Written By: Christina Phan
July 27, 2011
SAN DIEGO – Walking into the room, Stephen Ferruolo turned on the lights, opened the blinds and let the natural San Diego light engulf the room. A new era has begun at the University of San Diego School of Law. The law school recently announced Ferruolo as the successor to outgoing Dean Kevin Cole, who will be returning to his faculty position in August teaching Evidence this fall.
A former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Ferruolo is the founding partner and chair of Goodwin Procter’s San Diego office. Prior to becoming an attorney, Ferruolo was a history professor at Stanford University for nearly eight years. He is excited about the opportunity to return to his background in academics while still being able to dance in the realm of law.
Today, August 1, 2011, is the official start of Ferruolo’s position as dean of the law school. However, since the announcement, Ferruolo has not been a stranger to the halls of campus. Prior to his annual family trip to Italy, Ferruolo spent immense time meeting with USD Law stakeholders including faculty, students, alumni and staff to better orient himself with the school’s culture and structure. He has also been hustled about in a whirlwind of interviews.
There is great excitement and curiosity over Dean Ferruolo’s appointment. Many law schools generally select legal professors to become dean of their schools, not legal practitioners. Ferruolo is a current legal practitioner at a large-scale law firm and was never a full-time law professor. However, Ferruolo did teach as an adjunct law professor during his time working for Heller Ehrman LLP in Palo Alto.
A fan of George Elliott novels, Ferruolo intends to use his practical big-law experience, coupled with his background and love of academia to help expand the school’s national and international reach and reputation. His vision is to bring a more balanced and practical tone to the school’s curriculum, while still developing the important theoretical bases necessary for successful legal practice. Dean Ferruolo finds one of the most important aspects about law school courses is helping students develop strong critical thinking skills that are innovative and original. Successful lawyers must be able to think outside the box, yet be able to apply their creativity to fall within the spectrum of the conservative practice of law.
However, before implementation of his long-term vision, Dean Ferruolo’s first plan of action is to spend large amounts of time developing personal and interactive relationships with the faculty, students and alumni to learn about the school and the vision of the current stakeholders. Following these weeks of meetings and learning, a comprehensive action plan will be formulated to begin navigating a positive future for the law school.
Based on practical knowledge of the San Diego legal market, Ferruolo intends to help facilitate a process that will help USD become more technologically advanced and develop a program that will help cultivate original and critical thinking skills that can be used in realistic and practical settings.
For weeks, the school has been in a transition process to prepare for Ferruolo’s first day as dean, including airing out and repainting the walls of the dean’s office to bring more light and a path for Dean Ferruolo to lead the school into another decade of excellence.
*Editor’s Note: Originally it was noted that Ferruolo was the only candidate who was a current legal practitioner. This is incorrrect as Mr. Nick Allard is a partner at Patton Boggs, one of the largest law firms in the nation. You can find additional information concerning the Dean finalists here: