Get to Know Sufen Hilf

Sufen Hilf came to the United States in 1984 to continue her education with a scholarship from Fisk University in Nashville. At the time, she had only $50 in cash. Eventually she was able to obtain her green card through an act of Congress called the Chinese Student Protection Act, enacted as a response to the Tiananmen Square protests.

Hilf obtained her juris doctorate from Michigan State University in 2000, and also became a naturalized citizen. She previously received degrees from Guangzhou University of Foreign Languages, Wuhan University, and SUNY Buffalo.

Hilf is admitted to the Federal 6th Circuit Court, the U.S. District in Southeastern Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice to litigate before federal courts in several other states. An active member of the Michigan chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), she has served as a local AILA committee member for over 10 years.

Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Hilf has lectured and advised Chinese community members, Indian communities and leaders in Michigan concerning Immigration law issues. 

She and her husband, attorney Daniel Hilf, were married in 2002. Since 2005, they have been partners at the Troy firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC, which specializes in Immigration law and criminal defense.  The couple has two daughters.

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

Residence: Birmingham.

What is your proudest moment as a lawyer? It is not a single moment. However, whenever I am able to have a successful outcome, especially when the case is contested or when someone previously received ineffective representation from another lawyer, I am gratified about the favorable result that I was able to obtain on behalf of my client. It is always in my mind that my work not only affects a single individual or a family; my representation impacts communities and even impacts generations. It is both an awesome and stressful responsibility. I am really sensitive to this because of my own background as an immigrant.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
Whenever a client refers me to a friend or family member it means they really appreciated the work I did on their behalf.

What would surprise people about your job? Our society is so political when it comes to immigration. There is such nasty rhetoric of some individuals concerning people of different faiths and ethnicities, the need of some to build walls and prevent people from coming here, the preferences of some to have people immigrate from some places but not others. The vast majority of persons I have met that originate from all places in the world love their families, communities, neighbors, and the rule of law just as much as you and I do. Everyone I’ve represented who wants to come to or remain in the United States wants to do so because they love this great country and our Constitution. They are hardworking. The persons that are bad apples are few and far between. I wholeheartedly believe that immigration is one of the best aspects of the United States.

What is the best advice you ever received?
The oath that is administered to new lawyers is really one of the most important things to know.

What is your happiest childhood memory? I grew up during the cultural revolution in China. We were poor, but better off than many others because my father was in the military. We had food and a place to live, but I did not have any toys. My toys were sticks, mud and leaves, candy wrappers, and cigarette package covers. I remember the times I spent outside playing, and even though I did not have material possessions I was very happy.

What is the most awe-inspiring place you’ve been?
Coming to the United States was awe-inspiring to me.

When you were considering law school, what was Plan B? I was working as an interpreter when it was suggested I should go to law school. I never considered it until then. All I know is that if I never went to law school I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today. I did not have a Plan B.
Any advice for someone considering law school?
Go to law school if you are passionate about helping others. If your focus is on providing a great service to people who need help, it will be a great career for you—but only if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

What were you doing in your last selfie?
I was hiking in Sedona, Ariz. It’s probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

When you look back into the past, what do you miss most? 
A compassionate immigration system. Trump is good for our business, but I would rather have less business with better laws and more humane immigration policies.

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