Community Involvement & Pro Bono

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!

One of my primary objectives coming into the summer was to establish a plan of action for my future, both at Bilzin Sumberg and in the Miami community. Of course, at the top of the list was figuring out which of the firm’s prestigious Practice Groups I would prioritize, but I also wanted to put myself on a path to career development and community entrenchment that would carry me for the duration of my career. Over two-thirds of the way through the summer, I can confidently say that the summer associate program has helped me to accomplish this goal through meaningful work with substantive feedback and consistent attorney mentorship opportunities. Everyday has proven to be a new chance for us to learn, grow, and have fun, and Bilzin Sumberg could not be more welcoming in helping us to feel at home while providing us with a  practical dose of real legal work. Continue Reading Learning from Lawyers over Lunch: The Life of a Summer Associate

Bilzin Sumberg hosted a wine and cheese reception this Monday to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. “Celebrate” in this context has a double meaning. Brian Adler ran through the history of Pride Month and taught me aspects of the movement that I never considered. From Pride Month’s inception–beginning with the Stonewall Riot–members of the LGBTQ community have used positivity and acceptance as a form of resistance. My previous understanding was that the movement essentially served as a single-issue platform: to fight for the acceptance of gay marriage. But I was completely wrong. The community through Pride Month has successfully fought for greater HIV/AIDS research, for anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Matthew Shepard Act), for more inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the military, and various other initiative pushing for equality. There is much more work that needs to be done, but certainly a lot to celebrate. Continue Reading Happy Pride Month!

This past Monday we experienced a wonderful opportunity to give back to our local community by volunteering at the Chapman Partnership‘s Miami Homeless Assistance Center. The Chapman Partnership provides food and shelter to approximately 5,000 homeless individuals and families on an annual basis. These homeless centers also assist with job training, job placement, and securing housing.

The Bilzin Sumberg team took part in fulfilling the Chapman Partnership‘s mission by serving meals, waiting tables, and maintaining the kitchen and cafeteria. It was an extraordinarily humbling experience for all of us, and we met absolutely amazing people who are seeking to build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

I personally met one such individual: a 16-year old local high school student who aspires to become an attorney one day. Speaking with this individual was very inspiring, and he maintained an extraordinarily positive outlook on his future despite his current challenges.

Bilzin Sumberg takes great pride in giving back to the local community on a regular basis, and I am proud to take part in this effort.

(L to R, Jessica, Eric, Lucas, Ben, Devin and Brianna)

Bilzin Sumberg provides opportunities to work together to benefit charitable organizations in South Florida and beyond.  The firm’s strong commitment to the community has constantly been conveyed.  This past Friday, our summer associate class took a break from assignments and volunteered at Feeding South Florida (FSF).  FSF is the sole Feeding America food bank serving Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties; they have the largest service area in the state, serving 25% of the state’s food insecure population and rescuing 46 million pounds of food per year.

Once we arrived to the sorting warehouse, we had orientation and got separated into 4 groups: inspectors, runners, sorters, and builders.  The Bilzin Sumberg volunteers were inspectors, managing three tables in the inspection room.  We examined the donated food, threw out unusable food, and called for a runner to bring our inspected box to the sorters, who classified food into categories.  Lastly, we were provided with the number of meals we helped provide to families in need of food assistance that day, which was—drum roll, please—a whopping 35,000 meals.

 

To finish up another amazing week, Eric Singer invited the summer associates to go sailing together on Saturday.  During the trip, we saw the beautiful Miami skyline and the historical houses of Stiltsville.  His sailboat is great, the Miami views are great, but Eric is even greater for thinking to include us!  Thanks again, Eric!

 

Brianna Sainte

Our first two weeks at Bilzin Sumberg surpassed all expectations!

On Thursday, May 24th, we participated in one of the numerous opportunities the firm offers to give back to the community. The firm supported Red Nose Day, an international fundraising campaign dedicated to ending child poverty. After donating, we were all invited to clown around for a good cause at a photo booth filled with props—including crowns, taco hats, and, of course, red noses. From day one, everyone has highlighted the significance of being involved through the Bilzin Sumberg Cares initiative, and Thursday was yet another example of the firm’s commitment to philanthropy.

Bilzin Sumberg not only empowers us to give back, they invest in our development to become better lawyers. Our Friday WestLaw training session included lessons on how to: find court filing rules and checklists, compare law across jurisdictions, and craft a systematic research approach. I appreciate that if I ever get stuck in my research for an assignment, there will be a small army of people to help me get on the right track; I have never felt overwhelmed, just encouraged and supported. Through substantive training programs and day-to-day legal practice support, Bilzin Sumberg fosters efficiency to ensure our success. I’m looking forward to the upcoming seven weeks!

 

The second day of The Academy highlighted a common theme attributable to the success of the professionals I have encountered: unwavering dedication to improving our community. Representative David Richardson is such an example. We had the pleasure to learn of Mr. Richardson’s contributions to the reform of Florida’s correctional system. His commitment and passion materialized into actual changes in the system. The attorneys at Bilzin Sumberg are no different; they have shared with us valuable insight into their careers and the choices that have lead them to success. Fueled by their desire to implement changes that would improve our beloved city, our attorneys have made a significant impact in Miami and forged valuable relationships along the way.

A significant part of the legal profession involves engaging with your community and developing your network. As such, Scott Baena, Brian Bilzin, Jennifer Junger, and Anthony De Yurre shared with us invaluable advice based on each of their unique networking strategies and experiences. Similar to the commitment necessary to impact your community, developing worthwhile relationships requires an investment of your time and efforts. As first-year associates, we are interested in refining our networking skills to ensure that we maximize the opportunities to expand our network. In our networking seminar, we learned of various opportunities and methods to develop valuable relationships based on the experiences of Bilzin Sumberg attorneys who are all at different stages in their careers. “Working a Room” involves taking a real interest in the discussion with individuals whom you want to learn more about, as well as a continuing desire to develop such relationships.

We concluded our second, eventful day of The Academy with happy hour at the SLS Brickell. We had the opportunity to catch up with the attorneys in our Recruiting Committee, as well as implement some of the networking strategies we learned. Scott Baena and Jay Sakalo shared with me some wonderful stories about the history of Bilzin Sumberg. The history of our firm zeroed in on many of the takeaways from our course offerings during day 2 of The Academy – making a meaningful impact on your community and cultivating relationships can lead to great success.

 

I can say with confidence that our first day as associates at Bilzin Sumberg was unique. Thanks to Hurricane Irma, Jenny and I started our careers at Bilzin Sumberg a week later than planned. Although this resulted in a lot of rescheduling of The Academy, it made for a very exciting beginning! Our first day focused on community, charity, and managing our time to maximize giving back to Miami as well as personal growth.

First, we met with members of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation who spoke to us on finding that cause that makes us “tick.” We talked about the values that motivate us and the multitude of ways that we can contribute to our city. They stressed the importance of finding an organization where we can both make a valuable impact and gain personal fulfillment and enjoyment.

Later we drove over to Goodwill Industries. I was astounded at what this organization has accomplished. Going beyond its mission of vocational training and placement of people with disabilities, the South Florida division of Goodwill has created several of its own businesses where intellectually and physically disabled people can work. We got to see this social entrepreneurialism in practice on our tour of the facility, where Goodwill employees make Army uniforms and assemble inserts for the Miami Herald. We also had the opportunity to talk with David Landsberg, the CEO of Goodwill South Florida, about the organization’s history and initiatives.

After we visited Goodwill, we headed to lunch at Soya & Pomodoro and met up with members of the Land Development & Government Relations practice group. After a delicious Italian lunch we walked over to the Brightline. We put on our boots, hardhats, gloves, vests, and goggles, and were ready to tour the construction site that will soon be the Miami hub for the high speed train connecting Miami to Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. I had never been to a construction site before, and it was fascinating to see the bare bones of a major project from the inside. It is going to be absolutely incredible when it is completed, not to mention the convenience and innovation it will bring to Miami.

Our last meeting of the day was with Juan Martinez, Vice President/Chief Financial Officer of the Knight Foundation. He spoke to us about the plethora of incredible initiatives the foundation is a part of, from funding the arts to hiring and encouraging others to hire minority and women-owned investment banking firms. He explained that the Knight Foundation looks to invest in ideas and opportunities that will be a catalyst for more change. We learned that we can translate this to our own individual experience, by choosing to invest our time where there will be a big and lasting impact.

Although all were unique, each of the organizations we met with today taught two consistent lessons. First, there is always time to give to causes that matter to you, you just have to make sure you utilize it. Second, find a cause that truly brings you joy, and success will follow. Our first day reminded me that the legal profession is more than what goes on within the firm, and to be a great lawyer you must be involved in the community you live in. To say I was inspired would be an understatement, and I cannot wait to join some of these great organizations and get to work!

 

Concept image of the six most common questions and answers on a signpost.One important decision (among many) that an aspiring attorney must consider is what legal market to practice in. Many factors go into this decision-making matrix, including—but not limited to—the demand for specific practice areas, paths to partnership, market trends, family, weather, food, and proximity to the beach. Of course, the order of importance of these factors varies by individual preference. For me personally, proximity to the beach may or may not be ranked heavily.

Joking aside, the Miami legal market appeals to me for many reasons. For one, it is a young vibrant city with a rapidly-growing legal industry. Much of this growth has been fueled by an increase in international investment and subsequent real estate expansion. It is a city that has transformed from a pure resort destination to the gateway for business with Latin America—and to a growing extent with Europe and Asia. With growth comes opportunity. The opportunity to make an immediate and meaningful impact as a young attorney is perhaps the biggest reason I chose Miami.

Bilzin Sumberg has been at the forefront of the city’s growth since the firm’s inception. One way that the firm is currently meeting the demands of the Miami market is through its leadership role in Public-Private Partnership (P3) projects. In general, a P3 is a business relationship between a government agency and a private company for the purpose of developing public infrastructure or services. As Miami’s population continues to grow, the demand for infrastructure improvements will increase tremendously. This is one field that I personally desire to immerse myself in, especially in anticipation of the growing demand for improved infrastructure.

The firm also does a great job of developing associates. As a summer associate, I appreciate the opportunity to take on assignments related to multiple practice areas—from litigation to government relations. I also appreciate the challenge that each assignment presents. The assigning attorneys do a phenomenal job of communicating their expectations of the work product and providing us feedback at the conclusion of the assignment. This communication is essential to our development as summer associates and future attorneys of the firm. Before starting at the firm, I was unable to speak intelligently about a derivative action on behalf of a corporation, the affirmative defense of unclean hands, or the most efficient process of serving a complaint on a foreign corporation overseas—to name a few examples. Perhaps I still cannot speak intelligently about these topics, but I can at least appear to do so!

As the summer continues, I look forward to taking on more assignments, improving my knowledge on the trends of the Miami market, and growing as a professional alongside my fellow summer associates.

IMG_0294On Friday, Hannah, Luis, Forrest and I attended the Federal Court Observer Program at the Federal Courthouse downtown. The Honorable Paul C. Huck presided over a fantastic program full of information for summer associates and judicial interns. For an added treat, one of our very own—Luis—was participating in the program, arguing in a mock motion hearing for a recently settled case!

The day started with breakfast and a reception. Hannah, Forrest and I only had time to give Luis a quick “good luck” as he was already in the zone. We were ushered into a courtroom filled to the brim with rising 2L and 3L students. Chief Judge K. Michael Moore welcomed us to the Federal Court, followed by Ramón A. Abadin—past president of the Florida Bar—who gave the welcome address. Both touched on the importance of professionalism, which seemed to be an overarching theme of the program. Judge Paul C. Huck informed us that he would be asking us trivia questions throughout the program. Judge Huck based most of the questions on reading material he distributed to attendees prior to the program. The material focused on advice for young lawyers, including the importance of your reputation and intellectual curiosity. Continue Reading Court is Now in Session