Brooklyn Law School has tapped a prominent Washington lobbyist as its new dean. Nicholas Allard, who chairs the lobbying, political and election law practice at Patton Boggs, will assume his new position on July 1, the school announced on March 28.

Of the four finalists identified by a search committee, Allard was the only non-academic, although he has taught as an adjunct at George Mason University School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center. It is somewhat unusual for law schools to hire deans straight from practice.

“The breadth of Nicholas Allard’s experience in the private and public sectors will enable him to make a significant contribution to the law school,” said Stuart Subotnick, chairman of the school’s board of trustees. “His energy, creativity, integrity and collaborative style have made him exceptionally successful as a practitioner and leader at his firm.”

Allard said in an interview that he was attracted to the job in part because of the school’s curriculum, which emphasizes experiential learning and hand-on training. The school has struck the proper balance between legal scholarship and professional training, he said. “They’ve really built the law school of the future, not the law school of yesterday.”

The path to Allard’s appointment was blazed in 2010, when the school decided to split administrative duties between two people. Longtime Dean Joan Wexler became president and professor Michael Gerber became interim dean. The arrangement is unique among law schools, which tend to have just a dean, or a dean who doubles as president. The idea at Brooklyn was for the president to handle finances and business matters, while the dean would focus on academics.

It’s not an easy time to be leading a law school. Applications to American Bar Association-accredited law schools fell by 11 percent in 2011 and are on track to fall by an additional 16 percent during this admissions cycle, according to early numbers from the Law School Admission Council. Meanwhile, law schools are scrambling to help students find jobs in a dismal market. Additionally, Brooklyn Law School is one of 15 law schools around the country being sued by disgruntled graduates who allege their alma maters published false job placement statistics.

“I think one reason law schools are bringing in new kinds of leadership is because of the demands right now on legal education,” Allard said. “What I do for a living is problem solving, finding solutions and dealing with some pretty tough situations.”

Job placement is a “central issue” right now, Allard said, and he plans to make a priority of asking firms to consider hiring Brooklyn graduates. He also aims to impress upon students that there is a wealth of job opportunities in the government and public policy sectors for people with legal training. “I want to expand the horizon of career opportunities,” he said.

The deanship at Brooklyn will also provide the Washington-based attorney an opportunity to return to his native New York.

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