This year marks the thirteenth year of the Mock Real Estate Transaction at Bilzin Sumberg. But unlike in years past, the Summer Associates and I were not huddled in a large conference room, talking strategy. Instead, we were grouped in Zoom breakout rooms, fleshing out what was most important to the client and how to negotiate our way there while avoiding awkward Zoom silences. The quarantine-appropriate theme for the Mock Transaction is based on Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness.

The Mock Real Estate Transaction provides a hands-on opportunity for summer associates to learn more about real estate transactions and draft relevant documents such as a Letter of Intent, a Contract, and a Closing Statement. To start, Adam Lustig, the Real Estate Practice Group leader, began the virtual meeting with an overview of the multiple phases for a real estate transaction. Real Estate Partner Phillip Sosnow co-hosted the virtual session and dived into a number of details that we would find useful during negotiations as we advocate for our respective clients.

As we were learning the facts of the Mock Transaction via PowerPoint slide, the other Summer Associates and I were surprised to see a video starring Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue. Carole welcomed the summer associates to Bilzin Sumberg and wished the summer associates luck on the Tiger themed mock transaction. Everyone was star-struck and of course, grateful to Jessica for organizing the cameo.

Over the next two weeks, we will have the opportunity to meet with our Mock Transaction Advisors, Alexandra Lehson and L. Kent Koch, to create strategies for the negotiation sessions. We are all looking forward to learning more about the Real Estate practice at Bilzin Sumberg– let’s just hope that the negotiations don’t bring out anyone’s catty side!

This week, my fellow Summer Associates and I started our much-anticipated positions at Bilzin Sumberg. While the coronavirus is keeping us away from the office and out of the Courthouse, Jessica and Betsi have planned an engaging and robust, albeit untraditional, Summer Program. On our opening Zoom call, Jessica and Jay welcomed the six of us to the Firm’s first ever virtual Summer.

Savannah, John, Danielle, Alexa, Andres and I started out the week with two days of Orientation. In various video conferences, we learned quickly to adjust to using our laptops to work from home—a transition made smooth by the Firm’s decision years prior to switch from desktops to laptops. In typical first-day fashion, we also shared a virtual lunch with our mentors.

As my mentor Elise and I caught up over Zoom, I realized that chatting on the phone or video didn’t feel difficult at all—especially months into the pandemic, which has made video chat the new normal. Working from home, in some ways, has made it easier to get on the phone with an attorney whose pre-pandemic schedule may have required them to be out of the office more often. And although some of us are working from different locations (Danielle is in North Carolina, Andres is in New York, Savannah is in Gainesville, and John is in Palm Beach), scheduling coffee break phone calls, Zoom check-ins, and group work sessions has helped recreate the sense of community I came to love last summer.

The coronavirus has generated so many unprecedented challenges to our pre-pandemic ways of working together. Despite these obstacles, however, I am inspired by the resilience I have encountered among the attorneys and the staff at Bilzin Sumberg. This, coupled with the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of my fellow Summer Associates, makes me excited to see what the next few weeks have in store!

The summer associates attend their zoom orientation

Today, we are excited to kick off our virtual summer associate program!

This summer looks a little different than previous summers but, we know the Bilzin Sumberg culture transcends our physical office.  The summer associates can expect a great balance of substantive work, training, mentoring and virtual social events.  We welcome Savannah, Sophi, Danielle, Andres, John, Lexi and look forward to you getting to know them more in the coming weeks!

The first year associates with Judge Leifman after taking the Oath of Attorney

Today, I had the pleasure of witnessing the swearing in ceremony of my 16th group of first year associates.  Because each swearing in is special, I never tire of watching our newest associates take their Oath of Attorney.  It is gratifying to see them transition from summer associate to associate and begin their legal careers.

We owe our gratitude to Judge Leifman, who presided over the ceremony, in the presence of family and friends.  Judge Leifman took a few moments to share with our associates and their loved ones the importance of balancing their careers with the obligation to give back to the community and make a difference, while sharing his personal journey of  contributions to our community.  We couldn’t have asked for a better ending for The Academy.

Congratulations to Ben, Bri & Eric on their admission to the Florida Bar and their successful matriculation from Bilzin Sumberg’s Academy!!  We can’t wait to see how they contribute to our firm and community.

Week 1 of The Academy is in the books, and Ben, Brianna, and I are looking forward to Week 2. We are especially looking forward to taking the Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar and celebrating with our families and colleagues.

Last week our program focused on a broad spectrum of topics, including time-management and professional networking. But the primary focus was on our firm’s culture and commitment to community service. In addition to building our technical proficiency as attorneys, our firm seeks to mold us into leaders who give back to our community. We therefore spent considerable time learning about the various organizations and community projects that our firm is affiliated with.

In fact, Ben, Brianna, and I had the opportunity to spend time with our firm’s managing partner and founding partners over dinner to gain insight into the history, culture, and future of our firm. As part of the discussion, they encouraged us to seek leadership roles with organizations that promote causes we are passionate about.

My colleagues and I are certainly excited for these opportunities. This week, for example, we will visit and learn about more organizations that our firm has partnered with to make our world a better place. We therefore look forward to becoming actively involved within our community

Our group on the field at the Hard Rock Stadium

We have reached the conclusion of another exciting day at Bilzin Sumberg’s Academy! Today was an opportunity for us as incoming first-year associates to sharpen our skills, spend time with other attorneys in the firm, and just have some flat-out fun after having a chance to learn more about getting involved in our community yesterday. Eric, Brianna, and I had two major events on our schedule for Day 4: an extensive morning session with Ed Lintz of Ready to File Writing, and an afternoon trip to Hard Rock Stadium for a meeting with Myles Pistorious, the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Miami Dolphins (fins up, baby) and Hard Rock Stadium. Given that I’m an incoming litigator, and thus likely to be spending a lot of my time researching and writing, and that I am a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan, this was a day I circled from the time we got our schedules for the Academy as one that I was particularly looking forward to. It did not disappoint.

One thing that I can assure you is that there is no need for your morning coffee when you’re working with Ed Lintz. Ed is a human energizer bunny, an exceptional teacher, and a great person who has a quality about him that truly makes you enjoy the process of working on writing. Our workshop with Ed covered a broad range of topics pertaining to legal writing and the practice of law as a young associate, and I feel more prepared now to dive into the deep in next week. We were thrilled that Ed joined the three of us for lunch at Obba Sushi, which is one of the many great restaurants conveniently located a short walk away from our office.

When we returned from lunch, it was time to hop onto the bus for us to travel to Hard Rock Stadium. We were a party of eleven all together, including the firm’s Managing Partner, Albert Dotson, Myles, Marcus Bach Armas (legal & government affairs attorney for the Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium), and Brandon Briggs (associate counsel for the Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium) greeted us when we arrived through the gate at the stadium. The three of them spoke to us for a little bit about their careers before showing us an in-depth media presentation on bidding for major sporting events. As if speaking to Myles, Marcus, and Brandon in a suite overlooking the field at the stadium wasn’t already cool enough, Myles and Marcus graciously took us on a tour of the stadium afterwards. It was a dream come true to get to walk on the Dolphins’ field, go into their locker room, and get an insider’s look into the recent renovations. There is no question that the stadium looks amazing, and it is clear that the Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium have put together a great legal department. Thanks again to Ed for all the help, to Myles, Marcus, and Brandon for hosting us, to Jessica and Al for setting the trip to Hard Rock up, and to Bilzin Sumberg for putting together such a great Academy experience for us.


Eric, Brianna and Ben in front of Lotus House.

The more I get to learn about what it means to be a part of Bilzin Sumberg, the more I learn that the firm is more than just the high quality and complex work that it does, but it is also about the work that it does for the Miami community. As part of the Academy program yesterday, Ben, Eric, and I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Levin and Mimi Klimberg of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation on the importance of charity and involvement with the community. On the third day of the Academy schedule, the other first-year associates and I had the privilege of seeing that discussion realized by visiting the Lotus House Women’s Shelter, which has the incredible task of focusing on homelessness faced by women, children, and LGBT youth.

As part of the visit, we toured the facility and learned about the many services it provides to its guests. Everything from therapy sessions, art classes, salon services, and dance sessions are offered in addition to the standard amenities of housing and meals. I was most intrigued by our tour guide, Beatrice’s, discussion about was how these additional activities, unfortunately not usually offered in other shelters, come together to provide the guests with a sense of dignity and humanity. Many times, these important feelings that define our sense of self are lacking in other shelters due to lack of resources. The Lotus House, through the generosity of Bilzin Sumberg and many other partners within the community, has truly redefined the image of a typical shelter and has been able to provide a wide-range of benefits that go beyond a quick fix and are geared towards the long-term independence of its guests. The Lotus House has even employed innovative techniques to encourage self-sustaining practice. For example, our tour guide showed us a hydroponic gardening chamber, which consisted of using shipping containers to grow vegetables without the use of soil.

 The Lotus House is truly pushing the boundaries on how it is serving the community and our experience there was amazing! I want to thank Bilzin Sumberg and Jessica Buchsbaum for creating that opportunity for us.

After gaining meaningful experience as summer associates at Bilzin Sumberg, Ben, Brianna, and I are excited to return and begin our careers as full-time associates!  We are currently in the midst of The Academy, a program designed to instill in us the values and culture of our firm.  The second day primarily focused on three topics: (1) building professional relationships, (2) contributing to charitable causes, and (3) effectively managing our time.

We began the day with a professional relationship-building seminar led by Tracy LaLonde.  The purpose of professional networking is to develop worthwhile relationships, and Tracy provided us with basic strategies that we can implement throughout our careers to accomplish this.  Our day continued with a presentation that focused on giving back to our community.  Jeff Levin and Mimi Klimberg of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation spoke to us about the importance of making time to contribute to and volunteer with charitable organizations.  They also guided us on how to find organizations that promote specific causes that are personally meaningful to us.  Finally, Grover Cleveland provided us with insightful tips on effective time-management skills, particularly in billing hours.  He also generously provided us with a copy of his book: Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks.  Our day ended with another wonderful meditation session with Oksana Esberard and a Happy Hour with the Recruiting Committee!

Day 2 of The Academy was certainly a success, and the three of us look forward seeing what the rest of the week has in store for us!

Though it seems like just yesterday Eric, Brianna, and I were signing off for the final time as summer associates, everything has come full circle and we have returned to Bilzin Sumberg as full-fledged attorneys. Yesterday, as our first day and the firm’s immersive Academy experience began, the Florida Supreme Court released this year’s results from the Florida Bar, ensuring that the three of us would be officially sworn in as attorneys at the conclusion of the Academy. Once we took a few minutes to review the results and decompress, Scott Baena, Jessica Buchsbaum, and Eric Singer took some time to outline the firm’s culture. Scott spoke about the importance of understanding where we have been and who we are in order to help us plot the course for who we want to be in the future, further emphasizing the need for respect, collegiality, and collaboration amongst the attorneys and staff in the office. Scott is always imparting useful wisdom to us about relationship building, practicing law, career development, and life, so his involvement in the Academy is invaluable to us.


After our introduction to Bilzin Sumberg’s firm culture, we met with Werten Bellamy, President of Stakeholders, Inc. Werten spoke to us about how we can best make ourselves “indispensable” as associates by understanding our relationships with the partners within our firm as well as our clients outside of the firm. Aside from being incredibly energetic and entertaining, Werten’s experience in the field and practical, analogical advice really helped me to picture what my life as an associate could look like and the type of associate I want to be.

Our presentation from Werten was followed by lunch with the first-year associates, Alex Barshel, Hannah Lidicker, Forrest Murphy, Luis Reyes, and Lauren Sabella. Luis scouted out a great Cuban spot for the eight of us to eat, and Eric, Brianna, and I relished the chance to spend some time learning best practices from the young attorneys at the firm who were in our shoes just last year. We are extremely appreciative of all the time Bilzin Sumberg’s attorneys and staff have invested in us, both during our time as summer associates and through our short time in the Academy thus far.

Finally, we concluded our day with a session on mindfulness hosted by Oksana Esberard. This was an interesting and relaxing way to close out our first day. We participated in several breathing exercises designed to calm the body and mind and talked about ways to manage our stress in this profession.

Overall, the Academy and our legal careers are off to exciting starts and I am looking forward to what’s next!

(L to R, Myles Burstein, Brian Trujillo, Forrest Murphy, John Kuhn, Alexandra Lehson)

Last night we had our last practice group outing, and it was awesome. The Real Estate group’s summer associate event was a scavenger hunt in Brickell City Center. We were divided into four teams and the goal was to finish the night with the most amount of points. I was on Team 2 “Team Myles,” but, in all honesty, we were really “Team Ali” (more on this to come). While the true goal of the event was for us to get to know the Real Estate group, the really important thing to tell you is that our team won . . . by a lot. The winning team: Marla Berman, Myles Burstein, Ali Lehson, John Kuhn, Forrest Murphy, and Brian Trujillo (yours truly).

Let me first say some things about the event generally. The four teams were a balanced mix of summer associates, associates, and partners. The rules were simple: the teams had to work through a list of action items, each item was worth a certain amount of points, and the goal was to get as many points as possible in one hour. The list was on an iPad app and the items would prompt us to do things like taking a video or photo of ourselves doing X-thing in front of Y-place, and there were some trivia questions sprinkled in. At the end of the night we would all meet up at La Centrale – Enoteca for food and drinks, and, of course, to announce the winners.

Now, the fun part. Yes, Ali is incredibly competitive, but she is a phenomenal leader. I think the best leaders are the ones who are alongside you in the trenches sharing in the work. And this is precisely what our fearless leader did. She was the first one volunteering to complete some of the challenges, and she was the only one brave enough to do the Elaine Dance. So while Ali made it very clear that we had to win, or risk serious consequences, she carried the team to victory. But truthfully, regardless of the outcome, the whole event was a blast. There is nothing like stopping complete strangers to ask them if we can photobomb their selfies or singing Come Fly With Me to complete strangers.  We also had to do a lot of random dancing. I am proud to say that I still remember the chicken dance, and I also learned that Forrest is a great flosser. I also heard that Sophi had to propose to a stranger – I loathe the fact that I did not see the stranger’s reaction.

All in all, this was a great way to bond with the Real Estate group. At the end of the night we all shared in some great food and funny stories. My takeaway at the end of it all was this: on par with the theme this summer, Bilzin Sumberg is filled with amazing people.