The first year associates after they took their Oath of Attorney and became members of the Florida Bar!

We’ve wrapped up the 2018 Academy for Professional Development and we hope it was an experience that will resonate with the first year associates!  They were exposed to substantive areas of practice and professional skills, community needs and clients.  We were able to cap off an amazing Academy program with a motivational speech by Alonzo Mourning of the Mourning Family Foundation.  He spent time talking to our lawyers about the Power of One and how each of them has the ability to make a positive change in our community.

While Zo was a powerful speaker and so gracious with his time, the highlight of the day was a private swearing in ceremony for our first year associates and their loved ones, presided over by Judge Michael Hanzman, with a celebratory lunch following.  It was a nice opportunity to reflect on all that we accomplished during the program and celebrate our first year associates’ matriculation into practicing attorneys at the firm.  We hope we’ve equipped them in a way that will make their transition easier!  We are excited to see what they do as lawyers and members of this community.

 

The first week has really flown by and it is hard to believe it is already the end of our first week of the Academy. The morning started out with a firm-wide breakfast for Teach for America – an organization near and dear to both the firm and our clients.  

After the breakfast, Stacia Wells walked us through a session on understanding financial statements. As a firm catering to commercial clients, spotting potential legal issues in financial statements is a critical skill. I know we all appreciated Stacia’s engaging and straightforward approach to what can be an intimidatingly complex area for recent law school graduates.  

Oksana Esberard then led us through a mindfulness session. We learned that we can add value and increase productivity by simply giving everyone a moment to gather their thoughts before diving into business in meetings.  

We then headed over to the Design District for lunch at MC Kitchen, where we were joined by clients Steven Gretenstein (of Dacra, a real estate development company) and Lyle Chariff, Mauricio Zapata, and Luis Guevara (of Chariff Realty Group). After a delightful lunch, they took us on a tour of emerging neighborhoods – starting with the Design District. The Design District is home to cafés, restaurants, and art galleries, as well as to flagship stores for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Louboutin. Our group was privileged to visit Dacra in the Design District and see their fascinating private art collection adorning the walls of the Dacra offices.  

After the Design District, we toured Wynwood (famous for the Wynwood Walls, as well as many excellent restaurants and breweries) and the emerging neighborhood of Allapattah. It was an eye-opening and inspiring experience to hear the stories of how these three neighborhoods have evolved and grown over the years. We felt truly privileged that Bilzin Sumberg’s deep and meaningful client relationships allowed us to benefit from these insights.

 

We started the day with a legal writing seminar taught by Ed Lintz of Legal Writing Pro—a resource to which I attribute much of my success in law school (Point Made, written by the company’s founder, was by my side at all times then and now). But the seminar was particularly helpful because we discussed not only writing for courts but for clients too. Us lawyers often indulge ourselves with legal ruminations in client letters when the client simply wants advice written in plain English. Though most of us know this, we still forget to write from the reader’s perspective.  

After lunch, Michael Moore, legal researcher extraordinaire, stopped by with Shalia Sakona from our litigation department to give us an overview of best practices when facing a research problem. Another thing clients don’t like—being billed for inefficient research. And who can blame them? 

 The next event of the day was perhaps my favorite. Jeff Levin and Mimi Klimberg of the Greater Miami-Dade Jewish Federation gave a fantastic non-denominational presentation on how to find a passion and pick a charity organization with similar values. We shared stories of how we’ve helped others, discussed the sense of fulfillment that came from it, and planned how we could make an impact going forward. 

 The last bit of training for the day was given by Scott Baena, the creator of this wonderful program. Can you guess what it was about? Here is a hint: we ultimately work in the service sector, and without clients we are nothing more than unemployed philosophers. I’m sure you guessed it—client satisfaction. I learned that oftentimes the best way to serve a client is simply by asking what his or her needs are. What are your goals in dealing with this matter? How would you like to be updated? Clients want us to know what they want; we just need to ask (and deliver).  

Last but not least was an experience that I will never forget. We had a wonderful dinner with Bilzin Sumberg’s founding partners and its next managing partner, Al Dotson. The discussion was moderated by Marshall Pasternack, who led us through a range of topics, from our firm culture and the importance of pro-bono work, to the mistakes partners made as young associates. People say it’s almost impossible to get a group of lawyers to coordinate a conference call, yet we had a three-hour-dinner with a group of partners who are likely busier than I can even fathom. What a testament to the firm’s development of its young lawyers!  

I am so proud to be a part of the Bilzin Sumberg family. The firm does not give mere lip service to serving the community; it walks the walks. And it true—you don’t just “fit in” here, you belong here. 

 

 

 

The Academy participants with Meg Daly, Founder of Friends of the Underline

It’s hard to believe, but we’re now more than halfway through the Academy.  We began the day by visiting with Oksana Esberard, who led us in our second mindfulness session.  Scott Baena and Jessica Buchsbaum joined us for this “heartful” session, in which Oksana directed us to close our eyes, lean back in our chairs, spread our arms, and focus on our hearts.  While we did breathing exercises, Oksana encouraged us to think about all the things that we felt grateful for in our lives.

My thoughts turned to my family and friends of course, but also to the present moment.  I felt lucky to be part of an organization that takes wellness seriously and gives each first year associate the tools needed to become successful young attorneys.  It was a powerful experience, and it’s an exercise I plan to do again on my own.  I left the session with a tremendous feeling of gratitude.

In the afternoon we visited Lotus House, a nonprofit homeless shelter dedicated to improving the lives of homeless women, youth and children.  Lotus House shelters approximately one quarter of the sheltered homeless population in Miami-Dade County, but receives little public funding.  As a result, support from the community is of paramount importance.

Program Director Isabella Dell’Oca gave us a tour of Lotus House’s new building, which was completed in December 2017.  The new facility can house over 400 individuals and includes a play zone for children, a full kitchen, a beauty salon, a second-floor garden, and an educational area.  Before we left we had the pleasure of meeting the founder and president of Lotus House, Constance Collins, in a section of the building that Bilzin Sumberg sponsored. We were proud to learn that Bilzin Sumberg had played a role in Lotus House’s successful move to the new building. Before heading back to the office we had lunch together and reflected on the impact that one person with a big idea can have on the community.

Back at the office we met with Meg Daly, the founder and president of Friends of the Underline. After falling and breaking both of her arms, she was riding the Metrorail to physical therapy a few years ago when she noticed the unused space underneath the train tracks.  That was how she got her big idea: the Underline, a proposed 10-mile linear park running under the Metrorail line from the Miami River to Dadeland.  Once completed, the Underline will incorporate a wide variety of amenities and activities, including recreation areas, dog parks, dining and gaming tables, and artist spaces.  Meg helped us understand her vision for the Underline and the positive impact it will have on the community, while Land Use associate Carly Grimm explained some unique zoning issues that are presented by such an ambitious project.

At the end of the day we spoke with Scott. He challenged each of us to think about what we could do to give back to the community and to help those around us. Fortunately, the Academy continues to provide excellent examples for us.

 

After practicing our meditation at home in the early morning, we started our second day of the Academy at Bilzin Sumberg with a presentation by Werten Bellamy, on the topic of the “Indispensable Associate.” Werten discussed the best ways for us, as new associates, to make ourselves valuable to the firm and to promote our personal growth as lawyers. What will our personal brands be as new associates? How will we learn the styles and communication preferences of the partners with whom we work? These are all questions we need to be asking ourselves as new attorneys, and I think that Werten provided us with truly useful tools to make these decisions.

After Werten’s presentation, we sat down for a roundtable discussion over lunch with representatives from Bilzin Sumberg’s five practice groups: Tax, Trusts and Estates, Land Use and Government Relations, Real Estate, Corporate, and Litigation. Each partner briefly discussed his or her group’s work and then filled us all in on a few recent projects. The firm has a ton of exciting cases and deals going on, many of which include several practice groups, so it was really interesting and useful to hear how the collaboration works. We also had the opportunity to ask questions about each practice.

Next, we heard from Eric Singer about best practices for billing our time and from Laura Galeano about leveraging and improving our social media presence before sitting down for a panel on effective networking. Elise Holtzman Gerson, Adrian Felix, Andrej Micovic, Scott Baena, and Brian Bilzin sat on the panel, with Sara Herald moderating. Their pointers and advice was different from what we heard from Werten, but echoed the idea that as junior lawyers we need to be taking initiative and looking for ways to distinguish ourselves. Even though we are only two days into the Academy, I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to be working at a firm that invests so much in its young associates and emphasizes our personal development to such a degree. Afterwards, we got to practice our new skills at a fun happy hour at Morton’s with the recruiting committee!

 

The first year associates, Jessica Buchsbaum & Scott Baena take a picture with Oksana Esberard after our Mindfulness Session

Thanks to the Academy, our first day as real attorneys was action-packed and eye-opening. Our long-waited reunions took place last night at the Welcome Dinner, so this morning we were able to dive right into the sessions. It started off with none other than John Sumberg and Al Dotson. John and Al welcomed us to the firm with words of wisdom and helpful insights into what we should be getting out of the week. Then, Scott Baena outlined the firm culture and emphasized how imperative cohesiveness of culture has been to the success of the firm. He also spoke about the value of collaboration and partnership. These remarks from some of the most senior partners at the firm dissolved feelings of nerves and replaced them with excitement for practicing law in such a thoughtful environment.

Next, we worked on our business development skills with Jim Cranston of Law Vision Group. Jim spoke about getting into the habit of maintaining relationships early on in our careers. After arming us with networking techniques, we role-played networking scenarios and learned how to properly approach developing business out of relationships.

Next, we had lunch with first and second year associates and spoke about the keys to success in those early years of working. We were able to ask candid questions and the associates spoke honestly about what they’ve done that has worked, what they’ve done that hasn’t worked, and what they wished they had known as entry-level associates.

We finished the day with a presentation on mindfulness. Oksana Esberard from SattvaMe gave us a crash course in how to identify and manage stress in the workplace. She spoke about body and breath awareness and the importance of remaining present in the moment. Finally, she led us through a meditation exercise. I left the session feeling rejuvenated, and with a newfound respect for mindfulness. I look forward to her other sessions throughout the week!

After a full day of training and information, I feel one step closer to being an effective attorney! I remain eternally grateful that Bilzin Sumberg emphasizes the importance of these ineffable aspects of the practice of law and doesn’t, as Al Dotson said, just “throw us into the ocean and tell us to swim.” I’m so excited to see what else the Academy has in store for us!

To say that the summer program has ended on a high is an understatement. Tuesday kicked off the showdown between team Sherlock and team Moriarty. I’m referring to one of the most anticipated summer events of the program, The Great Escape Challenge! The Real Estate practice group, along with us summer associates, split into two teams of eleven with the task of escaping a room full of puzzles with only an hour to do so.  Both teams were stacked with clever and intelligent players, letting us know it was going to be a close one as to who finished first. The escape rooms each had a theme, one being Sherlock and the other Moriarty. The puzzles included math equations, astronauts, laser beams, and scrabble.  In every corner there was a clue leading to another clue and another.  I had the privilege of serving on Team Moriarty. Though we escaped our room with over fourteen minutes to spare, Team Sherlock finished with a little over fifteen minutes. Though seeing as how we were told the Moriarty room was more challenging, I’m going to take that as a win!

 

With this being my last day at Bilzin Sumberg, I have now had a chance to reflect fully on this past summer.  I had such an amazing experience thanks to Jay Sakalo, Jessica Buchsbaum, and Betsi Cobas, all of whom worked together to make this summer program an awesome one.  Spending my summer at Bilzin Sumberg has been eye-opening and informative. It has led me to confirm that I made the right choice in picking Bilzin Sumberg to expand my knowledge in different legal practices and further my legal career. Most of all, the people here have been so welcoming and inviting. It is easy to see why people love working here. Thank you so much Bilzin Sumberg, until next time!

With Week 9 (wow!) officially underway, the 2018 Bilzin Sumberg summer associates are getting ready to close out the summer. The summer associate program has provided us with an immersive, meaningful, and fun experience that we will always remember and that will help us to have a foundation when we ultimately begin our legal careers. At the outset, I need to thank Jay Sakalo, Jessica Buchsbaum, and Betsi Cobas for orchestrating such a remarkable itinerary for us. I would also like to thank my fellow summer associates, Eric, Brianna, Lucas, and Devin, for all of their friendship and support throughout the course of the summer. Further, all of the attorneys and staff at Bilzin Sumberg truly welcomed us with open arms and made us feel comfortable, and for that I am extremely grateful. Here are some of my favorite moments/assignments from this summer to provide some highlights:

1) Wynwood Culinary Tour with the Litigation Practice Group-Despite some rain, this event was amongst my favorite this summer due to the outstanding food, beautiful views, and amazing company. The chance to spend extended time with the attorneys in litigation over food and drinks was definitely a high point.

2) Work on Deposition Prep by Creating an Outline-This was my favorite assignment over the summer. With a deposition coming up, I was given the opportunity to review certain key documents, develop questions for the witness based on them, and outline the format of the deposition for use by the deposing attorney.

3) Mentorship from Shalia Sakona-Undoubtedly, I would not have enjoyed the summer nearly as much as I did without my associate mentor, Shalia. From the first week, Shalia made herself available to me for any and every question I might have, and consistently took time out of her (extremely) busy schedule to sit down with me and review my work.

4) Overall Experience in the Office-I can confidently say that there is no other firm in Miami that mixes a fun, engaging atmosphere with legal work at the highest level like Bilzin Sumberg. Every day brought a new challenge, but we were guided and surrounded by incredible attorneys, mentors, and staff every step of the way.

 

I could not have drawn this summer up any better if I had tried. All in all, these 9 weeks helped me to create lasting memories and relationships, develop critical legal skills, and get to know the ins and outs of Bilzin Sumberg!

Next week is the ninth and final week of the Bilzin Sumberg summer associate program.   As it winds down, we are finishing our remaining assignments, adding final lunches to the calendar, and preparing for vacation…or for some us…the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)!  But the past eight weeks have been amazing, and each of us has had invaluable opportunities to gain early exposure to the practice of law, develop our professional skills, and build relationships.  Below is a brief summary of my experience.

Assignments:  I have worked under the supervision of attorneys from multiple practice groups.

  • Real Estate: My assignments here included (1) drafting an amendment to a purchase agreement; (2) drafting and revising specific provisions of a consulting agreement; (3) researching and summarizing financial covenants, permitted transfers, and guarantees for loan transactions; and (4) assisting with two commercial real estate closings.
  • Corporate: My assignments here included (1) researching and summarizing Florida default rules pertaining to specific partnership disputes; (2) researching Florida and Delaware mandatory rules pertaining to limited liability companies and limited partnerships; and (3) assisting with due diligence tasks for a corporate acquisition.
  • Litigation: My assignments here included (1) researching case law regarding the requisite standards for declaratory judgment in order to defeat a motion for declaratory judgment; and (2) conducting a thorough review of foreign corporate documents in order to gather evidence of an antitrust price-fixing scheme among co-conspirators.
  • Land Use: My assignment here included researching Miami-Dade County ordinances and administrative orders pertaining to the private-development on county-owned land.

Events:  The networking events this summer have been plentiful and rewarding.  From preparing meals at a Coral Gables restaurant to volunteering at a homeless shelter in Miami, we have had opportunities to have fun and give back to our community.

Mentorship:  I want to be sure to highlight this aspect of the summer program.  Each summer associate is assigned an attorney mentor who is responsible for providing advice and guidance throughout the summer.  And all of our mentors have done a phenomenal job in making themselves available to us and looking out for our best interests.  With that being said, I want to give a special thanks to Chris Pierson for his service as my attorney mentor for the past two summers!

 

In summary, it has been an absolute pleasure to work here as a summer associate for the past two summers.  I have learned a lot, built invaluable relationships, and discovered a strong passion for a particular area of the law.  Now that I’m aging out of this whole law school thing, I look forward to stepping into the next phase of my legal career.  Stay tuned!

For my last post of the summer, I want to highlight a few of the numerous reasons that I enjoy being a part of the team at Bilzin Sumberg. First and foremost, the people at the firm are some of the greatest and brightest professionals, who are motivated to excel but still make time to help others excel too. Additionally, Bilzin Sumberg is a mid-sized firm; therefore, we can work on an assortment of cases and have access to copious resources, while still enjoying a culture where each person is valued and respected. The assignments may be challenging, but being able to work through the task, learn from others, and grow as a professional is tremendously rewarding. I am motivated to come to work every day because it is a chance to work with remarkable talent, learn something new, and gain personal and professional gratification.

Undeniably, the life of a summer associate is varied enough that it’s tough to describe a “typical” day. Nevertheless, I will attempt to do so. As they say, individual results may vary:

  • 8:30 am: Check emails, organize my to-do list, and update supervisors I am working with on the progress of assignments. Mitch Widom brings in Bagel Emporium so we zip towards the kitchen and catch up with coworkers.
  • 9:30 am: Work on a summary judgment motion for our government relations practice group. I review and analyze all of the documents in preparation for my case-strategy meeting with the partner.
  • 12:00 pm: Attend lunch with my mentor Yasmin Fernandez-Acuña and fellow summer associate Brianna Sainte. We walk across the street to the wonderful Edge. We end up ordering off the breakfast menu and also sharing buttermilk pancakes, which I highly recommend. (Yasmin has been an amazing mentor throughout the summer and I cannot thank her enough!)
  • 1:15 pm: Dive into an assignment for a litigation partner that Brianna Sainte and I work on together. As part of my research, I have two meetings: one with Brianna and one with a litigation associate who has worked on a similar project. The associate gives me useful advice on things I should be thinking about as I develop my project.
  • 3:30 pm: Meet with a partner who focuses on business finance and restructuring. He gives me feedback on a memo I completed involving a pending bankruptcy case. After discussing the memo, he lets me sit in on a client meeting involving the case.
  • 5:15 pm: Sara Herald hosts a happy hour in the office in honor of the July Fourth holiday. She serves red, white, and blue drinks and snacks. Beyond encouraging continuous learning, Bilzin Sumberg promotes an enjoyable work environment.
  • 6:30 pm: Update supervisors on assignments, check emails, log my billable hours for the day, and wish everyone a happy Fourth of July!