A Call to Duty – Steve Berlin's Path to West Point and Beyond
08.02.19 | Permalink
Steve Berlin Talks about his desire to serve his country, his work as an Army JAG officer and how his 20-year Military Career prepared him for the Work he does today.
Before Steve knew he wanted to be a lawyer, he wanted to serve his country. He grew up in a working class family in Saint Petersburg, the son of an Army officer who served in Vietnam and a Vietnamese mother. His parents met after his father returned to Vietnam as part of the civil service. “I never met my maternal relatives because they were all living under the North Vietnamese regime that was very oppressive at the time,” said Steve. Thankful for all he saw the country had given his family, Steve says he always felt a strong desire to serve.
Steve meeting with the Anbar Province,
Iraq Chief Investigative Judge in Iraq
Steve remembers watching a documentary about West Point with his dad. “He told me that West Point was where generals go to school and that it was a place for people with connections,” remembered Steve.
When Steve was 13, his dad died and never knew that his hard working son would one day earn a spot at West Point. “My mother worked very hard and she was always pushing me to work and study harder,” he said. “She would always say ‘nobody will give you anything.’”
Every cadet at West Point is required to take a Constitutional Law class, but Berlin was surprised by how much he liked it. “I never considered law, but while serving as an army officer in Germany, I had a discussion with a judge advocate and I was convinced,” he admitted.
After he completed his tour as a field artillery officer, Steve attended law school and became and Army JAG officer. His career spanned 20 years working both as a criminal litigator and as in-house counsel throughout the years. “My work as a judge advocate was very fulfilling,” said Steve. “I enjoyed helping others through times of crisis and presenting solutions to serious problems.”
Designated an Expert Military Justice Practitioner, Steve prosecuted more than sixty courts-martial with a heavy emphasis on crimes involving sexual and family violence. He began in Fort Knox, Kentucky where he became the senior prosecutor and also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. He later was a member of the Army’s first cohort of Special Victim Prosecutors. This program returned experienced prosecutors to the courtroom to stem the concerns surrounding sexual and family violence. In this position, he received advanced training in forensics, medical evidence, and advocacy. “I truly enjoyed helping those victims who felt mistreated by the system and world get through their darkest hour,” he said.
As in-house counsel, Steve helped military commanders solve sensitive, complex problems. He was responsible for a variety of legal disciplines from operational law and military justice to administrative law, investigation, claims, and fiscal law. He has served extensively as an ethics counselor. He was the senior legal advisor to an Airborne Brigade Combat Team that deployed to Anbar Province, Iraq. There, he was also the senior military rule of law advisor. He was also the Staff Judge Advocate for the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria and was an in-house legal advisor at U.S. Special Operations and Central Commands.
“My work as an Army JAG officer taught me to handle a high volume of work and manage extremely stressful situations,” noted Steve. “I have a lot of experience working with executives in stressful situations, which transitions well into the product liability and casualty litigation work I’m doing, now,” he added.
Steve Berlin at the National American Pacific ABA gala with two law students, Major General Thomas Ayres and Colonel Kay Wakatake. They discussed efforts to combat sexual violence in the Army.
In his work, Steve focuses on issues involving the legal impacts of using technology. As one who enjoys solving complex problems, he is thrilled to be helping companies with data privacy and cybersecurity compliance.
"With data privacy, I help companies ensure they are properly handling the data they have and with cybersecurity, we work to keep data away from those who aren’t supposed to have it,” he explained. “I help ensure companies have the right policies in place to manage the data they have and also to protect and be prepared for an attack. After a breach or incident, I help companies with the response and litigation if necessary.”
In addition, Steve handles premises liability cases, as well as first property home insurance defense where he represents home insurance companies in claims dispute litigation. He also works with the defense contracting community on a wide variety of legal issues.
“My work is stimulating and interesting,” said Steve. “I enjoy the challenge of working on issues that are relevant and evolving,” he added.
Steve was attracted to Rumberger’s commitment to performing at high levels for clients. “Everyone is extremely professional, constructive and helpful,” said Steve. “Rumberger does a great job of hiring talent and refining and developing that talent,” he explained. “There is a focus on modeling positive behavior and showing how things are done, or how something could be done better in order to reach a higher standard or result. Coming from the Army, I’m used to excellent training and Rumberger has a great training model,” he continued.
When he’s not working, Steve says you can find him at the pool helping with his daughter’s swim meets or working out. He and his wife of 21 years have two kids—a son studying computer science at the University of Florida and their high school-aged daughter who is a competitive swimmer.
“When I was in the Army, working out used to be something I had to do and was all about performance, but now my workout is for fun and myself. I work out as much as I can and like to go first thing in the morning before work,” he added.
Steve’s got a soft spot for the family dog, Winnie, who they fostered and then rescued. “She was the runt of the litter. We fostered her and her sister, but we just had to keep her. We’re not sure what breed she is, but she looks like she is part Labrador Retriever and part Dachshund. She has the coloring of a lab, but short legs and loves to chase small animals,” he laughed.
Coming from Florida, it’s not surprising that Steve and his family enjoy spending time together at theme parks. “We had passes for all of the Florida parks, but we also would go wherever we moved,” he explained. Steve remembered one of the best trips was after his return from Iraq. “The kids were excused from school, so we went to Universal Orlando right after the opening of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. It was great because it was the middle of the school week and nobody was there!”â€‹
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