Closing Argument

Issue: Winter 2022

Using a Career in the Law to Help People

Lowell Brown has provided tremendous support to the College of Law since his graduation in 1982.

In 2015, Brown, began soliciting other law alums in Southern California to name a study room in the new building. He and his wife Sonja recently made a significant gift to their endowed fund, which will provide an annual student scholarship. Brown also serves on the College of Law’s Board of Trustees.

Brown spoke to Res Gestae recently in a Q&A about his time spent in law school and his desire to give back at this stage in his life.

Q: What made you interested in going to law school?
A: It all began with an adolescent understanding of what it meant to be a lawyer. When I was 14 years old, the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” enthralled me. Like thousands of other young people, I wanted to be like Atticus Finch: To stand for noble principles and make statements by my behavior consistent with those principles.

Then something happened that changed my perspective forever. A few years later, when I was in high school, I had a brief conversation with my late father. He was profoundly hearing disabled and never had the opportunities that I would have, especially in that era when disabled people weren’t accommodated as they are now. His influence on me was profound – beyond that of anyone I’ve ever known. My dad asked me what kind of work I wanted to do when I grew up. I told him I was thinking I would like to be a lawyer. He thought for a moment, and then his response was something like this: “Well, that is a good profession to have if you like to help people.”

That moment has stayed with me ever since. Until then, in my youth I had never seen practicing law quite that way. The simple concept of using the law to help individual people remained present in my mind throughout the rest of my formal education, including law school, and endured after I became a lawyer in Los Angeles. Now, after 37 years of practicing law, I look back with profound gratitude at the opportunities I’ve had to help individuals who are struggling with the provision of medical care. These are physicians and others who work with them: their medical peers, nurses, therapists, and administrators. They are real people who care deeply about patients and about their colleagues, and who are devoted to patients’ safety while also seeking to preserve the careers of their fellow physicians who are struggling. It is, in essence, exactly the kind of work I wanted to do, and I feel profoundly grateful for having that opportunity.

Q: How did your time at the law school shape and/or help you in your career?
A: On reflection, I’m surprised to admit that what I remember most about law school is the students I studied with, struggled with, laughed with, and learned with. There are many classroom moments, of course, and hallway discussions with professors, but it is my fellow students who made the biggest mark on me. They were from everywhere and were of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. I remember the hours
we spent studying torts, the rule against perpetuities, the law of offer and acceptance and contracts; the late nights editing law journal articles; and so forth. We studied hard, but we helped each other learn. For the last several decades I have employed the same approach to working with colleagues. I work best in a group, when I can collaborate, share ideas, debate issues, and eventually come up with the right approach to a client problem. I am convinced that I would not have approached the law that way during my career if I had not been exposed to that collaborative, explorative method while in law school.

Q: What is one memorable experience from law school that will always stay with you?
A: I remember vividly one brief conversation I had with Professor Sam Thurman, who was by far my favorite professor and a man whose teaching style I loved. Somehow, the subject of what it would be like to be a lawyer came up, and I shared with him my expectation that I would have to devote a lot of time and energy to law practice, and that it would be challenging. In his inimitable quiet way, Sam looked at me, smiled and said, “Yes, it is a rigorous life.” I’ve never forgotten that. Sam proved to be right, and the “rigorous life” has not been a bad thing at all. Thankfully, I have been able to practice law, have a rewarding personal life, and still immerse myself in the rigors of the profession. To me, that meant rigorous challenges, rigorous thinking, and rigorous devotion to high standards. It has been exhilarating, and I’ve always felt that way about it.

Q: Outside of work, tell us about something interesting that you like to do?
A: I’m not a man of many hobbies, apart from being an almost ridiculously ardent fan of University of Utah football and basketball. My acquaintances and colleagues in Southern California are astonished that I, someone who grew up in Northern Utah, never learned to ski and still don’t ski. About 20 years ago, however, I began to read novels again. I’m afraid law school temporarily ruined my feelings about pleasure reading, because I spent so much time with my face in books in law school and later in practice. I finally decided that I would re-read the classics that I was supposed to read in high school and college, many of which I admittedly experienced only through the Cliff’s Notes. My repentant effort has been very rewarding. The novels I read as a high school and college student might as well be different books to me now, when I read them as an adult with three times the life experience I had when I first experienced them.