USD School of Law Dean Stephen Ferruolo Discusses Law School Rankings in the San Diego Daily Transcript

USD School of Law Dean Stephen C. Ferruolo

San Diego (May 1, 2014) – University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Dean Stephen C. Ferruolo discussed the short falls of annual graduate school rankings in today’s San Diego Daily Transcript article, “Deans take issue with law school rankings.”

Reporter Doug Sherwin sat down with San Diego’s three law school deans to better understand what drives U.S. News & World Report's annual list of the best graduate schools. Legal educators throughout the state say the rankings' methodology is flawed.

"In the last three years, not a single California law school has risen in the rankings," said Stephen Ferruolo, dean of the University of San Diego School of Law. "Four were flat and the rest went down, many by double digits."

The deans of all 21 of California's ABA-approved law schools signed a letter to U.S. News, criticizing the magazine for how its rankings are determined, and in particular the way employment statistics are used.

Placement success, which accounts for 20 percent of the rankings, is largely determined by employment within nine months of graduation. And graduates receive full weight only for landing a full-time job where bar passage is required or a JD degree is an advantage.

That means executive jobs at software companies or financial institutions wouldn't be counted. USD graduates such as Qualcomm’s President Derek Aberle, ’96 (JD), and Vice Chairman Steve Altman, ’86 (JD), would not have been counted as employed in US News’ rankings.

Ferruolo also said diversity is notably absent from the ranking's formula, stating the list's emphasis on LSAT scores and grade-point average also is harmful to diversity.

"We know that those measures are biased against under-represented minorities," he said.

Median LSAT scores account for 12.5 percent of a school's ranking and median undergrad GPA accounts for 10 percent.

The effect of focusing on test scores and school grades means law schools will do anything to raise their median LSAT and GPA, including giving out financial aid based on merit rather than need and rejecting perfectly qualified candidates whose scores aren't high enough.

At the end of the day, law schools need to focus on their educational goals, the local deans said.

"My view is you need to stay focused on a high quality of legal education, a diverse student body, strong faculty and training students for the jobs that are out there," USD's Ferruolo said.

"The good news is, as far as employers concerned, the rankings are meaningless. People judge the law school by the reputation of our alumni."

Read the full article online at

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Celebrating 60 years of alumni success, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law is recognized for the excellence of its faculty, depth of its curriculum, and strength of its clinical programs. Each year, USD educates approximately 900 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 81 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 23rd worldwide in all-time faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.


Patrick Riedling
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