Summer Associate, Jordan Rhodes

On Tuesday evening, the Tax Department at Bilzin Sumberg invited the Summer Associates to a “Sushi Rolling & Sake” event to benefit Common Threads. Common Threads is a charity devoted to educating children and families about nutrition and healthy eating, and Jennifer Einersen, one of the attorneys in Tax, is a board member.

When we arrived, Jordan and I joked that we had learned more about cooking within the past two weeks at firm events than we had our whole lives: only one week prior, we attended a cooking class at Two Chefs, where we prepared tuna tartar, burgers, tostones, and chocolate soufflé. Sushi, somehow, seemed more daunting.

Hungry and curious, the Tax attorneys and the Summer Associates congregated around the instructor to learn her technique. She first talked to us about Common Threads and how quickly the charity is expanding. Then, the instructor illustrated step-by-step how to assemble a spicy tuna roll. Although her movements seemed effortless, no one expected the process to flow so smoothly on our end.

Once we dispersed and set out to create our own rolls, the experiment began. Despite the instructor’s warnings, I layered too much rice on the seaweed, creating a ring of white rice and sesame seeds an inch thick⁠— which made it nearly impossible to fit a piece of the roll into my mouth in one bite. Another attorney, exacerbated by the tedious process of slicing the sushi, resigned to eating his roll burrito-style.

As we braved the common obstacles of sushi rolling, the Summer Associates and I were able to familiarize ourselves with the Tax attorneys. Although we share a floor at the firm, for many of us, this was our first interaction with the Tax Department since the Summer Program began. My favorite stories were those of how people came to love Tax; whether through a class they took in law school, or through previous work experience as an accountant, it was interesting to hear about the different paths the attorneys have taken.

After another successful Summer Associate event, I’m grateful for the Tax attorneys’ enthusiasm for getting to know the Summer Associates. It is encouraging to see an entire department show up to support a fellow attorney’s charity and to spend time talking to us about life at the firm. Overall, we as Summer Associates appreciate all of the time and effort that Bilzin Sumberg channels into integrating us into the firm. We look forward to the next event!

(L to R, Kayla Hernandez, Jordan Rhodes and Sophia Guzzo)

As we enter Phase II of the mock real estate transaction, negotiations are heating up! INEVITABLE, LLC, comprised of Brian Trujillo and Kayla Hernandez (a.k.a. supervillain Thanos), is trying its best to thwart STARK, LLC’s plan to save the world. But the STARK team, led by Franco Piccinini, Sophia Guzzo, and Jordan Rhodes, is working hard to see its plan come to fruition.

At the heart of the negotiation lies a vacant tract of land­—15,000 square feet to be exact—in Miami’s very own Brickell neighborhood. The opportunity for STARK is truly a rare one (how many vacant pieces of land are really left in Brickell?), but financial incentive is not all that drives the STARK team. INEVITABLE has concocted an evil plan to own all six Infinity Stone properties. If INEVITABLE retains the property, then it will inch closer to fulfilling its evil plan. If STARK can close the deal, however, it will thwart INEVITABLE’s evil plan, gaining a valuable asset and saving the world at the same time.

Just a few weeks back, STARK and INEVITABLE entered into a letter of intent (“LOI”), a non-binding agreement that defines the purchase price, deposit value, inspection period, and closing period for the deal. Here, the parties also agreed to certain zoning restrictions because STARK will need to re-zone the property in order to close the deal. Following the signing of the LOI, Adam Lustig and Phillip Sosnow explained to the parties the art of negotiating a real estate contract. They stressed the importance of clearly defining the scope of the inspection period, which includes setting parameters for environmental testing, reviewing title and survey, and creating a technical team for development. They also spoke extensively about seller’s representations and warranties and other limits on liability.

After agreeing to the terms of the LOI, the parties returned to the negotiating table to hash out the specifics of the Purchase and Sale Agreement (“the contract”). Led by coaches Sara B. Herald and Manuel Gonzalez, the parties debated the terms of the contract, focusing their negotiations on four sections: Seller’s Representations, Default, Buyer’s and Seller’s Liability, and As Is Condition.

As the parties marched through each section of the contract, they jockeyed for the superior position, debating the inclusion and exclusion of even (seemingly minor) terms. At times, the negotiations grew tense, with each team taking several sidebars to hash out their respective strategies. INEVITABLE wanted to limit its liability by narrowing its representations and capping the amount of damages that STARK could pursue if the deal went sour. STARK, on the other hand, wanted to mitigate its risk by expanding INEVITABLE’s representations so that if the property contained a major environmental landmine, STARK could back out of the deal and be reimbursed its deposit and expenses incurred during the due diligence period. But in the end, both parties wanted to make the deal happen. STARK wanted the property. INEVITABLE wanted compensation. To reach their common goal, both parties had to give up some positions to gain others. After an hour and a half of negotiations, the parties finally agreed to the terms of the contract.

Next up, the parties will draft a new contract to reflect the terms of the negotiation. Then, they will sign the contract and move on to closing. It has been a fun ride so far! From negotiating the LOI to negotiating the terms of the contract, we have learned so much about the various aspects of a real estate transaction. The mock program has provided the summers with an opportunity to work on a transaction that many lawyers-in-training never get to do. We can’t wait for the next steps, and we’re excited to close the deal soon! Most importantly, a successful deal means that STARK will save the world once again!

 

Summer Associate, Kayla Hernandez

Since our first day at Bilzin Sumberg, we have been told how important it is for the firm to be actively involved in the community. With that in mind, last Friday, we took a break from our usual Friday schedules which usually entail wrapping up our pending assignments and catching lunch with some of the attorneys, to partake in our first community service event of the summer at Feeding South Florida. Feeding South Florida is a local food bank which serves all of South Florida. While this was our first community service event of the summer, this is an event that Bilzin Sumberg participates in yearly.

While most community service events usually begin by assigning tasks, this one began a little differently. Specifically, we were reminded as to why we were volunteering at FSF on a Friday morning — that is, hunger remains a significant problem in South Florida. This is such a severe problem that one in five children are food insecure. Statistics such as this one really helped put what we were about to do into perspective. In addition, we were also given a goal as to the number of meals our work would translate into. (33,000-ish meals to be exact!) With a purpose and a goal in mind, we were ready to start volunteering!

Our task as a group was to look at food expiration labels and determine whether something was still edible. Did you know that most food is still edible far beyond its expiration date? I’m talking like a year past its expiration date! While some of us were shocked by this information (aka Brian and I), it seems as though some of us have been testing expiration dates for years (aka Sofia). Besides expiration dates, we were shocked to find food items we had never even heard of before!

At the end of the event, not only did we gain a plethora of knowledge about food, but most importantly, we met our meal goal! It was so rewarding to see our work translate into meals for people who suffer from food insecurity. I speak for my fellow Summer Associates and I when I say that we look forward to again volunteering in the community as  part of the firm’s broader mission to better immerse itself into the community.

(L to R, Sophia Guzzo, Jordan Rhodes, Jessica Buchsbaum, Kayla Hernandez, Franco Piccinini, Brian Trujillo and Betsi Cobas)

Summer Associate, Brian Trujillo

Last night, the summer associates joined alumni from previous summer associate classes at Two Chefs for a group cooking class. Having about fifteen people work together to make a full dinner with starters, entrées, and desserts sounds more chaotic than it really was. Quite frankly, not only was the process of banding together to cook a great meal a smooth one, it was also a deeply enjoyable one.

Unlike what you see in Hell’s Kitchen, cooking as a team is actually incredibly enjoyable. Admittedly, it probably helped that Gordon Ramsay wasn’t breathing down our necks critiquing our food as being “stone cold.” Side note, I am the biggest Gordon Ramsay fan in town, but I’ll happily keep my distance from him in the kitchen, thank you very much. I much prefer the experience we had last night.

The timing was perfect. Right before the big move to the Magic City I set a goal of improving my culinary skills. So, it helps that yesterday I learned how to make the most amazing tostones combo imaginable (tostones, avocado, and salmon). Also, I have it on good authority that my tostones were “cooked to perfection” (as Ramsay would say). To be fair, the dish I made had no more than 3 ingredients. But still, I did okay.

Perhaps more important than the good food and wine was the company, and we were surrounded by some of the best company you can ask for. The conversation topics ranged from asking Alexandra Barshel about how to avoid major kitchen failures to Jennifer Junger’s Instagram page for her new puppy. Lauren Sabella and Luis Reyes talked to us about making the transition from summer associate to associate. They also emphasized the importance of being intentional about enjoying periods of rest as they come. The time spent together was centered around simply enjoying each other’s company, and it was perfect.

On par with Bilzin Sumberg’s theme of equipping us for the future, it goes without saying that I learned a lot last night. Sure, I walked out feeling like my tostones were going to land me my first Michelin star. However, I also learned a lot about the people around me. I learned that this community extends far beyond a work relationship; Bilzin Sumberg is truly a place for deep meaningful relationships. I also came to fully appreciate the fact that we are genuinely welcomed and supported by everyone here.

So, while it is true that the summer associate alumni event at Two Chefs can be a great excuse to perfect our chocolate soufflé making skills (Jay Sakalo), I know that the purpose is for us to be intentional about setting a time to build community and break bread as a family.

 

 

They were not kidding when they said our lunch plans will fill up quickly this summer! I have had the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people during the lunch hour (while also exploring the great cuisine Brickell has to offer). One of the first invitations I received was for a “Ladies Lunch” and I became very curious as to what exactly this was. I soon learned that every so often the women at the firm go out as a group for lunch and that this has become a sort of tradition.

Although there has been an increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion within the legal field, the area is still one of the least diverse professions. Women make up roughly 38% of the legal profession overall; however, that statistic drops for the higher level positions in private practice. There are several studies that highlight the benefits of diversity in the work place. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians while those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely. In addition to these financial benefits, efforts to embrace diversity can attribute to greater retention and morale.

Continue Reading Ladies Lunch: An Acknowledgment of the Importance of Diversity

On Saturday evening, Michael Kreitzer invited the attorneys and secretaries from the Litigation department to his home in Aventura for the Summer Associate Litigation Group Party. My officemate Jordan and I were the first to arrive.  Michael and his partner, Chris, warmly welcomed us into their home, leading us to the backyard decorated to evoke New Orleans.

As the members of the Litigation group and their significant others trickled into the party, we admired the feathered masks and purple and green lit trees. The other Summer Associates and I eagerly accepted Michael and Chris’s invitation to tour their boat, and we stood on the water appreciating the other boats passing by.

For dinner, we were transported to New Orleans, piling crab cakes, chicken gumbo, and jalapeno cornbread onto our plates. Others skipped right to desert, cutting pieces of King’s Cake in the hopes of finding the baby figurine.

Far from the office, the other Summer Associates and I talked to members of the Litigation group about life outside of work. From Mitch, we heard about his Grand Slam earlier that day and his love of fishing. From Raquel, we learned about her long friendship with Melissa, and what it is like to work with her best friend. From Jose, we were encouraged to explore the different departments by popping our heads in attorneys offices and asking about their assignments.

Immersed in the festive atmosphere created by the beautiful views, lively decorations and delicious food, I was struck by the energy resonating from the members of the Litigation group. Here were a group of busy and hardworking people, who took time out of their weekend to come together and celebrate. Michael was kind enough to open his home to us, inviting us to explore every room and artwork. As I looked around, the happiness was tangible: laughter and stories of the long years spent working together filled the cool night air. Even as I left the party, dozens remained to continue the celebration.

From this and the other firm events the past two weeks, I have come to recognize and appreciate Bilzin Sumberg’s culture as one that fosters support among attorneys, encouraging professional relationships as well as friendships. The enthusiasm and encouragement emanating from the attorneys feels tangible and intentional, creating an environment in which Summer Associates feel comfortable and excited to meet others at the firm.

As Summer Associates, we are grateful to work at a firm where the friendships and comradery are apparent and genuine. Huge thank you to Michael and Chris for opening their home to us and transporting us to New Orleans for the night. We look forward to the events to come!

In Pursuit of the Infinity Properties the Inevitable Summer War: Phase I

We are at war. Today was the first battle negotiation in the summer program’s Mock Real Estate Negotiation. While this is something all of us looked forward to with great anticipation, I must admit that I looked towards this programing quite nervously. As law students, we seldom get an opportunity experience transactional practice. The prospect of early exposure to this world is thrilling, but the prospect of doing poorly, even in a simulated environment, is not (remember, I am a law student – the world must never learn that we do sometimes do things imperfectly). Fortunately, my fear was warrantless. You see, I have the great fortune of spending my summer with Bilzin Sumberg – they had us covered. We would learn what it means to live in the world of transactional practice through the Mock Real Estate Negotiation.

The exposure to transactional practice was not a weird version of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where I would deny the existence of anything outside of litigation focused law practice simply because that is all I have seen so far. To the contrary, we felt completely supported as the amazing brain trust that put this together (Jessica, Betsi, Adam, and Phil) showed us what the next few weeks would look like.

The first meeting was a general overview led by Adam and Phil of what a real estate transaction looks like from beginning to end, from developing the core business terms to preparing the closing binder. The next day, it was game time (Endgame time?). It was time to get into the conference room and negotiate to the death for an hour. The good news is that we were not alone. Sara and Ali coached either team STARK, LLC (the buyer) or team INEVITABLE, LLC (the seller). We first met with our coaches to discuss a game plan and then we executed that plan in our negotiation. After the negotiation, we changed from our superhero uniforms back into our work clothes (obviously) and began drafting the letter of intent.

While it is still early in the programming, I think it is worth expressing the value of this mock negotiation for us as summer associates. I walked away with three concepts from this exercise, (i) substantive exposure to a new area of the law; (ii) team building with my awesome summer class; and (iii) a reminder of how intentional Bilzin Sumberg is at equipping their team for success.

In law school, we get so little exposure to transactional work that it makes it hard for us to gauge where we think we would be a good fit. We can spend as much time as we want on Above the Law or Vault but the reality remains – nothing compares to doing the actual work. This is what the programing sets its sights on. The Real Estate Mock Negotiation exposes us to what is quite literally the other half of the entire profession. More importantly, we get the full experience.

The Mock Negotiation simulates an entire transaction from beginning to end. While it is true that some law students can get exposure to negotiations in their second or third year, it is rarely the case that a single course offers both multiple negotiations on the same transaction and the corresponding drafting exercises. In fact, even as a summer associate it is difficult to gain exposure to a deal from beginning to end. Bilzin Sumberg clearly saw this deficiency and mobilized towards filling this gap. Despite meeting only twice so far, I already feel better prepared to understand the core parts of a real estate transaction. The Mock Real Estate Negotiation: Phase I (Marvel reference) has given me a new point of reference to look to when reflecting on the type of practice I want to go into. The good news is that this summer I have an opportunity to rotate through Bilzin Sumberg‘s impressive transactional practice (Corporate; Environmental; Finance; Hospitality; International; Public-Private Partnerships; Real Estate; and Tax).

The mock negotiation not only exposes us transactional work, it also helps us come together as a group. Although we are technically on different teams, the goal is to work together to push this deal through. Unlike the movie (no spoilers, but seriously have you not seen how well this movie is doing?), there are no winners or losers during the Mock Negotiation. The only way we lose is by not being collaborative. This collaboration manifests itself not just in the negotiations but also in the post negotiation drafting.

After our hour long negotiation on the core business terms, all of us reunited in one office to record the deal in a letter of intent (Franco and I wondered why our office had six chairs). This exercise was valuable not just for the sake of producing a document evincing our hard work, but also for working closely with one another to produce something we are proud to call our own. Working as a team to draft the letter of intent was a genuinely fun time (and we learned that in an ideal world, nectarines are more readily available than peaches). One of the most enjoyable aspects of law school is learning from your peers, it is encouraging to know that Bilzin Sumberg is intentional in fostering that same level of collaboration for their summer associates.

This brings me to my final point; Bilzin Sumberg is intentional. The mock negotiation is yet another element in a reoccurring theme highlighting how intentional Bilzin Sumberg is about equipping us for success. It would have been very easy for the brain trust to pull a generic simulated negotiation from the internet, recirculate it throughout the each new summer, and call it good. This is not the Bilzin Sumberg way. It is abundantly clear that Jessica, Betsi, Adam, Phil, Sara, and Ali all worked very hard to create a tailored experience for us. And I am not just saying that because they put my face on Bruce Banner’s body – Bilzin Sumberg truly cares about people. This was not an exercise in repetition but rather a product of Bilzin Sumberg‘s intentional goal of preparing us for the future.

With that, all that’s left to say is that I am incredibly excited for the next few weeks of growth and development.

The summer associates take a picture with their mentors at the Welcome Reception.

After a week full of fun and informative orientation sessions, the Summer Associates are ready to delve into our assignments! However, I first wanted to reflect back on our first week at the firm. As Summer Associates, a main focus is to make sure that we meet all of the attorneys and staff at the firm as everyone is an integral part of the success of the firm. Despite being a mid-sized firm, Bilzin Sumberg has a small-firm feel in that everyone knows each other very well. The first event of the summer that allowed us a chance to mingle and introduce ourselves was the Annual Firm Diner which conveniently took place the Saturday before we began the summer program. This year’s Annual Firm Dinner took place at the Bass Art Museum. The night was filled with great food, adult beverages, and a beautiful venue with contemporary art exhibitions. Most importantly, this gave us an opportunity to meet various attorneys within the firm before we even began working! Being invited to such an important event for the firm really set the tone for the rest of the summer. That is, we were being welcomed into a firm that was just as excited to have us as we were to join the firm!

While the annual firm dinner was an amazing way for us to become acquainted with some of the attorneys at the firm, our first official welcome was the Wine and Cheese Happy Hour on Thursday (this was much needed after various orientation sessions).  At the Happy Hour, we were introduced to a room full of Partners, Associates, and staff by our mentors (thanks, Desiree!). It was so comforting to see how much of the firm came out to help welcome us for the summer!

Feeling so welcomed to the firm our first week is such an indescribable feeling. On behalf of my fellow Summer Associates and I, thank you to everyone at Bilzin Sumberg for such a warm welcome. As a Summer Associate, I really look forward to meeting everyone in the firm and working with as many attorneys from the different practice groups as possible. My first step in this endeavor is getting to know everyone on the 24th floor. Side note: this is harder than it seems as we have already gotten lost on the 24th floor alone!

 

 

 

 

Managing Partner, Al Dotson, has breakfast with the summer associates during orientation

The Summer Associates have officially arrived, and we are so excited to be here! As we wrap up our first week at the firm, I would like to reflect on some of the events we attended during our first few days.

On Monday morning, Jessica Buchsbaum and Betsi Cobas welcomed us to the firm and provided us with a detailed schedule for the week. Jay Sakalo then gave us our first “pep talk,” explaining the purpose of the summer program and offering valuable insights for success. To reinforce his advice, Jay gave each Summer Associate a book entitled Big Potential, which argues that success is not purely a function of individual traits, but instead depends on the success of others around us. While I have not read the book in its entirety yet (no pop quizzes, Jay!), I have skimmed the opening chapters, and I am confident that it will be an excellent and timely read!

Immediately following our meeting with Jay, we met with various department heads. Each one graciously demonstrated the ins and outs of working at the firm, and they assisted us with important clerical matters. Next, we went to lunch with our mentors. My mentor, the infamous Myles Burstein, took Kayla and me to Fi’lia where we discussed the exciting world of CMBS over fine Brickell cuisine.

On the second day, we had breakfast with Managing Partner Albert Dotson, who discussed the firm’s history and culture. While lightening the mood with the occasional joke, Al explained the importance of the “symbiotic relationship” between the firm and the community. He emphasized that the firm’s motto—proud to be judged by the company we keep—represents more than just a saying. He reiterated that it is a value the firm takes seriously, and judging from my interactions with everyone this week I could not agree more.

After breakfast, we went on our first office-wide tour, received our office assignments, and attended an informative seminar on ethics and managing conflicts. A few hours later, we shuffled into the library (which contrary to our initial belief is not on the 15th floor) where we were greeted by the friendly library staff for an informative happy hour presentation. While we indulged in sushi and wine, the librarians boasted about the firm’s impressive knowledge management system and demonstrated how we can use it to find documents and other valuable resources.

On the third day, we started bright and early with writing coach Susan McCloskey. Susan tailored the meeting to address our biggest concerns, highlight our most common strengths, and offer practical solutions for addressing our most glaring weaknesses. She provided extremely thorough feedback, and I know I am not the only Summer Associate who found it to be incredibly helpful. Immediately following this workshop, we eagerly accepted our new assignments and began to dive into our work!

Overall, it was an incredible first week. I learned a lot, met a number of amazing individuals, and started working on some exciting new projects. I would like to thank Jessica Buchsbaum, Jay Sakalo, and Betsi Cobas for all the work they have done to create an outstanding summer program! We are all very grateful for your efforts, and we cannot wait to see what our summer at Bilzin Sumberg has in store for us!

This week, we welcomed the 2019 Summer Associates to Bilzin Sumberg.  I know that you’ll enjoy hearing about our summer program through Sophia, Kayla, Franco, Jordan, Brian.

Over the next nine weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from them about their experience at Bilzin Sumberg – from work assignments, tag alongs, training and mentors to social events.

Orientation is almost over and we have a lot planned.  We are all looking forward to next couple of months together!  The summer will be over before we know it. . .