Outgoing Dean Nick Allard brought Brooklyn Law School into 21st century
Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister for June 11
In his compelling, satirical bestseller “Purely Academic,” 20th century educator Stringfellow Barr noted something like this: “Some university presidents are ornamented by the university, others ornament the university.”
It would be needlessly dismissive to label outgoing Brooklyn Law School (BLS) Dean Nick Allard — a brilliant lawyer and dedicated educator — as a man who has merely ornamented our beloved BLS during the past six years. But the Barr semi-quote does serve as a rough guide to distinguish ordinary educators from the extraordinary.
As he prepares to step down at the end of June, Allard is viewed by this writer and many, many others as a gifted leader whose singular set of legal and communication skills came to the hallowed hall of legal learning on Joralemon Street at just the right time.
Due to exploding technology — one aspect of which enabled a $2-per-hour paralegal in Delhi to prepare a detailed commercial litigation Bill of Particulars in half a workday — the demand for lawyers with expensive law degrees to fill and enjoy meaningful employment was heading downward with frightening speed. As a result of the foregoing and a few other factors, law schools across the land, including BLS, were in freefall.
Allard, who came to Brooklyn fresh off a high-powered position in the then-Patton-Boggs Washington law firm, had a number of ideas to stem the looming tide. One of these was reducing the traditional three-year scholastic period to two years; it was met with immediate disapproval — even scorn — by this writer and other graduates of BLS.
“This two-year concept is not fair, unwise, and a stunning blow to those of us who strived for three years (more, in the case of night students) to earn our degree to qualify for the bar exam,” someone wrote. But this very determined Rhodes scholar persisted by quietly explaining his rationale in public and in private conversations.
As a result, those who aspire to the bar can save a full year of their most productive years via this accelerated departure from the more time-consuming, unprofitable ways of the past.
Six years later, BLS is regarded nationally as a pioneer of this law-school-rescuing initiative.
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BLS Scholars Laid a Solid Foundation
Our profession always needs scholars like those we are fortunate to have had at BLS. They were talented lawyers who were intimately familiar with every precedential Supreme Court and New York Court of Appeals decision rendered in our modern era. None of my classmates will ever forget our professors reviewing in painful detail the perpetually puzzling rule against perpetuities, or expatiating on the ethical rules that underpin our law, quoting Judge Benjamin Cardozo, who said, “The trustee is held to something stricter than the morals of the marketplace. Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior.”
Nor will we forget Dean Jerome Prince or Professor Dick Farrell making sense out of a new precedent (Miranda) that gave criminal defense attorneys a cause to celebrate but brought acute headaches to prosecutors.
And, as a blessing, still with us is Professor Joe Crea, our Phi Delta Phi advisor and a man steeped in corporate law but with a down-to-earth touch of “everyman” that, year after year, endeared him to his students.
Yet, what we needed most six years ago was a dean who recognized the historic and unique challenge brought on by this disturbing new age, wherein everything happens faster. Allard was dedicated to the rule of law and was not afraid to break a few eggs in the process of ensuring to our estate its rightful, significant and, these days, critical, position in this society.
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Patton Boggs Partner Nick Allard Answers the Call
There are many law firms in Washington, D.C. that represent their clients well and faithfully, endeavoring to avoid the pitfalls of this district, which has often become a swamp, swallowing up the “Mr. Smiths who go to Washington” and reputed to be the leading venue where progressive ideas go to die.
Yet the finest firms remain above the fray, seeming to master that morally murky world.
Such a firm, most of us know, was then known as Patton Boggs. Barrister Allard chaired its influential public policy and lobbying department.
“The breath of Nicholas Allard’s experience in the private and public sectors will enable him to make a significant contribution to the law school,” BLS Board of Trustees Chair Stuart Subotnick told The Hill writer Rachel Leven back then. “His energy, integrity and collaborative style have made him exceptionally successful as a practitioner and leader of his firm. He is the ideal dean to continue the law school’s forward momentum.”
Incoming Dean Allard told Leven, “Some people wonder how in the world I could trade in working on a daily basis with Tom Boggs, Ed Newberry, Ben Ginsberg, Jeff Turner, John Breaux and so many others in the original and top policy firm in the galaxy. It ain’t easy. But the opportunity at Brooklyn Law School is irresistible because it is at the forefront of 21st century legal education.”
Allard may be resigning, but he promises to stick around, which comes as a relief to those who see his leadership as singular at a time when so many leaders, especially in Washington, remain embarrassingly silent.
His thoughts and insights will always be welcome here and in many more places; many will pay special tribute to him on Monday, June 18, at a reception held through the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, the Brooklyn Bar Association and the Brooklyn Criminal Bar Association. Email [email protected] for more.
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