The summer program has been filled with professional development courses through PowerSummer, jigsaw puzzles, coffee breaks with attorneys, negotiation sessions, attorney spotlights, and so much more! As we wrapped up our last week of the summer associate program, we were tasked with closing the deal for the Mock Real Estate Transaction, keeping a secret for a surprised client spotlight, and bringing the heat in the kitchen. 

For the final social event, the litigation department at Bilzin Sumberg joined the summer associates for a virtual culinary class made possible by an Airbnb Online Experience. Natalia Luna and Jazz hosted the Authentic Mexican Salsa course and left us with a taste of their music and city before the night ended. As I shuffled around the kitchen preparing three different salsas, Melissa Pallett-Vasquez served as the narrator for the evening and encouraged all of us to spice up our dishes. Although we were in separate kitchens, all of our salsas looked mouthwatering, and the culinary class created an unforgettable experience.

For the last event of the summer associate program, summer associates were shipped Laurent-Perrier Champagne to celebrate our hard work and determination throughout the four-week program. Partner and Practice Group Leader, Jay Sakalo, led the Summer Associate Farewell Toast with a congratulatory message to the summer associates for finishing the program and endless gratitude towards Jessica Buchsbaum and Betsi Cobas for creating a phenomenal virtual program. Although the countless Zoom meetings have come to an end, we have gained invaluable connections and experiences this summer that will last beyond the program. 

Farewell until next summer.

This past Thursday, the Summer Associates and I joined the Real Estate Practice Group for a Cuban Cocktail Mixing Class with Miami Culinary Tours. Armed with mint, soda, and, most importantly, rum, and guided by our host, Grace, we embarked on our virtual tour of the two most famous cócteles cubanos— the Cuba Libre and the mojito.

First, we mixed rum, coca cola and lime to make the Cuba Libre. While we sipped our creations, attorneys decorated the Zoom dashboard with panama hats and shared stories of their favorite vacations. We learned that Sarah Herald has been to all 50 states, and that rum reminds Jessica of the time she visited Puerto Rico.

For our second round, Grace taught us how to use mint in an aromatic, refreshing mojito. Now a drink deep, people discussed their dream vacations—trips to Italy, Argentina, and Alaska—most of which got postponed due to COVID-19.

When our culinary tour ended, the other Summers and I agreed that (1) this cocktail-making class was a great way to learn more about the Real Estate Practice Group, and (2) that everyone in the group has amazing travel experiences. We all had such a fun time that it was easy to forget we were all at home on Zoom, and instead felt like we were together in the conference room, competing over who mixed the best mojito.

One of the most important elements of being a Summer Associate is getting to know the attorneys that make up the firm. Meeting and speaking with the partners and associates of a law firm is an integral way to learn about the firm’s culture, the different practice groups, and gain advice from those who were once in your shoes.

Coming into an entirely remote summer program, my fellow Summer Associates and I were unsure how much of those interactions we would be able to have. Fortunately, we quickly realized that there would be no shortage of opportunities to meet the wonderful people of Bilzin Sumberg. Continue Reading Home Brewed Connections

CrossroadAs law students, we are often told that we have to choose one of two paths for our career trajectories. We can either go the public interest or the private sector route. While we are by no means locked into one route for the remainder of our careers, our starting point is critical. This crossroad was particularly difficult for me because I have always been passionate about service and giving back to my community. Part of me wanted to start my career in public service, while the other part wanted to explore what “big law” had to offer. After much thought, I decided to go the private sector route, but I made it a priority to find a firm that values Pro Bono work as much, if not more than, billable work. This, among many other factors, made accepting the opportunity to work at Bilzin Sumberg a no-brainer. From the Bilzin Sumberg Cares initiative to learning more about the Pro Bono work that attorneys are actively working on, it became very clear that Bilzin Sumberg truly cares about its local and national communities.
Continue Reading The Best of Both Routes: Pro Bono at Bilzin Sumberg

One of the biggest potential downsides of a virtual summer program is missing out on the day-to-day opportunities to connect with the Bilzin Sumberg family. However, this summer has proven that you can still get to know people and have fun while working from home, with two great examples being our practice group social events so far.

After a couple days of orientation, we got some much-needed cardio during the first social event of the summer, the “Virtual Scavenger Hunt” with the Corporate Practice Group. Jessica would describe an item to the group over Zoom, and then we would all run off into our respective homes to find that item and bring it back to the computer, with the first three to return getting points in each round. Sophi ended up the champion, somehow managing to track down a mango, a copy of Little Women, and three left shoes in her house before the game was done.

Next came the much-anticipated “Two Truths and a Lie” event with the Land Use Practice Group. Before the event, both the summer associates and the attorneys submitted little-known facts about themselves to Jessica, who then crafted each into a trivia question using the Kahoot app. Despite a steady flow of trash talk (and some sporadic technical difficulties), we managed to get through all 41 questions, with a boatload of fun facts coming out along the way. By the end of the evening, John had revealed that he once worked as a safari guide at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and mounted a last-minute comeback to win the game—which was especially impressive considering he just started at the Firm last Monday!

The first two practice group social events have been a blast, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Litigation and Real Estate have in store for us the next couple weeks!

This year marks the thirteenth year of the Mock Real Estate Transaction at Bilzin Sumberg. But unlike in years past, the Summer Associates and I were not huddled in a large conference room, talking strategy. Instead, we were grouped in Zoom breakout rooms, fleshing out what was most important to the client and how to negotiate our way there while avoiding awkward Zoom silences. The quarantine-appropriate theme for the Mock Transaction is based on Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness.

The Mock Real Estate Transaction provides a hands-on opportunity for summer associates to learn more about real estate transactions and draft relevant documents such as a Letter of Intent, a Contract, and a Closing Statement. To start, Adam Lustig, the Real Estate Practice Group leader, began the virtual meeting with an overview of the multiple phases for a real estate transaction. Real Estate Partner Phillip Sosnow co-hosted the virtual session and dived into a number of details that we would find useful during negotiations as we advocate for our respective clients.

As we were learning the facts of the Mock Transaction via PowerPoint slide, the other Summer Associates and I were surprised to see a video starring Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue. Carole welcomed the summer associates to Bilzin Sumberg and wished the summer associates luck on the Tiger themed mock transaction. Everyone was star-struck and of course, grateful to Jessica for organizing the cameo.

Over the next two weeks, we will have the opportunity to meet with our Mock Transaction Advisors, Alexandra Lehson and L. Kent Koch, to create strategies for the negotiation sessions. We are all looking forward to learning more about the Real Estate practice at Bilzin Sumberg– let’s just hope that the negotiations don’t bring out anyone’s catty side!

This week, my fellow Summer Associates and I started our much-anticipated positions at Bilzin Sumberg. While the coronavirus is keeping us away from the office and out of the Courthouse, Jessica and Betsi have planned an engaging and robust, albeit untraditional, Summer Program. On our opening Zoom call, Jessica and Jay welcomed the six of us to the Firm’s first ever virtual Summer.

Savannah, John, Danielle, Alexa, Andres and I started out the week with two days of Orientation. In various video conferences, we learned quickly to adjust to using our laptops to work from home—a transition made smooth by the Firm’s decision years prior to switch from desktops to laptops. In typical first-day fashion, we also shared a virtual lunch with our mentors.

As my mentor Elise and I caught up over Zoom, I realized that chatting on the phone or video didn’t feel difficult at all—especially months into the pandemic, which has made video chat the new normal. Working from home, in some ways, has made it easier to get on the phone with an attorney whose pre-pandemic schedule may have required them to be out of the office more often. And although some of us are working from different locations (Danielle is in North Carolina, Andres is in New York, Savannah is in Gainesville, and John is in Palm Beach), scheduling coffee break phone calls, Zoom check-ins, and group work sessions has helped recreate the sense of community I came to love last summer.

The coronavirus has generated so many unprecedented challenges to our pre-pandemic ways of working together. Despite these obstacles, however, I am inspired by the resilience I have encountered among the attorneys and the staff at Bilzin Sumberg. This, coupled with the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of my fellow Summer Associates, makes me excited to see what the next few weeks have in store!

The summer associates attend their zoom orientation

Today, we are excited to kick off our virtual summer associate program!

This summer looks a little different than previous summers but, we know the Bilzin Sumberg culture transcends our physical office.  The summer associates can expect a great balance of substantive work, training, mentoring and virtual social events.  We welcome Savannah, Sophi, Danielle, Andres, John, Lexi and look forward to you getting to know them more in the coming weeks!

The first year associates with Judge Leifman after taking the Oath of Attorney

Today, I had the pleasure of witnessing the swearing in ceremony of my 16th group of first year associates.  Because each swearing in is special, I never tire of watching our newest associates take their Oath of Attorney.  It is gratifying to see them transition from summer associate to associate and begin their legal careers.

We owe our gratitude to Judge Leifman, who presided over the ceremony, in the presence of family and friends.  Judge Leifman took a few moments to share with our associates and their loved ones the importance of balancing their careers with the obligation to give back to the community and make a difference, while sharing his personal journey of  contributions to our community.  We couldn’t have asked for a better ending for The Academy.

Congratulations to Ben, Bri & Eric on their admission to the Florida Bar and their successful matriculation from Bilzin Sumberg’s Academy!!  We can’t wait to see how they contribute to our firm and community.

Week 1 of The Academy is in the books, and Ben, Brianna, and I are looking forward to Week 2. We are especially looking forward to taking the Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar and celebrating with our families and colleagues.

Last week our program focused on a broad spectrum of topics, including time-management and professional networking. But the primary focus was on our firm’s culture and commitment to community service. In addition to building our technical proficiency as attorneys, our firm seeks to mold us into leaders who give back to our community. We therefore spent considerable time learning about the various organizations and community projects that our firm is affiliated with.

In fact, Ben, Brianna, and I had the opportunity to spend time with our firm’s managing partner and founding partners over dinner to gain insight into the history, culture, and future of our firm. As part of the discussion, they encouraged us to seek leadership roles with organizations that promote causes we are passionate about.

My colleagues and I are certainly excited for these opportunities. This week, for example, we will visit and learn about more organizations that our firm has partnered with to make our world a better place. We therefore look forward to becoming actively involved within our community