What began as a series of interviews with regional law school deans has expanded across the nation. We have interviewed law deans nearly from coast to coast, and our latest interview takes place more than 1,450 miles from Oklahoma City in Brooklyn, New York, at the Brooklyn Law School.
Before joining the Law School in 2012, President and Dean Nicholas W. Allard served as chair of the Public Policy Department and co-chair of the Government Advocacy Practice Group at Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he was a partner at Latham & Watkins, where he chaired the firm's Government Relations Group. He began his legal career after graduating from Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar), Yale Law School and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a law clerk in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., worked on Capitol Hill for the late Senators Edward Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and frequently served as senior staff on major political campaigns. In addition to his role at the Law School, Allard also currently serves as Senior Counsel in the Public Policy and Regulation practice at Dentons, a global law firm with presence in more than 50 countries.
Under his leadership, the Law School has experienced dynamic changes to prepare students for a rapidly changing legal field. These initiatives include the accelerated two-year J.D. program; the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), which builds on Brooklyn's emergence as a global center for high-tech entrepreneurship; and Business Boot Camp, the popular winter session program offering students intensive training in the basics of the business world, to name just a few. Under his leadership, the Law School also instituted a 15 percent tuition reduction and launched the Bridge to Success program to support graduates in their job search (covered by The New York Times in 2015).
Recognizing the increasing globalization of the legal profession, Allard has traveled to Russia, India, China, throughout Europe, and the UAE to speak to prospective students and leaders in the legal field about new frontiers of law. He is widely recognized by his peers and the media as a thought leader in legal education. He has written and spoken extensively about the need to attract a new generation of diverse and promising individuals to the legal profession—and dismantling the economic barriers to attending law school.
What is the biggest challenge facing new law students?
New law students should carefully reflect on why they are considering law school, and what they hope to get out of it. Do they want, for example, to broadly change the world, or are they fascinated with the how the court systems work, or do they want to understand how to advise entrepreneurs or open their own businesses? Are there particular fields or industries that fascinate them such as entertainment, sports, technology, the environment, or health? The challenge is then finding which law schools best fit their own personal interests and ambitions and will prepare them for tomorrow's new world of law. They should read everything they can about schools they are interested in, speak with knowledgeable people and graduates about law schools, and if possible, visit schools – this takes some work, but the investment of time upfront is very worthwhile.
What is the single biggest challenge that you face as Dean?
The challenges are constant, but to single out the biggest, I would say overcoming the conventional wisdom and self-serving interests of those who benefit from perpetuating the outdated status quo and who oppose change.
Which areas of the law do you think will experience the biggest growth over the next few years?
Privacy, communications and advanced digital broadband technology, compliance, government advocacy, international business law, health, environment, and energy, to name just a few.
Is teaching law now different compared to when you were a law student?
Absolutely. At Brooklyn Law School, our students have more choices than in years past and are offered a more customized experience that best suits them as very diverse individuals with different experiences, talents, preferences and passions. Rather than one-size-fits-all approaches, students are treated as unique individuals from the admissions process to course options to career assistance. They can, for example, enjoy the flexibility of choosing to earn the same high-quality 85 credit degree in two, three, or four years. Our students are more demanding and bring a deep variety of work and life experiences to law school, which enriches the entire law school community. Two thirds of each of our new classes have significant post-college work experience.
How do you think technology will impact criminal defense?
I believe more electronic evidence will be available to analyze and interpret, such as surveillance videos, biometrics, and online data. Jury selection will become more "scientific." It is now possible, for example, to pick up fingerprints from an image photographed on an iPhone of someone holding up the palm side of their hand.
What do you think are the biggest legal challenges facing the Supreme Court?
To put it simply, holding the new President accountable to the United States Constitution.
Are there any aspects of practicing law you miss due to being in education?
Recording and billing my time in 10 minute increments--just kidding! I loved my three decades of private and public sector practice and felt it was a very fulfilling way to make a positive difference and earn a living. Serving as a law school dean and professor is satisfying and worthwhile in different ways–I am part of a strong community that prepares extraordinary new lawyers who are sorely needed to promote economic growth and opportunity, advance equal Justice under law, and defend liberty, which is critically important. Engaging in scholarly work and civic education that is essential to preserve our Republic is enormously gratifying as well.
If you could invite any three legal or governmental identities (living or dead, real or fictitious) to a meal, whom would you invite?
Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela.
What is your favorite legal movie?
I have too many favorites to name just one. It's a list that includes "Witness for the Prosecution," "Denial," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Anatomy of a Murder," "My Cousin Vinny," and "Judgment at Nuremberg." I also enjoyed the recent "Bridge of Spies" – not only was it Brooklyn-based, but it was a great story about why one becomes a lawyer and why lawyers should be proud of what they do in the service of others and society.
To read more interviews with professors and lawyers go to our homepage.