The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Archive for the ‘USD Law’ Category

San Diego Coastkeeper’s Blog

Posted by brightcoast on August 24, 2011

I recently stumbled upon the San Diego Coastkeeper’s blog, and I am quite impressed. However, I am not surprised that such a high quality, efficiently running, and passionate environmental water quality non-profit would have an equally strong web presence. It covers environmental issues, water quality specific topics, but also local San Diego issues, especially as related to the Areas of Special Biological Significance, just one of the many features that makes San Diego such a unique ecosystem, and place to live. Can you tell I miss it?

Also, their new executive director is a USD Law alum!

Check it out.

Posted in Environment, San Diego, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Breaking: Stephen Ferruolo Named 10th Dean of USD School of Law

Posted by demkid on May 25, 2011

You heard it here first (or so we hope): Stephen Ferruolo will be named the 10th Dean of the University of San Diego School of Law.  The official announcement will come next week, but we here at the Bright Coast pride ourselves in being ahead of the curve.  USD Law’s 9th Dean, Kevin Cole, informed alumni in New York and DC of the pending news within the past few days.

Stephen Ferruolo

The search process for a new Dean took longer than anticipated.  The Dean Search Committee initially named three finalists, who came to campus in January for a series of meet-and-greets and informational sessions with faculty and students.  A recommendation was made, an offer was given, a name was withdrawn (who really knows what happened?), and in April, the school announced that it had expanded its search to include three additional finalists.  An April 27th Motions article proclaimed that the “expanded pool now includes an even more diverse group of individuals . . . ,” but I’m not really clear on what they meant by “diverse,” because the Search Committee added 3 new white guys to the original pool of 3 white guys.  Ohh…I get it: diverse backgrounds.  How silly of me!  In any case, Mr. Ferruolo was chosen out of the new pool, and I’m sure he’ll lead USD Law capably and admirably.

A former Rhodes Scholar, Mr. Ferruolo is the Founding Partner and Chair of the Goodwin Proctor, LLP San Diego Office.  Prior to law school, Mr. Ferruolo was a professor at Stanford University for nearly eight years. After attending Stanford Law School, Mr. Ferruolo was a judicial law clerk and associate at O’Melveny and Myers in Los Angeles. Soon after, Mr. Ferruolo received a position with Heller Ehrman, LLP in its Palo Alto and San Diego offices. After a mere four years of work with Heller Ehrman, he became a partner—the earliest promotion in firm history. He co-chaired both the Life Sciences and Corporate departments. While at Heller Ehrman, Mr. Ferruolo also worked as an adjuct professor at Stanford Law School. In 2007, Mr. Ferruolo became a partner at Goodwin Proctor.

Mr. Ferruolo’s firm bio is here.  Please join us in welcoming him as the new Dean of the University of San Diego School of Law, and here’s hoping that he’ll bring positive change and a fresh outlook to the premier legal institution in San Diego!

Posted in Education, San Diego, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

I like the law

Posted by brightcoast on May 13, 2011

Hilarious.

Caution: this is probably not even remotely funny unless you have at some point in your life had the pleasure of attending law school. The language is probably also particularly offensive for the common sensibility. This won the Above the Law video contest.

Even less funny, but it’s about Davis, so I gotta represent NorCal.

Posted in California, Education, The Law, USD Law | Leave a Comment »

Yale Kamisar Retiring

Posted by brightcoast on May 10, 2011

Great article here about renowned professor Yale Kamisar ‘s retirement(yes he’s that important he has his own wiki page). He’s also sometimes referred to as the father of Miranda (Miranda v. Arizona), which created the reading of Miranda Rights or Warnings to criminal defendants, preceding any custodial interrogation. It’s the notorious Cops catch phrase, “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you…” which stems from your Fifth Amendment Right against self-incrimination.

Although I never had the pleasure of taking a class with professor Kamisar, I have heard many stories of his legendarily intense lectures, which sound to me more like custodial interrogation than anything else. What strikes me the most about prof. Kamisar, aside from his legendary writings, is his inquisitiveness and realness when it comes to legal issues. He seems like the exact sort of professor that would inspire his students to follow in his footsteps of greatness. His retirement shall be strongly felt, and USD Law will be hard pressed to replace him. (Which is not to say that certain other quasi-celebrity Criminal Procedure profs aren’t similarly entertaining and noteworthy– the phrase “no thank you officer, I’d rather not say” comes to mind.)

On behalf of USD Law students I’d like to thank Professor Kamisar for his 11 years of service.

Posted in SCOTUS, The Law, U.S. Statutes, Uncategorized, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Helpful articles from Above the Law

Posted by brightcoast on March 31, 2011

Career Advice here

Choosing which law school, article here

And perhaps most helpful to those deciding where to go, an article on best value at graduation law schools here

Posted in Education, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

USD Law Slips Back to 67th in 2012 US News Law School Rankings

Posted by demkid on March 16, 2011

Despite recent gains that saw USD Law rise 26 spots in the past two editions of the US News Law School Rankings, the 2012 numbers weren’t as kind, as the school dropped to #67, from it’s all-time high of #56.  USD’s part-time program fell slightly from 10th to 12th, and it’s tax law specialty ranking fell out of the top-10.  Perhaps it’s all my fault, as I wasn’t paying attention to this year’s release date, so I couldn’t participate in helping leak the rankings as I did the previous two years.  Seems like a reasonable explanation!  I didn’t expect that the 2012 rankings would be released a full month earlier this time around.  At this pace, the 2013 rankings will be released in December, 2011!  Well, at least I don’t feel obligated to post screen shots or go through a thorough analysis this year, but I will list the biggest risers and fallers from the 2011 rankings.

Biggest gainers are: Indiana-Bloomington (23rd from 27th), UC Davis (23rd from 28th), Washington (30th from 34th), Washington & Lee (30th from 34th), Maryland (42nd from 48th), Florida State (50th from 54th – Tier Change), Baylor (56th from 64th), Penn State (6oth from 72nd), Illinois Institute of Technology (61st from 80th), Seton Hall (61st from 72nd), Temple (61st from 72nd), Richmond (67th from 86th), Northeastern (71st from 86th), Catholic (79th from 98th), DePaul (84th from 98th), Santa Clara (84th from 93rd), Buffalo-SUNY (84th from Tier 3), Nebraska (84th from 93rd), Marquette (95th from Tier 3), Michigan State (95th from Tier 3), and Louisville (100th from Tier 3).

Biggest fallers are: Emory (30th from 22nd), Georgia (35th from 28th), Wisconsin (35th from 28th), Colorado (47th from 38th), USD, Miami (77th from 60th), Kansas (79th from 67th), New Mexico (79th from 67th), Villanova (84th from 67th), St. John’s (95th from 72nd), Hawaii (95th from 72nd), Syracuse (100th from 86th), Chapman (Tier 3 from 93rd), Missouri-Columbia (Tier 3 from 93rd), and William Mitchell (Tier 3 from 98th).

So, USD Law’s 11-rank fall isn’t the worst of the bunch, but it’s still notable, and 67th is noticeably behind both Pepperdine and Loyola (both at 54).  I don’t have the full rankings, so I can’t compare numbers and try to guess what caused USD’s drop, but recent lackluster Bar performances surely don’t help.  The US News rankings are pretty arbitrary once you get into Tier 2 territory, as many schools are tied, and a 1-2 point drop in a school’s raw score can send it falling by double-digits in the rankings.  This arbitrariness is clearly demonstrated by USD’s recent rankings, as the school has been in the 80′s, 50′s, and points in between.

As far as other California schools are concerned, Davis sure looks impressive at 23rd.  I remember when Davis and Hastings were comparable rankings-wise, but Davis now has a 19-rank advantage on it’s UC counterpart.  Also, poor Chapman just couldn’t hang onto it’s surprising Tier-2 rank from a year ago, falling to 104th.  Hopefully we’ll see them up there again in coming years.  (It’s interesting to note that US News is now ranking Tier 3 schools individually, so now a school like the University of New Hampshire can say, “We’re the 143rd-best law school in the country!”  Perhaps they won’t say that.)  Alas, fellow San Diego schools Cal Western and Thomas Jefferson are still Tier 4 schools, with no published ranks.

That’s about all I have for now.  If I find out anymore interesting details about the rankings, I’ll update this post.  I still highly recommend a legal education at USD, no matter where the rankings roulette ball may fall each spring! (I mean, late winter.)

Update: I feel a little better now about my lack of attentiveness to the rankings this year.  Dan Filler at the Faculty Lounge states: “The most surprising thing about this year’s U.S. News law school rankings is that the magazine (if you can properly call it that) managed to embargo the list right up until its release on the web.  They did so by deferring sale of the hard copy version of the rankings until April 5 – thus denying thieves, snoops and other crafty characters a chance to score a photocopy of the new rankings prior to the moment of formal release.”  For the record, I consider myself to the third type of person in that group!

Posted in Education, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Seriously, USD Law?

Posted by demkid on January 14, 2011

I just was alerted to the fact that the full passage rate statistics for the July 2010 California Bar Exam are now online.  As much as I enjoy bragging about my school, the Class of 2010 left much to be desired.  Out of 259 first-time takers of the exam from USD Law, only 169 passed.  That’s an overall pass rate of 65%, and this ranks 15th out of the 20 California ABA-approved law schools, behind world-class institutions like Cal Western and Chapman University.  It also marks a 13% drop from the Class of 2009′s performance on the exam a year earlier.

So, USD Law, what happened?  I can remember arriving at the school when the Bar passage rate was a major selling point.  Now it’s something that’s embarrassing to talk about.  Was this year just an anomaly (I’d like to give the Class of 2010 more credit), or does this speak to a larger problem with how the School of Law is preparing its students for the Bar Exam?  Perhaps USD Law has just put too much effort into the development of its Career Services Department, to the detriment of Bar prep in the classroom.  Sorry, I crack myself up sometimes…if only that was the case!

Posted in CA Bar Exam, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

How to Lower Law School Tuition:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Cut career services.

Now I know this is going to sound drastic, it is a major challenge to the typical law school bureacratic structure, but in my honest opinion, it would be a good savings of resources.

There’s nothing worse than receiving the confirmation letter from the State Bar of California, stating “Congratulations! You’ve passed the most difficult bar exam in the country. But you still don’t have a job that pays practicing law.” Ok, so it doesn’t state all of that…

Take USD Law in particular. There are at least 4 career service “counselors” 1 or 2 deans or assistant deans, and several front desk employees/work studies, not to mention a newly remodeled office to house all these people. This has got to be at least a $500k/year venture.

In its defense, from my experiences, career services does the following things: meets with students individually to give advice, organizes networking and speaker events, contacts local agencies or employers upon students’ expressions of interest, services as a gathering place for employers seeking to employ students, organizes and coordinates the on campus interviews, collects applications for non on-campus interviews in certain situations, orchestrates judicial clerkship applications, and has a library of information for students. (I’m sure there are other things they can legitimately claim to do, I am just not familiar with them.)

But herein lies my personal issue with USD Law career services, the amount of jobs they get for students does not justify the enormous cost of having so many people employed, and their services could easily be reappropriated to other departments. This is especially true considering: 1) USD Law tuition is incredibly high; 2) job prospects are low; and 3) bar passage rates have been steadily declining (July 2010 results here). The following, therefore, are my suggestions as to how USD can improve employment prospects of graduates while simultaneously strenghtening the USD Law student-alumni relations, and increasing bar passage rate.

1) Re bar passage rates: beef up academic support, pure and simple.

a. Course guidance: There are no course counselors available for students to discuss the various course and program options.

b. Outline banks- many clubs have them. It’s no secret that after first year you figure out that you don’t have to do it yourself, and in fact, if your professor has so thoroughly confused you that you can’t understand the difference between an intentional and unintentional tort (cough cough), looking at someone’s straightforward version of the black letter law would be a better use of your time.

c. Upperclassmen Mentors-There should be mandatory matching of upper and lower classmen, at least for the first year. It could ease much unnecessary confusion. It could also help students learn about what courses to take, etc. Alumni mentors would be even better, especially for the foregoing networking point.

d. Tutoring program- Make sure students understand at least the basic bar subjects, so they aren’t setting themselves up for failure. It’s no secret that one could earn a passing grade under the bell curve system, and yet be thoroughly unclear about the basic structure of the subejct matter. There is no legitimate reason why there aren’t teaching assistants beyond first year. There are more than enough work studies to fill the roles, and aside from thereby decreasing the debt of those students, it would increase student comprehension of the subject matter.

2. Alumni participation:

Career services itself admits to only providing about 25% of graduate jobs through On Campus Interviews (OCIs), which in most cases involve firms contacting the school. Thus, you don’t need an entire office to coordinate employers wanting to post, simply allow them access to the website, and allow candidates to select time slot preferences on the computer, as they already do. The rest is simply administrative.

Speaking of the career website listings, they are attrocious. There is something like one or two new jobs every MONTH. This is pale in comparison with several other schools USD Law grads have gotten access to (and in most cases had to pay) through symplicity. Being the “best law school in [San Diego],” USD Law must do better.

The jobs which are listed, or career services has information about are nowhere near the need of students graduating in this economy. And over the past 2 years, the prospects have not gotten better for law grads, yet nothing has changed in career services. It is a travesty.

Everyone knows that the best way to get a job is through networking. As an individual you have to pound the pavement, attend bar events, etc. meet potential employers. Aside from organizing events, which students can and already do organize anyway, career services is absolutely no help with the personal action required to do this.

Lastly, alumni are in the legal market now. They have graduated, passed the bar, and are now practicing law. Instead of simply passing out a packet compiled with alumni who are willing to talk to students, why not match them up at some point, facilitate the relationship. This will help students get a realistic view of what they are in for.

If career services is allowed to continue, they should be required to make a commitment of substance. Obviously 100% employment isn’t practical, but something better than including any sort of employment in graduate employment stats (see NY Times article), is absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of the program and fairness to students. $15-$20 per hour (if a position is even paid at all!!) should have to be disclosed in these employment surveys, so that students seeking to enter law school know that they will be faced with $250,000 in debt and a job that only pays double minimum wage- what they might be making after receiving a simple bachelor’s degree.

Career services is supposed to help foster careers, and they should be held to the task. Law grads have had enough of the justifications and excuses. This is just one way highly inflated tuition can be addressed.

Posted in CA Bar, CA Bar Exam, California, The Law, Uncategorized, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Passing the CA Bar, as I see it:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Obviously everyone’s studying and test taking experiences are different, but given the amount of tremendous stress we are all put under, which is exacerbated by our individual situations or contingencies, I thought I would give my input to lawschool students and recent grads who may be looking for a place to start. Thus, here are my top 10 pieces of advice to pass the California Bar on the first attempt.

1. Take BarBri, seriously. I don’t have experience with any of the other programs out there, but I know that people I know who took BarBri and followed the pace program passed. I took BarBri mobile, which I would personally recommend if you are capable of independent study. Well, the only part that is actually independent is that you force yourself to watch the lectures at your own convenience. What I particularly liked, aside from the fact that I didn’t have to battle the 2 hour round trip commute and fighting through traffic at the local city-wide BarBri location, was that the mobile program starts earlier, and is thus less hours of studying per day. Sure, I had to start studying at the same time I was studying for my last law school final, but we all know which of the two is more important, and chances are, if you are taking a bar class that last semester, the studying can overlap.  Additionally, starting with the July 2010 Bar, in order to compete with Kaplan’s guarantee, BarBri allows you to repeat the course for free. That’s not a deal to strive for, but a guarantee of continued support, nonetheless.

2. Follow the pace program. Just do it. Yeah it’s pretty damn terrible, but every moment you spend following it, you know that you are continuing to prepare for the Bar, rather than wasting your time. Towards the end you will find more of a balance that works for you, but all the practice MBEs, essays and PTs are assigned for a reason. I cannot stress how important the practice is. In fact, I think the last PT assigned before the Bar was almost identical in facts and nature to the actual PT on day 3 of the Bar. There are only so many hypotheticals anyone can think of. Think about it.

3. Music. I, like many others I suspect, am easily distracted by technology when I am forced to do something intensely boring like, say, listen to 12 hours of property lectures. What helped me was listening to music, of which I highly recommend fast paced dance music. Read: Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, whatever other popular music that is high energy. I ran out of itunes funds quickly, so I switched to the iheartradio app, which I highly recommend. You can shuffle to find a different radio station somewhere in the country by genre.

4. Caffeine, Starbucks in particular. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be alert and focused while you study. I must have drank in excess of 40 oz of coffee everyday at one point. When you are tired you don’t retain as much, if anything. Your tolerance for coffee may become so high that you don’t even care whether it’s black or not. It is expensive, but consider it one of your bar loan expenses, and invest wisely.

5. Sleep when you can. Everyone knows it’s important. Trying to study intensely without adequate rest is not only unwise, it’s stupid. It is a waste of your time. Take a nap, then start studying when you wake up. Make sure you are eating well too. Many of my friends recommend exercising, I literally didn’t have the time, but I can definitely see the value. Just don’t over do it.

6. Don’t get in your own way. Just accept this fact, you are not going to have a fun summer, or beginning of the year, you just aren’t. If you don’t expect to have a social life, or any life at all while you are studying, then you won’t be let down at the endless hours of studying. Don’t be completely anti-social, some interactions help you feel like a human, but If you know you have a PT to do at night, or early in the morning, don’t spend the whole day doing some rigorous exercise, or the night before pulling an all night drinking binge. Again, waste of your time. I personally found that it helps to keep your box of books in the car. I had issues with remembering all of the different ones I would need for my study sessions. This way, you literally always have something to do, and you can switch around if you get bored with one thing.

7. Start in law school. Figure out your best study style, then apply it to studying for the Bar. E.g. some people love flashcards, others detest them. Know yourself. There are no magic tricks, you just have to put in the hours.

8. Relatedly, take bar courses. I remember as a 1L hearing, “I figure whatever I need to know for the Bar, they will teach me in BarBri.” While this is true, think about the consequences of avoiding Bar courses. Do you remember how convoluted Property seemed, well imagine trying to learn it after just 3 lectures and only a few days to review and practice. It sounds like a nightmare to me. I cannot imagine trying to completely learn a new area of the law in just 12 weeks, which are dedicated to some 15 different subject and 3 different modalities. Be smart. Obviously people pass without taking all the bar courses, but it is my personal belief that this adds unnecessary stress to an already insane situation.

9. Legal experience is invaluable. You need to know how to take law school exams for the essays, but you really need to know what it means to have a client and write legal documents for the PTs. If this sort of thing is already second nature to you, you have an advantage. You still have to be able to follow directions and do exactly what you are being told (be a sheep!), but knowing how to marshall the facts, and apply the law to your client’s situation are things lawyers do, not law students. If you come from a solid lawschool program, you may have regular/non-clinical classes where the profs do a good job preparing you.

10. Know when to call it quits. There are bound to be certain days where you just have a mental block or a nervous breakdown, but make sure these are the exception rather than the rule. You can take days off, but make sure you are pushing yourself the rest of the days. You will undoubtedly surpass any limits you thought you had for how long you can sit in one spot, read one subject, take practice essays, etc. It literally scars your brain and changes you into an even more cynical depressing person, but in a good lawyerly way. It’s like our own private Vietnam.

Lastly, be sure to pay attention especially to Honigsberg. He’s the best. Other profs do an excellent job of teaching you the different subjects (shoutout Schechter, Epstein, Franzese, and Corporations guy with weird intonations), but he nails the psychoemotional and motivational aspects. (Stay in a hotel, buy your lunch in advance, etc. are some of the things Honigsberg will tel you). Lastly, remember, 75% of first time takers from ABA schools pass.

Posted in California, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

USD School of Law Dean Search Finalists

Posted by demkid on December 24, 2010

Got this email the other day from Mary Jo Wiggins, Associate Dean and Chair of the Dean Search Committee:

The University of San Diego School of Law Dean Search Committee is pleased to announce the finalists in the search for the next Dean of the School of Law:

Robert B. Ahdieh Associate Dean of Faculty & Professor of Law Director, Center on Federalism & Intersystemic Governance, Emory University School of Law

Nicholas W. Allard Partner and Co-Chair, Public Policy & Administrative Law Department, Patton Boggs, LLP Washington, D.C.

Lawrence E. Mitchell Theodore Rinehart Professor of Business Law Executive Director, Center for Law, Economics & Finance, The George Washington University Law School

These finalists will be visiting the USD campus in January 2011 for meetings with law school and university constituencies, as well as law school alumni. Schedules for the on-campus visits are forthcoming.

We thank you for your participation and support in what is one of the most important decisions for the future of USD School of Law School.

USD Law’s current dean is Kevin Cole, who announced that he’ll be resigning his position as of next summer.  He’s been a member of the faculty since 1987 and dean since 2006.  The first obvious thing about this trio is that they’re all men.  A quick Google search to brush up on my School of Law history shows that there’s only been one female dean in the school’s 56 years.  This was Kristine Strachan, who served from 1989-97.  Between Strachan and Cole was Daniel Rodriguez, who was the youngest dean when he was named in 1998.  I’m sure all three finalists are top-notch candidates, but it would have been nice to see a female receive strong consideration.

After a quick look at the finalists’ CVs, I have to say that I was pretty darn impressed by Ahdieh, in particular.  If I have my years right, he’s still in his late-30s, and his experience, honors, and publications are exceptional.  He also worked briefly for Arlen Specter, and that gets bonus points from me!  Here is Professor Ahdieh’s faculty page at Emory Law.  Check it out.

Whatever the search committee decides, the new dean will be charged with continuing the School of Law’s upward trend in the US News rankings.  While the dean may not have much personal control here, enhancing the school’s reputation should be at or near the top of his list of responsibilities.  Dean Cole should be commended for his work in this area, as USD currently holds its highest rank ever in the annual rankings, just outside of Tier 1 status.  Perhaps Top-50 awaits under new leadership!

Posted in USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Not Good Enough for Starbuck’s

Posted by brightcoast on August 30, 2010

So, lately there has been much ado about law grads and new attorneys having to stoop to the level of getting jobs at coffee shops, ala Starbuck’s and the like. So I decided to check it out.

I applied to be a store manager. In addition to attaching my legal resume, I also wrote about my extensive food service and assistant manager experiences. Starbuck’s additionally requires a 60 minute trial run simulation, which tests out your judgment in hypothetical employee interaction situations, calculating simple math regarding profit-loss statements, answering basic questions about your work history, offering unique ideas in response to challenges or problems presented, and lastly about a 120 question survey regarding your “work style,” with several of the same sorts of thematic questions repeating themselves.

Lo and behold, I completed my application and the simulation, and received a rejection email within hours. Ooooh the burn.

Posted in Americana, California, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Hello, Goodbye

Posted by brightcoast on June 4, 2010

Please join me in welcoming our newest blawger, reasonablecause! He is a USD class of 2009 alum, and CA attorney. A more detailed bio will be forthcoming.

Also, this week we all received an email that Dean Cole will be resigning in his capacity as Dean, to return to the faculty. Full article here. I thank Dean Cole for his service over our years at USD Law, and I am sure we all look forward to hearing more about the search process.

Posted in The Law, USD Law | Leave a Comment »

Happy Graduation!

Posted by brightcoast on May 16, 2010

Our graduation took place yesterday morning in the gorgeous JCP Pavilion on campus. The alumni speaker was the President of Skechers, and he was pretty engaging and entertaining to listen to. You can definitely tell the difference between someone who is used to presenting to large crowds v. someone who uses their notes like a crutch (guilty!)

There were a seemingly disproportionate amount of class of 76′ ers presenting diplomas to their children as they crossed the stage, which is a great tradition.

Dean Cole is quite entertaining, always attempting to bring in the relevant. He actually referenced Lady Gaga (courtesy of wikipedia, also “explained”) at one point, saying “ppppoker face.”

So anyway, it’s over and done, and now we all get to suffer for another 10 odd weeks before the dreaded exam. Then we get to wait another 5 months until we find out the results. Waiting is so much fun!

I’d like to say that I’ll miss USD, but I know it won’t be long before I am back on campus again. And while I’ll miss the interactions with profs and students, I certainly won’t miss the stress associated with having to prepare for class, and even worse exams. I do think, however, that as our alum speaker said, the USD Law degree prepares you for much more than law practice. I’m of the opinion that if you can make it through the USD Law program, you can make it through anything. And I don’t say that because I am biased towards USD in the slightest. Quite the contrary, the program is hard work. It requires great sacrifice, read, while you are in law school, particularly during finals, there is no such thing as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. There is the task at hand that must be completed, and to your personal highest standards, if you are to be satisfied with yourself, and the work you present as a reflection thereof.

Yes indeed, law school is over, the end of an era. Now onto “real” life.

Posted in Uncategorized, USD Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Rankings Game

Posted by demkid on April 16, 2010

I’m glad so many of you have enjoyed viewing the new 2011 US News Law School Rankings that were posted on Tuesday, some 30 hours before they showed up on the US News site.  Yet again, someone in NYC managed to purchase a hard copy of the magazine well before its official release date, although the time between leak and confirmation was a bit less than last year. 

It’s clear to see how much these rankings are like crack when I look at the number of page views this blog has received in the last few days.  We’re a nation that lives on numbers, whether they come in the form of rankings, public opinion polls, restaurant reviews, or fantasy sports statistics.  We find soccer boring because games are low scoring and the most cited stat is time of possession.  We need to have winners and losers, and we need to know how good something is compared to its counterparts.  To many, these law school rankings mean everything.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the rankings game, because they come out each year and matter so much to so many.  Schools whose ranking has gone up are quick to make this fact known on their websites.  Schools whose ranking has gone down discredit the system as being flawed.  No school can ignore the fact that its reputation depends significantly on the yearly ranking it receives, as many students make their selections almost solely on this number. 

Fair or unfair, it’s the way it is.  Many have attempted to challenge US News by coming up with other ways of ranking the schools, and while these methods may, in fact, be better, the US News methodology maintains its monopoly, and will be the big dog for years to come.  I hadn’t really examined the main arguments against the US News system before, so I took a little time to educate myself.  I started over at the TaxProf Blog, where Paul Caron, as he does every year, ranked the law schools solely on the basis of their academic peer reputation scores.  These scores make up the largest component of the total, and are good because they aren’t manipulable by the individual schools.  However, these scores surely depend to a significant degree on the overall US News rankings themselves, and therefore they don’t fluctuate very much, even when there are improvements in a school’s faculty and/or student quality.  I was then curious about the factors that are manipulable by the individual schools, and was surprised to read this piece by Brian Leiter.

Even putting aside the fact that this formula, with its various weightings, is impossible to rationalize in any principled way, the really striking fact about the U.S. News methodology is surely the following: More than half the criteria-over 54%–that go in to the final score can be manipulated by the schools themselves, either through outright (and undetectable) deceit, or other devices (giving fee waivers to hopeless applicants, employing graduates in temp jobs to boost employment stats, etc.).

This year, for example, everyone seems to be talking about Duke’s 100% employment figure at graduation.  That’s right…every single one of Duke’s ’08 grads had jobs when they graduated (and in an economic downturn, no less!).  I guess we’ll have to take them at their word, because US News doesn’t check these self-reported figures.  It’s also interesting that Chapman University entered the Top 100 this year (for I think, the first time ever), and this could be why: “Chapman University reported 91.1% of its graduates employed at graduation, more than any school ranked between 47 and 100 in U.S. News.”  Even the seemingly non-manipulable figures, like academic peer reputation, can have serious issues:

Some readers may recall that Loyola LA took a plunge last year, when their academic reputation score dropped from 2.6 to 2.3, something which almost never happens.  It turned out the explanation was simple:  U.S. News stopped listing the school by the name everyone in the academy knows it by–Loyola Law School, Los Angeles–and simply listed Loyola Marymount University.  After last year’s fiasco came to light, U.S. News agreed to list the school for purposes of this year’s survey as Loyola Law School again and, lo and behold, its reputation score was 2.6 this year.  If such apparently trivial alterations can affect results so significantly, how much confidence should one have in the reputational results?

For more fascinating tidbits on the US News rankings, I’d highly recommend all of the other posts over at Leiter’s Law School Reports.  While I now have a better understanding of the numerous problems associated with the rankings, I still won’t complain if and when my school continues to move up!  A little data manipulation, and it’s sure to happen!

Posted in Education, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

USD Law Jumps to 56th in 2011 US News Law School Rankings

Posted by demkid on April 13, 2010

Well, immediately after my last post, I did a little searching.  It looks like the attempts to prevent leaks of the print version of the 2011 US News Law School Rankings have failed.  This year, I’m going to give credit to Above the Law, as they posted links to the new rankings within the last hour (via Top-Law-Schools).  I’m going to consolidate the scanned pages (from holybartender’s Flickr stream) below, for your enjoyment.  But now, my analysis:

The University of San Diego School of Law has continued its rise in the latest version of the US News Law School Rankings.  In the 2011 version, USD Law has jumped from #61 to #56, and is now on the cusp of Tier 1 status.  This small rise follows a huge jump in the 2010 rankings, when USD had the highest leap of any school, moving up the rankings from the 82nd position. 

For the second time, US News has published separate rankings for part-time JD programs, and USD’s program now ranks 10th, a small drop from a tie for 7th last year.  US News has changed its methodology for part-time rankings in the current version, as they are now “based on a 5.0-scale peer assessment survey, median LSAT scores and median undergraduate grade-point average for fall 2009 entering part-time students, and an exclusive part-time J.D. curriculum index that measures the extent to which a law school offers a rich part-time program to its students.”  Georgetown University still has by far the best part-time program in the country, but USD Law continues to have the best program West of the Mississippi.  USD Law remains in the Top 50 for school diversity, with an Asian American proportion of 17%.  Also, USD has the 6th-best tax law program in the country, as ranked by faculty who teach in the field.

Congrats to the faculty, staff, and students at my alma mater, and continued thanks to Dean Cole, who has made a significant effort to address the criticism associated with our drop to 82nd in the rankings, two years ago.  Last year, I hoped that we would be well into the 50s this year, so with a bit of continued luck, we could find ourselves as a Tier 1 school in the not too distant future. 

As I mentioned, here are the pics of the new 2011 rankings.  Our San Diego counterparts, California Western and Thomas Jefferson, remain in Tier 4.  I will post an update of the big gainers and losers from last year after I have more time to analyze the rankings.  However, here is how California schools faired: Stanford is 3rd (no change), Berkeley is 7th (from 6th), UCLA is 15th (NC), USC is 18th (NC), Davis is 28th (35th), Hastings is 42nd (39th), Pepperdine is 52nd (55th), Loyola is 56th (71st), Santa Clara is 93rd (85th), and USF is 98th (NC).  New to this year’s rankings is McGeorge (98th), and a big congratulations should go to Chapman University, now ranked 93rd, and perhaps ranked in the Top 100 for the first time in the school’s history (but I’d have to verify that.) 

Out of the California schools, the biggest gainer was Loyola, which jumped 15 spots, into a tie with USD, and the biggest drop was Santa Clara, down 8 spots.  More congratulations should go to Pepperdine, and even though they only gained 3 spots, they are now just 1 overall score point away from Tier 1 status.  Similarly, USD Law is 3 overall score points away from the Top 50.  USD continues to have a high peer assessment score (2.9 and the highest of any of the Tier 2 schools.)

 

Update: After reviewing last year’s rankings, here are the biggest movers.  Biggest gains go to George Washington (20th from 28th), UC Davis (28th from 35th), Georgia (28th from 35th), Wisconsin-Madison (28th from 35th), Arizona State (38th from 55th), Colorado-Boulder (38th from 45th), Florida (47th from 51st, tier change), Miami (60th from 71st), New Mexico (67th from 77th), St. John’s (72nd from 87th), Loyola-Chicago (78th from 87th), and Hofstra (86th from 100th).  There are 7 new additions to Tier 2, including Syracuse University at 86th and the University of Hawaii-Manoa, which gets the award for biggest gainer and is 72nd after not being ranked!

Biggest losses go to Alabama (38th from 30th), Yeshiva (52nd from 49th, tier change), Kentucky (64th from 55th), Seattle (86th from 77th), Richmond (86th from 77th), Santa Clara (93rd from 85th), Missouri (93rd from 65th), and Depaul (98th from 85th).  Clearly the biggest dropper was the University of Missouri.  Schools that dropped from Tier 2 are Buffalo-SUNY, Marquette, and South Carolina.

A quick glance at the top of the part-time rankings shows that the new methodology had a significant impact on the rankings of a few schools.  These would be Yeshiva (4th from 18th), Houston (10th from 18th), Rutgers-Camden (15th from 28th), Santa Clara (16th from 25th), Denver (18th from 9th), Seattle (20th from 12th), and by far the biggest change was the gain made by SMU, moving to 13th all the way from 46th.  Not sure how that happened, but I’m sure they’re particularly happy down there in Texas.

Posted in Education, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

 
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