For Nicholas Allard, his transition from Washington, D.C., attorney and lobbyist to Brooklyn Law School dean is not as abrupt as one might think.
"The number one thing I did was problem solving and that's what I have to do right here," Allard said in an interview at his office, which has a view overlooking Brooklyn's state and federal courts with Manhattan in the distance.
Allard, 60, took up his new position in July after seven years at Patton Boggs, where he co-chaired the firm's public policy department and co-chaired its government advocacy practice.
Allard lauds Brooklyn Law's faculty, alumni and student body and says the school is "financially sound." But he still must confront deeper problems faced by all law schools: What changes should be made to curriculum, where will graduates find employment and how to attract the best students from smaller applicant pools? For example, applications to Brooklyn Law plummeted to about 4,600 this year from more than 6,000 in 2011.
Board members and faculty say Allard -- who was in private practice for more than 20 years but also has taught and wrote on subjects such as lobbying, communications and Internet law -- is up for the challenge.
The new dean is "the right person at the right time," said faculty member Claire Kelly, a member of the search committee.
"I wanted somebody who was nimble enough to operate in both worlds and understand what strategies might succeed, and be open to new ideas, but also see value in tested methodologies and ways of doing things," she said.
Eastern District of New York Judge Edward Korman, a member of Brooklyn Law's board who also served on the search committee, noted that the school recognized the advantages of selecting a private attorney.
"The 'outside-the-box' appointment was good for the law school and what we needed now," he said, adding that those needs include fundraising and securing employment for students. "There was a feeling among trustees and faculty that someone from the 'employer segment' of the legal economy could be extremely helpful."
Stuart Subotnick, chairman of the school's board and its search committee, said students' future employment is the school's "most important responsibility."