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.

On June 23, 2021, Bilzin Sumberg summer associates gathered on Zoom and watched a recorded message from Mary Fitzgerald of Netflix’s trending reality show, “Selling Sunset.” We also received a digital binder with a hypothetical scenario that blends the drama of the luxe life of real estate brokers at The Oppenheim Group with facts that would catch the attention of any issue spotting law student. The real fun started when the summer associates were split into two different groups and tasked with representing either the buyer or seller of a prime slice of real estate in Miami’s Brickell community.

Under the direction of Alexandra Lehson, a Partner in Bilzin Sumberg’s Real Estate Practice Area, John Trach, Saron Musa, and I are representing Nathifa Parker (Selling Sunset, LLC), the buyer. Danielle Hall and Joseph Beguiristain are representing Lucas Pizzutti (This Isn’t Us, LLC), the seller, with support from Partner Sara Herald. Thus far, we’ve attended two of three seminars aimed at providing us with an overview of each step in the real estate transaction process. Led by Partners Timothy DeKeyser and Phillip Sosnow, the seminars provide us with substantive and technical guidance for the immediate next steps in the process: negotiating terms and drafting agreements. Continue Reading Learning by Doing: “Selling Sunset” Style

Last night, the rainy South Florida weather had the summer associates and I dreaming of brighter (and dryer) pastures. Like an episode from The Magic School Bus, the summer associates and the Corporate Practice Group took a quick field trip to the beautiful shores of Ireland. In mere seconds, thanks to Zoom, we arrived in Ireland fresh and without jet lag, eager to explore our new destination. Rest assured that we would not be alone to navigate on our own. Our tour guide, Mark McHale, had an encyclopedic knowledge of Irish history, customs, and culture, and yes—Guinness and local pubs too (cheers!).

Little did we know our journey would be filled with many surprises along the way. Our travels took us through the Dublin City Center, historic castles located on picturesque coastlines, and even through ancient cemeteries. Most surprising, however, was Marshall Pasternack’s fascinating stories about his time in Ireland. Marshall, a figure that rivals Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, somehow became even more interesting as he detailed his appreciation for Redbreast Irish Whisky (12 year, of course), Irish golf courses, and the country’s scenic landscapes. Marshall made sure to highlight the generous and kind-hearted spirit of the Irish people which was exemplified by our tour guide, Mark.

As our journey concluded, we bid farewell and promised to return to Ireland next summer—this time in person! Bilzin Sumberg continues to find innovative ways to bring the summer associates and practice groups together in unusual times. On a side note, we are officially halfway through our summer program. At Bilzin Sumberg, time really does fly by when you are having fun. The summer associates and I feel lucky to be part of such a great program and are looking forward to the rest of the summer!

It was a rainy Friday morning, as Saron Musa found us a coveted street-side parking spot at the corner of NW 17th Ave. and NW 16th St., in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Allapattah.

Come to think of it, looking at the freshly paved roads, wide and clean sidewalks, and brightly lit pedestrian areas, it seemed like Allapattah may have graduated past the “up-and-coming” stage already. (This seems to also be born out in crime statistics, which show total crime in Allapattah down about 30% over the past 5 years.)

After parking, the biggest concern for Saron, Danielle Hall, Nathifa Parker, and I was staying dry. However, it didn’t take long for us to spot the “red carpet” to our destination. In this case, the “red carpet” was a hot-pink overhang that spanned the majority of the first level of the newest addition to the resurgence of Allapattah—No. 17 Residences.

Continue Reading No. 17 Residences: Where Vision Meets Hard Work

I logged off my computer, changed into comfortable shoes, and headed to the elevators. With our first in-person event underway, I was thrilled to see my fellow summer associates, explore Brickell, and bring out my competitive side.

The summer associates met in the lobby to leave for the Scavenger Hunt that would include associates from all of Bilzin Sumberg’s practice groups. After seeing the evening traffic in Miami, we realized that a taxi ride or a walk to Brickell City Centre would make us late for the social event. Lucas quickly chimed in, “let’s grab a scooter!” After slight hesitation, we checked the time and opened an app to select our electric scooters. We whizzed through the streets of Brickell while laughing and trying our best to avoid any injuries.

When we arrived, Jessica passed around our tablets and dished out our instructions. Our first task: choose a team name. With the mention of cotton candy floating around, we landed on Team Carnival. We hurried through the tutorial and shuffled to the escalators to begin our first challenge. We didn’t know all of the trivia questions about Florida’s official dessert or the number of alligators in Florida, but we knew that we were determined to win. Team Carnival snapped photos and recorded videos of Alex Barshel pausing for the mannequin challenge, Hannah Lidicker showing us her best dance moves, Nathifa Parker presenting some impressive yoga poses, Lucas Pizzutti putting his vocals to the test, and all of us admiring Brian Trujillo’s intelligence. The other two teams, The Winning Team and Power Squad, proved no match for Team Carnival’s skills to outhunt and locate the stores around the shopping mall.

At the end of the evening, we all gathered around a table at Luna Park for appetizers and great conversations. I learned about Saron’s favorite movie, John’s money saving hack, and Franco’s transition from a law student to an attorney. That evening, my team took home the best treasure possible, bragging rights and a stomach full of joy.

The last thing on my mind when I entered into finals season last fall, at the end of my first (and entirely online) semester of law school, was where I would be working in the summer. My first finals season was filled with stress and a total lack of familiarity with the law school system, and the prospect of my first real legal job seemed extraordinarily far away. In a surprise twist, I survived and before I knew it, my spring semester was over and so was my 1L year. Better than that however, was that I even had an offer for a summer job! Jay Sakalo barely finished offering me the position of Summer Associate, before I excitedly blurted out “I accept” into the phone. What seemed to be the worst part was over; I had 1/3 of law school under my belt and had an offer from a formidable law firm in Miami, but soon all the voices from my classmates, professors and acquaintances started creeping into my mind, saying how working at a firm is miserable, with long hours, mundane work and unappreciative bosses; efficiency was maximized and humanity minimized, and soon I began thinking to myself “Lucas, what have you gotten yourself into?” I can tell you, this is not a great feeling especially when you just finished your first year and know close to nothing about anything having to do with the legal profession. As a first-year, I had no experience, little knowledge and a metric ton of anxiety about starting my first job, where I fully expected to be buried under a mountain of infinitely complex work I had no business dealing with, not to mention all of the non-legal logistical work, like keeping track of my time.

I’m coming to the end of my third week now at work and I can confidently say that every one of those people who told me horror stories were wrong. My experience here has been one of support, understanding, and fulfillment. Jessica Buchsbaum and Betsi Cobas have worked tirelessly to make sure we were ready to go and gave a comprehensive orientation where we learned everything we needed to know. When we started picking up assignments, the attorneys have been nothing less than awesome, giving us meaningful and interesting work while going out of their way to help us whenever we need it. People at the firm, be it my mentor or an associate or a partner or staff, have consistently gone above and beyond with offering advice and assistance. Most importantly, the folks here have made us feel welcomed, which is immeasurably kind of them. I’m sure I speak for the other Summer Associates when I say thank you to all, we won’t let you down.

Dearest Miami,

The first time I drove into your city limits in my sunny, yellow Honda Fit, an unnamed driver cut me off with a deftness I had not seen since I left Barbados. Cranking up the aircon and squinting due to the sun, I grinned at the palm trees that whizzed by me. Prior to this encounter, I had only passed through you, but despite having barely made your acquaintance, it was then I knew I loved you.

Before you, I considered myself a healthy cynic, and a staunch realist. I had conviction that, given those traits, I would assess Miami systematically, and only after a series of detailed observations would I consider casting aside my wandering ways. As the adage goes, however, man proposes and God disposes.

Every corner I turn in the city, I see echoes of all who came before you. Your sparkling clear, blue waters of your beaches remind me of my time in Barbados and Perdido Key. The colorful graffiti of the Wynwood walls invokes the creativity of those Indianapolis artists I’d seen some four years prior in undergrad. The lush greenery dotted with splashes of red flowering trees that I see each time I gaze out of my office window harkens to my childhood home and the forests of Alabama I grew up surrounded by. I fall asleep in Brickell every night with the window open, gazing at a skyline so breathtaking I cannot help but remember my time in Beijing and Hong Kong fondly.

Finally, you introduced me to Bilzin Sumberg. The little girl born on a pecan farm would not have imagined what it would be like to intern at a company that strives to take care of their employees like Bilzin Sumberg does. Everything from legal development workshops to the stretching seminar, and the Juneteenth celebration–the firm has been committed to its employees’ wellbeing, diversity, and inclusion every step of the way. As a Summer Associate, I feel thankful and proud to be part of the Bilzin Sumberg family.

With a grateful heart,

Nathifa

Trivia Night with the Litigation Practice Group

Wednesday night the Summer Associates had our first social event with a Practice Group. Trivia Night, hosted by Carl Boccuti, had us split into groups of 4-5 with the Litigation Practice Group to compete for the ultimate prize, bragging rights for the rest of the summer. The questions included everything from Rihanna’s birthplace to the current location of the Parker Probe. The deciding point came down to figuring out the three youngest U.S. Presidents. After four rounds of challenging questions, the Best Looking Team (comprised of John Trach, Kenneth Duvall, Kayla Hernandez, Melissa Pallett-Vasquez, and Lori Lustrin) took home the gold!

Throughout the game, we were put into breakout rooms to choose our answers and input them into the answer sheet. My team consisted of Lucas Pizzutti, Brianna Sainte (my mentor), Desiree Fernandez, and Shalia Sakona. After some discussion, we decided on the team name “B.L.S.S.D.” as an acronym for our first names and hopefully a predictor of our performance. Woven into the discussions about our answers were some anecdotes. We got to learn more about one another, like Brianna’s budding plant collection, Desiree’s past visits to the Brandon Mall, Shalia’s recent visit to Mexico, and Lucas’ science knowledge. At the end, we took home the silver medal just barely missing the Best Looking Team.

In the main room, you could hear everyone’s reactions to the correct answers being read aloud by our moderator. The different cheers, “oohs,” and laughs simulated what it would be like to have a trivia night in person. A difficult feat, but something that was accomplished by Jessica Buchsbaum’s and Betsi Cobas’ incredible planning skills. Everyone ended the night congratulating the winning team and reflecting on a competitive and hilarious virtual trivia night.

I know this event left me excited to spend time with more Practice Groups and I can’t wait to continue the trend with the Corporate Practice Group in a few weeks!

Brian Adler and David Jessup Jr.

Dr. Maya Angelou left us with the following words: “[P]eople will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Small gestures can have a tremendous impact. Collectively such experiences create a culture. Before I started as a summer associate at Bilzin Sumberg this month, a small yet validating gesture led me to submit an application for employment to the firm.

It was March 2020, days before the world shut down. My day had a rocky start with a “Breakfast with the Bench” event at 7:30 a.m., where a law student’s nightmare came true: I spilled coffee on my white shirt—the same shirt I needed to wear to my interview at another firm later that day between my second and third classes. #MiamiTraffic made the prospect of returning home to change my shirt a pipedream.

But, it wasn’t the Miami traffic that got me; it was the interview at the firm. I received a less-than-warm greeting from the receptionist before waiting thirty minutes for the interviewing attorney. While the interview went fine, upon my departure I was informed by the receptionist that parking wasn’t validated for interviews. So, I returned to campus and entered class late in my stained shirt, with $21 less in my pocket. Continue Reading Go Where You Are Validated

(L to R Jessica Buchsbaum, Betsi Cobas, Lucas Pizzutti, Saron Musa, David Jessup, John Trach, Nathifa Parker, Joseph Beguiristain, Joy Spillis Lundeen and Danielle Hall)

Last Friday, the summer associates and I had the honor of meeting Bilzin Sumberg Partner and Construction Group Leader, Joy Spillis Lundeen. Joy, a recent addition to Bilzin Sumberg, is regarded as the reputed go-to person for all things construction and has an impressive roster of clients.

Born and raised in Miami, Joy reflected on the dramatic changes to Miami’s skyline since her childhood and recalled the excitement she felt, and continues to feel, when admiring the City’s continued development. Interestingly, her passion for construction was largely inspired by her upbringing. Growing up, Joy’s family owned a leading, Miami-based architectural firm that contributed to the development of many well-known structures throughout South Florida. This familial backdrop inspired Joy to study architecture in college and when contemplating an area of law in which to specialize, construction seemed to perfectly align with her interests. Since then, Joy hasn’t looked back as she continues to trail blaze through an often male-dominated construction field.

Continue Reading Constructing Our Future-One Attorney Spotlight at a Time