After years of experience with the U.S. Supreme Court, Rex Lee said he didn't know of any other father-son combinations who have served as law clerks there.
Since his initial experience as a law clerk with the country's highest court, Rex Lee has argued more than 50 cases before the court in private practice and was U.S. solicitor general for four years, representing the federal government in cases before the Supreme Court. He graduated from BYU in 1960 and earned his juris doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1963. He was named president of BYU in 1989.
It was no secret that early in his life, Tom wasn't interested in following in his father's legal footsteps.
"At first, I thought I wanted to stray as far away from his career path as possible," Tom explained. However, while growing up, Tom hadn't ignored his father's career. "I always talked to him about it," he recalled. "It was something that was very interesting to me."
It was in high school that Tom's interest in a law career was spawned. He became involved in mock trial competition through a government class. "I did some legal research and some of the same things I do now as an attorney," he said, "and I enjoyed it."
Pres. Lee said Tom may have been influenced by close exposure to the legal profession. In addition to talking about it, the elder Lee took his oldest son with him when he argued before the Supreme Court.
Tom graduated from BYU with a degree in economics in 1988 and from law school at the University of Chicago in 1991. Later that year he passed the Utah state bar exam and is now an associate attorney in a Salt Lake City law firm.
When he learned his son was considering applying to be a law clerk at the Supreme Court, Pres. Lee told him, "I don't care if you have to borrow money or whatever you have to do to do it. Just do it."
There was a reason behind his bold encouragement.
Serving as a Supreme Court law clerk "was clearly one of the defining experiences of my professional life," the BYU president said. "It gave me an understanding and knowledge of Supreme Court practice that most lawyers don't have. It opened up the opportunity for me to do a lot of Supreme Court work. . . . I'm quite certain that had I not been a Supreme Court law clerk, other big career opportunities would not have come to me.
"I'm extremely proud of Tom. I'm very happy for him because I know this will open additional opportunities for him."
Tom was aware of how his father felt. "If anything, initially, my dad was more excited about it than I was," he said. "He has taken a real interest in my life and career."
Tom can't escape comparisons between him and his father, but that doesn't seem to bother him.
"If I had to choose a role model, I can't think of a better one than my dad," he said. "Not only in his career, but also in everything he's done. It is incredibly flattering to be compared with my dad."