January working with the SBA Exec Board and law school administrators to fill a ~$90K budget hole with only a few months left in our terms.

Fortunately we wrote a very austere budget back in September so we were able to pull it off, but at the cost of having to cancel our Spring appropriations process and trim back a bunch of other expenditures.

My campaign logo+slogan for SBA President

The whole situation’s roots in budget cuts has also persuaded me to run for SBA President in March. The impending cuts being handed down by the state legislature are truly mind-boggling in their enormity. Consider, for example, that for every $1 in state funding that’s eliminated from North Carolina’s university system, tuition has to be raised by $3 to make up the difference. The NCGA is currently talking about cutting $400,000,000.00+ from the UNC system. That means we’re facing $1.2B+ (yes, “billion” with a “b”) in tuition increases just to stay where we are — increases of roughly $5,600 per student.

Those kind of increases lead to mass dropouts like we had back in the early part of this millennium — including your humble author — and it makes for horrible public policy. Our SBA this year had to focus on rebuilding its internal credibility with the Student Body and faculty, and now it’s time for us to focus our sights elsewhere. I think (hope?) my experiences can make me a solid advocate for this university and law school in the year ahead.

I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes :)

====================
III. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M NOT IN
====================

Speaking of student advocates, UNCASG has been in the news quite a bit lately — and it seems for all the wrong reasons.

My successor and his administration pushed me out of the group and ran as far away from my way of doing things as quickly as his legs could carry him. I can’t really complain because that’s how politics goes and I certainly did the same thing when I took over.  The difference between then and now, though, is that I discarded things that didn’t work and found ways that did.

On the other hand, the new kids on the block have basically taken a timewarp back to 2006-07 :crack:

First there was a controversy over the President threatening Executive Officers who support local SG candidates who “disagree with the ‘ASG vision'”. This kind of institutional arrogance is precisely what alienated campuses from UNCASG in the past and led to the withdrawals in the year before I was elected. How anyone thought it was a good idea is beyond my limited mental faculties to comprehend; in my world, if you’re going to have to fire someone… you just don’t hire them in the first place.

The UNCCH Carolina Review decided to make hay from the issue with a piece of their own of course. You might recall the folks at the Carolina Review are the self-proclaimed conservatives cited by the Pope Center in the Center’s hit piece on my tuition views last March.1

I can’t blame the Carolina Review for trying to boost their readership with a timely article on a manufactured controversy, but pegging it as a conservative issue struck me as amusing — once upon a time conservatives opposed non-local people getting involved in local affairs. Instead the Review encourages it, as long as the involvement coincides with their own political views.

The whole situation is a mess, and one that should have been avoided. When I originally wrote UNCASG’s Ethics Act 2.5 years ago, I included this provision:

§1-2.5. Electioneering Prohibited.
(a) No Executive Officer receiving compensation funded by student fees shall knowingly engage in election-related advocacy or other campaign activities on behalf of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(b) No Executive Officer shall allow his or her name and/or official title to be used to further the candidacy of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(c) This section shall not be construed to prevent an Executive Officer from filing for elective office at a constituent member of the Association and from campaigning on his or her own behalf.

The section was removed in committee, at the urging of students from… UNCCH.2

The folks at the Carolina Review have also been circulating a petition to have a referendum on UNCCH’s participation in ASG put on their Student Government ballot in an effort to have the University remove itself. As the guy who created N.C. State’s student fee referenda from scratch back when I was Student Senate President, I’m actually in total support of having this particular referendum… but (unsurprisingly) they haven’t yet collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot. If they did, it would deprive them of an issue to carp about :roll:

“But TDot,” you say, “all of the stuff you’re talking about is small potatoes. None of this matters when a group is doing meaningful work and making a difference.” And you’d be right — but that’s not what’s actually going on.

Instead of focusing on the impending tuition battle I mentioned in Part I above, the leadership of UNCASG has focused instead on getting the President a vote on the university system’s Board of Governors — an utterly useless power on a Board where almost all votes are unanimous, and doubly useless when reaching out to the 215,000+ students the ASG President represents can carry more power than any vote. The last ASG meeting produced a total lack of consensus on a legislative agenda, leading to a factually-inaccurate DTH editorial touting a student vote as a good thing to try and fix the total dysfunction currently gripping the group.

The DTH (unsurprisingly) is wrong. Unfortunately the ASG leadership is wrong too.

Then there are the upcoming campus elections which will produce the next salvo of anti-ASG fireworks when new SBPs take office in a few months. Among the amusing candidacies is Rick Ingram, the odds-on favorite to become Student Body President at UNCCH. You might remember Ingram as the Kerry-esque flip-flopper who voted in favor of the UNCASG budget before he decided it would be more beneficial politically to oppose it. He’s been aggressively courting students for their votes — apparently so much so that the campus’s Board of Elections has already fined him for violating campaign rules and is now debating having him disqualified.3

Ingram also proclaimed on his website that “The simple truth is this — the days of fighting against tuition increases are over.”… an odd proclamation from a student and aspiring student leader in light of $1.2B+ in upcoming tuition hikes, and one which (1) the media (unsurprisingly) never covered and (2) promptly disappeared from his website when it became a political liability. Ingram’s victory would speak volumes about the UNCCH electorate, but more ominously it would ensure UNCASG wastes all of next year fighting pointless internal battles instead of serving students.

With all of this drama going on, for some unknown reason I made the mistake of heading to the NC General Assembly to catch up with some old colleagues and ask a few legislators of their thoughts on the situation. To say UNCASG has lost nearly all the credibility we built for it over two years would be putting it mildly :mad:  If I had any doubt that things were really as bad as they seemed, I actually got calls from several campuses asking me to come back and run for the organization’s Senior Vice President position.4 It’s disheartening that I’m actually considering it…

====================
IV. PERSONAL LIFE
====================

The saying “when it rains, it pours” was a pretty good epitaph for January 2011.

I was sick for the first week. My sister was committed to a mental institution the second week. QT’s dad unexpectedly died of a heart attack the week after. That very same day in trial team practice I found out a friend of mine was killed in a car accident.

At some point around that portion of the month I discovered both of my parents are either currently having or recently had affairs (I was sufficiently disappointed in both of them that I didn’t bother to inquire further) and the situation with my sister has them contemplating divorce. My dad was laid off from his job. My sister got released from the mental hospital and within the week was off her meds and smoking weed like she had nothing better to do with her time. At which point my parents discovered she had been stealing my mom’s jewelry to sell in an effort to finance her drug habit. Etc etc etc ad nauseum.

I’m pretty sure there was other crazy sh*t going on last month too but I did my best to forget as much of it as possible :beatup:  I’m trying to be a supportive friend to QT and her brother as best I can, trying to avoid the quagmire that is my family and their attendant refusal to make the tough decisions necessary to actually improve their lives, and otherwise trying to avoid having my generally sunshine-y disposition rained out on a near-daily basis like it did last month.

====================
V. PROFESSIONAL STUFF
====================

Things are at least marginally better on the professional side. I’ve started my tutoring sessions with the 1Ls in Criminal Law, and so far I’ve got the highest-attended tutorial and office hours out of the 15 different 1L classes (3 each in CrimLaw, CivPro, Torts, Property, and Ks). It’s too early to tell if that trend’s going to continue, but the feedback has been very positive and it really boosts my spirits :spin:

My internship with I-Cubed was also going really well. The people are great, the company culture is cool, the issues are interesting, and I was turning in sterling work product (even earning the praise of an attorney at another tech company). I was also getting addicted to the four-figure paychecks…

…but I walked away :surprised:

Between trial team consuming my time, my personal life being a crucible, and trying to keep up with academics, I just wasn’t able to give the company the 20 hours a week they needed. So I met with the CEO last week (my boss) and basically quit for now. I’m still part of the company and available for non-time-sensitive ad hoc projects as needed, but I’ve otherwise wound down to -0- hours a week until summer when the company will re-assess if I’m still useful to them.

It was the first time I’ve left a job since 2002, when I quit the State Bar to go take a leadership spot in the Wake County Clerk’s Office. There’s a part of me that’s terrified I made the wrong choice, especially with all the doom and gloom about the economy and law school employment stats and etc. But honestly I’d rather put everything out on the table and take my chances down the road than either (1) being miserable every day as I’m stretched too far in too many directions, or (2) start failing at things, turning in below-par work, and ending up getting fired anyway ;)

It was an awesome opportunity and I’m thankful for it, and I’ve got faith everything will work out exactly how it’s supposed to work out :)

====================
VI. BLAWG LIFE
====================

Spam combat on the backend of this blog has been continuing apace. My edition of the (badly-delayed) Law School Roundup will be coming up this week so I can punt the ball back over to Katie Luper :)

And oddly enough we had a real explosion in Google searches last month, so even though I had almost no entries in January we still had fairly decent traffic :crack:

I’ve also got a piece on tap for Beyond Hearsay that should be going live some time over the next couple weeks, and one for The True Verdict that I’m working on in my spare time — hopefully you’ll like them both ;)

—===—

That’s it for this entry y’all! I’m sorry for being gone as long as I was, but I’m gonna make a serious effort to get back in the game.

Until next time, have a great week! :D

  1. Views they fabricated from whole cloth despite five years’ worth of publicly-available commentary to the contrary. []
  2. Conservative UNCCH students at that, who saw an opportunity to back one of their own SBP candidates with ASG EOs. []
  3. Ingram’s response to the potentially-disqualifying allegations is quite entertaining. Anyone who’s taken the “Detection of Deception” CLE should be able to spot several items where he’s being dishonest with the Board; see if you can find them :) []
  4. I wrote term limits into the ASG Constitution so I’m ineligible to serve as President ever again. []

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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

—===—

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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