With Miami’s 125th birthday being celebrated this week, it seems only fitting that we look to the new and exciting opportunities in the Miami legal market that make it stand out from other markets in the country. Clearly Miami has always had a strong real estate market, for both residential and commercial purposes and recently, the real estate market has been really ramping up. With a significant influx of new arrivals from New York and California during the COVID-19 pandemic, the local supply of homes and apartments have not been able to keep up with the demand. On top of that, commercial real estate has also certainly seen an uptick as well. As the old saying goes, the official bird of Miami is the crane (of the construction variety) and new developments, like the one we toured earlier this summer at 17 Allapattah, have been going up non-stop. This certainly means that the demand for cutting-edge real estate and transactional attorneys will certainly be very high! These burgeoning developments seem to point to not only substantial growth of the real estate market, but also in the confidence investors have in the future potential of Miami.

This growing confidence has been fueled in no small part by the leadership of our local elected officials like Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Mayor Suarez, who was elected back in 2017, has done a great job promoting Miami as the next tech/finance hub in the country. He’s recently been in the news for his “How Can I Help” campaign, where he assists people and companies in the tech industries move away from the traditional nodes in California and relocate them to sunny South Florida. So far, this has been a tremendous success, with thousands of high earning new jobs popping up here in Miami. With an influx of out-of-town business interests, there again seems to be a clear opportunity for transactional attorneys here in Miami to help guide corporate transitions, build ups and mergers. Another less obvious but still very exciting potential for the local Miami legal market is the demand for government relations attorneys. Many people and companies who will want to do business with the government here in Miami will need seasoned and expert advice in doing so, as anyone who has worked with government here can tell you.

Finally, one of the niche tech interests that have started making its way to Miami is crypto-currency. This brand new area in finance and tech is sure to change the way we think about money, both in the personal and commercial aspect. As of yet, there is no firmly established center for crypto development and implementation; there is no “Silicon Valley” for Bitcoin, in other words. With that understanding, Mayor Suarez has attempted to attract this emerging industry to set itself up here in Miami and that has immense implications for the local legal community. As an emerging technology with immensely wide ranging applications, there is a dearth of established law regarding it. Miami is in a position to become a center of the emerging crypto jurisprudence, which will no doubt involve transactional, litigation, and government relations attorneys and in this way, Miami can be to crypto what Delaware is to corporate law. Local firms that can recognize this and prepare themselves accordingly, may very well be able to attract some of the biggest upcoming tech clients; the next Facebook, or Google. I, for one, look forward to being a young attorney in such a dynamic environment.

A few months ago, prior to my interview with Bilzin Sumberg, I remember meticulously combing through the company website in an effort to do my due diligence. When I stumbled upon the page dedicated to the Managing Partner, I read the contents carefully but with the expectation that I would never meet someone so important to the company. Needless to say Bilzin Sumberg had other plans for me.

Early one Friday morning at the office, I rushed downstairs to retrieve something, but I was stopped by the familiar countenance of a gentleman as he exited the elevator. Despite the mask that covered half of his face, and the fact that his height necessitated that I crane my neck at an ungodly angle upwards to observe him from a full foot below in my work heels, I could not shake the feeling that I knew this man from somewhere. As my brain sifted through the rolodex of Bilzin Sumberg faces and names, I idled at the entrance to the elevator, absentmindedly blocking it. As the man glided out of the elevators and down the hall, it finally dawned on me! My mouth hung open under my mask as I stared at his back with owl-like eyes stuttering in an attempt to ask him if he was, indeed, the Managing Partner of the firm. Perhaps Al heard my incoherent stammering and felt me staring intently at his back because he turned ’round and coolly introduced himself to me. Thankfully, I remembered my name correctly and somehow managed to introduce myself.

A few weeks later, Liz reached out to the Summer Associates and scheduled one-on-one chats with Al. This time, I came perfectly prepared to talk to Al about Al: I watched countless interviews, read numerous articles, and even looked into an obscure little sport called basketball. No amount of research prior to our meeting could have prepared me for the actual meeting. Bilzin Sumberg’s Managing Partner is so personable and relatable I did not need a single prepared topic, and once again I walked away from the meeting having experienced something outside of my realm of expectations. I left with a new understanding of mentor/mentee relationships, a deeper appreciation for the significance of leadership and community involvement, and an entirely unfounded speculation that Al somehow has Barack Obama on speed dial.

By the time I attended the group lunch that Liz so graciously arranged for us, the jitters from the elevator had long since dissipated like smoke. For the first time, I approached my seat at the table with no identifiable expectations–only an an open mind and genuine excitement to be in the presence of those attending. Al, Anthony, David, Joe, Lucas and I chatted like old friends, and I knew based on the atmosphere that I was not the only one who walked away impressed and amazed at Bilzin Sumberg’s Managing Partner, and Anthony’s stellar life advice. I am extremely grateful that my time here has allowed me to experience so many things that were beyond the scope of my imagination. These past eight weeks have truly been an expected, yet unexpected delight.

Last Friday, the summer associates and I participated in a drafting seminar led by Real Estate Practice Group partners, Tim DeKeyser and Marty Schwartz. This seminar focused on the importance of clear and concise prose that is free of legalese, ambiguities, and inconsistencies. Typically, in oral conversation, real estate lawyers are able to express a particular position or thought clearly and succinctly. However, when it comes to drafting legal documents, legalese seems to be the prevailing standard of communication.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of legalese, let me take you back to your 9th grade English class. It’s 9:00 am on a Monday and your reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet that was published in the 17th Century. Frustratingly, didn’t you ever wonder: who on earth would ever speak like this? Well to answer your question, many lawyers still do—particularly when it comes to legal writing. Many times, legal agreements begin with a preliminary statement referred to as “Witnesseth,” continue with several “Whereas” clauses, and conclude with “In Witness Whereof.”  Affidavits regularly are concluded with the statement: “Further Affiant Sayeth Naught.”

Tim and Marty are on a mission to eliminate legalese from the practice of law. Legal concepts can be communicated by lawyers in words that regular people understand. After Tim’s presentation, the summer associates and I put our new found skills to work as we revised contractual provisions that were plagued with ambiguities and legalese. Working through these examples with Bilzin Sumberg partners was an impactful learning experience. As our summer program concludes in a few days, I cannot help but feel an immense amount of gratitude to Bilzin Sumberg for the opportunity. This summer, I was certainly proud to be judged by the company I kept.

The Kahoot! leaderboard with Danielle Hall (Queen D) coming in 1st, Nathifa Parker (Tifa) coming in 2nd, and John Trach (John) coming in 3rd.
The Kahoot! leaderboard with Danielle Hall (Queen D) coming in 1st, Nathifa Parker (Tifa) coming in 2nd, and John Trach (John) coming in 3rd.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this summer, it’s that competition runs deep at Bilzin Sumberg. No, that’s not in reference to the work environment, which has been exceptionally collaborative, but instead the different activities planned for this summer. Take for example our in-person scavenger hunt at Brickell City Centre or our virtual trivia night with the Litigation practice group. The most recent iteration of the firm sparking our competitive nature was the Summer Associate Two Truths Kahoot! event.

On Thursday night, the Summer Associates gathered virtually for a Kahoot! game night. Jessica Buchsbaum served as our game master and asked us to send our two truths ahead of time to prepare for the event.

The game started with David sharing his Puerto Rican heritage and a photo of his abuela. After question one, David obviously had the lead with John following closely behind. Other truths included Joe meeting Justin Bieber in Sao Paulo, Danielle riding a jet ski in Mexico, Lucas finishing making macaroons from scratch at 3:30AM, John’s first time on Brickell Ave. being for a commercial, Nathifa liking uncooked baked goods over their cooked counterparts, and Jessica being quoted in the Economist.

Eight questions and a few technological glitches later, Danielle took the lead from John. After Danielle shared that her first job was a tutor at Kumon, we took a brief pause to discuss everyone’s first jobs. The responses ranged everywhere from Burger King to PacSun.

A standout moment for me were the reactions following Nathifa’s truth of unironically loving elevator music. This was the one time where everyone guessed the right person with an uncanny speed. She immediately asked why it appeared so obvious, to which everyone responded that her sentence structure/phrasing gave it away. A minor detail for sure, but something I did not think I would gather about my fellow Summer Associates at week one.

At the end, Danielle won with a considerable lead (just a modest 2,728 points). In her congratulatory speech, she mentioned how she knew David the longest but still managed to learn new things about him. With 12/16 truths correctly guessed, she got a coveted gift card.

The event was a nice way for us to get to know one another more and share some stories about our lives that may not have come up in another setting. It’s strange to think that we all have been at Bilzin Sumberg for seven weeks now and are on our last week. As excited as I am to continue our competitive streak at our Top Golf farewell event this week, it’s hard to do so knowing this summer is coming to a close. As Queen B said (the inspiration for Danielle’s Kahoot! persona – Queen D), “though it’s hard, so hard, we’ve got to say goodbye.”

(L to R Joseph Beguiristain, David Jessup, Jr., Hannah Lidicker, Danielle Hall and Martin Schwartz)
(L to R Joseph Beguiristain, David Jessup, Jr., Hannah Lidicker, Danielle Hall and Martin Schwartz)

Concisely: life looks different for all of us in 2021. As past blog posts by my peers have illustrated, Bilzin Sumberg has adapted. Saron Musa noted in her recent post that the firm’s Women’s Book Club found its way to Zoom, and summer social events, from mojito making to terrarium building, have followed. At a time when employers are announcing “back-to-office” plans and headlines are reporting these decisions with gusto, I found myself engaged in something akin to yesteryear’s watercooler conversation.

On the heels of the mock real estate transaction*, I knew I wanted to learn more about Bilzin Sumberg’s Real Estate Practice Area. After a lunch meeting with Partner Martin (Marty) Schwartz and Mid-Level Associate Hannah Lidicker, I was invited to join a client call. Side note: if you’re a Miami Law student, word on the street is that Marty will add “Professor” to his nameplate this fall. If you’re interested in real estate law, you don’t want to miss this chance to learn from a leader in the field. Back to that client call, Marty and Hannah also extended invitations to Joe Beguiristain and Danielle Hall. The three of us dialed in, listened, and took notes. While I cannot speak for Joe or Danielle, I can tell you that I ended the call with more questions than answers. Continue Reading Watercooler Conversations in 2021

When Jessica first sent out the summer event calendar, one event in particular had me excited—bourbon tasting with the Real Estate group!

As the event approached, I could hardly keep myself from opening the three bottles of bourbons that arrived at my door step a few days prior to the tasting. I really have to hand it the Real Estate Practice Group Leader, Adam Lustig, for inspiring such a terrific event!

The tasting was run by Kentucky Spirits Ltd., a virtual bourbon tasting company that launched in the middle of Covid as an offshoot of Hartfield and Co. Distillery. The founder of both companies, Andrew, led us on a bourbon tasting journey from three different distillers, sampling bottles that he hand selected.

As luck would have it, Bilzin Sumberg has a bourbon savant of our own on staff in Real Estate Partner, Timothy P. DeKeyser. Tim ostensibly served as our moderator for the evening and skillfully led our guide Andrew with insider questions.

Continue Reading Bourbon by Any Other Name: Would It Taste As Sweet?

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.

As the summer program makes it past the half-way mark, we summer associates have talked to many attorneys who have generously offered us their perspectives and tips for success. Their experiences and insights have been invaluable in helping us understand the profession in a much more grounded and hands-on manner. One of the attorneys who spoke to us, and did so in a really cool way, was Marshall Pasternack. We all met Marshall during the virtual Ireland tour, but last Friday, he spoke to us to give his perspective. He gave us pointers on things that, in his experience, made the practice of law more meaningful but also could, and should, be applied to life.

His first morsel of wisdom was that, although the legal profession was inherently adversarial, it needn’t be nasty and unpleasant. In other words, we should strive to be nice to others, even if they’re the ones sitting across from us in a lawsuit. To this point, he told us a story about how he ended up becoming friends with an opposing lawyer at a negotiation and eventually went to his wedding. The next piece of advice was about how we should never judge a book by its cover, and Marshall told a very funny story about how he once went to a meeting with two other men and one of the guys was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Marshall naturally assumed this person was the client and not the lawyer but he was wrong; the shorts wearing lawyer then proceeded to lose his mind and storm out of the meeting, leaving his client behind!

The last piece of Marshall’s advice is apparently so well known, that Jessica was the one to say it for him. This was, “every shot not taken is a goal not scored” and to accompany this insight, he told us one of the coolest stories I’ve heard. At one point in Marshall’s travels, he visited Monet’s gardens at Giverny, where he saw the famous bridge with the water lilies. Fast forward to a time when him and his then girlfriend went to a museum and saw Monet’s Water Lilies and the Japanese Bridge and Marshall mentioned how great it would be to get married on that bridge, and so, for the heck of it, he called the organization who ran the Gardens and asked if he could. Amazingly, they said yes! Eventually he did get married there and even had his marriage painted by an artist who was there and by happenstance, was paining the bridge.

The stories Marshall told us spoke to not just his experiences as a lawyer but also in life, and I think that’s why it resonated with me. He spoke of how to make our work meaningful but also how we should remember to pay attention to our personal lives, enriching it with travel, friends, and experiences. I really enjoyed hearing him talk about these important issues and I hope to hear more from him soon!

It’s official: everyone who steps foot in Miami must guzzle Mojitos. It’s the lifeblood of the city. Why else would there be no mint in the third grocery store in a row that I stopped at? As minty conspiracy theories whirred around the inside of my noggin, I made a desperate, last-minute stop at a Publix. Thankfully, they had the perennial herb in question. No facet of the Nathifa who breezed out of the store with the last container of viable mint could have prepared herself for what she saw once she entered her apartment–her roommate twirling through an 80s aerobics workout tape. Needless to say Thursday night desk mojitos were on the menu.

Continue Reading Mojitos: The Lifeblood of Miami

With a little more than half of the summer under our belts, the Summer Associates have attended everything from Department-specific social events, attorney spotlights, client spotlights, and weekly Wellness Workshops. So many events have left us with a deeper appreciation for Bilzin Sumberg outside of just the great work we get to do. Even so, I have to say the monthly Women’s Book Club and the virtual Juneteenth event hosted by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee were standout events for me.

From a young age I was always an avid reader and enjoyed getting lost in a good story. Books became a form of escapism for me and simultaneously a great way to casually learn English grammar. Although, with the start of law school reading for fun slowly made its way down my list of priorities. Thankfully, last week I got an email from Ilana Drescher inviting myself, Danielle Hall, and Nathifa Parker to hop on a Zoom call for a monthly Book Club. She reassured me that reading the book was not a prerequisite and I should just attend to get a feel for the event and chat with some of the participants. I logged on to be greeted by smiling faces and lively conversations about The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth and Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. We started with Malibu Rising, with Alexandra Lehson making a comment about the real estate value of the house, to which Michelle Weber poked fun at Alexandra for using her professional background to critique the book. During the discussion of The Good Sister, Jessica Buchsbaum mentioned the plot twist and everyone gave their opinions on if they thought it was predictable or not. At the end of the meeting, I was sold on reading both books and could not wait to attend the next meeting for What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon (which has been an excellent pick so far). With my involvement in Emory’s Legal Association of Women Students, it was nice to find a similar environment at Bilzin Sumberg and get to connect with people at the firm who shared a love for books. The event left me with a renewed faith in my ability to read for fun and also a potential idea to bring back to my law school!

Similarly, the Juneteenth event hosted by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee reminded me a lot of the extracurricular activities I am involved with at Emory. The panel was moderated by Marshall Pasternack where he talked to influential and impressive Black leaders in South Florida about tackling social injustice and racial bias. Towards the end of the event, A Personal Pledge by Dr. Tricia Rose was shared and participants pledged to not feel guilty for any of the potential privileges they carry but instead redirect their energy to meaningfully contribute to a just society. The event left me with a lot of hope and a lot of questions about Bilzin Sumberg’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. In a Zoom call with Adrian Felix, the chairperson of the DEI committee, I asked him about the future of DEI and what we can reasonably expect in the next few years. Likewise, Jennifer Fine told me all about her own involvement with the DEI committee through her subcommittee as well as discussed the importance of giving back. It was almost impossible to stifle my excitement for all the ways I could continue my involvement with DEI! At Emory, I got involved with our Black Law Students Association and worked with our Student Bar Association to craft a living anti-racism guide (something I see mirrored in Bilzin Sumberg’s own involvement with the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance). I can say that it feels really great to be in a work environment that encourages DEI and continues to want to grow and learn in that area.

At week five (almost six, can you believe it?!) I’m left with a lot of great memories and momentum to continue my passions on top of balancing my workload. I could not have asked for better opportunities to connect with people who share my interests and look forward to cultivating those interests some more in the next few weeks.