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Why did guest columnist Nick Allard leave D.C. post to head Brooklyn Law School?

Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister

March 2, 2015 By Charles F. Otey, ESQ. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Law School dean Nick Allard. Eagle file photo
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Since his arrival here three years ago, Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard has been bold and relentless — reflecting, in a way, the skills that made him one of the most successful lawyer-lobbyists in Washington.

Most shocking, at first, was his announcement that it was about time that Brooklyn Law and others abandon the three-year law school term, opting for two with a year “in the field,” learning how to apply the law.

His innovative leadership has sent ripples through the national legal world and, many believe, he has almost single-handedly sent out the message that our existentially challenged profession can indeed be “saved” and prosper if only scholars and practitioners would embrace the dramatic changes thrust upon them by the onset of the Digital Age.

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Appropriately, we will resort here — briefly — to an online article that appeared on LawDragon, which starts out like this:

“Turns out that Nick Allard was a kind of stealth appointment as dean of Brooklyn Law School in 2012. Not that he or the law school’s board of trustees planned it that way. A consummate Washington, D.C. lawyer and lobbyist — Allard was for more than 20 years a partner at Latham & Watkins and then at Patton Boggs, chairing government relations and public policy groups at both firms — he has delivered on his obvious government, agency and institutional connections.

“No, the surprise for many was that Allard also had the chops when it came to legal academia. He has served on many academic boards, taught at several law schools and universities and published scholarly articles on a range of issues, including internet law, new media, public policy and privacy. (He’s still in the classroom at Brooklyn Law, teaching ‘Privacy Law in a Digital World’ and ‘Government Advocacy.’) He holds alumni leadership roles at his alma maters — Princeton University, where he received his B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School, and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, earning an M.A. from Merton College.”

For more of this insightful piece heralding the many talents of a man who has, in a few short years, elevated Brooklyn Law School’s reputation dramatically in the view of many in the legal profession, I refer you to the article in LawDragon Campus, which appeared on Sept. 14, 2014.

Meanwhile, we are pleased to share Part I of the very relevant remarks and commentary Dean Allard delivered at the recent BLS Alumni Association Luncheon.

* * *

Meaningful Part of Dean Nick Allard’s Story Began at the Bay Ridge Klamath Swedish Orphanage

Here are his remarks delivered to the BLS Alumni on Jan. 30:

One hundred years ago, my grandfather, Clarence Hagner, lived in the Bay Ridge Klamath Swedish Orphanage, along with three surviving brothers. His widowed mother, Edith, my great-grandmother, worked as a housekeeper in the orphanage so that the family could live under one roof together.

Clarence and Edna Shermer, a young nurse from a big family on a small farm, both joined the Navy to see the world. My grandparents, Clarence and Edna, met in the Brooklyn Navy Yards Hospital. My mother, Lillian, was born here in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression.

I mention this personal history because today is a celebration, which we intend to continue throughout the year, of how far we all have come and where we are poised to go. For, truly, there is much to celebrate for each and every one of us and, collectively, for our great law school.

My family story is not unique. It is a Brooklyn story, and it is an American story. The story of a family, in a few generations, moving from a difficult life in an orphanage on one end of Brooklyn, to a distinguished law school in the heart of the legal community, in the largest and, once again, most vibrant borough in the most exciting city, in the Empire State, in the greatest nation on the planet. Education — and the opportunities afforded by this great nation — made the difference.

This certainly was the case for my father, Nick, who used the G.I. Bill to pay for college, family and also my wife Marla, whose family story traces her grandpa Dave’s odyssey as a 12-year-old in Eastern Poland, traveling alone across Europe, to a tailor shop in Baltimore, to his three children, including Marla’s dad, Ephraim, earning graduate degrees in Nuclear Physics and Engineering before their 23rd birthdays, one generation removed from the shtetl.

Family stories like mine abound in this country and in this room; I know that many of you have equally, if not more, compelling family stories to tell. For example, Jerry Kremer and Bob Kaufman, whose stories I read in their books, or T-line giants like Judge Leo Glasser.

Our individual stories and paths have brought us here, together, today. I look at all of you and I think, with great pride and satisfaction, about the accomplishments of the graduates of our great law school, and how far our law school has come from its earliest days.

* * *

Brooklyn Law a Pioneer in Legal Education

We have always been and are still a pioneer in legal education. From the very beginning of our 114-year history, we opened our doors wide to women, minorities, international students, children of working families, and the less-advantaged — and we did so long before other institutions followed suit. Brooklyn Law School has been a gateway to opportunity for generations. Today, we are known for producing extraordinary graduates, like you, who have that extra Brooklyn edge in public service, government and the private sector.

Just this week, our clinical faculty reported to me how often employers tell them that our students are the best, and that they regularly hold places open for our externs and interns because our students excel at work.

And take a close look at our current students — they are a marvelously diverse and an accomplished group. Students in our first-year J.D. class alone come from five continents and 33 countries; and from 33 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Collectively, they speak 38 languages and dialects other than English. In addition, 61 percent of our entering class had work experience before law school, which I can assure you makes a big difference in their maturity and approach to their studies. And 46 of our first-year J.D. students hail from Brooklyn, which, we all can agree, is now the center of the universe.

These students will go on to excel in law school, pass the bar and get meaningful jobs. And Brooklyn Law School will continue to offer a rigorous and innovative education that sets a high bar for excellence. As you all know, we have never been about “giving everyone a ribbon on field day.”

* * *

Tuition Reduction Plan Innovative and Necessary

Openness to change — bold change — is an essential part of our tradition and a core value that drives much of what we do. It sounds like Yogi Berra, but it is true: At Brooklyn Law School, change is nothing new.

We are continuing the BLS tradition of making legal education more accessible with our trailblazing tuition reduction plan that is part of a package of scholarship and aid initiatives focused on making law school more affordable. We have turned the broken business model of legal education on its head. And we sparked a national conversation on an issue that affects us all.

We also launched several leading-edge initiatives that were only possible because of financial support of generous and visionary alumni. Among these are the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship, which is funded by one of our honorees, Larry Feldman, and his wife, Diane, and one of last year’s honorees, Trustee Debra Humphreys, and her husband, David, along with BLS alumni Evan B. Azriliant, Irwin Cohen, and Deborah Riegel, and past “Alumni of the Year” honorees Stanley M. Grossman, and Gary M. Rosenberg, along with Trustee Emeritus Robert Catell.

Our Business Boot Camp, now in its third year, is funded by Trustee and alumnus John Oswald, and now our Alumnus Deloitte executive Fred Currie.

Two new clinical programs are supported by alumni: one that serves the legal needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that was funded with a $1 million grant from the Taft Foundation that was facilitated by Howard Rothman; and another to serve veterans supported by Trustee Tyler Korff.

(This marks the end of Part I of Dean Allard’s remarks. Next week, we’ll present Part II: Dean Allard Suggests “A Little Brooklyn Swagger.”)


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