Last week, the land-use group had their summer event, a boat tour of Biscayne Bay and Stiltsville with History Miami’s resident historian, Dr. Paul George. We all met up at the marina at Bayside, hopped on a boat, and off we went. As soon as we pulled out of the marina, Dr. George began discussing the long and fascinating history of downtown Miami, beginning with Bayfront park. For example, did you know that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech at Bayfront shortly after he was elected, and at that speech, someone in the crowd fired five shots towards the stands? Luckily the president was uninjured, but the Mayor of Chicago, who was in attendance, was mortally wounded. As we sailed south into the mouth of the Miami River in Brickell, Dr. George discussed the history of development in Miami, pointing out many of the shiny buildings and upcoming developments in the Brickell area. What was very entertaining was the fact that Bilzin land use attorneys were involved in almost every building or development pointed out by Dr. George. As we circled back from the mouth of the river, Dr. George pointed out one of, if not the oldest, archeological site in south Florida, the Miami Circle. It was the first evidence of prehistorical human presence in the Miami area; it has been dated to about 2,000 years ago! Hopefully, at least that part of the Brickell area will remain undeveloped.

Next we sailed south along the coast as Dr. George explained the history of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Interestingly the two areas were originally a coconut plantation, but when industrialist named William J. Matheson bought the land, he began developing it for residential living. In fact, much of the land in the north and south end of the Key was donated by the Matheson family to create what is now Crandon and Bill Baggs Park. An interesting tidbit was that fact that during the Nixon administration, the president had a home in Key Biscayne where he spent much of his time. So much so, that is was unofficially called the Winter White House. Finally as we passed the southern tip of Bill Baggs Park, we could see Stiltsville. The first structure out in the Biscayne Bay was built in the early 1930’s and over time a small community of stilted structures appeared, forming a bohemian community of sorts. There were 27 bars, casinos, and even residences at its peak, but after many years, and many hurricanes, only 6 structures remain. The area is now managed by the Stiltsville trust, and you can even book a stay in one of the structures for a fee; seems like a good idea for the next summer event!

Things are starting to heat up… and I don’t just mean the weather. The Summer Program here at Bilzin Sumberg is in full swing! This past weekend, the Summer Associates were invited to Mitch Widom’s house in The Keys for a party with the firm’s Litigation Practice Group, and there couldn’t have been a better way to mark the midway point of our Summer Program.

We took off from Bilzin Sumberg’s Brickell office in a party bus. The drive flew by as we enjoyed great conversation and music. Shout out to Brianna Sainte for doing a great job on the AUX cord! Once we arrived at Mitch’s house, we received a warm welcome to the party with delicious appetizers and drinks. My fellow Summer Associates and I were made to feel a part of the Bilzin Sumberg family immediately, which only made the rest of the night even more fun. It’s hard to say what was better about the dinner: the gorgeous scenery in the backyard area where we were seated, or the incredible food that was served. My vote will have to be for the Seafood Paella!

As we round out the month of June, it is becoming more surreal that the Summer is quickly passing by. Jessica Buchsbaum wasn’t kidding when she told us that the Summer was going to fly by on our first day. Though the program will soon be over, the relationships we are all building are ones to last. The wonderful time we had in the Keys with the Litigation group has further solidified that.

Thank you to Mitch Widom and Alicia, his wife, for welcoming us all to your home. The food, ambiance, and scenery made the party one to remember. Yet, the best part was the company. It is very clear why Bilzin Sumberg is “Proud to be Judged by the Company We Keep.”

One large boardroom. Two teams of five summer associates. All ready to get to business.

This week, Bilzin Sumberg kicked off the Mock Real Estate Transaction with the help of Real Estate partners Sara Barli Herald and Phillip Sosnow. Given that Bilzin Sumberg’s award-winning real estate practice group is among the largest in Florida (with most recent accolades from the Daily Business Review and Chambers USA), it makes sense that the summer associates get an inside look into this practice.

For most of the summer associates, the mock real estate transaction is their first exposure to real estate. While Sarah Carraher and I are far from experts in the field, we had a slight advantage coming in. Last week, we had the opportunity to join a few client calls with Partner Martin (Marty) Schwartz on a complex commercial real estate deal. Fortunately for everyone else, Sarah and I ended up on opposite teams.

With guidance from our coach Manny Gonzalez, Aaron Finkel, Lucas Pizzutti, Ariana Wagner, and I are representing Lazaro Gonzalez (Top Gun Maverick LLC), the buyer. Megan Barney, Savannah Bergeron, Ridgana Bonne-Anne, and Sarah Carraher represent Carlos Markovich (Rogue Nation, LLC), the seller, with advice from their coach Alexandra Lehson. Thank you Jessica for the creative hypothetical, which convinced us summers that we now need to watch both Top Gun films.

Although we only have one session under our belts, I can confidently say we applied Sara’s advice in our negotiations. We cooperated to get the best deal for our clients, instead of treating the negotiation as a zero-sum game. Stay tuned to see how the contract and closing go!

The most impressive thing about 1450 Brickell isn’t the lavish furniture, the assortment of food within walking distance, or its proximity to the water- it’s the culture. When I was applying to law firms for this summer, I received a lot of advice from classmates, alum, and especially career services, about what makes a firm a good fit. For some it’s the opportunities, the location, or that inexplicable fit. Many often settle in one regard to improve another. For me, Bilzin Sumberg has checked all the boxes.

When I spoke to interviewers about their experiences and the “vibe” they got from the Firm, they all echoed the same idea. Bilzin was not the soulless, corporate machine you see depicted in movies. It had character and soul beyond that of any ordinary, cookie-cutter firm. When I spoke to a past Summer, they really honed in on the general, pleasant ambiance that the Firm emanated. So pleasant in fact, that they Summered twice and are coming back full-time, as have many of the Summers I had the pleasure of reading through this blog. Their main takeaway for me though was the Firm’s unique position- far removed from the infamous New York, rotating door, poor work-life balance situation, a fact that several Associates have also echoed during my time here.

When I was interviewing for the position, I was told that if you wanted professional development from a job- like a mentor- and they weren’t willing or able to give you those opportunities, that may not be the place for you. Through the Firm’s single office structure and culture, not only have I had an awesome mentor assigned to me, but opportunity has been abundant. There are no phone calls with attorneys from other offices, whom you’ve likely never met. Nor do you receive constant work from other cities because your firm is located in Miami but primarily deals with out-of-state matters.

It’s also likely this same formula for success that has made many call the Firm a family. This was made especially clear to me at the first week’s reception, where everyone came together to let their hair down and get to know the Summers better. You could tell that everyone was already acquainted with one another, either in their own practice group, through interdisciplinary work, or just because they got along. They were webs that formed a family.

The culture at Bilzin was one of the big drawing points for me to apply and accept the position. It was demonstrated by those I interviewed and interacted with, and echoed by everyone I’ve spoken to during my time here. To anyone reading this blog while applying, as I did, and wondering if Bilzin would be a good fit for you, 9 times out of 10, the answer is yes.

(L to R Alani Fraga, Aaron Finkel and Lazaro Gonzalez)

Last Thursday evening, Bilzin Sumberg’s 2022 Summer Associates donned aprons and took part in an interactive cooking demonstration at Two Chefs. With the help of the restaurant’s cooks, we each prepared a dish for our group’s dinner. The menu featured shrimp cocktail, assorted flatbread pizzas, burgers, tuna tartare, salad, risotto, salmon, steak, and of course, chocolate soufflé.

We were joined by several alumni of the Summer Associate program, including Lori Lustrin (Litigation partner), Ben Mitchel (my summer mentor and a Litigation associate), Brianna Sainte (Litigation associate), Alani Fraga (Real Estate associate), and David Jessup (Land Use & Zoning/Environmental associate). We were also joined by Jessica Buchsbaum, Bilzin Sumberg’s Chief Legal Talent Officer.

As we prepared our meal and dined together, I couldn’t help but think of Bilzin Sumberg’s motto: “Proud to be Judged by the Company We Keep.” I was certainly proud to be in the company of my colleagues. Over the past three weeks, the 2022 Summer Associate class has grown into a close-knit team. As we’ve participated in events, tackled joint assignments, and attended professional development seminars, we’ve gotten to know each other well.

Beyond the Summer Associates, the entire firm team has welcomed us with open arms and a sense of camaraderie that I’ve come to learn is classic Bilzin Sumberg. It’s been a pleasure to meet so many members of the firm family, from senior partners to the talented staff. In just the first few weeks of the summer, I’ve joined several attorneys for lunches and “tag-alongs,” and additional ones are scheduled for the upcoming weeks. These have been excellent opportunities to learn about Bilzin Sumberg’s growing practice groups and collegial firm culture.

Our assignments have been interesting and challenging, ranging from case law research using innovative tools to the drafting of transactional documents. So far, I’ve explored several specialties, including antitrust and appellate litigation, as well as corporate restructuring. Along the way, we’ve benefitted from the mentorship of the attorneys, particularly our associate mentors (shout out to Ben). I’ve also picked up on some helpful practice tips that are simply not taught in law school.

Our evening at Two Chefs was a great way to wrap up the third week and celebrate the connections we’ve forged at Bilzin Sumberg thus far. I look forward to the rest of the summer and cannot wait to continue meeting more of my colleagues. And to Teodora and Megan, excellent job on the chocolate soufflé!

This past Thursday the Bilzin Sumberg Real Estate Practice Group hosted an event for the Summer Associates at Top Golf in Miami Gardens. Sharing food, drinks, and the game of golf made the Summers feel like part of the team already!

While some of us were better suited to chatting and enjoying a beautiful Miami evening, some of the attorneys showed off their golfing skills- shout out to Daniel Bumm’s impressive swing! Helping us perfect our form and actually make contact with the golf ball was Megan Barney- our unofficial golfing coach.

Regardless of whether you’re a natural Phil Mickelson, golf has undeniably become a networking skill in the legal industry. So, I thought I’d highlight a few reasons that anyone in the legal field should start brushing up on their golf skills.

Firstly, being able to have business related conversations in a relaxing golf course setting is invaluable to fostering comradery among co-workers and improve office culture. This was evident to me while chatting with Hannah Lidicker!

Secondly, golf is a detailed game that requires focus, attention to detail, and practice. This means that improving your golf game nurtures the skills that make a good lawyer, making it a worthwhile self-growth challenge.

Lastly, even though golf doesn’t necessarily require much physical exercise, it can help improve your fitness to ditch the golf cart and enjoy a brisk walk from hole to hole. It also doesn’t hurt that the Miami area has some of the most beautiful golf courses in the country.
Overall, the Real Estate group’s Top Golf event gave us all a much appreciated evening of conversation, relaxation, and bonding. We are all looking forward to more exciting practice group events like this one!

Every year, tons of plastic ends up in the ocean and the thought is that, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish. With this thought in mind, it was a rewarding experience as a summer associate at Bilzin Sumberg to provide assistance to the local community through a volunteer beach cleanup event hosted by SFALP.

We gathered together, bright and early, at Key Biscayne beach and with our buckets in hand, we were off to restore the beach to its natural beauty. We split into a few smaller groups so that we could cover as much ground as possible. Our cleanup revealed many bottle caps, glass, fishing lines, plastic bags, cigarette buds, straws, and canned drinks. These items come from various sources, but the number one source is street-based litter from people who throw out trash that makes its way into the ocean.

While the experience was rewarding, it was also concerning because clean beaches improve coastal and ocean ecosystems, our oxygen comes from plant life in the ocean, and many animals, like sea turtles, die when they mistake the plastic for food. That is why, it should be everyone’s mission to help reduce the toxins that disrupt aquatic life. My suggestions are:

#1 – Instead of single-use plastic products, like water bottles, purchase reusable water bottles and straws, bring your own reusable bag when shopping, and recycle.
#2 – Reduce your carbon footprint by turning off the water while you brush your teeth or wash the dishes, taking efficient showers, and limiting waste.
#3 – Volunteer! and encourage others to help keep the beaches clean too!

Some of my fellow summer associates weighed in on the importance of volunteering and the rewarding experience we had together:

“Volunteering is a nice way to serve the community while getting to know others [the Summer Associates] better!” – Sarah Carraher

“I appreciated the sense of community volunteering built! Seeing everyone work together toward a common goal was very rewarding.” – Savannah Bergeron

“Volunteering was a nice way to learn more about one another in a setting outside of the office that I think helped solidify the community we are building within the office!” – Ariana Wagner

Whichever decisions, whether big or small, that you decide to contribute in making a difference, I leave you with this quote:

“Of course one person can change the world! There wouldn’t be anyone named Alexander, if it wasn’t for Alexander the Great” – Carlos Markovich

 

(L to R Ridgana Bonne-Annee, Sarah Carraher, Teodora Maftei, Lucas Pizzutti)

When I received the phone call letting me know that I had been offered a summer associate position at Bilzin Sumberg, I was so excited that I truthfully don’t recall many details of the conversation after I heard, “We’d like to offer you a position this summer.” I do, however, remember hearing that, as a summer associate, I’d probably be going out to lunch with other members of the firm almost, if not every day, that work was in person, mostly because I figured that was a bit of hyperbole. Attorneys are busy professionals, after all.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. So far into the summer, all of the summer associates have been taken out to some excellent lunch places close to the office by even more excellent people. So, for any future summer associates reading, and for anyone who wants an idea for where to go to lunch or who just happen to be hungry right now, I’ve created an unofficial guide to the most popular restaurants close to the office.

1. Obba Sushi
You’ve heard it here first: 5/10 summer associates rank Obba Sushi as their favorite lunch place so far. That’s because Obba is just a short walk from the office, is right on the water, and has a gigantic menu, so there’s an option for anyone, including vegetarians and vegans.

All the summers went to Obba in a group, accompanied by Jessica Buchsbaum, on our second day of work, and I was fortunate to go today again, along with Jennifer Wioncek and Lazaro Gonzalez, another summer associate. Jennifer shared some career wisdom with Lazaro and I, and it was fascinating to hear her describe how the pandemic affected the legal market for tax and estates.

If you go to Obba, I definitely recommend getting one of the lunch specials. The sushi rolls there are too good to choose just one!

2. Edge Steak and Bar
Edge is a farm-to-table steakhouse across the street from the office. The food is really tasty and very high-quality, and there are a few options for vegetarians, too. If the weather is nice (which it normally is here in sunny South Florida), I definitely recommend sitting outside on the patio. I’ve gone to Edge twice now, once with Alex Barshel, my mentor, and another time with Claudia Capdesuñer. Since I’m interested in environmental law, Alex and I were able to talk about what her practice group has been working on recently and some projects I can get work on with them. Both Alex and Claudia were able to share some general advice about the transition from law school to working at a law firm, too, which was really helpful to hear my first week working.

3. Joe and the Juice
Joe and the Juice is a quick sandwich, smoothie, and coffee shop. Their packaging and marketing is on point with cute pink boxes and logos, and their iced lattes are great for an afternoon pick-me-up. The cakes and cookies also seem enticing, but I don’t know if they hold a candle to the delicious desserts Jessica Buchsbaum and Paul Van Der Meer made for this year’s bake-off.

4. PM Fish and Steak House
PM Fish and Steak House gets the highest walkability score out of all of the places. It’s the closest restaurant to the office, and it has the coolest décor and landscaping out of all the restaurants I’ve been to so far. The portions are really big, so make sure you go hungry if you make lunch plans there! PM Fish has the least meat-free options out of the different restaurants, but the appetizers are delicious, which I found out after John Chibbaro scheduled an impromptu happy hour for all of the summers to go to and ordered a feast of fries, cheese dip, and empanadas. I definitely recommend the spinach empanadas. PM Fish is the runner-up for summers’ favorite place so far.

Other honorable mentions: Dimitrio’s Cuisine for food that feels both healthy and hearty, and Paperfish Sushi for the best ambience!

The first week at Bilzin has started the summer off on a high note! Let’s start Da Capo (“from the beginning”). We were graciously invited to kick off the summer at the firm’s 2022 annual party. The warm reception we received that night assured me that the summer was going to be a positive experience. From associates, to managers, to partners, to the managing partner, no one missed a beat in welcoming us. One of the best things about that night was that I was seated next to my amazing mentor, Stephanie. I could not have gotten luckier! She made me feel comfortable right away. All of the mentors have been instrumental in making us feel included and providing support, whether it be with work advice or facilitating group lunches. The mentors are grounded and approachable, which is indicative of Bilzin’s composition and culture as a whole. Everyone wants to see us succeed. But more than that, they truly want to get to know us!

Maybe you’ve heard about the “Summer Associate fifteen.” Basically, we get fed. Lunch, dinner, Happy hour. While that part of it has been great, the real hook comes from the people we get to meet at these events, who are gracious enough to share their wisdom and advice. What has really struck a chord is all of the attorneys’ willingness to include us. It is clear that Bilzin’s attorneys’ openness and collaborative nature is the key to its success. I’ve been out to lunch with several associates and even partners. This may not seem like a big deal but these attorneys are extremely busy and the fact that they will take time out of their day just to get to know my fellow Summer Associates and I means a lot and has already added enormous value to the summer. Speaking of my fellow Summers, what an awesome ensemble! Everyone is so positive, humble and kind and even though it’s just the beginning, we are already harmonizing as a team really well.

While we are still finding our rhythm with work assignments, finding out way around the office, and working the technology, I can say that the people at Bilzin have set the tone for the summer to be positive, edifying and exciting!

(L to R Stephanie Koutsodendris, Raquel Fernandez, Melissa Pallett-Vasquez, Megan Barney, Brianna Sainte)

 

 

Summer is here again and so is another class of summer associates! This summer, however is particularly special for me, for two reasons: First, it is Bilzin’s first in-person summer program since before the Covid pandemic. Second, it is my second summer here at Bilzin! I can remember clearly back when I first received the offer to come work here for my first summer; I was ecstatic! Now, over a year later that feeling remains. Being in-person is just the cherry on top of everything. The hustle and bustle of the office and being able to meet people who I met via Zoom last year made the wait worthwhile. The planned events for this year also seem incredibly fun and have caused a buzz with all my fellow summer associates. We are particularly looking forward to a weekend in the Keys!

On that point, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to my fellow summers. This year’s group is exciting and vibrant, and you can feel their energy in the air as they walk through the halls. I’m very glad that I will be able to share this summer experience with them. To my fellow summers, take the opportunity to meet as many people as you can, I speak from experience when I say there is no friendlier group of lawyers. And to the attorneys, reach out to us for lunch! I again speak from experience when I say it makes our day when someone invites us out to lunch. I even hear you get a free meal out of it!

This summer is also special because it’s my second time back. It was great to see so many familiar faces, and to meet so many new ones. Last summer was certainly an incredible experience for me, since I got to learn a tremendous amount of what lawyers do on a day-to-day basis, and this year I’m excited to help out this new class of summers in any way I can with what I learned last year. All in all, I am grateful and excited to be back working with a great group of people, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!