Dean Nicholas Allard: The Art of Starting a Law School

The high quality of the support and engagement of the bench and bar of Jacksonville truly sets us apart,” Dean Nicholas W. Allard recently reflected after the first completed year of the College of Law at Jacksonville University, and in anticipation of the school year ahead.

Dean Allard, who joined the school last July as the founding dean to launch the College of Law in August 2022, radiated pride about the accomplishments and direction of the new school and its students.

“Our successes over the past year and immediate position of strength point to several competitive and unique advantages we offer,” he said. “We are literally creating a law school from the ground up, without having to retrofit or change existing mindsets. Our students are enjoying the challenge and thrill of building something fresh in the finest possible way. In addition to managing the heavy load of studies as first-year law students, they have spent the last year serving and contributing to the community, they have been ambassadors for the school, and they have had extraordinary opportunities and experiences with members of the Jacksonville bench and bar.”

They haven’t made such progress alone. “Jacksonville lawyers in the public and private sector, as well as our judges, local civic institutions and companies, and esteemed faculty members, have all been incredibly engaged in and committed to ensuring that our law students get the very best quality education, both inside and outside the classroom,” said Dean Allard. “Jacksonville’s legal community sets a fine example. They are extremely knowledgeable about today’s cutting-edge legal issues, and they demonstrate outstanding qualities of leadership, adaptability and teamwork while serving clients who face uncertainty.”

Dean Allard said the new school’s initially small size allowed professors to provide a personalized and hands-on style to their law students. “We’re able to provide the best conventional approaches to legal education, but we’re also able to adapt, adjust and adopt new methods.”

One special, yet strategic, focus of the law school is its ability to juggle two challenging and difficult lines of legal education, he said.

“To earn respect and attract student applicants, employers and donors to the College of Law, as well as impress accreditors, we are coloring within the lines, teaching the fundamentals of law, ethics and professionalism so our students can graduate, pass the bar and become ready to practice,” Dean Allard said. “Our students are mastering the conventional and fundamental skills and abilities they must have to pass the Florida bar and be good lawyers.”

There is even more to the approach of the new law school, Dean Allard said. “Simultaneously, we are also demonstrating ‘Jacksonville Pollock’ inventiveness and innovation by learning from Jacksonville’s bench and bar what the new needs are for lawyers, and one of these is to teach and help our next generation of lawyers understand how to adapt to change,” he explained. “We are designing the best curriculum for students to prepare for the ever-changing 21st-century world of law. What law schools taught even 10 years ago must be different now because our world, and client needs, have drastically evolved.”

“Because of this dual approach to legal education, our students are going to be ready as new lawyers — not just to provide legal services and understand the law, but also how to be lifelong learners and adapters to new demands, as inevitably, new legal issue arise that we don’t even know about yet.”

He pointed to recent examples that include artificial intelligence, drones, cybersecurity and other disruptive technologies.

“This past term, the Supreme Court of the United States heard four cases involving AI. It is the obligation of every lawyer to be competent with new technologies,” Dean Allard stressed. “Other areas include the shifting norms relating to cannabis across the country, the latest financial instruments such as cryptocurrency, blockchain and bitcoin, and biomedical breakthroughs and advances in medicine and healthcare. These are just a few emerging legal fields, and we must not ignore the continuous need to deliver access to justice and provide affordable, quality legal services to underserved members of the community.

“I believe that this century, lawyers are going to be as important as they’ve ever been in history because of the tension on the established rules that govern our everchanging ways of life. We are helping our students be prepared to solve our world’s next legal problems.”

With one eye on preparation for laws of the future and the other on teaching legal best practices and precedents from the past, Dean Allard is confident about achieving the law school’s long-term vision and ultimate goal – that every graduate of the College of Law at Jacksonville University is admired as being among the finest lawyers in the country.

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