By Donna Emert
Humility is a rare attribute, seldom celebrated in our culture, though it is an expression of self discipline and selflessness, which we claim to value. Humility seems to grow stronger with exercise and to be nurtured by role models. That rings true in the case of a law student recently honored as the recipient of a University of Idaho Alumni Excellence Award: Brian Schlect.
Schlect’s future is bright. Immediately after receiving his University of Idaho juris doctor this coming May, he will embark on a one-year judicial clerkship under the Hon. N. Randy Smith, judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The clerkship is a high honor, a big responsibility, and carries with it the need for humility. The Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco hears appeals from federal courts in nine states, including Idaho. It serves the largest geographical area and handles the largest case load of the 13 courts of appeals that occupy the second rung of the federal judicial ladder, directly below the U.S. Supreme Court.
Schlect earned the second highest GPA in his graduating class, while working as a research assistant for the Wullenwaber Law Firm in Lewiston; providing contract reviews for Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., of Moscow; and clerking for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee Ford Elsaesser.
As an undergraduate earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts at New Saint Andrews College, Schlect served as a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Moscow Volunteer Fire Department.
He served as a Blackstone Legal Fellow, along with student colleagues from top-notch programs, including the London School of Economics, Yale Law and University of Virginia Law School. The fellowship culminated with an internship with the Pacific Justice Institute.
Schlect also interned at the Paine Hamblen law firm in Coeur d’Alene. While a student, he has also contributed to the Idaho College of Law’s on-line periodical, Business Law Gems, edited by U-Idaho Professor Wendy Couture. He distinguished himself, again, in the fall 2010 McNichols Moot Court Competition, writing the Runner-Up Best Brief.
College of Law student peers selected Schlect to serve as editor in chief of the 2011-12 editor Idaho Law Review. Student-run law journals are the primary forum for legal scholarship and academic discourse, explains Richard Seamon, professor of law and a faculty adviser for the Law Review. When students select a peer as editor-in-chief, they recognize, “The stakes are high,” says Seamon.
“The quality of a law school’s flagship journal affects the law school’s reputation, and the editor-in-chief is the captain of that flagship,” says Seamon. “It is a position of great responsibility. In my experience, law review members usually choose as editor-in-chief the person whom they believe has the most maturity, the most solid judgment and the best ability to inspire people to work hard and produce high quality work under tight deadlines.”
Schlect’s own legal scholarship includes, “The New York Times Solution to the Ninth Circuit’s ‘Stolen Valor’ Problem,” published in the Fall, 2011 Idaho Law Review.
“Brian has written one of those rare student articles that, in my opinion, provide original, insightful analysis of a difficult legal issue,” says Seamon. “It would not surprise me ---if the Supreme Court reviews the Act’s unconstitutionality—to see the Court analyze the Act the way Brian has. For its originality and cogency, Brian’s Law Review article compares favorably to scholarship produced by tenured law professors at respected law schools. The article is a first-rate academic achievement.”
While the Alumni Excellence Award and the judicial clerkship distinguish him, so does his humility.
"Brian is downright self-effacing,” says Seamon. “He does not lack self-confidence, but he does have a smaller than average ego for a high-achieving law student.”
Schlect is equally impressed by Seamon’s achievements and humility, including the professor’s stellar reputation for scholarship, teaching, and legal experience that includes service to the US Department of Justice as Assistant to the Solicitor General, and arguing 15 cases before the US Supreme Court.
Even with that impressive resume, Schlect notes, “It is evident that there is nothing Professor Seamon would rather be doing than teaching law students at the University of Idaho.”
“Professor Seamon’s work ethic and care for his students inspires me to tirelessly pursue excellence in my own work,” says Schlect.
The inspiration is mutual.
“Brian is one of the most modest, down to earth people I know,” Seamon said. “He gives me faith in the future of the state, the country, and the legal profession.”