Brooklyn Law School has named Michael Cahill as its next dean.
Cahill is currently co-dean at Rutgers Law School—a position he has held since 2016. But the criminal law expert is no stranger to Brooklyn Law, where he taught and served as both associate dean for academic affairs and vice dean before leaving for Rutgers.
“I was at Brooklyn for 13 years, so this is a homecoming for me,” Cahill said in an interview Tuesday. “I know the people. I know the institution. I am thrilled to be coming home.”
Cahill is scheduled to assume the deanship July 1, replacing interim dean Maryellen Fullerton. Fullerton has led the school since former dean Nicholas Allard’s abrupt departure in June after six years in the job. Allard said he stepped down to pursue other opportunities. Fullerton will return to teaching once Cahill is installed as dean.
Cahill is based at Rutgers’ Camden campus but shares administrative responsibilities with co-dean David Lopez who is based in the Newark, New Jersey, outpost. He has spent much of the past two-and-a-half years fully merging the two campuses, which until 2015 had operated independently.
Brooklyn Law’s independent status—unlike most schools it’s not attached to a larger university—gives it greater flexibility to respond to the changing legal education marketplace, Cahill said. He credited the school with innovating both the curriculum and structure of its J.D. program, which can be completed in two, three or four years. One of his primary goals is to expand the school’s non-J.D. offerings into programs such as master’s degrees and certificates.
“[Brooklyn] needs to seize on that opportunity and start developing new programming and building out the kind of legal education it is offering outside of the J.D. program,” Cahill said.
Cahill’s other goals center on bringing in the strongest J.D. students possible and launching a sustained fundraising campaign.
“We are very excited to welcome back Dean Cahill to lead our great law school forward,” said board of trustees chairman Stuart Subotnick in an announcement of the appointment. “His wealth of experience in legal academia; his deep knowledge of [Brooklyn] from his many years here as vice dean and associate dean and faculty member; and his vision to secure and advance the school’s academic excellence while maintaining financial strength made him the clear choice among a field of exceptionally strong candidates.”
Cahill said it’s still not clear whether legal education’s fortunes are improving after a seven-year downturn. National figures from the American Bar Association show that first-year enrollment increased 3 percent this fall, and the number of applicants to law school surged 8 percent.
“Signs are promising that we are not going to continue going down,” Cahill said. “But that certainly doesn’t mean we’re going to go all the way up. We’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle. That’s why law schools need to recognize that they should be something other than just lawyer factories.”