If you think back to my last post about the Real Estate Mock Negotiation, you will remember how excited I was to cut my teeth on transactional practice. Be careful what you wish for. My eagerness quickly turned to frustration when presented with the very real ambiguity that transactional lawyers deal with on a daily basis. But this frustration grew into one of the most important lessons I will learn as a young lawyer.

As with most law students, I struggle with ambiguity – I want to know everything about everything. Therefore, it was only natural that I struggled with not knowing what “market” was for the fictional terms that would be solidified in our fictional contract as a result of our fictional negotiations. I was reminded, however, that this learning experience is more about the journey than the finish. The value of this process is that I get a full dose of what transactional practice looks like, and sometimes transactional work is surrounded by ambiguity.

The frustration with myself stemmed from the uncertainty in the negotiation exercises. “Am I being too aggressive? Am I being too passive? Am I justified in asking for X%?” These questions raced through my mind. I felt uncomfortable in our negotiations because I did not know whether I was justified in asking for certain provisions or values – i.e., I did not know what terms qualified as “market” or standard. What I needed help remembering (thank you, Ali!) is that the purpose of this program is to teach me what transactional practice is like, not just what the substance looks like. In practice, sometimes what counts as market is unknown; something I completely failed to account for. The great news? I was supported by the whole team (Adam, Phil, Sara, and Ali), and I was tapping into invaluable years of experience.

I learned that in practice, you come across unique transactions that don’t fit into what counts as market or standard. The pursuit of mirroring a previous deal can harm valuable interests unique to the deal in front of you. To determine whether it makes sense to push/give on a certain point, we look to the client’s interest, not external sources. In other words, we embrace the ambiguity and think creatively about adding value to our client’s interests. I learned that in this space, this ambiguous space, the lawyer adds value. It could come in the form of developing a new solution that does not conform to previous deals, or it could come in the form of developing good arguments for why your position is agreeable. Either way, the focus is on developing a solution for your client, not conformity to the past.

In short, I am learning a lot. Not just about the process of getting a deal done but also about the practice of deal work. The team corrected for the assumption that I needed to operate within the norms of what counts as market; they reminded me that the value we add is thinking creatively about the obstacles in front of us.

Therefore, the major takeaway for me is to fully embrace ambiguity; fully appreciate the opportunity to be free from standard.

 

 

Time is flying by! It’s mid-June, and even though it’s hard to believe, we’re already more than halfway through the summer associate program at Bilzin Sumberg. Considering that the last 4 weeks have been packed with interesting assignments, fun after-work events, and informative lunches, I figured now would be a good time to reflect on some of the most memorable events of the summer.

One of the most underrated (maybe not that underrated) aspects of the summer associate program is lunch. Each day, the summer associates, whether individually or in a group, go out to lunch with an associate or partner from the firm. I have enjoyed each lunch I’ve taken, not because the chicken chop-chop from Edge is so delicious (even after the 5th time), but because going to lunch with coworkers has provided me with a rare and valuable opportunity to get to know people at the firm on a more personal level. At lunch, we talk about everything from sports to hobbies to travel, to selecting a particular practice area and effectively managing the everyday stresses of work in the legal profession. We are able to pick the brains of some really intelligent attorneys who also genuinely care about our interests and backgrounds.

Without a doubt, some of the most memorable lunches have come as a group. We have had the opportunity to have lunch with some of the firm’s founding partners, as well as with Michelle Weber and the first-year associates. We spoke with Brian Bilzin about his move to Miami, how the city has changed over the years, and how the firm has evolved with it. While we enjoyed cocktails and appetizers at PM, we spoke with John Sumberg about traveling and his love for the outdoors. We discussed land use and local government with Stanley Price, and we engaged in meaningful dialogue about the nature of transactional practice with Alan Axelrod.

My individual lunches have been equally as impressive. Marshall Pasternack and I talked about travel, art, teaching, and the scope of his practice, while he settled my nerves about making mistakes as a young lawyer, explaining that “a shot not taken is a goal not scored.” Melissa Pallett-Vasquez and I talked about our respect for a common mentor and the difficulty of explaining where you’re from when you moved a lot as a child. Eric Singer and I recapped key takeaways from a client meeting while we enjoyed sandwiches in his office. Ilana Drescher, Kenneth Duvall, Brian Trujillo, and I spoke about the intricacies of litigation while we enjoyed tacos at Coyo. And Jose Ferrer, Desiree Fernandez, and I debriefed a motion hearing while we took in the sights and sounds of Miami’s Wynwood Art District.

All of this is to say that each lunch has been different, but equally valuable. Some conversations have centered on work matters, while others have focused on simply getting to know one another. Nearly all have blended both aspects, providing me with an incredible opportunity to connect with people at the firm. With four weeks remaining in the summer program, I am sure I will enjoy many more lunches, but it’s the conversation and connection with my coworkers that I most look forward to.

Now that we are officially half-way through the summer (time flies!), I think it is a good time to reflect on some of the assignments that I have had so far. As someone who was not entirely sure what practice group I was interested in when I began the summer, having the opportunity to take assignments from different practice groups was something I was really excited about. Bilzin Sumberg has an array of practice groups which makes taking assignments that much more interesting.

My assignments so far have included:

While all of the social events and community service events have been tons of fun, my favorite part of the summer has been working on complex and challenging assignments. Not only has this helped me develop relationships with the attorneys I have worked with, but it has helped me determine what my interests are. I look forward to taking on more assignments the remainder of my summer and really honing in on my interests. And yes, I plan on taking on some assignments from the Corporate practice group.

Law school teaches us how to analyze a case, what study habits work best, and how to prioritize time. However one thing my 1L year did not teach me is what to expect at a local government meeting or litigation hearing.

In the last week, I have attended a city commission meeting with the Bilzin Sumberg Land Use department and a hearing for the Litigation department. Both experiences highlighted the importance of over preparation and being able to adjust to changing circumstances.

We arrived to the City of Miami commission meeting nearly an hour ahead of time so we could set up and organize our materials. Although I have attended local government meetings before, I was unsure of what to expect. We did not know when our item would be heard or how long it would take. But while we waited, I was able to hear from dozens of community members as they spoke about the issues that mattered to them. Then when our item came up, the team had to be prepared to find any document or board that proved relevant all within the few minutes allotted to speak. Prior to learning about the Land Use department, I was not aware that an area of law like this even existed. In just a few weeks, I have learned about procurement and how lawyers practicing in this area often attend meetings like these as another form of advocating for their clients.

The importance of preparation proved instrumental at the civil court hearing I attended as well. This was my first time at the Miami-Dade County Court House. When the case was called, Jake Greenberg allowed me to stand with him as he addressed the judge to really get the full effect. Although the hearing lasted no more than fifteen minutes, I was able to see how crucial it is to familiarize yourself with your case. Curveballs can come up and as a lawyer, you have to be prepared to answer questions and advocate for your client. Continue Reading What Law School Doesn’t Show Us

Summer Associate, Jordan Rhodes

On Tuesday evening, the Tax Department at Bilzin Sumberg invited the Summer Associates to a “Sushi Rolling & Sake” event to benefit Common Threads. Common Threads is a charity devoted to educating children and families about nutrition and healthy eating, and Jennifer Einersen, one of the attorneys in Tax, is a board member.

When we arrived, Jordan and I joked that we had learned more about cooking within the past two weeks at firm events than we had our whole lives: only one week prior, we attended a cooking class at Two Chefs, where we prepared tuna tartar, burgers, tostones, and chocolate soufflé. Sushi, somehow, seemed more daunting.

Hungry and curious, the Tax attorneys and the Summer Associates congregated around the instructor to learn her technique. She first talked to us about Common Threads and how quickly the charity is expanding. Then, the instructor illustrated step-by-step how to assemble a spicy tuna roll. Although her movements seemed effortless, no one expected the process to flow so smoothly on our end.

Once we dispersed and set out to create our own rolls, the experiment began. Despite the instructor’s warnings, I layered too much rice on the seaweed, creating a ring of white rice and sesame seeds an inch thick⁠— which made it nearly impossible to fit a piece of the roll into my mouth in one bite. Another attorney, exacerbated by the tedious process of slicing the sushi, resigned to eating his roll burrito-style.

As we braved the common obstacles of sushi rolling, the Summer Associates and I were able to familiarize ourselves with the Tax attorneys. Although we share a floor at the firm, for many of us, this was our first interaction with the Tax Department since the Summer Program began. My favorite stories were those of how people came to love Tax; whether through a class they took in law school, or through previous work experience as an accountant, it was interesting to hear about the different paths the attorneys have taken.

After another successful Summer Associate event, I’m grateful for the Tax attorneys’ enthusiasm for getting to know the Summer Associates. It is encouraging to see an entire department show up to support a fellow attorney’s charity and to spend time talking to us about life at the firm. Overall, we as Summer Associates appreciate all of the time and effort that Bilzin Sumberg channels into integrating us into the firm. We look forward to the next event!

(L to R, Kayla Hernandez, Jordan Rhodes and Sophia Guzzo)

As we enter Phase II of the mock real estate transaction, negotiations are heating up! INEVITABLE, LLC, comprised of Brian Trujillo and Kayla Hernandez (a.k.a. supervillain Thanos), is trying its best to thwart STARK, LLC’s plan to save the world. But the STARK team, led by Franco Piccinini, Sophia Guzzo, and Jordan Rhodes, is working hard to see its plan come to fruition.

At the heart of the negotiation lies a vacant tract of land­—15,000 square feet to be exact—in Miami’s very own Brickell neighborhood. The opportunity for STARK is truly a rare one (how many vacant pieces of land are really left in Brickell?), but financial incentive is not all that drives the STARK team. INEVITABLE has concocted an evil plan to own all six Infinity Stone properties. If INEVITABLE retains the property, then it will inch closer to fulfilling its evil plan. If STARK can close the deal, however, it will thwart INEVITABLE’s evil plan, gaining a valuable asset and saving the world at the same time.

Just a few weeks back, STARK and INEVITABLE entered into a letter of intent (“LOI”), a non-binding agreement that defines the purchase price, deposit value, inspection period, and closing period for the deal. Here, the parties also agreed to certain zoning restrictions because STARK will need to re-zone the property in order to close the deal. Following the signing of the LOI, Adam Lustig and Phillip Sosnow explained to the parties the art of negotiating a real estate contract. They stressed the importance of clearly defining the scope of the inspection period, which includes setting parameters for environmental testing, reviewing title and survey, and creating a technical team for development. They also spoke extensively about seller’s representations and warranties and other limits on liability.

After agreeing to the terms of the LOI, the parties returned to the negotiating table to hash out the specifics of the Purchase and Sale Agreement (“the contract”). Led by coaches Sara B. Herald and Manuel Gonzalez, the parties debated the terms of the contract, focusing their negotiations on four sections: Seller’s Representations, Default, Buyer’s and Seller’s Liability, and As Is Condition.

As the parties marched through each section of the contract, they jockeyed for the superior position, debating the inclusion and exclusion of even (seemingly minor) terms. At times, the negotiations grew tense, with each team taking several sidebars to hash out their respective strategies. INEVITABLE wanted to limit its liability by narrowing its representations and capping the amount of damages that STARK could pursue if the deal went sour. STARK, on the other hand, wanted to mitigate its risk by expanding INEVITABLE’s representations so that if the property contained a major environmental landmine, STARK could back out of the deal and be reimbursed its deposit and expenses incurred during the due diligence period. But in the end, both parties wanted to make the deal happen. STARK wanted the property. INEVITABLE wanted compensation. To reach their common goal, both parties had to give up some positions to gain others. After an hour and a half of negotiations, the parties finally agreed to the terms of the contract.

Next up, the parties will draft a new contract to reflect the terms of the negotiation. Then, they will sign the contract and move on to closing. It has been a fun ride so far! From negotiating the LOI to negotiating the terms of the contract, we have learned so much about the various aspects of a real estate transaction. The mock program has provided the summers with an opportunity to work on a transaction that many lawyers-in-training never get to do. We can’t wait for the next steps, and we’re excited to close the deal soon! Most importantly, a successful deal means that STARK will save the world once again!

 

Summer Associate, Kayla Hernandez

Since our first day at Bilzin Sumberg, we have been told how important it is for the firm to be actively involved in the community. With that in mind, last Friday, we took a break from our usual Friday schedules which usually entail wrapping up our pending assignments and catching lunch with some of the attorneys, to partake in our first community service event of the summer at Feeding South Florida. Feeding South Florida is a local food bank which serves all of South Florida. While this was our first community service event of the summer, this is an event that Bilzin Sumberg participates in yearly.

While most community service events usually begin by assigning tasks, this one began a little differently. Specifically, we were reminded as to why we were volunteering at FSF on a Friday morning — that is, hunger remains a significant problem in South Florida. This is such a severe problem that one in five children are food insecure. Statistics such as this one really helped put what we were about to do into perspective. In addition, we were also given a goal as to the number of meals our work would translate into. (33,000-ish meals to be exact!) With a purpose and a goal in mind, we were ready to start volunteering!

Our task as a group was to look at food expiration labels and determine whether something was still edible. Did you know that most food is still edible far beyond its expiration date? I’m talking like a year past its expiration date! While some of us were shocked by this information (aka Brian and I), it seems as though some of us have been testing expiration dates for years (aka Sofia). Besides expiration dates, we were shocked to find food items we had never even heard of before!

At the end of the event, not only did we gain a plethora of knowledge about food, but most importantly, we met our meal goal! It was so rewarding to see our work translate into meals for people who suffer from food insecurity. I speak for my fellow Summer Associates and I when I say that we look forward to again volunteering in the community as  part of the firm’s broader mission to better immerse itself into the community.

(L to R, Sophia Guzzo, Jordan Rhodes, Jessica Buchsbaum, Kayla Hernandez, Franco Piccinini, Brian Trujillo and Betsi Cobas)

Summer Associate, Brian Trujillo

Last night, the summer associates joined alumni from previous summer associate classes at Two Chefs for a group cooking class. Having about fifteen people work together to make a full dinner with starters, entrées, and desserts sounds more chaotic than it really was. Quite frankly, not only was the process of banding together to cook a great meal a smooth one, it was also a deeply enjoyable one.

Unlike what you see in Hell’s Kitchen, cooking as a team is actually incredibly enjoyable. Admittedly, it probably helped that Gordon Ramsay wasn’t breathing down our necks critiquing our food as being “stone cold.” Side note, I am the biggest Gordon Ramsay fan in town, but I’ll happily keep my distance from him in the kitchen, thank you very much. I much prefer the experience we had last night.

The timing was perfect. Right before the big move to the Magic City I set a goal of improving my culinary skills. So, it helps that yesterday I learned how to make the most amazing tostones combo imaginable (tostones, avocado, and salmon). Also, I have it on good authority that my tostones were “cooked to perfection” (as Ramsay would say). To be fair, the dish I made had no more than 3 ingredients. But still, I did okay.

Perhaps more important than the good food and wine was the company, and we were surrounded by some of the best company you can ask for. The conversation topics ranged from asking Alexandra Barshel about how to avoid major kitchen failures to Jennifer Junger’s Instagram page for her new puppy. Lauren Sabella and Luis Reyes talked to us about making the transition from summer associate to associate. They also emphasized the importance of being intentional about enjoying periods of rest as they come. The time spent together was centered around simply enjoying each other’s company, and it was perfect.

On par with Bilzin Sumberg’s theme of equipping us for the future, it goes without saying that I learned a lot last night. Sure, I walked out feeling like my tostones were going to land me my first Michelin star. However, I also learned a lot about the people around me. I learned that this community extends far beyond a work relationship; Bilzin Sumberg is truly a place for deep meaningful relationships. I also came to fully appreciate the fact that we are genuinely welcomed and supported by everyone here.

So, while it is true that the summer associate alumni event at Two Chefs can be a great excuse to perfect our chocolate soufflé making skills (Jay Sakalo), I know that the purpose is for us to be intentional about setting a time to build community and break bread as a family.

 

 

They were not kidding when they said our lunch plans will fill up quickly this summer! I have had the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people during the lunch hour (while also exploring the great cuisine Brickell has to offer). One of the first invitations I received was for a “Ladies Lunch” and I became very curious as to what exactly this was. I soon learned that every so often the women at the firm go out as a group for lunch and that this has become a sort of tradition.

Although there has been an increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion within the legal field, the area is still one of the least diverse professions. Women make up roughly 38% of the legal profession overall; however, that statistic drops for the higher level positions in private practice. There are several studies that highlight the benefits of diversity in the work place. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians while those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely. In addition to these financial benefits, efforts to embrace diversity can attribute to greater retention and morale.

Continue Reading Ladies Lunch: An Acknowledgment of the Importance of Diversity

On Saturday evening, Michael Kreitzer invited the attorneys and secretaries from the Litigation department to his home in Aventura for the Summer Associate Litigation Group Party. My officemate Jordan and I were the first to arrive.  Michael and his partner, Chris, warmly welcomed us into their home, leading us to the backyard decorated to evoke New Orleans.

As the members of the Litigation group and their significant others trickled into the party, we admired the feathered masks and purple and green lit trees. The other Summer Associates and I eagerly accepted Michael and Chris’s invitation to tour their boat, and we stood on the water appreciating the other boats passing by.

For dinner, we were transported to New Orleans, piling crab cakes, chicken gumbo, and jalapeno cornbread onto our plates. Others skipped right to desert, cutting pieces of King’s Cake in the hopes of finding the baby figurine.

Far from the office, the other Summer Associates and I talked to members of the Litigation group about life outside of work. From Mitch, we heard about his Grand Slam earlier that day and his love of fishing. From Raquel, we learned about her long friendship with Melissa, and what it is like to work with her best friend. From Jose, we were encouraged to explore the different departments by popping our heads in attorneys offices and asking about their assignments.

Immersed in the festive atmosphere created by the beautiful views, lively decorations and delicious food, I was struck by the energy resonating from the members of the Litigation group. Here were a group of busy and hardworking people, who took time out of their weekend to come together and celebrate. Michael was kind enough to open his home to us, inviting us to explore every room and artwork. As I looked around, the happiness was tangible: laughter and stories of the long years spent working together filled the cool night air. Even as I left the party, dozens remained to continue the celebration.

From this and the other firm events the past two weeks, I have come to recognize and appreciate Bilzin Sumberg’s culture as one that fosters support among attorneys, encouraging professional relationships as well as friendships. The enthusiasm and encouragement emanating from the attorneys feels tangible and intentional, creating an environment in which Summer Associates feel comfortable and excited to meet others at the firm.

As Summer Associates, we are grateful to work at a firm where the friendships and comradery are apparent and genuine. Huge thank you to Michael and Chris for opening their home to us and transporting us to New Orleans for the night. We look forward to the events to come!