James Lee, ’21, Will Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

By Maren Hendricks June 29, 2023

Much like Superman alias Clark Kent, James Lee seems like such a regular, nice guy. But then he’s extraordinary.

Portrait photo of James Lee
James Lee, BYU Law Class of 2021

Next month, Lee will begin a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. for the October 2023 term. He is the most recent addition to BYU Law’s legacy of Supreme Court clerks which began when a member of BYU Law’s first graduating class in 1976 clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger. BYU has since placed 15 Supreme Court clerks.

BYU Law’s Clerkship Committee has been instrumental in securing prestigious and competitive federal clerkships for students. Committee members, many of whom are faculty with judicial clerkship experience, help applicants determine which courts and judges to target, gather application materials, and prepare for interviews. Successful candidates combine intellect and strong writing ability with life experiences that reflect maturity, judgment and integrity.

Lee has all these attributes, and more. Adjunct BYU Law professor Gene Schaerr remembers Lee as a standout in BYU Law's Supreme Court Seminar, for which students write drafts of briefs that can be used for actual Supreme Court filings: "Usually, student briefs have to be rewritten - not so with James. His drafts were on par with third-year associate work at our firm and other firms where I have been a partner—these are the top graduates from the best law schools in the country and many were Supreme Court clerks. I also clerked for Chief Justice Burger and Justice Scalia, so I know the waters James will swim in. He's every bit as good as the best of the best." 

Many other BYU Law professors praise Lee’s skill and determination.

- Professor John Fee, who worked with Lee on a 2022 law review article, praised both his legal skills and personal drive: “James is among the most motivated and impressive former students I have worked with. He is an excellent writer and legal analyst. He has enormous talent and is driven like few others to sharpen his skills and contribute at a high level.” 

- Professor Catherine Bramble, for whom Lee was a legal writing teaching assistant, regards Lee as “one of the most brilliant minds I have worked with in my teaching career of almost 20 years. His writing skills are superb and his ability to engage in thoughtful, nuanced legal analysis is remarkable. James is a man who has impeccable character, exemplary integrity, and an impressive work ethic.”

- Professor Aaron Nielson, who got to know Lee in his Federal Courts course, explains, “James is smart and focused—a ‘nerd’ in the best sense of the term. But what really stands out from the moment you meet him is he’s a leader. That combination is powerful.”

The talented, hardworking Lee has collected the bona fides of a future Supreme Court clerk. After graduation, he clerked for Judge Howard C. Nielson, Jr. of the US District Court for Utah and Judge Amul R. Thapar of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Looking forward to his work at the nation’s highest court, Lee acknowledged BYU Law’s impressive legacy of Supreme Court clerkship:

"I am humbled by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.’s invitation to clerk for him this coming term, and I am indebted to my family, Judge Amul R. Thapar, Judge Howard C. Nielson, Jr., and the many mentors and friends who helped me obtain this incredible opportunity. Justice Alito is a model jurist and public servant—he consistently promotes the rule of law by honoring the text and historical understandings of our Constitution, even in the face of immense public pressure. Like Justice Alito, BYU Law also has a long tradition of defending the original meaning of our Constitution. And it regularly produces graduates who clerk at all levels of the judiciary. It is an honor to both continue that tradition and join the line of BYU Law graduates who have clerked for the US Supreme Court."