He served as law clerk to Judge Bailey Aldrich and Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan, and practiced with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., in Jackson, Mississippi, doing civil rights litigation before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1969, where his research and teaching focused on constitutional law and problem solving/decision making.
From 1987 to 1999, he served as the dean of Stanford Law School. Mr. Brest is co-author of Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking (5th ed. 2007), and of Problem Solving, Decision Making, and Professional Judgment (Oxford University Press, 2010). Together with Hal Harvey he is co-author of Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy (Bloomberg Press, 2008). He teaches a course on Judgment and Decisionmaking in the Public Policy Program at Stanford. Mr. Brest holds honorary degrees from Northeastern Law School and Swarthmore College, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.