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!

(L to R, Eric, Devin & Lucas)

As the training phase of the summer program winds down, the Summer Associates are busy at work! We are currently working on a variety of projects assigned by attorneys from each practice group. Bilzin Sumberg has an assignment pool system that makes it very easy to work in the practice group of your choice and take on assignments that you never thought you would enjoy (or even knew existed)! I am currently working on projects in the Bankruptcy, Land Use & Zoning, Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities (“CMBS“), and Commercial Litigation groups. As a 1L, this flexibility will allow me to find my passion in the law and have a concrete understanding of what each attorney does at the firm day-to-day. 

Bilzin Sumberg also has many mentorship opportunities that allow us to connect with lawyers throughout the firm. Continue Reading Training and Mentorship is the Name of the Game

As freshly sworn-in attorneys, Jenny and I headed in to our final days with renewed enthusiasm and excitement to officially start our careers at Bilzin Sumberg. On Friday, we began with the 21st Century Business Writing Workshop. We reviewed important skills we honed in law school and during our summer positions, and we also got to focus on the other types of writing we will engage as young associates. I left with a new perspective on how to share scholarship and insights as an attorney rather than a student, as well as how to find my voice and convey it through my writing.

 Next, we put our accountant hats on and learned how to read various financial statements with Stacia Wells, a partner in the Corporate department. While I successfully avoided diving in to this topic during law school, Stacia had an uncanny ability to make something quite complex understandable and relatable. I can confidently say I am no longer intimidated by financial statements. Also, this session with Stacia reminded me that the lawyers at our firm are great resources for complex issues that are not necessarily legal.

 Our next presentation was from John Sumberg and Scott Baena, and they told us about the firm’s creation and history, mission, values, and goals. It was a truly incredible and unique experience to hear about the growth and success of the firm from two of its founders. The emphasized the importance of community involvement, building relationships, and Bilzin Sumberg’s role as a large law firm uniquely embedded in the fabric of Miami.

We ended the day with a discussion about Client Satisfaction with Scott Baena. He explained his findings after meeting with many of the firm’s clients about what they value about Bilzin Sumberg, and what we can do, even as first year associates, to enhance service and add value to our client’s experience.

 Our last full day of The Academy began with a Practice Development talk with Jim Cranston from Law Vision Group. Jim helped us set short, mid, and long term goals for our own practice development. He helped us think about what we can do now to build relationships and eventually create a network that benefits us both personally and professionally.

 Later we went to lunch with the second year associates, Brendan Studley, Anthony Sirven, and Jennifer Junger. It was nice and relieving to hear about the lessons they learned their first year, and to know we always have people to talk to for any of our concerns. After lunch, we met with Michael Kreitzer to discuss real ethical dilemmas. We went through some interesting and realistic hypotheticals, talking about both what we would do as the attorney in the situation as well as what the Rules of Professional Conduct require of us. It reminded us that sometimes just because something is not an ethical conflict, it might still be a business conflict, and it is just as important to handle those with care in order to be the best lawyer for your client.

We ended the day with the Advanced Legal Research Skills seminar with Michael Moore, our Research and Competitive Intelligence Analyst and Jeff Snyder, a Business Finance & Restructuring partner. Michael gave us great research sources, tactics, and tips that will surely help us this coming year. Jeff supplemented Michael’s great tips with advice on how to do research most efficiently and accurately for the assigning attorneys.

 The last couple days of The Academy were jam-packed with invaluable discussions, advice, and information. As The Academy comes to an end I realize how helpful the last week will be to my career going forward. Furthermore, I am honored to join a firm that sees the importance in my personal and professional development at such an early point in my career. I feel equipped with all of the tools I need, and I am ready to get started!

 

Day 3 of The Academy began with a presentation led by Werten Bellamy, President of Stakeholders, Inc. Mr. Bellamy examined the qualities that allow junior attorneys to reach success. In our discussion, he highlighted the importance of ingenuity in your practice. While most attorneys gain the necessary writing, analytic, and advocacy skills in law school, attributes such as innovation, enthusiasm, and drive allow you to distinguish yourself in the profession.

Mr. Bellamy noted the importance of anticipating the needs of the senior attorneys you work for.  As a junior associate, the senior attorneys are your clients. By proving yourself to be reliable, dedicated, and resilient, senior attorneys will be inclined to invest in your success. Mr. Bellamy provided wonderful insight into the expectations senior attorneys have of incoming associates, as well as how to effectively live up to those expectations. All in all, Mr. Bellamy provided an invigorating perspective on the methods by which to thrive as junior associates.

After Mr. Bellamy’s presentation, we made our way to the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Courthouse. Elise and I took our Oath of Attorney before Judge Seitz. It was the culmination of three years of legal studies and training (and many years of hard work). We were joined by our families, Scott Baena, Jessica Buchsbaum, and Michael Kreitzer. Judge Seitz reminded us all of some of the overarching principles of our profession. As lawyers, we must demonstrate an unwavering commitment to truth and justice. We must preserve the reputation of our profession. In such efforts, we must seek opportunities to bring individuals to access to justice. Judge Seitz’s words of wisdom reinforced many of the concepts we have discussed in the last few days – we must demonstrate an absolute commitment to our community and profession.

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!

 

With the summer program behind us and OCI season in full swing, we are starting to get excited around here!  The first year associates will be joining us in just under two weeks and we have The Academy ready and waiting for their arrival.  This year’s programming promises to be as impactful and meaningful as last year.
The impending arrival of the newest Academy members has us eager to share insights into the program through the video posted below.  Over the next few weeks, Elise and Jenny will be sharing their experiences in the program on our blog.

As the summer program is coming to a close, I can’t help but smile as I think back to all the wonderful experiences I’ve had in just nine weeks at Bilzin Sumberg. Though all my other blog posts have been (hopefully) funny and lighthearted, with the readers’ permission, I’d like to indulge in some philosophical introspection and for posterity give a heartfelt account of my experience.

I think I can fairly speak for my fellow summer associates in saying that we are all truly blessed to have been summer associates here: The relationships we’ve built, the work we’ve done, the skills we’ve learned—all second to none.

My fellow summer associates and I have all become incredibly close during our short time so far at the firm; this is undoubtedly due in part to the emphasis here on fostering a positive firm culture. After all, the firm’s slogan is “be judged by the company you keep.” And speaking of company, not a single summer associate ever had lunch alone. From day one, we were encouraged to make lunch plans with attorneys whose practices might be of interest. The attorneys, despite their busy schedules, always found a way to make time for us. Between all of the lunches and all of the practice-group events, the summer associates got to meet almost everyone.

But of course, there is much more to life as a summer associate than being taken out to lunch every day; there are assignments! The breadth of work that I got to do over the summer was incredible, making it much easier to rank my preferred practice groups at the end of the program. For instance, I worked on matters involving public-private partnership proposals, antitrust business development, Florida service of process requirements, luxury hotel management contracts, and I even contributed to two appellate briefs. I also attended client meetings, a mediation session, and an oral argument at the Third District Court of Appeal.

The work I’ve done this summer has been incredibly fulfilling, but I believe the people at Bilzin Sumberg are what set this firm apart from others: employees here are not just co-workers or friends—they’re family. Law is a rewarding but tough career. If we’re going to be “in the trenches,” why not be with people we can call family?

The author, Luis Reyes, about to throw a strike!
The author, Luis Reyes, about to throw a strike!

No, this blog post is not about a proposed T.V. show spin-off; this blog post is about competition; this blog post is about camaraderie; this blog post is about bowling with the Bilzin Sumberg litigation department.

We all trickled in to Splitsville, a local bowling alley, at 7 p.m., where full bar service and a large buffet awaited. There was sushi, chicken, shrimp—and did I mention sushi? After about an hour of chatting and eating, we put on our bowling shoes, warmed up our wrists, and made our way to the bowling lanes.

The summer associates were all spread across the five bowling lanes, where we competed against the partners and associates for bragging rights of nabbing the highest score. Unfortunately for those with an affinity for the gutter ball, we decided not to use the lane bumpers.

I ended up on lane three, where the competition was scorching hot. Phil, Shalia, Desiree, Danielle, Ken, and I all jockeyed—some better than others—for the lead. Although I ultimately bowled one of my best games ever with a 137 (which doesn’t say a lot for me), I’ll admit, beginner’s luck played a huge part.

After saying that I had not bowled in years and that I would probably be “Mr. Gutter-ball,” I got two strikes at the outset! I found a growing confidence in my comfortable lead—a bad idea. The luck wore off soon enough. Before I knew it, Ken hit three strikes in a row (a “turkey”) and left me in the dust. And once Ken got going, he didn’t stop: with a score in the 170’s after game two, he earned the coveted highest score of the night.

We were all exhausted after a few hours of bowling and went off to the lounge area to relax. There, both the “winners” and “losers” of the night were treated to delicious chocolate brownies, which changed everyone’s concept of winning and losing. Let’s be honest—after chocolate brownies, we were all winners. And although I can say that, with a 137, I (barely) out-bowled my fellow summer associates, I can’t say I’ll be going from a career in law to one in bowling any time soon.

Concept image of the six most common questions and answers on a signpost.

Our first week at Bilzin Sumberg came and went. We dined with attorneys, judged a baking contest, and attended firm events. Somewhere in the midst of that, we received our first few assignments. It only took a few days of working to realize how lucky we are to have so many resources available to help us complete them.

Just down the hall from the summer associates’ offices, Bilzin Sumberg houses a sizable library. Books line the walls from floor to ceiling, a familiar sight to us students. One or more librarians at a time staff the library all day and into the night. The library staff members are experts in their field and are available to us any time we have a research question, no matter how big or small. Continue Reading I Get by with a Little Help from My Friends