Stephen Ferruolo's biggest adjustment to academic life has been getting his colleagues used to his work schedule.
The University of San Diego School of Law's new dean has continued his habit of getting in before dawn and leaving well past sundown, honed during his years many years as an attorney in private practice.
"There's been a little bit of comments about me; about the new dean getting in at 7:30 and no one knows when he leaves at night," he said. "I'm working no more than I did as partner, but at the end of the day I don't have to record my time to the tenth of an hour.
"I'm used to putting in pretty long days. I want to get things done."
He said the staff has been very supportive. The biggest transitional challenge for Ferruolo has been coming to grips with the job's decision-making role.
"When you're a counselor, you give a lot of advice but, more often, the hard call is for someone else to make," Ferruolo said. "As the dean, the responsibility is mine. Working with a team and moving forward in a decisive way has been an important aspect of the job.
"Having a great team — and a team of advisors — has made it very doable and satisfying."
Ferruolo assumed his post at a critical juncture for legal education, with law schools under attack for the value of their degree. A handful of law schools are being sued for allegedly inflating employment statistics of students nine months after graduation.
Ferruolo said to focus on how many students are employed nine months after graduation is "ridiculous," because schools are providing an education for life.
"The law is so critical to all aspects of our society," he said. "We're educating people for a very, very important profession."
One of Ferruolo's first tasks at USD has been restoring the preeminence of the school's tax law program. He's also helped expand its intellectual property curriculum and enhance its international law program.
USD School of Law also will be opening a clinic on veterans' issues.
"We want to build a broader experience into our curriculum and have more contact of students with alumni," Ferruolo said. "We're really helping our students find in the law something that really satisfies them."