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

The first year associates with Judge Thornton after taking their oath.
The first year associates with Judge Thornton after taking their oath.

Today was an exciting day!  Not only did our first year associates conclude their participation in The Academy for Professional Development, they also became members of The Florida BarJudge Thornton graciously took time to talk to us about civility, ethics and motion practice.  With family, friends and loved ones present, Judge Thornton then administered the Oath of Attorney.

We hope that over the past two and a half weeks, we filled the hearts and minds of Jennifer, Jessica, Anthony and Brendan.  They’ve seen great need and innovation in our community and we can’t wait for them to embark on their legal careers and grow to become leaders in our community.

In what feels like a matter of days, we’ve reached the third and final week of The Academy! Monday morning, we began the day at the office bright and early in the boardroom with Michael Kreitzer. Michael spoke to us about the basics of motion calendar and the different ways lawyers may prepare for their motions. We then took a trip to the Dade County Courthouse. Before motion calendar, we met with Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen in her chambers and had the chance to speak with her before what would be a very structured and eventful morning. The four of us first years filed into the jury box with Jessica Buchsbaum and Michael to witness the morning’s calendar beginning sharply at 9 a.m. In the approximate hour-and-a-half we were in the courtroom, we witnessed a variety of advocacy styles, legal issues, and requests from Judge Ruiz-Cohen.

Succeeding our morning’s theme of advocacy, we headed over to the Lotus House for a meeting with their Director, Anna Frusciante . She brought to our attention the issue of homelessness in Miami, specifically among women and children in the city. The discussion provoked thoughtful questions about the challenges homeless women face and the opportunities for assistance to the cause in the community. While at Lotus House, we learned that the center has the ability to accommodate up to 250 women and children, turning away thousands in need each year. Thankfully, after some pro bono work by many firm lawyers the organization is in the process of building a beautiful new location to accommodate over 500 women and children! While visiting, we were able to watch a short clip of a rendering of the new Lotus House facility, set to open in December of 2017!

Back at the office, we heard from David Trench and Melissa Pallett-Vasquez about arbitration and litigation issues that arise in specific cases. We ended the day with a visit from Alan Ojeda, the developer of our very own 1450 Brickell office space and much much more throughout the city of Miami. Alan spoke to us about how he started his development career in Miami after hailing from Spain. Most inspiring were Alan’s stories of acquiring property, building projects while others doubted his plans, and subsequently continuing to complete the numerous projects, all of which are still successful many years after their completion!

little havana
The Academy visits Calle Ocho!

One of my favorite qualities of Miami is that is has held onto its vibrant roots in the community. Interestingly, the city also has an amazing ability to blend in large-scale examples of modern industry throughout, as explored in our firm’s New Miami Blog.

On the historical and cultural side, Miami has a number of excellent spots to enjoy some authentic Cuban food. To get a taste of Miami history, we headed out to an area called Little Havana, which is host to one of the best festivals in the country called “Carnaval Miami.” Packed with great shops and Miami history, Little Havana is also home to “Domino Park,” where for over 35 years, tradition has forged a meeting sport for friends and family to gather and enjoy their morning coffee with a competitive game of Dominoes.

Nicely complementing Miami’s culture, we were also able to see part of Miami’s latest industrial endeavors as we toured the All Aboard project that is underway in Downtown. The project, which is an express train service stretching from Miami to Orlando, is one of the many new and exciting developments going on to fuel Miami’s appetite for growth. Although the project will take some time to complete, we were impressed to see firsthand how quickly the company is transforming the Downtown area to include new upscale shopping and living space for tourists and residents alike to enjoy Miami’s culture.

United WayWeek two of The Academy is underway and we’ve already had two field trips. Up first was a visit to the United Way’s Center for Excellence in Early Education – a leading educational facility for children between one and five years old. While there we toured the educational facilities and also received a big-picture synopsis of what the United Way of Miami-Dade is doing in our community. In short, the United Way has partnered with other South Florida organizations that focus on three areas: Education, primarily in the early years; Financial Stability; and, Health. Though we had already participated in several of the United Way’s projects last summer, it was enlightening to learn more about the specific issues affecting our community – such as income and educational gaps and how they feed off each other – and, more importantly, how we can continue to get involved.

For our second trip, Suzanne Amaducci-Adams and Jon Chassen invited us to ride the Miami Metromover to tour the city. As we zipped through the Miami Skyline, Suzanne and Jon gave us a history lesson about the development of Brickell and Downtown Miami, and pointed out the projects they have worked or are currently working on – which, as an aside, included practically every building we passed along the way. Seeing these projects firsthand helped me appreciate our firm’s footprint on our city. But, as Suzanne emphasized, her primary goal was to introduce us to Miami Dade’s transportation system, which has seen exciting developments over the years and for which there remains many exciting opportunities.

In addition to the field trips, we’ve also had presentations by the Corporate and Real Estate Departments. It was exciting to learn more about what the departments do, the projects they have worked on, and how their deals often require teaming up with lawyers from other departments. Of course, that entailed covering a lot of material. So, to put that information into context, Stephen Sandiford and Christopher Pierson hilariously acted out a lawyer-client meeting in which Chris retained Stephen to help him sell a company that manufactures surgically-implanted communication devices – surely something many law partners would be lining up to buy for their associates. And after, we too became part of the program as Alexandra Lehson and Kent Koch turned the tables and asked us to negotiate a Guarantee Agreement for a multi-million dollar loan.

Overall, The Academy has provided us with an exciting introduction to our legal careers. We’ve had opportunities to interact with key members in our firm, leaders and organizations in our community, and professionals across many industries. I am excited to see what this last week holds, and even more excited to begin practicing after that.

cava
Commissioner Cava visits Bilzin Sumberg

Our first week of the inaugural Academy continued with modules presented by members of our own law firm. We learned much about the different practices within the Business Finance and Restructuring group from bankruptcy to loan agreements and more. We also witnessed a live mock commission hearing from the Land Development and Governmental Relations group! This gave all of us attending the opportunity to witness not only how a they prepare for presentation to a county or city commission, but also the real interplay of commissioner questions and general public comments that are involved. This provided us with great insight to one of the advocacy components of the specific practice area.

Along with the presentations by attorneys from Bilzin Sumberg, unique perspectives from outside speakers helped our first-year class appreciate the importance of both community involvement and interaction. On Tuesday, a visit from Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava brought close-to-home meaning to more general words like “citizen” and “service.” Commissioner Cava spoke not only of her own triumphs in the greater Miami area, but causes our new attorneys (myself included!) could dedicate time to in an effort to improve areas within the community. Issues such as water conservation, education, and housing were some of the specific areas we discussed as showing plenty of need for local attention and service. A subsequent group discussion of the concept of giving back really enforced the idea that although attorneys serve those who need help with legal concepts, our broader role of assisting others in need extends far beyond law, and well into the community.

Later in the week, Jim Cranston from Law Vision Group hosted a morning session about practice development. Besides reinforcing the importance of networks and business development, Jim introduced us to concepts linking social media networks to professional interactions. It is easy for us to think of the two as necessarily separate, but with LinkedIn, and at times sites like Twitter, the two can truly be merged to foster professional networks and connections! Attorneys at the firm who publish blog posts covering an array of legal topics for example often share their discussions on different platforms to inform members of our own firm and far beyond of the changes in law or other findings. Utilizing these platforms effectively will definitely be helpful in discovering other individuals who are involved in areas related to our practice.

Overall, this week has sparked important ideas and concepts for the beginning of our professional careers as lawyers and also as community-members. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Academy lessons on these two aspects and more!