Taking the Long view Law professor used folklore as a career foundation

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Justin Long, assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Law, brings a rather unusual academic background to the law -- his Harvard undergrad degree is in Folklore and Mythology.

"It was a great preparation for law," he says. "I studied Irish folklore in particular and wrote my undergraduate thesis on traditional folktales as re-imagined in the poetry of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, a contemporary Irish-language poet."

Long went on to earn his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

"I've always been attracted to law for its potential as a lever of power that sometimes can elevate the underdog and bring society closer to justice," he says.

After clerking for U.S. Circuit Judge Myron Bright and now-retired Associate Judge Albert Rosenblatt of the New York Court of Appeals, Long became an assistant solicitor general in the New York Office of the Attorney General, doing appellate litigation.

"My experience there was as academic as practice can get," he says. "I worked with extremely bright and thoughtful lawyers on interesting questions of law, just as I do now. My day-to-day work was centered on legal research and writing, just as it is now in academia. And I loved oral argument in court, just as I now enjoy orally presenting papers at workshops and teaching.

"I enjoyed the element central to all appellate practice, which is the examination of how the proceedings below worked -- or didn't -- as a matter of law, in contrast to the trial attorney's focus on the facts. By the time cases came to my desk they were closed records almost literally in 'brown paper packages tied up with string,' and many people count those among their favorite things."

Long, who has been interviewed on Michigan Public Radio, served as a panelist during the Michigan Constitutional Convention presentation at the Election Forum 2010, and spoke last year at State Constitutionalism in the 21st Century, a symposium at Penn State Law School, teaches Civil Procedure and State Constitutionalism.

"Civil Procedure is thrilling because it's the one area of law that is truly lawyers' own, the area where we have unique expertise," he says. "Economists, philosophers, political scientists, and many other scholars are essential contributors to the academic conversation in other legal topics, but attention to procedure is, in many ways, what defines us as lawyers."

Long joined WSU Law last fall after serving as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

"I love working at Wayne State," he says. "My colleagues are brilliant, inspiring, and very supportive of junior faculty. We benefit from extraordinarily talented librarians and support staff. As a scholar of urban public education, I especially benefit from our law school's close connection, through the Keith Center for Civil Rights, with Detroit. Wayne State is such a great law school because it's in the City of Detroit, not despite that."

Long and his wife Ariana Silverman -- assistant rabbi at Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield -- live in Woodbridge within walking distance of the WSU Law campus.

"I love the incredible wealth of cultural activities here in Detroit," he says. "I regularly enjoy long-established artistic institutions like plays at the Hilberry Theater, concerts at the DSO, opera at the MOT, and Diego Rivera at the DIA.

"But I'm also moved and enriched by the amazing creative spirit apparent in smaller venues in my neighborhood, like the rotating art exhibits at Cass Cafe, the Woodbridge Pub, the N'Namdi gallery, the Dell Pryor gallery in the Spiral Collective, and many others."

Published: Tue, Nov 8, 2011