Dear Bilzin Sumberg,

And just like that, our 9 weeks are over. 9 weeks of hand shaking, Westlaw researching, happy hour attending, memo writing, and last minute lunch planning have come to an end, and all we can say to you is thank you. Thank you for giving us this amazing opportunity to not only grow as law students, but as people. Your kindness was noticed from the first day we arrived and it has only been followed with support and guidance. Yes, assignments were difficult. Yes, days were stressful, but getting the chance to work on real matters and be a part of real cases made it all worth it. We all truly believe that there is no firm built like Bilzin, and we intend to carry that message forward to anyone who asks “How was your summer?”

Thank you for showing us that Big Law does not have to mean working until midnight every day, fearing our superiors, and having no time for family, but instead can be about enjoying work-life balance, admiring those we work for, and having the freedom to live out all our future aspirations. You have given us a new perspective on what it means to work at a firm, and we will forever be grateful.

With all that being said, we thought it would only be appropriate to present to you the 2023 Summer Associates’ Attorney Awards. This is our way of celebrating all the big and small moments. This is our way of saying we will miss you all. This is our way of saying Thank You to everyone at Bilzin Sumberg.

Most Likely To Join the Summer Associates for Happy Hour: Adrian Felix

Most Likely to Get Roasted by Al Dotson: Javier Aviñó

Most Likely to Tell You Where They Went to Law School: David Seifer (University of Florida)

Best Dressed: Shalia Sakona

Most Likely to Heavily Redline Your Memo but Still Tell You That You Did a Great Job: Adam Lustig

Most Likely to Stop by Your Office and Say Hi: Phil Stein

Least Likely to Say No to Lunch: Sara Herald

Honorary Summer Associate: Daniel Bumm


The 2023 Summer Associates

Closing the doors on nine remarkable weeks, the end of our summer associate journey at Bilzin Sumberg was met with a magical evening at Melissa’s home. The closing event was far from a simple farewell gathering. It was a testament to our shared experiences, a reflection on lessons learned, and a beacon illuminating the path to our professional futures. Amid the inviting scent of sushi and sake, our smiles shone brighter, our laughter rang louder, and the bonds forged over the summer seemed even stronger. This was not just an evening of dining, but a night for reminiscing. We recollected victories and learnings, trials and triumphs, and the bonds forged over this summer.

As the evening dimmed into the night, we toasted to our milestones, our perseverance, and the bright futures awaiting us. The joy in the room was palpable, a snapshot of the collective spirit of Bilzin Sumberg. A heartfelt thank you to Melissa for her generous hospitality, Jessica and Betsi for their unwavering mentorship, and everyone at Bilzin Sumberg for shaping our summer into an unforgettable journey.

The lessons and experience I’ve gathered this summer go beyond research projects, drafting documents, and tag-alongs. It’s the laughter shared, the challenges faced, the mentorship received, and the friendships formed that will be etched in my memory. These experiences have not just sculpted my understanding of the law but have enriched my personal growth and perspective.

To Bilzin Sumberg, our mentors, my fellow summer associates, and the spectacular summer we spent together – a toast to you all. As we stride towards the future, these memories will serve as a guiding light, reminding us why we are “Proud to be Judged by the Company We Keep.”

Here’s to the knowledge gained, the connections made, and the journey that awaits!

Last Thursday the Tax/Trusts & Estates Group hosted the final practice group-specific event of the summer—a wine tasting at Vinya. As a relative newcomer into the wine scene, this was an event that I was particularly looking forward to, and upon reflection, the experience shared many similarities with the summer associate journey.

Coming into the wine tasting I had a general idea about the types of wines I like, but I really had not dedicated much time—if at all—to think through and identify the specific flavors and characteristics that I enjoy in a wine. Hence, much like with the summer associate experience, I figured a lot of this event would be about embracing the unknown and putting forth an honest best effort.

You can imagine I was glad to hear when the event started that we would not be “put on the spot” to identify the different flavor profiles of each wine—because then I truly would have been navigating rather blindly. We instead worked together as a group to decipher where the wines we were tasting came from: the “old world”—think Europe—or the “new”—think the Americas. Each Pinot Noir had a very distinct flavor profile, which I thought presented a great platform to learn how differences temperature and location might change the taste and appearance of wines, even when dealing with wines in the same category.

Throughout the tasting I found that expressing my initial gut feeling on taste, no matter how crazy, at the very least sparked a conversation, but on a deeper level also allowed me to adjust the way I was thinking about each flavor profile. The sommelier constantly corrected my attempts at describing the wines with “wine-lingo” that more accurately described what I was trying to express, an experience that reminded me of my learning process with corporate drafting this summer.

Ultimately, as with the work I have been doing at Bilzin this summer, I found that by giving an honest best effort, asking questions, and listening to the experts, I was able to learn much more than I had originally expected. Some of my first attempts at deciphering the subtle notes and nuances in the wines might not have been on point—and some people even considered them silly (though I would never single them out), but in the end I truly felt like I learned something valuable throughout the wine tasting—and the same can be said of my experience at Bilzin this summer!

For most of my life I’ve lived in three similarly-sized small cities: Port Saint Lucie, FL, Gainesville, FL, and my current home of Durham, NC. While I’ve loved them all in different ways, my experience in Miami this summer has easily (and, perhaps, unsurprisingly) blown them all out of the water. As a passionate fan of fun cocktails and unique eats, I honestly didn’t know where to begin exploring the restaurant/cocktail bar scene in Miami. Luckily, with the help of a few of my fellow Summers, I have concocted a solid guide to some of the best happy hour spots in Miami (well – at least around the Brickell area!)

Best Over-all Happy Hour: Paperfish.

  • A classic – one I have been to right after work with my fellow Summers, and have also brought friends from home to. You cannot go wrong with Paperfish! The ambiance is akin to going out to dinner, without being intimidatingly stuffy. The menu has both great food and fun drinks; it was our first happy hour spot of the summer, and one we keep going back to for good reason!

Best “Party” Happy Hour: Barsecco.

  • Neighbors with Paperfish, Barsecco’s ambiance is definitely unique. The Summers attended a happy hour at Barsecco around the midpoint of the summer, and I think we all were surprised with the trendy feel and the great deals. An interesting mix of post-work happy hour and a DJ playing dance remixes (no lie – when we went the DJ played a remix of “The Hanging Tree” from the Hunger Games; I couldn’t believe my ears), Barsecco’s happy hour menu is really quite good. All of their signature drinks and a selection of food items are set at $7 each!

Best Happy Hour Outside of Brickell: Chug’s.

  • I first went to Chug’s for breakfast with Melissa Pallett-Vasquez, a partner here at Bilzin, and, let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS. Truly, a great spot to go to for brunch, lunch, or even a reliably yummy dinner. For this reason, it was one of the first places that came to mind after finishing up an afternoon of shopping at Books & Books in the Grove a few weekends ago. Though I went for dinner, I was surprised at how great the happy hour was! Also – Chug’s happy hour isn’t limited to the weekdays, which definitely makes it stand out.

Best “Classy” Happy Hour: The River Oyster Bar.

  • If you are looking for a happy hour spot that feels a little more mature or higher-end than the others on my list – this is likely the spot for you. While I heard through the grapevine that the happy hour here used to be an even better deal (oysters for $1!), the current happy hour menu is still a great way to have a nice glass of wine and a bite with friends without breaking the bank. The ambiance here is great, and it’s only a short Metro Mover ride away from the office.

Notable Mention: Rosa Sky.

  • A group of Summers, Associates, and Partner Adrian Felix ventured to a happy hour earlier this week at Rosa Sky, and we had a great time! Rosa Sky is a roof top bar with some really beautiful views, and it was a great environment for everyone to hang out and get together outside of the office. I’d been told about Rosa Sky several times throughout the summer, but never seemed to make it there (or any other roof top bar) despite Miami having some fantastic options – and, if you’re like me and don’t know where to start, this is one that I highly recommend!

Going to happy hour with my Summers was such a great way not only for us to get closer as a summer class, but also for us to get to know the area a little bit better. To close out my little guide, I include as a small disclosure that this is by no means a conclusive list, and I am so excited to continue exploring the Brickell and Downtown Miami areas throughout the remainder of the summer and in the future. If anyone has recommendations for me and the other Summers to try before the summer closes up – send them our way!

This summer has been chock-full of exciting assignments, thrilling tag-alongs, and too many lunches to count, but Saturday’s event undoubtedly takes the cake. Bilzin Sumberg hosted its annual firm dinner party at the Mayfair House in Coconut Grove, a historic Miami hotel that boasts incredible architecture and gardens.

To begin the evening, Managing Partner Al Dotson gave a toast to celebrate Bilzin Sumberg attorneys who, over the past year, have accomplished incredible wins, closed huge transactions, and earned prestigious awards. Al congratulated Lori Lustrin, who recently delivered the closing statement in a case that secured a multi-million dollar verdict for one of the largest toy manufacturers in the country. He then introduced one of Bilzin’s newest Senior Counsel members, Judge Michael Hanzman, who was also recently awarded the Florida Justice Association’s Judicial Achievement Award. At the conclusion of the speech, Al had every summer associate introduce themselves to the room, and despite my absolute stage fright, it was incredible to stand up and look into a room full of familiar smiling faces!

Following a celebration of the firm accomplishments and a stunning cocktail hour in the atrium of the Mayfair, we sat down and had an incredible dinner, chatted with friends and colleagues, and enjoyed the evening. We are truly lucky that spending a Saturday evening with our coworkers was a highlight of the summer!

The summer being almost over is bittersweet, but I am grateful for every opportunity I have had to learn and every attorney that has helped us out along the way, and cannot wait for these last few days, lunches, and events at Bilzin!

I came into the summer associate program with a lot of goals—become a better legal researcher, a better editor, a better communicator, etc. But a goal I haven’t spoken about as much is a personal one. As someone who is new to Miami, I really wanted to make at least one new friend in the city. Luckily, the Bilzin summer program supplied me with nine fantastic candidates. I am, of course, talking about the other summer associates.

Bilzin does a great job of providing opportunities for us to get to know each other, from a wine and cheese event the very first week to the fun of cooking a family-style dinner together to our competitive round of mini-golf at Puttshack. But I’m just as grateful for the plans we have made on our own.

Take, for instance, yesterday’s Mock Real Estate Closing. The Real Estate Group and Chief Legal Talent Officer Jessica Buchsbaum and Legal Talent Coordinator Betsi Cobas did an incredible job of planning and executing the mock transaction start to finish. They even organized a happy hour at Paperfish Sushi to celebrate our successfully closing of the “transaction.” But with the help of our very active group chat, the summer associates leveled the event up—we decided we would all wear pink for the occasion to match the Barbie theme.

(L to R) Isabella Durand, Carlos Markovich, Michael Muray, Sarah Carraher, Pressly Pratt, Crystal Singh, Alberto Poleo, Sanika Nanda, Savannah Bergeron and Skye Jackson

The ten of us—plus Jessica—committing whole-heartedly to the dress code showed me how close-knit our group has become in just the past six weeks. I’m so glad I said yes when we planned our very first happy hour the day of orientation (ironically, also at Paperfish!) and have kept saying yes to invitations to lunch, shopping, and walks around Brickell.

Now, with only two weeks of the program left, I have begun reflecting on which of my summer goals I have met and which I’m still working on. I can say confidently that I’ve exceeded my goal of making one new friend by at least 900 percent.

What do golfers do on their days off? Putter around.

What do Bilzin summer associates do after a Tuesday in the office? Play mini golf (this week at least)!

After another great 3:05 coffee break (another one of my favorite events at Bilzin), the summer associates headed over to Brickell City Center, and attorneys from the Litigation and Construction groups came out to join us at Puttshack. After having the rules explained to us, it was time to get this par-tee started. We had plenty of delicious snacks to fuel our minigolf game, and the summer associates had a great showing out on the course (check out the scores below). This is no ordinary mini-golf course; the Puttshack technology keeps track of your scores and displays them on a screen as you go, so all you have to do is play!

This was an event even the most athletically challenged of people, such as myself, could enjoy! Each hole had a fun, unique theme, ranging from trivia questions and Pac-Man themed holes to air hockey and Connect Four. We ended the night with a delicious beignet dessert and plenty of laughs. Not only did we get to chat with attorneys from the Litigation and Construction departments, we also celebrated Alberto’s birthday!

While it is sad the summer is winding down, I am looking forward to the last few weeks of events and cannot overstate how amazing this summer has been so far. To putt a long story short, a summer at Bilzin Sumberg means a summer of great work experience and lots of fun too. It doesn’t get putter than this!

One of the highlights of Bilzin Sumberg’s summer associate program is attending tag-alongs! Tag-alongs are opportunities to sit in on meetings, phone calls, hearings, and other interactions that involve clients, judges, opposing counsel, or other parties. These experiences allow summer associates to see the range of what our attorneys do and get a sense of the best ways to converse with other attorneys and clients.

Personally, I have been attending tag-alongs with the Real Estate Group. During one of the most recent tag-alongs, we got to sit-in on a phone call for a deal with partner Adam Lustig, associate Alani Fraga, and paralegal May Romero. We gained insight into how a real estate transaction gets to closing, and had the opportunity to hear the client and lender’s perspectives on how to complete remaining checklist items.

(L to R) Crystal Singh, Pressly Pratt, Alani Fraga, Sarah Carraher, Isabella Durand & May Romero.

My fellow summers have had a range of tag-along experiences and have shared their thoughts on how it has enhanced their summer experiences:

“Working with litigation department this summer, I’ve sat in on both formal hearings and meet and confers with opposing counsel without a judge present. Seeing the broad range of ways attorneys

interact with both the court and opposing counsel throughout the litigation process has been really informative.” – Pressly Pratt

“This summer, I’ve been mostly working with the environmental practice group, and so I’ve sat in on a number of calls with clients, environmental consultants, and regulators at both the state and local level. I feel that my tag-along opportunities have allowed me to learn about some really fascinating issues and to observe the broad scope of the environmental law practice at Bilzin.” – Savannah Bergeron

“Throughout the summer, I have had opportunities to attend tag-alongs in various fields. Adam Lustig and Marty Schwartz have let me follow real estate transactions, and Jake Greenberg invited me to watch a case management conference in the complex litigation practice area. These experiences have been so valuable in gaining hands-on experience in the legal field, and every attorney has taken the time to debrief with me and answer all my questions!” – Isabella Durand

“Listening along to calls and conferences with the corporate group has been great because you don’t get to see a lot of corporate work in law school. It’s really helpful to get a realistic look at what it’s like to be a corporate attorney by following along with people’s workdays!” – Sanika Nanda

Altogether, we’ve had some great experiences tagging-along with Bilzin Sumberg’s incredible attorneys and we appreciate the insight it has given us!

The Pixar film Ratatouille famously stated, “Anyone can cook.” After attending the Mystery Basket Cook-Off Challenge with the Land Use Department at the Miami-Dade Culinary Institute, I can confirm that at least anyone at Bilzin Sumberg can cook truly delicious food, even under the pressure of a time limit, fierce competition, a large commercial kitchen, and a whole basket of mystery ingredients.

Before the cooking competition began, we were placed into four teams made up of a mix of summer associates, associates, and partners and enjoyed refreshments as the professional chefs at the Miami-Dade Culinary Institute explained the rules of our competition. We’d have 75 minutes to cook and plate one “surf-and-turf” style dish using a cut of steak, a salmon filet, and other vegetables and grains found in a Mystery Basket. At the end, we’d be judged by the chefs on the taste and flavor of the food, the presentation of our food on the dish, and the cleanliness of our work station, with one team crowned winner of the challenge.

The 75 minutes in the kitchen flew by. Every team was hustling and bustling around the kitchen, and above the sounds of chopping, roasting, sizzling, and sautéing, I heard plenty of laughs and good conversation, too. Before we knew it, it was time to plate our dishes, explain to the chefs what we made, and let the chefs decide which team made the best meal.

In truth, all teams made what looked to be truly delicious dishes, and each team really sold their dish when it was time to describe what they made to the chefs, using descriptions like delectable, flavorful, perfectly crisped, and more. Team 1, comprised of Javier Aviñó, Sarah Carraher, Isa Durand, Elise Gerson, and Sanika Nanda, even made a “complimentary” dessert to go with their dish! But, in the end, only one team emerged victorious: Team 3, comprised of myself, Skye Jackson, David Jessup, Diana Mendez, and Andrés Rivero.

I can confirm as part of Team 3 that victory certainly tasted sweet; but even sweeter than that was the laughter shared at the dinner table and the memories made so far this summer at Bilzin Sumberg.

Land Use Summer Event: (L to R) Savannah Bergeron, Skye Jackson, Andrés Rivero, Diana Mendez and David Jessup, Jr.
Land Use Summer Event: (L to R) Skye Jackson and Andrés Rivero.

           Bilzin Sumberg interacts with many complex, high-profile cases as a top-performing law firm. From billion-dollar corporation lawsuits to impactful land development deals, the Firm does precisely what one would expect from “Big Law.” Yet, in my opinion, that’s not what impresses me most. While the elaborate negotiations and high settlements are quite notable, the most impressive thing about Bilzin is their willingness to care for and protect the underprivileged South Florida community around them. 

           A couple weeks ago, the Firm catered lunch for all the attorneys to attend a presentation held by Legal Services of Greater Miami, a pro bono organization that works to break down the barriers to economic prosperity. Greater Miami assists the local Florida community with issues such as Healthcare Access, Education, Tenant Rights, and more. During the presentation, Greater Miami spoke about the incredible impact that they’ve had on local families and the opportunities that were still out there for Bilzin to get involved. Attorneys Andrés Rivero and Jennifer Fine lead in the Firm’s relations with Greater Miami, and they both took a moment to explain just how much working with pro bono affairs has changed their perspectives as lawyers, and how Bilzin does nothing but support such passions at all levels. Not only is Bilzin a Gold Leadership Donor for Greater Miami, but the Firm associates also participate in an Associates’ Drive, where they have raised over $2,000 just in June alone. Their stories and moments of appreciation were enough for me to leave the lunch with my own aspirations of working with Great Miami in the future.

           A couple weeks after, all the summer associates got this amazing opportunity to participate in an ad-litem pro bono clinic with the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA), courtesy of Attorney Raquel Fernandez, Bilzin’s pro bono partner. We assisted immigrant minors in applying for an SIJ (Special Immigrant Juvenile) Visa by conducting their intake interviews. The interviews took place in the office, and each child had at least one adult sponsor. While I had experience with conducting intake interviews with adult clients, I had never interacted with minor clients before. I was intimidated by the responsibility at first, but CABA members took their time reviewing the case files and providing guidance on how to conduct the interviews. After getting our case assignments, we split up into groups of two and went into separate conference rooms to speak with the kids. While I went in knowing that we were doing important work, I didn’t realize just how big of a responsibility Bilzin was entrusting in us until it was all over. From effortless laughs to heavy tears, having those kids open up and trust us with their life stories was a priceless experience, and it was that day that I realized just how much the Firm goes beyond Big Law. 

           Miami alone is full of people who desperately need legal counsel but cannot afford it. As someone who has always considered South Florida her home, I know that while community renovations are progressing and property value is rising, the number of undocumented immigrants and low-income households in need is still a major economic issue. As fortunate professionals, we should want to give back to those who make South Florida so unique, and I am here to tell you that Bilzin truly shares that vision. That is what makes this firm so remarkable.