Getting to Know “The Anywhere Man”: A Q&A with Nick Allard (Part 1)
The BLS Advocate sat down with Nick Allard, the incoming dean of Brooklyn Law School, when he was in town on April 2nd, for a casual lunchtime Q&A at Panera Bread. We were fortunate that he brought along his lovely wife and high school sweetheart, Marla, who helped us get to know the real Nick. This is part 1 of our 4-part interview by David A. Shapiro, ’12, with additional questions from Julie Adler, ’12.
DS: We want to learn more about the switch from Patton Boggs to Academia. Like why? Why now?
NA: I don’t think it’s that much of a switch, [because over] my whole professional life, I’ve had a foot firmly planted in higher education, either as a teacher or a writer, as a counsel or advisor to presidents and chairmen of boards at other major universities, colleges and law schools. And I’ve got a terrific job where [I’ve] been working with the number one public policy practice in the galaxy—in the universe—and I came from Latham Watkins seven years ago in part to reinvigorate and help move the Patton Boggs public policy practice forward and we’ve succeeded and it’s been number one every year. And so, increasingly now, even though I work on exciting and challenging issues, I find that at the end of every day, what I do involving higher education and legal education, in particular, is what interests me the most—what gets me up on my toes. So I’m interested and for that reason I’ve been open for a little while to finding the right challenge in a full-time law school environment.
The second part of it—now this may seem hokey to you…[is that] I’m looking for an opportunity to give something back and make a contribution. And if I look around at the ways I might do that right now, it seems that [given] my skill set—that this is one way I can do that. And I’ve been encouraged by others that know me well, and also former law school deans and others [with experience]. It doesn’t seem that I was that off the mark as the Board here and the search committee and the fact that they were willing to take a leap on me [has demonstrated]—and the fact that they think it’s a good fit. And given the challenges facing legal education, my bag of experiences is a useful toolkit for what law schools need in the twenty-first century.
DS: And how did you find that search process to be? Was it very quick? Efficient? Do you wish you could change anything?
NA: The search process was exhilarating and exhausting.
DS: How so?
NA: It’s just—you know. You put everything on the line. To use sports metaphors, which I try to avoid, you leave everything on the field. You’ve got nothing left. And it’s not dissimilar—any search process, right—to what law students are going through. Because in a big way, you know, if you’re already a successful partner at a law firm, and you’re coasting along, you’re not really putting your heart on your sleeve. But just like a law student applying for a job, you’re putting your heart on your sleeve, and you’re either going to be accepted or rejected, so, you know, you’re putting it all out there. So it’s a—it’s a tough—it’s a tough process. It’s a very humbling process.
DS: What was the most fun you had during the process?
NA: Meeting you [laughs.]
DS: Ha, that’s the easy answer.
NA: It was. Meeting with students. Meeting everybody. It was just very energizing to meet everybody. I mean because I’m a people person and I liked engaging with everybody that I met. The students were terrific. The faculty was very impressive; the staff was unbelievably dedicated and committed. And this was not a one-way process. I’m really proud that I got picked. But I’m really happy to come here, because, you know, it’s not like I needed a job. I was really impressed and I’m very enthusiastic about the platform that’s here. I think it’s a great launching pad that’s been created for the law school to move into the next century. Further into the century—I don’t mean the next century, I mean this century.
JA: What makes you feel that way?
NA: I really think that so many of the things that are problems with legal education, that Brooklyn is already moving in the right direction or doing the right things. And I really [believe]—I was asked about this—and I said that I think that your traditions are the future, and that more law schools are going to be headed in that direction. Now [BLS is] not perfect and you can obviously do better, but you’re moving in the right direction. And when you look at what Brooklyn has a reputation for—which is producing students who are really prepared, they’re ready to make a contribution immediately, they’re practice-ready—that [answers] one of the criticisms of legal education [generally, that] when you graduate, you’re not ready to begin working. That’s not the reputation that Brooklyn has.