“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

This year, we kicked off the Summer Associate Program at Bilzin Sumberg with a warm welcome from Jessica Buchsbaum, Betsi Cobas, and Jay Sakalo. The Summer Associates and I logged into our next virtual orientation session, and we were honored to see John C. Sumberg, Chairman of Bilzin Sumberg. During the Summer Program’s welcome remarks, Mr. Sumberg shared a few of his experiences and honed in on the importance of becoming involved in the community, building your reputation, and feeding your passions.

As the week flew by, Ed Lintz, Founder of Ready to File Writing, brought energy to our legal writing program. Within moments of finishing introductions, “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift blasted through our speakers, and the countdown began. Catapulted into Zoom breakout rooms, we had fifteen minutes to draft the introduction for a motion to dismiss. The two-hour session went quickly as we learned elements of a copyright claim, drafted a music licensing agreement, and discussed email etiquette at the firm. Ed kept us on our toes by looping pop sensations Taylor Swift, Madonna, and 3LW into our assignments.

We continued with our orientation sessions centered on conflicts, billing, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. But, the icing on the cake was a virtual meeting with my mentor, Ilana Drescher. We discussed goals for this summer, but most importantly, we updated each other on our lives while munching on lunch. As we jump into assignments and networking sessions, I plan to keep a quote that Jay mentioned at the forefront of my mind“you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So, here’s to three-pointers all summer long.

No Train, No Gain

Now that summer associate mentors are assigned and taken care of, it’s time to focus on our training program!  We start at the beginning, the very beginning – Orientation.  From day one we want our summer associates to have access to all levels of firm administration and to know how to use that support appropriately and effectively.  Various members of firm administration will give presentations on departmental procedures, availability and FAQs.  During orientation lunch, the summer associates will meet with the Managing Partner, John Sumberg, to learn about our firm history and vision.

The orientation program spans the whole first week with training programs on Effective Time Keeping, Tips for a Successful Summer and Research Skills – just to name a few.  The Research Skills Seminar, held in the library by our Director of Knowledge Management, Paul VanderMeer, may be my favorite seminar.  Paul and I might be a touch competitive. . .and last year this seminar may have included a blind bake off between Paul and I.  By blind taste test, the summer associates declared me the victor with my Tiramisu.  Paul didn’t stand a chance!
 
It will be interesting to hear the summer associates’ perspective on orientation and to see who they find victorious in this year’s bake-off.  I’ve consulted last year’s summer class to plan my entry.

After the full orientation program is planned, I’ll be planning the training programs that will be offered after orientation.

 

Today, we are thrilled to welcome our 2022 Summer Associates!  They’ll be spending the next couple of days in orientation and will be ready to share their summer experience right here.  After two years of a fully virtual summer program, we look forward to mostly in person summer program with meaningful assignments, tag along opportunities, and social events.  Join us in extending a hearty welcome to Megan, Savannah, Ridgana, Sarah, Aaron, Laz, Teodora, Carlos, Lucas, and Ariana.  We are looking forward to a fantastic summer fully of sunny days!

Closing the Deal! (L to R Phillip Sosnow, Tim DeKeyser, Lucas Pizzutti, Danielle Hall, Nathifa Parker, Joseph Beguiristain, John Trach, Saron Musa, David Jessup, Jr. and Jessica Buchsbaum)
(L to R Phillip Sosnow, Tim DeKeyser, Lucas Pizzutti, Danielle Hall, Nathifa Parker, Joseph Beguiristain, John Trach, Saron Musa, David Jessup, Jr. and Jessica Buchsbaum)

My computer chimed shortly after two o’clock. It was an email notification from Jessica announcing that it was time to schedule our end-of-summer reviews. During our mid-summer and end-of-summer reviews, Jessica and Jay meet with summer associates to review our work product and discuss feedback that we’ve received from supervising attorneys. To elaborate, after each assignment, the supervising attorney completes an evaluation form that assesses the summer associate’s written and oral communication, analytical skills, initiative, and motivation among other factors. Luckily, our mentors join the reviews to advocate for us, pinpoint areas of improvement, and highlight our progress.

With talk of the end-of-summer reviews and the farewell social at Top Golf, I reflect on the past six weeks of the program. I remember learning the ropes during orientation and fumbling through the process of saving a document. I think back to some of the tag along opportunities where I listened to Scott Wagner advise a client and Ben Mitchel hash out details with opposing counsel. I am reminded of the virtual coffee breaks on Zoom where the discussions ranged from vacation plans to professional experiences at Bilzin Sumberg. And most recently, I recall the Closing of the real estate mock transaction.

The days leading up to the Closing, seller’s attorneys prepared the conveyance documents while the buyer’s attorneys prepared the closing statement. Selling Sunset LLC and This Isn’t Us LLC were ready to seal the deal. During our final meeting, Timothy DeKeyser and Phillip Sosnow provided valuable feedback and noted that attorney’s fees were nonexistent according to the closing statement. At the end of the meeting, we were delighted to receive our congratulatory message from Jessica and enjoyed the delicious chocolate covered strawberries from Shari’s Berries. Although we were banking on the attorney’s fees, the knowledge and experience gained from the seminars and negotiations still proved to be a sweet deal.

The last thing on my mind when I entered into finals season last fall, at the end of my first (and entirely online) semester of law school, was where I would be working in the summer. My first finals season was filled with stress and a total lack of familiarity with the law school system, and the prospect of my first real legal job seemed extraordinarily far away. In a surprise twist, I survived and before I knew it, my spring semester was over and so was my 1L year. Better than that however, was that I even had an offer for a summer job! Jay Sakalo barely finished offering me the position of Summer Associate, before I excitedly blurted out “I accept” into the phone. What seemed to be the worst part was over; I had 1/3 of law school under my belt and had an offer from a formidable law firm in Miami, but soon all the voices from my classmates, professors and acquaintances started creeping into my mind, saying how working at a firm is miserable, with long hours, mundane work and unappreciative bosses; efficiency was maximized and humanity minimized, and soon I began thinking to myself “Lucas, what have you gotten yourself into?” I can tell you, this is not a great feeling especially when you just finished your first year and know close to nothing about anything having to do with the legal profession. As a first-year, I had no experience, little knowledge and a metric ton of anxiety about starting my first job, where I fully expected to be buried under a mountain of infinitely complex work I had no business dealing with, not to mention all of the non-legal logistical work, like keeping track of my time.

I’m coming to the end of my third week now at work and I can confidently say that every one of those people who told me horror stories were wrong. My experience here has been one of support, understanding, and fulfillment. Jessica Buchsbaum and Betsi Cobas have worked tirelessly to make sure we were ready to go and gave a comprehensive orientation where we learned everything we needed to know. When we started picking up assignments, the attorneys have been nothing less than awesome, giving us meaningful and interesting work while going out of their way to help us whenever we need it. People at the firm, be it my mentor or an associate or a partner or staff, have consistently gone above and beyond with offering advice and assistance. Most importantly, the folks here have made us feel welcomed, which is immeasurably kind of them. I’m sure I speak for the other Summer Associates when I say thank you to all, we won’t let you down.

(L to R Jessica Buchsbaum, Betsi Cobas, John Trach, David Jessup, Lucas Pizzutti, Saron Musa, Joseph Beguiristain, Danielle Hall, Nathifa Parker, Jay Sakalo)

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

This summer looks a little different than previous summers but we are excited for a hybrid program of mostly virtual programming with a few in person opportunities.  We know the Bilzin Sumberg culture will continue to transcend our physical office and we’ll be able to make the most of those in person gatherings.  The summer associates can expect our signature summer associate program – great balance of substantive work, training, mentoring and  social events.  We welcome back Danielle & John and welcome Joe, David, Saron, Nathifa and Lucas.  We know you’ll enjoy getting to know them more in the coming weeks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The summer associates attend their zoom orientation

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

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

The summer associates take a picture with their mentors at the Welcome Reception.

After a week full of fun and informative orientation sessions, the Summer Associates are ready to delve into our assignments! However, I first wanted to reflect back on our first week at the firm. As Summer Associates, a main focus is to make sure that we meet all of the attorneys and staff at the firm as everyone is an integral part of the success of the firm. Despite being a mid-sized firm, Bilzin Sumberg has a small-firm feel in that everyone knows each other very well. The first event of the summer that allowed us a chance to mingle and introduce ourselves was the Annual Firm Diner which conveniently took place the Saturday before we began the summer program. This year’s Annual Firm Dinner took place at the Bass Art Museum. The night was filled with great food, adult beverages, and a beautiful venue with contemporary art exhibitions. Most importantly, this gave us an opportunity to meet various attorneys within the firm before we even began working! Being invited to such an important event for the firm really set the tone for the rest of the summer. That is, we were being welcomed into a firm that was just as excited to have us as we were to join the firm!

While the annual firm dinner was an amazing way for us to become acquainted with some of the attorneys at the firm, our first official welcome was the Wine and Cheese Happy Hour on Thursday (this was much needed after various orientation sessions).  At the Happy Hour, we were introduced to a room full of Partners, Associates, and staff by our mentors (thanks, Desiree!). It was so comforting to see how much of the firm came out to help welcome us for the summer!

Feeling so welcomed to the firm our first week is such an indescribable feeling. On behalf of my fellow Summer Associates and I, thank you to everyone at Bilzin Sumberg for such a warm welcome. As a Summer Associate, I really look forward to meeting everyone in the firm and working with as many attorneys from the different practice groups as possible. My first step in this endeavor is getting to know everyone on the 24th floor. Side note: this is harder than it seems as we have already gotten lost on the 24th floor alone!