Michael K. Young was reared as a Latter-day Saint. He attended BYU and then began a graduate career at the Harvard University law school. After serving two clerkships, he taught at law school of Columbia University, where he was the Director of the Center for Japanese Legal Studies. While on leave from Columbia University, he also served as Deputy Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs and Ambassador for Trade and Environmental Affairs. Currently, he serves as dean of the George Washington University Law School.
He has been a visiting professor for the law faculties of the University of Tokyo, Waseda University, and Nihon University. He is also a member and vice-chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1988. Young and his wife, Suzan, are the parents of three children.