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Meet UT: Alex Long, professor and associate dean of academic affairs in College of Law

Meet UT-AlexLonginNYAlex Long, associate dean of academic affairs and professor in the College of Law, teaches and writes about torts, professional responsibility, employment law, and disability law.

But he may be best known as the guy who collects song lyric citations in legal writing.

Long’s 2011 paper, The Freewheelin’ Judiciary: A Bob Dylan Anthology, on the use of Dylan’s song lyrics in legal writing, has been featured by NPR and the New York Times.

How he came to examine the intersection of music and legal writing: “I was doing it on my own for entertainment value. When I got bored, I would plug a band’s name into a legal database just to see if a judge or law professor had ever quoted them before,” Long said. “After I found a few I thought were interesting, I thought I could write an article about it, and I ran with it.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it became an all-consuming project. I would wake up in the middle of the night and think, ‘I forgot to look up the Indigo Girls. I forgot to look up Jimmy Buffett.’ Now it has a life of its own.”

A favorite lyric among the citations: “My favorite quote is the Dylan line from ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’: ‘You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,'” he said. “It’s ridiculous how often that line is cited by courts. It’s boilerplate in California and it’s used by judges all over the country any time there is the question of whether a party needs to have an expert witness testify.”

On what he loves about his job: “Teaching is the highlight of my day. Torts I is my favorite class to teach. It’s a first-semester, first-year class, so I get the students when they are new to law school and full of excitement and curiosity. Those first couple of months of teaching torts is so great.”

On his favorite aspect of working at UT: “The sense of community within the law school is really special here. That is my favorite part of this school,” Long said. “We had a second-year student who had his laptop stolen and everyone in his class pitched in and bought him a new laptop and gave him their notes, too. That doesn’t happen at other schools.”

Long has helped the college develop two innovative programs as a member of the Academic Standards and Curriculum Committee—the Master of Laws (LLM) program and the 3+3 program, an accelerated degree program in which students earn a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years. He also serves on the Innovation Committee, which serves to keep UT competitive with other law colleges.

On innovation in legal education: “Legal education these days is very focused on experiential learning. We’re well positioned here at UT to take part in that, because we’ve been doing it before there was ever a term to describe it. We have the longest continuously operating legal clinic in the country where students get the chance to represent real clients and the students learn by doing it.”

Free legal advice based on his years of practice and teaching: “Don’t ever put anything in an e-mail you wouldn’t want to see in a lawsuit.”

Where you’re likely to run into him at lunch: “Chipotle—I love the chicken bowls. I turned my son into a Chipotle fanatic as well.”

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