Utah legislator and BYU adjunct professor juggles many roles


“We can expect more, and frankly, we should expect more.” This short statement seems to be the pulse at the center of the life of a BYU adjunct communications law professor.

When first sitting down in one of Derek Brown’s media law courses, some students might conclude that  either Derek Brown is a story-teller, or he’s a man who just never sleeps. Since graduating from BYU,  this Sugarhouse native and his wife, Emilie have led a life full of adventure, ambition and service. The stories and lessons Brown infuses into his classroom discussions are formed from the treasure trove of life experiences Brown has gathered over a time-span that has, surprisingly, not been very lengthy.

“He makes a subject I expected to be boring, super fun and exciting,” said Christie Richmond, a former  student in  Brown’s media law class. “His energy and personality have made every student love his class, and we all want to go to each lecture because of how much we respect him.”

Only 40-years-old, Brown graduated from BYU, served a full-time mission for the LDS Church, backpacked through Europe, graduated with a law degree from Pepperdine School of Law, served as legal counsel for two U.S. Senators, clerked at the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, practiced constitutional law at a private international law firm, served as President of a Utah-based production company, owns a 20-employee-strong small business in Salt Lake County, teaches a communications law class at BYU. And if that’s not enough he recently joined the Utah State Legislature as a member of the Utah House of Representatives for the 49th District (Sandy area). On top of that encyclopedia of experience, Brown has two children and is a professional pianist.

“The summer after BYU, I worked during the days at Lagoon playing the piano,” Brown said describing the period between his undergraduate career and his future law school attendance. “The thought of going straight into law school from BYU made me feel ill, so my law school agreed to defer my enrollment and my wife and I backpacked around Europe.”

When Brown returned from Europe, he was asked by former Utah State Senate minority leader, and Democrat, Scott Howell, to work as his intern in the Utah Legislature.

“I just said, ‘You know, I don’t think I am a Democrat, I’m more of a Republican,'” said Brown, reflecting on the conversation. “He said that it didn’t matter; he liked having some different thought walking around. It made him a better Senator.”

From there, Brown made his return to the world of academia and earned his Perpperdine law degree. During this process, Brown worked in more positions that revealed his political bone.

After graduating from law school, Brown moved to Philadelphia to work as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. This experience then led into practicing law at the private law-firm Sidley and Austin.

“Ironically, Mike Lee recruited me to work at this firm,” said Brown describing his entrance into private law practice with one of Utah’s current U.S. senators. “I can remember a year where I didn’t see my family for about four months because we were in trial. It was brutal.”

In 2010, Brown joined the political field for the first time as a candidate. Running as a Republican seeking the office of state representative for District 49, Brown attracted the attention of many spectators.

“Virtually all of the political insiders speculating about Salt Lake county races pick this one as the top race to watch,” said blogger and one of Brown’s former colleagues in the Utah House, Holly Richardson, in her blog “Holly on the Hill’s” coverage of the 2012 Utah legislative campaign.

Brown went on to defeat his Democrat opponent F. Jay Seegmiller with 5,875 votes to Seegmiller’s 4,477. Brown served his first session in the legislature and will begin his second session this month.

Brown recognizes that he has a hectic life.

“I’ve tried to find that elusive balance in my life,” said Brown. “If for some reason you find your balance, a moment later you’ll lose it. The balance is that I have a wife who has to pick up the slack because I’m not around all of the time.”

With Brown’s busy schedule, which seems to get busier by the month, he still finds the time to focus on his Utah-based production company “Two Little Hands Entertainment.” Even during a legislative session, Brown teaches an evening section of Communications 300, Media Ethics, Law and Responsibility. This might be in part because of the student-based support that Brown continues to find in each semester’s enrollment.

“His quick-wittedness keeps me on my toes,” said Brooke Martin, a BYU broadcast journalism student. “He is one the best professors I’ve had in my entire educational experience. He has the ability to integrate the gospel into the law in a wonderful way.”

Brown’s campaign website states that he enjoys skiing at Snowbird with his two sons Alex and Zac, but Brown reveals that time for this hobby has become limited with his numerous commitments.

“Most of the legislators I know don’t have hobbies,” said Brown. “You create a little more empathy for those in office.”

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