Brooklyn Law School Dean Makes a Sudden Departure

Allard served during a tumultuous time in legal education, making bold moves in an effort to steady the school's finances

Allard's stepping-down "was a difficult decision that was a long time in the making,” he said in a statement (Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Law School)

Nicholas Allard, president and dean of Brooklyn Law School, will leave his post on June 30 after leading the school for the past six years. When Allard was hired, he arrived in Brooklyn during a time of stress for the institution and U.S. law schools in general. The number of applications had been on a steady decline since the Great Recession, falling from 88,000 in 2009-10 to less than 60,000 in recent years, as prospective applicants witnessed the slumping demand for lawyers. 

While this year is showing a detectable “Trump bump,” with applications on the rise, Allard’s time was marked by a campaign to make up for lost tuition revenue. He and the board of trustees approved the sales of several real-estate holdings, including an office building at One Boerum Pl. for $76.5 million and another property at 38 Monroe Pl. for $36.5 million.

The school did not explain the reason for the decision or the timing of Allard’s departure. The announcement came a few minutes before 5 p.m. last Friday in a press release stating that the dean “plans to step down.” At the time, Allard was on a trip to China, which the school told The Bridge was a visit to Brooklyn Law’s summer study-abroad program.

If Allard was surprised by the school’s announcement, a scenario reported in the New York Law Journal, he didn’t show it in an email he sent to faculty and staff. “In recent months, my wife Marla and I have been intensely thinking about where we are in our lives and the ways in which we would like to use our time,” he said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by the Brooklyn Eagle. “There are many exciting opportunities that we want to pursue and feel we can do now because the law school is in such a strong position.”

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As law-school chief, Allard quickly became “one of the borough’s favorite sons,” according to the Brooklyn Eagle (Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Law School/Flickr)

Early in his tenure as dean, Allard moved energetically to address the school’s financial situation. In fiscal 2012, the school had an operating deficit of nearly $1 million and a deteriorating balance sheet. In early 2014, the school announced what the New York Times described as “unusually bold steps to confront the crisis.” The school planned an across-the-board 15% cut in tuition for the 2015-16 school year as well as other measures to make school more affordable, including a curriculum to enable some students to graduate in two years instead of three. The following year, the school announced a 15% tuition refund for unemployed recent graduates, a tactic so novel it was covered by People.

Despite such moves, however, there have been indications of lingering stress. Last month, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the school’s financial outlook from stable to negative, citing “ongoing tuition pricing challenges and operating deficits that are deeper than previously projected.” On the upside, Moody’s noted that “the school’s substantial unrestricted reserves” allow for some breathing room to regain equilibrium.

The school, founded in 1901, generates $43 million in revenue annually, Moody’s reported. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school at No. 83 out of 144 eligible law schools in the country, tied with St. John’s University in Queens. The incoming 2017 class has 370 students, selected from more than 3,500 applicants.

Stuart Subotnick, chairman of Brooklyn Law’s board of trustees, noted in the announcement last week that the school’s endowment has quadrupled in recent years, to $250 million, “putting the school in an extremely strong financial position.” Of Allard, he said, “We were incredibly fortunate to have Nick lead the law school through a volatile period in legal education. His many talents were just what we needed to move the law school successfully forward.”

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“It has been a privilege to serve as President and Dean during this period of change and innovation for the law school,” Allard was quoted as saying in the school’s statement. “This was a difficult decision that was a long time in the making.” (He was not available for further comment.)

In its statement, Brooklyn Law School applauded Allard’s accomplishments, which included the recruitment of “highly talented, promising scholars who together with an already excellent faculty have had a transformative impact on the institution.” Allard established “dynamic programs and academic centers with the objective of preparing students for a rapidly changing legal field,” including the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), which “builds on Brooklyn’s emergence as a global center for high-tech entrepreneurship.” 

Professor Maryellen Fullerton, a longtime member of the Brooklyn Law School faculty, will serve as interim dean during the search for Allard’s replacement.

Before joining Brooklyn Law, Allard had been the co-chairman of the lobbying practice at the law firm Patton Boggs in Washington. His government service included positions as senior staff to Sen. Edward Kennedy on the Judiciary Committee, chief of staff for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and a full-time stint on the Presidential campaign of Al Gore.  

As Brooklyn Law chief, Allard quickly became “one of the borough’s favorite sons,” according to the Eagle’s account of a 2014  charity roast, where friends and family good-naturedly made sport of his “bombastic personality.”

Michael Stahl is a freelance writer and editor. A former high school English teacher, he has written for Rolling Stone, Vice, the Village Voice, Narratively, Splitsider, Outside Magazine and other publications.