Monday, December 20, 2010

Spotlight: Alumnus Michael J. Higdon ’01

Michael J. Higdon ’01 is a Boyd School of Law alumnus of many firsts. He was the first student Editor-in-Chief of the Nevada Law Journal, the first graduate to be hired as a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals law clerk, the first graduate hired to teach at Boyd, and the first graduate hired as a tenure-track law professor.

Recognized for his talents, Higdon caught the attention of other law schools and secured a tenure-track position at the University of Tennessee College of Law. He was appointed Associate Professor of Law beginning in 2009.

Higdon teaches and writes in the areas of family law; sexuality, gender and the law; and legal writing. He also has published in the areas of law and rhetoric; and wills, trusts, and estates. His work has been published in a number of journals including the Wake Forest Law Review, the U.C. Davis Law Review, and the Indiana Law Journal. Higdon’s work has caught the attention of some of the leader’s in his disciplines. For instance, his article on informal adoption is cited in Dukeminier’s Wills, Trusts, and Estates, the leading textbook in that area.

Additionally, in August, Higdon was quoted in Time magazine as a result of a piece he wrote, focusing on methods of teaching and critique. The article features Higdon’s comparison between teaching and the reality TV show Project Runway, pointing out methods of critique used on reality television shows and how those examples can help law professors offer more effective critique to law students.

At present a member of the Legal Writing Institute’s Board of Directors, Higdon has also given presentations at a number of universities, most recently at Arizona State University School of Law.

His most recent article, “To Lynch a Child: Bullying and Gender Non-Conformity in Our Nation's Schools,” forthcoming in the Indiana Law Journal, builds on previous articles he has written relating to discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Higdon currently serves on an LGBT commission at the University of Tennessee, which is dedicated to making the university a more inclusive environment for LGBT students.

When asked about his future in terms of scholarship, Higdon said, “both my immediate and long-term goals are to continue writing pieces that focus, generally, in the area of law and psychology but, more specifically, the way in which bias and prejudice influence the legislative process and the degree to which law can have a psychological impact on minority communities in the U.S.”

Higdon adds that: “I enjoy the process of research and writing scholarly articles, primarily because I love teaching; scholarship makes me a more critical thinker and, thus, a better teacher.”

Before teaching, Higdon began his career as a law clerk. Upon graduation from Boyd, he was selected from intense competition to be a judicial law clerk for Judge Procter Hug, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before practicing commercial litigation and employment law for two years with the Las Vegas firm of Schreck Brignone (now part of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck).
In 2004, Higdon was hired as a Boyd faculty member. He served as Lawyering Process Professor from July 2004 to July 2009. He also was invited to serve as a visiting professor at Seattle University School of Law.

While teaching at Boyd, Higdon was recognized by the student body as the 2006 law faculty member of the year. He also coached several outstanding student moot court teams and served as adviser to the Society of Advocates, the Boyd School of Law’s moot court program. In 2009, Higdon was named the William S. Boyd School of Law Alumnus of the Year, the highest and most prestigious alumni award given by the school.

A Summa Cum Laude graduate of Boyd’s charter class, Higdon is a recipient of the James E. Rogers Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. He holds a B.A. in English from Erskine College, Due West, SC, and an M.A. in Communication Studies from UNLV.

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