Photo of Forrest Murphy

 

 

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.

On Wednesday, we went to South Beach Room Escape with Bilzin Sumberg’s  Real Estate department.  For the uninitiated, the purpose of an escape room is to work together with others to solve puzzles, manipulate objects, and use reasoning to – you guessed it – escape a room within one hour.

There were three different rooms: Panic, Black Ops, and Diamond Heist.  Each room had a different theme.  In the Panic room, you are trapped in an operating room.  The Panic team was Alex, Luis, Jessica Buchsbaum, Marjie Nealon, Adam Lustig, Steve Simon, Alexis Kanarek, and Craig Thompson.  Lauren and Hannah were in the Black Ops room, in which they had to retrieve a secret chemical weapon.  Audrey Ellis, Jim Shindell, Kent Koch, Ali Lehson, Manny Gonzalez, and Brendan Studley filled out the Black Ops team.  I was in the Diamond Heist room with Eric, Suzanne Amaducci-Adams, Marty Schwartz, Alan Kazan, Phil Sosnow, Katy Yankowski, and Jared Spector.  Our objective, unsurprisingly, was to steal a diamond.

After a brief tutorial, we were herded into our rooms.  The moment the door closed, the countdown clock began ticking.  We scanned our surroundings to find a room filled with everything from footlockers and mailboxes to stationary bikes and barricades.  Behind barred doors and inside a locked container was our prize: a glittering diamond (made of the finest plastic).
Continue Reading South Beach Escape

2017 Summer Associates Mock Transaction Meeting 1I think it was Posh Spice who once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Sure enough, we ran into the proverbial wrench in the plan during a mock real estate transaction meeting last week.  Due to a (thankfully fictional) emergency, an amendment to our carefully negotiated contract was suddenly necessary.  Luckily for us, there is protocol for these types of situations.  We sat down once again at the negotiating table; when the dust settled, the buyer’s team had more time, and the seller’s team had more money.

As you can tell, our deal is moving right along!  To refresh the reader’s memory, Lauren and I serve as counsel for the buyer, David Beckham (aka Eric Reissi).  Hannah and Luis serve as counsel for the seller, Scary Spice (aka Alex Barshel).  At stake for the buyer is the last piece of property needed for the construction of a MLS stadium; at stake for the seller is a pile of cold, hard cash.  Since our first negotiation for the letter of intent (which Eric so eloquently explained) we have actually had several meetings and cut numerous deals.
Continue Reading The Wrench in the Plan

IMG_0183Alex, Hannah, and Lauren had a chance to volunteer Wednesday night at Casa Valentina, but on Friday all the summer associates (along with Jessica Buchsbaum and Betsi Cobas) came together to give back to the community by volunteering at Feeding South Florida (FSF).  FSF is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the hungry; it rescues 44 million pounds of food per year, as well as leads hunger and poverty advocacy efforts throughout Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties.

We all got up early to drive to Hallandale Beach, where FSF has a sorting warehouse. Once we arrived, we were directed into an orientation room, where we were told to sign in and sit down. There were many summer associates from other South Florida law firms there to volunteer; each of us recognized some familiar faces from law school.  Joe Baldelomar, FSF’s Volunteer Coordinator, entered the room and told us about FSF’s mission and methods.  He also shared some harrowing facts about hunger in South Florida, including that 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry in the region.

Joe explained the process of how donated food is distributed to the hungry.  Donated food is first brought to a FSF warehouse, where it is then inspected, sorted, and shipped away to be distributed in various communities throughout South Florida.  We were there to help in the inspection and sorting process.  Joe concluded his presentation, and we were directed into another larger area of the warehouse, where donated food is stored. Continue Reading Feeding South Florida

suit_papersBeing a strong writer is a requirement for practicing law, but ask a lay person and they may tell you “legal writing” evokes thoughts of confusing contracts and memos filled with obscure Latin phrases. Fortunately for us, Susan McCloskey of Susan McCloskey Writing Consultants came to Bilzin Sumberg this week to help us keep our writing clear, effective, and sans-“legalese.”

The process actually began weeks ago, when Jessica Buchsbaum asked each of the summer associates to submit writing samples. We also completed a “Writer’s Inventory”, answering questions about our writing methods, strengths, and weaknesses.  Susan used these materials to tailor her writing seminar to our individual needs.

Susan began by sharing proven writing techniques that improve organization, clarity, and concision. For example, Susan encouraged us to keep the purpose and the reader in mind when organizing and editing our writing.  This is crucial for us, because we’ll be doing work for attorneys with wildly different preferences and expectations over the summer. Continue Reading Legal Writing for Dummies (and Summer Associates)