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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  A recommendation was made, an offer was given, a name was withdrawn (who really knows what happened?), and in April, the school announced that it had expanded its search to include three additional finalists.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: , , , | 2 Comments »

I like the law

Posted by brightcoast on May 13, 2011


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 »

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 »

Less “Froth” in Law School Applicant Pool?

Posted by demkid on March 19, 2011

Certain law school deans seem to think so.

The number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5% from a year ago to 66,876, according to the Law School Admission Council Inc. The figure, which is a tally of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process.

This drop in applications is being attributed to an increasing awareness of the poor job market and a trepidation of facing this market with massive law school loan debt.  The article quotes advisers and deans who give prospective students a lot of credit, by saying that they’re now more “clear eyed” about the huge challenges they could very well face upon graduation.  Those in the know claim that there aren’t very many students currently applying to law school who are doing so just to avoid the workforce or because they don’t know what else to do.

At Fordham University School of Law in New York, applications this year are down 15%, and those applying “appear to have analyzed the investment in law school closely and are serious about pursuing a career in law,” said Carrie Johnson, a school spokeswoman.

I call BS.  If you want to claim that applicants are, on average, slightly more serious about taking on a legal education in this struggling economy, that’s fine.  But to state that the “froth” of kids who apply to law school because they can’t think of anything better to do is “pretty well gone,” then that’s just not being knowledgeable about your own applicant pool.  66,876 and counting are applying to an ever-growing number of law schools around the country this year.  Sure, this total applicant number might be slightly lower than in years past, but you can bet that thousands of these applicants are still applying for reasons that might make a dean or career adviser cringe.  Avoiding the workforce now might not actually be the worst idea in the world, as most would bet on an improved economic picture when these thousands of students graduate in 2014.  Instead of pretending that they know what’s going on with applicants, perhaps law school deans should do something productive that would actually lessen the burden on young people once they get out of school and into the real world.  Why worry about the amount of “froth” in an applicant pool, when you can tackle the froth that is found in every bill for law school tuition?

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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 »

Virtue and Chastity > Victory and Championships

Posted by demkid on March 3, 2011

At least, that’s how it works at Brigham Young University.  On Tuesday, starting center and leading rebounder Brandon Davies was dismissed from the BYU basketball team after he admitted to having sex with his girlfriend.  The most recent rumor is that his girlfriend is pregnant.  Of course, premarital sex is a big no-no for Mormons, and BYU’s honor code also requires students to be honest; abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse; and attend church regularly.  I really wonder if there’s more to this story.  It’s hard to believe that Davies just decided to come out with this fact at this point in the season, and on the same day that the Cougars (27-2 overall) rose to #3 in the national polls.  They were poised to perhaps be a 1-seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but that’s all gone now, as they lost yesterday at home to New Mexico by 18 points.  Was Davies actually upholding one principle of the honor code by admitting his violation of another?  How ironic!

I’ve heard lots of people applaud BYU in the last day for standing by its honor code and for putting standards above victories.  Pat Forde on ESPN compared this stance with recent happenings at other schools:

What makes this such a powerful testament is the fact that so many schools have cravenly abandoned their standards at such a time as this, embracing athletic expediency over institutional principle. It happens so often that we don’t even raise an eyebrow at it anymore.

Player arrests or other antisocial behaviors are minimized as youthful mistakes, with strenuous institutional effort put into counterspinning any negative publicity. Academic underachievement is dismissed as merely the price of being competitive in big-time athletics. “Indefinite” suspensions often last only as long as they’re convenient — timed to coincide with exhibition games or low-stress games against overmatched opponents.

That certainly didn’t happen in this instance at BYU.

That’s all well and good, and it’s true that Davies knew what he was getting himself into, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still find this all a bit uncomfortable.  People are going out of their way to applaud a school that banned a player because he had sex?  They’re applauding a school that assesses penalties for going to Starbucks and for forgetting to shave in the morning?  I’ve never understood Mormons, and I’m sure I never will, but if we’re going to commend a school for enforcing its rules, can’t we also criticize those ultra-religious rules for being ultra-crazy?  Can’t we also bring up the fact that Brigham Young himself had 55 wives, one of whom was 15 when she married a 42-year-old Young?  (She had 5 of his 57 children.)

Can’t wait for the Romney campaign to get underway

Brandon Could Have Used A Shirt

Jimmy Kimmel gets up on his high horse and explains my thoughts, exactly:

Posted in Education, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Employed After Graduation? Does Babysitting Count?

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2011

I highly recommend this article, published in the Times on Saturday.  It discusses the terrible position many new law graduates are in, burdened by heavy debt loads and with meager employment prospects.  It also gets into the fuzzy math law schools use when calculating the employment percentages of their recent graduates, in an attempt to hold or improve their positions in the annual US News rankings.  Some highlights:

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too. Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it. They are also cash cows.

There were fewer complaints about fudging and subsidizing when legal jobs were plentiful. But student loans have always been the financial equivalent of chronic illnesses because there is no legal way to shake them. So the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses.

Apparently, there is no shortage of 22-year-olds who think that law school is the perfect place to wait out a lousy economy and the gasoline that fuels this system — federally backed student loans — is still widely available. But the legal market has always been obsessed with academic credentials, and today, few students except those with strong grade-point averages at top national and regional schools can expect a come-hither from a deep-pocketed firm. Nearly everyone else is in for a struggle.

Even students with open eyes, though, will have a hard time sleuthing through the U.S. News rankings. They are based entirely on unaudited surveys conducted by each law school, using questions devised by the American Bar Association and the National Association for Law Placement. Given the stakes and given that the figures are not double-checked by an impartial body, each school faces exactly the sort of potential conflict of interest lawyers are trained to howl about.

Critics of the rankings often cast the issue in moral terms, but the problem, as many professors have noted, is structural. A school that does not aggressively manage its ranking will founder, and because there are no cops on this beat, there is no downside to creative accounting. In such circumstances, the numbers are bound to look cheerier, even as the legal market flat-lines.

“This idea of exceptionalism — I don’t know if it’s a thing with millennials, or what,” she says, referring to the generation now in its 20s. “Even if you tell them the bottom has fallen out of the legal market, they’re all convinced that none of the bad stuff will happen to them. It’s a serious, life-altering decision, going to law school, and you’re dealing with a lot of naïve students who have never had jobs, never paid real bills.”

As a recent law school graduate and new attorney, I’ll just offer this advice: Know what you’re getting yourself into.  If you do, you shouldn’t have any complaints once you’re out in the real world.

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

Fined for Homeschooling: The German Way

Posted by brightcoast on March 2, 2010

This takes the concept of federalism and personal autonomy in an interesting direction. I’ve long voiced my opinion that parents should have the right to opt out of the mandatory public education system. This is especially important in a country like ours where our Constitution is founded on freedom of speech, religion, etc.–and from what I can remember, education is a fundamental right.

Is it sad that I’m not shocked this case happened in Germany?

Posted in Education, International | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »