August 01, 2023 — University of Houston Law Center alumnus Steven Lien (J.D. ‘22) has become a Government Honors Attorney, serving as Assistant Chief Counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Lien shares his journey and passion for serving the American public and offers advice to law students to seize meaningful internships and learn from setbacks.
What did it mean to you to become a Government Honors Attorney?
It is making a huge commitment to public service. Since I was very young, my calling has always been serving the American public. I always loved watching “Law & Order” and I wanted to be a public servant and prosecutor. I wanted to do something for the community and American citizens, so I asked myself, “How can I contribute to my country?” Dealing with the complex issues and situations that arise with the Department of Homeland Security is my way to fulfill my desire to serve the American public.
What led you to pursue a legal education at UHLC? What were some of your favorite professors/memories here?
I first came to Houston for grad school at the College of Medicine. Midway through that, I decided I wanted to pursue a J.D. instead. Loving the city, its diversity, food, culture, etc., I realized I wanted to stay in Houston to pursue my J.D. I had one in-person semester here at UH, so I did not get a lot of experience on the campus itself. But throughout that one semester there, I made life-long friendships and connections. In fact, I still talk to these close friends every week. My favorite professor was Sandra Guerra Thompson. I had two classes and a seminar with her, and she greatly helped me improve my writing and critical thinking skills. Another influential professor was Professor Morales. I took immigration and asylum law with him, and this was one of the main factors that helped me get on the path to being an honors attorney. He was always very professional and a great mentor. I also took the Immigration Clinic with Professor Hoffman, who is now an immigration judge. He helped me develop my real work writing and litigation skills which I still apply today.
In what other ways has a J.D. helped you in your career so far?
One of the great advantages of getting a J.D. is it helps you develop analytical and critical thinking skills in everyday life. What you learn in law school teaches you to research and analyze the facts, and then present the facts. It helps you learn how to navigate these complex avenues and learn how to find the middle ground in everyday life. It really taught me to negotiate with
people, find what the issue is and find an agreement without letting emotions interfere. It helped me deal with issues in life and resolve these issues in a very swift manner.
What is one valuable lesson you learned at UHLC?
One valuable lesson I learned throughout my time at UHLC is to never count anything out. I struggled in my first semester because law school was different from any other schooling in my life. It is important to focus on your goals and not let grades drag you down too much. Keep on grinding, figure out what went wrong and how to improve. Just because you fall once, doesn’t mean it’s over.
What advice would you give to law students who are unsure of their next steps?
My advice to law students is to find meaningful internships and get something meaningful out of them. One of the big reasons I got my position is that I interned at the agency that I am currently at. They loved my work, and I made meaningful connections. One of the deputies even wrote a letter of recommendation for me for the honors program. Don’t take internships for granted. You may not see all the benefits at the beginning, but they are there. I thought I would be a patent lawyer at first but after doing my internship with homeland security, I realized that this was my calling.
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