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Big Orange. Big Ideas. They’re fueling UT Knoxville on its journey to become a Top 25 public research university. Here are two faculty members who are bringing big ideas to life in the classroom, through their research and through community service.

Michael J. Higdon

Michael Higdon
Higdon in "Crimes of the Heart" at the Oak Ridge Playhouse.

While serving as a judicial law clerk, Michael Higdon remembers walking into the judge’s office and finding him in the middle of reading a legal brief—sound asleep.

Higdon, now an associate professor and director of the College of Law’s legal writing program, said that experience helped him understand the impact of good, and bad, legal writing.

“I got to see what types of writing helped and hurt cases,” he said.

Not all good writers are good legal writers, Higdon said. Legal writing is technical, logic-based, and thorough yet succinct. It’s written for busy, skeptical readers.

“I like the challenge of figuring out what your reader needs to know even before they know they need it,” he said. “Our legal writing program at UT teaches students how to do this.”

Higdon serves as member of the national Board of Directors for the Legal Writing Institute.

A South Carolina native, Higdon earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Erskine College and his master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

“My mother always said I should be a lawyer because I was so good at arguing my way out of things,” he quipped.

Higdon graduated first in his University of Nevada law school class in 2001and served as editor-in-chief of the Nevada Law Journal. After graduating, he spent a year as a law clerk for a judge on the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Before coming to UT in 2009, Higdon practiced commercial and employment litigation with a Las Vegas law firm and then taught for five years at the University of Nevada, Boyd School of Law.

Doug Blaze, dean of the College of Law, calls Higdon a “true innovator and national leader” in the field of legal writing. “In addition, his cutting-edge scholarship explores the often difficult interface between gender and the law, particularly with regard to LGBT issues.”

One of Higdon’s most recent publications, published this past summer in the Indiana Law Journal, is “To Lynch a Child: Bullying and Gender Nonconformity in Our Nation’s Schools.” The piece likens the bullying of LGBT youth to the physical and spiritual lynching of black children in years past.

In his spare time, Higdon enjoys acting and working behind the scenes in community theater. Last fall, he played both a lawyer in Crimes of the Heart at Oak Ridge Playhouse and an aspiring opera singer in Lend Me a Tenor with the Foothills Community Players. He also serves on the board of the Foothills Community Theater.

Glenn Reynolds

Gelnn Reynolds
Reynolds holds a piece of lionfish sushi, from a piece he did for "Popular Mechanics."

Glenn Reynolds, the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, has been called upon to serve as an expert in … well, almost everything.

He’s a teacher, an author, a contributing columnist, and a web TV correspondent. He’s penned scholarly books, but also writes for mainstream publications including The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal. He’s a regular columnist—dubbed the “resident contrarian”—for Popular Mechanics magazine. He’s testified before congressional committees on space law, international trade, and domestic terrorism.

But most people worldwide know Reynolds because of his blog: Instapundit.

Since 2001, this renaissance scholar has contributed his two cents on everything from politics to popular culture on the blog. And it gets fourteen million page visits a month.

In April 2011, the New York Times featured Reynolds in “Big Blogs on Campus,” a feature about university-based bloggers around the country.

The newspaper described Instapundit as “a ‘thought leader’ in social networking circles” and notes that it “reads more like a Twitter feed than academic discourse, with a relentlessly updated selection of links to sites and news bytes that Professor Reynolds agrees with, disagrees with, or despises.”

In 2007, listed him as number seven in its “Web Celeb 25” feature, which it said was “a list of the biggest, brightest, and most influential people on the Internet.”

That story called Instapundit “the apotheosis of academic blogs, the inspiration for many that have followed” and quotes Reynolds describing his readers as “people on Capitol Hill,” “technogeeks,” and “a truck driver who e-mails me regularly from the road.”

Blaze said he sees the blog as a form of outreach, giving Reynolds a venue for communicating some of his scholarly pursuits to a general audience in a very digestible and entertaining way.

Reynolds’ multi-media pursuits go hand-in-hand with his academic research.

“One of the big themes in my research is the power of the individual in light of recent technology,” he said.

Reynolds, who earned his bachelor’s degree from UT and his law degree from Yale, teaches a class on constitutional law and administrative law, as well as seminars on Internet law, national security law, science and technology, and space law.

In his spare time, Reynolds enjoys scuba diving.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,