(L to R, Myles Burstein, Brian Trujillo, Forrest Murphy, John Kuhn, Alexandra Lehson)

Last night we had our last practice group outing, and it was awesome. The Real Estate group’s summer associate event was a scavenger hunt in Brickell City Center. We were divided into four teams and the goal was to finish the night with the most amount of points. I was on Team 2 “Team Myles,” but, in all honesty, we were really “Team Ali” (more on this to come). While the true goal of the event was for us to get to know the Real Estate group, the really important thing to tell you is that our team won . . . by a lot. The winning team: Marla Berman, Myles Burstein, Ali Lehson, John Kuhn, Forrest Murphy, and Brian Trujillo (yours truly).

Let me first say some things about the event generally. The four teams were a balanced mix of summer associates, associates, and partners. The rules were simple: the teams had to work through a list of action items, each item was worth a certain amount of points, and the goal was to get as many points as possible in one hour. The list was on an iPad app and the items would prompt us to do things like taking a video or photo of ourselves doing X-thing in front of Y-place, and there were some trivia questions sprinkled in. At the end of the night we would all meet up at La Centrale – Enoteca for food and drinks, and, of course, to announce the winners.

Now, the fun part. Yes, Ali is incredibly competitive, but she is a phenomenal leader. I think the best leaders are the ones who are alongside you in the trenches sharing in the work. And this is precisely what our fearless leader did. She was the first one volunteering to complete some of the challenges, and she was the only one brave enough to do the Elaine Dance. So while Ali made it very clear that we had to win, or risk serious consequences, she carried the team to victory. But truthfully, regardless of the outcome, the whole event was a blast. There is nothing like stopping complete strangers to ask them if we can photobomb their selfies or singing Come Fly With Me to complete strangers.  We also had to do a lot of random dancing. I am proud to say that I still remember the chicken dance, and I also learned that Forrest is a great flosser. I also heard that Sophi had to propose to a stranger – I loathe the fact that I did not see the stranger’s reaction.

All in all, this was a great way to bond with the Real Estate group. At the end of the night we all shared in some great food and funny stories. My takeaway at the end of it all was this: on par with the theme this summer, Bilzin Sumberg is filled with amazing people.

Throughout the summer we have been reminded of how important it is to build relationships throughout the community — someone who truly embodies this statement is Scott Baena. Last week, my fellow summer associates and I had the chance to have lunch with Scott at Seaspice. With a beautiful view of the Miami River and over some delicious seafood, we chatted about Scott’s journey to Miami, the most memorable parts of our summer so far, and the challenges associated with transitioning from law school to practicing attorneys. However, the conversation that resonated with me the most was Scott’s advice regarding professional development.

Scott is actively involved in The Academy. The Academy is a two-week training program for first year associates which focuses on the development of critical professional and intrapersonal skills. Of specific focus is relationship building. Scott explained to us that during the Academy, he emphasizes the importance of building relationships as soon as possible in your legal career. He explained to us that the relationships you build are invaluable. Not only can these relationships lead to potential business, but most importantly, they help keep you grounded. Accordingly, Scott prefers to think of professional development as building meaningful relationships, not as solely generating business.

A way to build these relationships is by joining organizations throughout the community. However, as Scott pointed out, in order to build meaningful relationships, you have to join organizations that you are passionate about/ share in their vision. In addition, Scott differentiated between professional organizations and organizations in which you simply have an interest in.

Because professional development is not something really talked about in law school, my fellow summers and I are very appreciative of Scott’s wisdom and advice. Accordingly, I know that I have began thinking about what organizations I would like to join in the near future as a way to build relationships.

 

 

In the final weeks of the summer associate program, we had the opportunity to debrief with an experienced attorney at the firm—Marshall Pasternack. In his infamous “10 at 3” meeting, Marshall took time out of his busy day to share some of the things he’s learned throughout his career with myself and the other summer associates. At Bilzin Sumberg, people call these “Marshall-isms,” and they have been invaluable to our experience and growth as lawyers-in-training. There are too many to list, but some of the Marshall-isms that caught my attention include:

  1. When given a new assignment or matter, learn everything you can about the client and the context for the problem to be addressed. In other words, don’t perform your work in a vacuum.
  2. Practicing law is adversarial, but it doesn’t have to be antagonistic. Just because you sit on the opposite side of the negotiating table or argue for opposite resolutions in court doesn’t mean you have to treat opposing counsel poorly.
  3. The two most important things for a young lawyer: be reliable and be dependable. Your word is everything. Safely guard it.
  4. Be interested. Be interesting. Be inquisitive. People connect well with those who care. Be someone who cares.
  5. At the end of the day, all you have is your reputation. Protect it.
  6. Find a mentor and be a mentor.
  7. Ask for and embrace constructive criticism. It is vital for your development.
  8. Take pride in your work. Everything you touch carries your professional “DNA.” Make sure that when people view your work, they see quality product.
  9. A shot not taken is a goal not scored. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
  10. Manage expectations. This is key. It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.

Marshall offered many other insights, but the theme stayed consistent throughout: be respectful, be engaged, guard your reputation, and take chances. As you can see, many of these tips apply not just to work, but to life in general. As a young person about to embark on my career, I really appreciated Marshall taking the time out of his schedule to share these tips with us. It serves as just another example of the kind of wholesome training summer associates receive at Bilzin Sumberg. The firm really values developing us as people, and its leaders care not just about our ability to turn in quality assignments, but who we will become in the process.

On Wednesday, the other summer associates and I had the opportunity to teach a group of middle school students the relationship between freedom of speech under the First Amendment and cyber bullying.

The small group of students visited the firm through the Breakthrough Miami program, which Sara Herald is deeply involved in. Breakthrough Miami is an academic enrichment program that uses student-teaching-student models to ensure that young children attending under-resourced schools still have access to educational opportunities. The program has a 100% high school graduation rate as well an over 90% college attendance rate for the young students involved. Continue Reading Breakthrough Miami Visits Bilzin Sumberg

A few weeks ago, the other Summer Associates and I went to lunch with Michelle Weber. We all listened intently as Brian described his interest in space photography and Kayla confessed her love of horror films. This summer, one of my goals was to read more books. After mentioning a few books I recently read and enjoyed, Michelle and I realized that our reading lists overlapped. One after another, we threw out names of books we had both just read.

Soon after that lunch, I received an email invitation to an informal women’s book club which meets for lunch every few weeks. The book for the meeting was Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris; Michelle selected it after having loved reading it herself. Inspired by a real photograph illustrating four children for sale, Sold on a Monday is the story of a reporter who finds a sign advertising children for sale during the Great Depression.

While Jessica rolled into the meeting steaming about the book’s predictability, opinions of the book varied. As we shared our thoughts on the plot and the development of the characters (or, according to Jessica, the lack thereof), I listened the differing perspectives. It seemed that everyone noticed different aspects of the characters and the storyline. To me, that is the best part of a book club.

As the meeting drew to a close, the others selected a book for the next lunch. Unfortunately, the Summer Program ends before then, so I won’t be able to attend; however, I left the lunch appreciative of the fact that a group like this one exists at Bilzin Sumberg. Each person there took time out of a busy schedule to coordinate and discuss a book, just for the joy of reading. As a Summer Associate, the book club is just one example of the many ways the attorneys at Bilzin Sumberg brings people who share similar interests together.

 

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” – Blaise Pascal.

“I am sorry Judge, I would have written a shorter brief if I had more time.” – The untrained legal writer.

While I quote the latter somewhat tongue in cheek, the reality is that inattention to legal writing will bottleneck a lawyer’s efficacy. Every law student has heard it before, “try to write well.” But if one is not careful, this statement can be understood as, “your legal writing is ancillary to your work as a lawyer.” This view on legal writing is fatal. That we have to communicate our ideas and positions in writing is not some necessary evil or a meaningless step in lawyering. Words, sentences, and paragraphs are the lawyer’s crafting bench. Lawyers forge their arguments with these units, they cast and recast arguments, and, like a silversmith, they test and retest for impurities. It seems bizarre that lawyers will let their own writing stand in the way of well-thought positions. Therefore, my charge is to develop myself as a legal writer. I could not be any more well positioned to do so than I am now as a summer associate at Bilzin Sumberg.

I am surrounded by some of the best litigators in the profession, and they are all so quick to help me navigate the journey to “good legal writing.” But it’s not just the litigators who are passionate about legal writing. My very first assignment came from Marty Schwartz, a partner in the Real Estate group who is passionate about shaping young lawyers into good legal writers. Marty wrote a great article, Do You Speak Legalese?, which should motivate transactional lawyers to develop their craft. Marty also wrote Legal Writing: Legalese, Please, another piece designed to help the transactional lawyer. Sara Herald, another attorney in the Real Estate group, has repeatedly mentioned her joint project with Marty to weed out poor legal writing. So, regardless of my inclination towards one group over another, there are people willing to support my development as a legal writer. Upon my realization that I was surrounded by all of these seasoned writers who were willing to help soon-to-be lawyers, I decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

I began reaching out to various attorneys with the goal of either meeting to discuss their methods to good legal writing or, alternatively, to develop a reading list that I can work through during my last year of law school. The response was overwhelming. So far I’ve met with Raquel Fernandez, Anthony Sirven, Luis Reyes, Michael Strauch, and Marty Schwartz. I also have an upcoming meeting with Jeffrey Snyder. All of these great people have given me the opportunity pick their brains to see what makes them good legal writers. I have had coffee sessions with some of them to discuss their process, received samples of how they handled various situations, received direct feedback on my work, and/or received a great list of books to work through.

It is very obvious that Bilzin Sumberg takes the proper view on legal writing. Early into the summer we had an extensive writing clinic that equipped us with the tools to develop ourselves as good legal writers. The fact that Bilzin Sumberg is supporting us in our development, and that those who have gone before us are so willing to mentor us, means that there is no ceiling as to how far we can go.

In sum, I feel quite fortunate to have found myself in a place that values lawyer development. After my judicial externship I gained a fire and passion to develop myself as a good legal writer; it is so encouraging to know that Bilzin Sumberg is actively working towards helping me grow that passion.

 

While no two days at the office are exactly the same, most days usually look a little something like this for me: get to the office, grab a cup of coffee, check emails, make a to do list, get to work on any pending assignments, grab lunch with some of the attorneys (usually at Edge or PM Fish & Steakhouse), continue working on any assignments I have, and then depending on the day, head to a Summer Associate social event! However, today, I took a break from my usual schedule to venture off from the office and see what practicing as a litigation attorney is like. Specifically, Sophia and I got to attend a tag along with the infamous duo, Mitch Widom and Raquel Fernandez.

As some of my fellow Summer Associates have explained, a “tag along” is when you attend a hearing or client meeting with an attorney. The purpose of tag alongs is so that as Summer Associates we get a full understanding of what every attorney’s practice consists of. The tag along I attended was a summary judgment hearing. Not only was I excited because this was my first litigation tag along, but I actually conducted research and drafted a memorandum relating to the matter.

At the hearing, Sophia and I got to see Mitch argue before the judge as to why he should grant their motion for summary judgment. As soon as Mitch began arguing, we saw the value in having a thorough understanding of the facts of your client’s case, knowing relevant case law inside and out, and having all of your materials organized so that they are easily accessible for both you and the judge. Most importantly however, we saw why having strong oral advocacy skills is necessary as a litigator. Mitch (unsurprisingly) was exemplary.

After the hearing, Mitch and Raquel took us around the courthouse to meet some of the judges. It was so nice to see the comradery between judges and attorneys. Afterwards, we had lunch at a restaurant across the street. Mitch and Raquel told us that this was THE place that litigators and judges go for lunch — Sophia and I were getting the full “litigator experience.” Lunch was filled with good food, great conversation, and at one point, Mitch used his advocacy skills to persuade us as hypothetical jurors!

Overall, we had quite the exciting day. While not everyday as a litigator consists of going to court, this is something you have to be comfortable doing as a litigator. In addition, this is something you have to LOVE doing — which is something we saw from Mitch and Raquel. i look forward to attending more litigation tag alongs as the summer (sadly) comes to an end.

 

Summer Associate, Franco Piccinini

It’s hard to believe, but the end of the summer program at Bilzin Sumberg is fast approaching! We’ve enjoyed 6 weeks of happy hours, lunches, and creative after-work events that have kept us on our toes (ahem axe throwing) and provided us with valuable opportunities to get to know attorneys outside of work. Yet even with the end in sight, we continue to attend fun and exciting events each week.

A few weeks ago, the summer associates braved I-95 and headed north to Top Golf for a fun evening with the Land Use and Government Relations Department. When we arrived, we were greeted by Jay “The King” Sakalo, who with the first few shots of the night cemented himself as the guy to be beat. We next grabbed our clubs and tried our own shots. While no one hit the ball quite as far as Sophia Guzzo or Brian “Tiger” Trujillo, we each tried our best and had fun doing it.

Eric Singer and Carter McDowell matched up with Sophi, Jordan, and I for a lighthearted game. As we each took turns hitting the ball, we talked about the summer program, the daily life of a land use attorney, and our respective areas of interest. Eric Singer and I reminisced about our childhood summers in northern Michigan (“Up North”), while Brian and Kayla competed with Jay and a handful of other attorneys in the next bay over.

Alexandra Barshel impressed all night, driving the ball with ease, while Jay Sakalo provided each of us with valuable advice, even as he beat me handedly in a one-on-one matchup. Not everyone golfed, but even those who chose not to play had a great time, conversing with each other while enjoying tacos and drinks on a hot summer night. Overall, just like every other event we’ve attended, we all had a blast, enjoying each other’s company while trying our hand at something new.

Summer Associate, Sophia Guzzo
Summer Associate, Brian Trujillo
Summer Associate, Jordan Rhodes
Summer Associate, Kayla Hernandez

 

Summer Associates, Jordan Rhodes and Brian Trujillo.

When the other summer associates and I first saw “Axe Throwing with the Corporate Department” on our calendars at the beginning of the summer, we had no idea what to expect. But that didn’t stop us! On Tuesday night we showed up to Extreme Axe Throwing in downtown Miami, ready for what the evening had in store. After watching the “Axeperts” give a brief demonstration and go over some very minor safety concerns, it was time to throw some axes! Continue Reading Axes & Attorneys

At Bilzin Sumberg, each Summer Associate is assigned a mentor. On our first day at the firm, we gathered in the lobby to wait for our mentors to pick us up for lunch. Unsure who I was looking for, I looked around nervously until my mentor, Anthony Sirven, introduced himself. We went to lunch and bonded over our love of writing and our common Miami upbringing.

For the Summer Associates, being assigned a mentor is a source of comfort. First, your mentor is someone who can answer your questions. As a 1L, I sometimes feel that I have more questions than my 2L counterparts do; however, Anthony always takes the time to answer and explain until I am up to speed. On a similar note, a mentor can be like an advisor– when I feel unsure about how to approach an assignment or a situation with a partner, I know that he will guide me in the right direction.

Mentorship at Bilzin Sumberg, however, extends beyond your assigned mentor. For example, Adrian Felix, an associate in the Litigation group, is involved in directing the Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, which seeks to pair judges with underrepresented law students for summer internship opportunities. After having lunch with my officemate Jordan and I, Adrian invited us to an event that the JIOP put forth in which we were able to meet and listen to the stories of almost a dozen judges from South Florida.

I also had the opportunity to attend a Commission hearing at the City of Coral Gables with Anthony De Yurre, a partner in the Land-Use group. Anthony took the time to describe the ins-and-outs of his Land-Use practice in Coral Gables and the City of Miami, where he works closely with the local government to find solutions for his clients. He explained how Land-Use is a repeat game that requires relationships with local officials, and how important it is to him to build value for his clients.

In each practice group I have explored, partners and associates have generously taken the time to explain their area of expertise. This helps me to gain a better sense of what area I might like to practice.