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.

Throughout the summer we have been reminded of how important it is to build relationships throughout the community — someone who truly embodies this statement is Scott Baena. Last week, my fellow summer associates and I had the chance to have lunch with Scott at Seaspice. With a beautiful view of the Miami River and over some delicious seafood, we chatted about Scott’s journey to Miami, the most memorable parts of our summer so far, and the challenges associated with transitioning from law school to practicing attorneys. However, the conversation that resonated with me the most was Scott’s advice regarding professional development.

Scott is actively involved in The Academy. The Academy is a two-week training program for first year associates which focuses on the development of critical professional and intrapersonal skills. Of specific focus is relationship building. Scott explained to us that during the Academy, he emphasizes the importance of building relationships as soon as possible in your legal career. He explained to us that the relationships you build are invaluable. Not only can these relationships lead to potential business, but most importantly, they help keep you grounded. Accordingly, Scott prefers to think of professional development as building meaningful relationships, not as solely generating business.

A way to build these relationships is by joining organizations throughout the community. However, as Scott pointed out, in order to build meaningful relationships, you have to join organizations that you are passionate about/ share in their vision. In addition, Scott differentiated between professional organizations and organizations in which you simply have an interest in.

Because professional development is not something really talked about in law school, my fellow summers and I are very appreciative of Scott’s wisdom and advice. Accordingly, I know that I have began thinking about what organizations I would like to join in the near future as a way to build relationships.

 

 

In the final weeks of the summer associate program, we had the opportunity to debrief with an experienced attorney at the firm—Marshall Pasternack. In his infamous “10 at 3” meeting, Marshall took time out of his busy day to share some of the things he’s learned throughout his career with myself and the other summer associates. At Bilzin Sumberg, people call these “Marshall-isms,” and they have been invaluable to our experience and growth as lawyers-in-training. There are too many to list, but some of the Marshall-isms that caught my attention include:

  1. When given a new assignment or matter, learn everything you can about the client and the context for the problem to be addressed. In other words, don’t perform your work in a vacuum.
  2. Practicing law is adversarial, but it doesn’t have to be antagonistic. Just because you sit on the opposite side of the negotiating table or argue for opposite resolutions in court doesn’t mean you have to treat opposing counsel poorly.
  3. The two most important things for a young lawyer: be reliable and be dependable. Your word is everything. Safely guard it.
  4. Be interested. Be interesting. Be inquisitive. People connect well with those who care. Be someone who cares.
  5. At the end of the day, all you have is your reputation. Protect it.
  6. Find a mentor and be a mentor.
  7. Ask for and embrace constructive criticism. It is vital for your development.
  8. Take pride in your work. Everything you touch carries your professional “DNA.” Make sure that when people view your work, they see quality product.
  9. A shot not taken is a goal not scored. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
  10. Manage expectations. This is key. It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.

Marshall offered many other insights, but the theme stayed consistent throughout: be respectful, be engaged, guard your reputation, and take chances. As you can see, many of these tips apply not just to work, but to life in general. As a young person about to embark on my career, I really appreciated Marshall taking the time out of his schedule to share these tips with us. It serves as just another example of the kind of wholesome training summer associates receive at Bilzin Sumberg. The firm really values developing us as people, and its leaders care not just about our ability to turn in quality assignments, but who we will become in the process.

On Wednesday, the other summer associates and I had the opportunity to teach a group of middle school students the relationship between freedom of speech under the First Amendment and cyber bullying.

The small group of students visited the firm through the Breakthrough Miami program, which Sara Herald is deeply involved in. Breakthrough Miami is an academic enrichment program that uses student-teaching-student models to ensure that young children attending under-resourced schools still have access to educational opportunities. The program has a 100% high school graduation rate as well an over 90% college attendance rate for the young students involved. Continue Reading Breakthrough Miami Visits Bilzin Sumberg

A few weeks ago, the other Summer Associates and I went to lunch with Michelle Weber. We all listened intently as Brian described his interest in space photography and Kayla confessed her love of horror films. This summer, one of my goals was to read more books. After mentioning a few books I recently read and enjoyed, Michelle and I realized that our reading lists overlapped. One after another, we threw out names of books we had both just read.

Soon after that lunch, I received an email invitation to an informal women’s book club which meets for lunch every few weeks. The book for the meeting was Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris; Michelle selected it after having loved reading it herself. Inspired by a real photograph illustrating four children for sale, Sold on a Monday is the story of a reporter who finds a sign advertising children for sale during the Great Depression.

While Jessica rolled into the meeting steaming about the book’s predictability, opinions of the book varied. As we shared our thoughts on the plot and the development of the characters (or, according to Jessica, the lack thereof), I listened the differing perspectives. It seemed that everyone noticed different aspects of the characters and the storyline. To me, that is the best part of a book club.

As the meeting drew to a close, the others selected a book for the next lunch. Unfortunately, the Summer Program ends before then, so I won’t be able to attend; however, I left the lunch appreciative of the fact that a group like this one exists at Bilzin Sumberg. Each person there took time out of a busy schedule to coordinate and discuss a book, just for the joy of reading. As a Summer Associate, the book club is just one example of the many ways the attorneys at Bilzin Sumberg brings people who share similar interests together.

 

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” – Blaise Pascal.

“I am sorry Judge, I would have written a shorter brief if I had more time.” – The untrained legal writer.

While I quote the latter somewhat tongue in cheek, the reality is that inattention to legal writing will bottleneck a lawyer’s efficacy. Every law student has heard it before, “try to write well.” But if one is not careful, this statement can be understood as, “your legal writing is ancillary to your work as a lawyer.” This view on legal writing is fatal. That we have to communicate our ideas and positions in writing is not some necessary evil or a meaningless step in lawyering. Words, sentences, and paragraphs are the lawyer’s crafting bench. Lawyers forge their arguments with these units, they cast and recast arguments, and, like a silversmith, they test and retest for impurities. It seems bizarre that lawyers will let their own writing stand in the way of well-thought positions. Therefore, my charge is to develop myself as a legal writer. I could not be any more well positioned to do so than I am now as a summer associate at Bilzin Sumberg.

I am surrounded by some of the best litigators in the profession, and they are all so quick to help me navigate the journey to “good legal writing.” But it’s not just the litigators who are passionate about legal writing. My very first assignment came from Marty Schwartz, a partner in the Real Estate group who is passionate about shaping young lawyers into good legal writers. Marty wrote a great article, Do You Speak Legalese?, which should motivate transactional lawyers to develop their craft. Marty also wrote Legal Writing: Legalese, Please, another piece designed to help the transactional lawyer. Sara Herald, another attorney in the Real Estate group, has repeatedly mentioned her joint project with Marty to weed out poor legal writing. So, regardless of my inclination towards one group over another, there are people willing to support my development as a legal writer. Upon my realization that I was surrounded by all of these seasoned writers who were willing to help soon-to-be lawyers, I decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

I began reaching out to various attorneys with the goal of either meeting to discuss their methods to good legal writing or, alternatively, to develop a reading list that I can work through during my last year of law school. The response was overwhelming. So far I’ve met with Raquel Fernandez, Anthony Sirven, Luis Reyes, Michael Strauch, and Marty Schwartz. I also have an upcoming meeting with Jeffrey Snyder. All of these great people have given me the opportunity pick their brains to see what makes them good legal writers. I have had coffee sessions with some of them to discuss their process, received samples of how they handled various situations, received direct feedback on my work, and/or received a great list of books to work through.

It is very obvious that Bilzin Sumberg takes the proper view on legal writing. Early into the summer we had an extensive writing clinic that equipped us with the tools to develop ourselves as good legal writers. The fact that Bilzin Sumberg is supporting us in our development, and that those who have gone before us are so willing to mentor us, means that there is no ceiling as to how far we can go.

In sum, I feel quite fortunate to have found myself in a place that values lawyer development. After my judicial externship I gained a fire and passion to develop myself as a good legal writer; it is so encouraging to know that Bilzin Sumberg is actively working towards helping me grow that passion.