As the summer program is coming to a close, I can’t help but smile as I think back to all the wonderful experiences I’ve had in just nine weeks at Bilzin Sumberg. Though all my other blog posts have been (hopefully) funny and lighthearted, with the readers’ permission, I’d like to indulge in some philosophical introspection and for posterity give a heartfelt account of my experience.

I think I can fairly speak for my fellow summer associates in saying that we are all truly blessed to have been summer associates here: The relationships we’ve built, the work we’ve done, the skills we’ve learned—all second to none.

My fellow summer associates and I have all become incredibly close during our short time so far at the firm; this is undoubtedly due in part to the emphasis here on fostering a positive firm culture. After all, the firm’s slogan is “be judged by the company you keep.” And speaking of company, not a single summer associate ever had lunch alone. From day one, we were encouraged to make lunch plans with attorneys whose practices might be of interest. The attorneys, despite their busy schedules, always found a way to make time for us. Between all of the lunches and all of the practice-group events, the summer associates got to meet almost everyone.

But of course, there is much more to life as a summer associate than being taken out to lunch every day; there are assignments! The breadth of work that I got to do over the summer was incredible, making it much easier to rank my preferred practice groups at the end of the program. For instance, I worked on matters involving public-private partnership proposals, antitrust business development, Florida service of process requirements, luxury hotel management contracts, and I even contributed to two appellate briefs. I also attended client meetings, a mediation session, and an oral argument at the Third District Court of Appeal.

The work I’ve done this summer has been incredibly fulfilling, but I believe the people at Bilzin Sumberg are what set this firm apart from others: employees here are not just co-workers or friends—they’re family. Law is a rewarding but tough career. If we’re going to be “in the trenches,” why not be with people we can call family?

Concept image of the six most common questions and answers on a signpost.One important decision (among many) that an aspiring attorney must consider is what legal market to practice in. Many factors go into this decision-making matrix, including—but not limited to—the demand for specific practice areas, paths to partnership, market trends, family, weather, food, and proximity to the beach. Of course, the order of importance of these factors varies by individual preference. For me personally, proximity to the beach may or may not be ranked heavily.

Joking aside, the Miami legal market appeals to me for many reasons. For one, it is a young vibrant city with a rapidly-growing legal industry. Much of this growth has been fueled by an increase in international investment and subsequent real estate expansion. It is a city that has transformed from a pure resort destination to the gateway for business with Latin America—and to a growing extent with Europe and Asia. With growth comes opportunity. The opportunity to make an immediate and meaningful impact as a young attorney is perhaps the biggest reason I chose Miami.

Bilzin Sumberg has been at the forefront of the city’s growth since the firm’s inception. One way that the firm is currently meeting the demands of the Miami market is through its leadership role in Public-Private Partnership (P3) projects. In general, a P3 is a business relationship between a government agency and a private company for the purpose of developing public infrastructure or services. As Miami’s population continues to grow, the demand for infrastructure improvements will increase tremendously. This is one field that I personally desire to immerse myself in, especially in anticipation of the growing demand for improved infrastructure.

The firm also does a great job of developing associates. As a summer associate, I appreciate the opportunity to take on assignments related to multiple practice areas—from litigation to government relations. I also appreciate the challenge that each assignment presents. The assigning attorneys do a phenomenal job of communicating their expectations of the work product and providing us feedback at the conclusion of the assignment. This communication is essential to our development as summer associates and future attorneys of the firm. Before starting at the firm, I was unable to speak intelligently about a derivative action on behalf of a corporation, the affirmative defense of unclean hands, or the most efficient process of serving a complaint on a foreign corporation overseas—to name a few examples. Perhaps I still cannot speak intelligently about these topics, but I can at least appear to do so!

As the summer continues, I look forward to taking on more assignments, improving my knowledge on the trends of the Miami market, and growing as a professional alongside my fellow summer associates.

Building Relationships (2)We are reaching the midpoint of our summer program here at Bilzin Sumberg and each day continues to present new learning and networking opportunities! Building relationships is essential to fostering a strong workplace environment, and everyone here does a phenomenal job of ensuring that we summer associates are a part of the team!

One way we build relationships is by grabbing lunch with different attorneys—from junior associates to senior partners—on a daily basis. Since there is no shortage of places to eat in Miami, the biggest challenge is choosing where to go! In between conducting superior legal research, crunching out legal memorandums, drafting complaints, editing contract clauses, and attending client meetings with attorneys, we often find ourselves venturing around Brickell in search of food.

One such lunch included the renowned summer associate trip to Rosa Mexicano with Mitch Widom, where we indulged in guacamole, tacos and churros! Needless to say, the food coma may or may not have kicked in.

Gluttony aside, we certainly do not take for granted the opportunities we have to interact with Bilzin Sumberg attorneys and staff on a daily basis. Lunch is merely one way we accomplish this. Overall, everyone here does a wonderful job of going out of their way to introduce themselves or check up on us.

On that note, I will use this opportunity to recognize Anthony Sirven and my mentor, Chris Pierson—two remarkable individuals here at the firm. On many occasions, Anthony—a former summer associate himself— has taken the initiative to assist me and my fellow summer associates with our legal research and writing assignments. As my mentor, Chris has taken the initiative to invite me to internal firm meetings—including one related to the eMerge Americas conference here in Miami—and he also makes time for lunch at least once a week!

Fostering a strong and collegial workplace culture is important for ensuring future success. Based on what I have seen here thus far, I am very optimistic moving forward.

Concept image of the six most common questions and answers on a signpost.

The summer is definitely in full swing, and there are constant opportunities to learn more about Bilzin Sumberg. Tag alongs are opportunities to accompany attorneys to meetings, depositions, or court, or to listen in on phone calls. Last week, I was lucky enough to go on a tag along with Jay Sakalo and Jeff Snyder and sit in on a negotiation. In order to go, I did have to miss the Mock Real Estate Transaction’s contract negotiation, but it was definitely worth it to see a real negotiation in action!

On the way there, Jay and Jeff explained the topic and gave me all of the background information on the parties. They even filled me in on their negotiation strategy. This was helpful, because I understood much more throughout the day. I had the chance to ask a ton of questions, and overall the whole process was really interesting. I am hoping to use what I learned at our next Mock Real Estate session!

Most of the other Summer Associates have had tag alongs as well. Luis watched José Ferrer from the Litigation department argue before the 3rd DCA. José was appealing an injunction against our client made in the trial court.

Lauren attended an impromptu lunch with a client, when she and Melissa Pallet-Vasquez ran into him at Obba Sushi. Melissa had just completed a hearing on his case that morning, so he joined the lunch. Alex sat in on a phone call with Marshall Pasternack regarding a potential acquisition of property and Eric sat in on a phone call with Marty Shwartz regarding a commercial real estate sale.

Forrest hasn’t had a tag along quite yet, but he does have plans to accompany Jay Ward to the federal courthouse in a couple of weeks, so maybe he will fill us in later!

 

Summer Associate Bake Off 3By mid-week, our summer associate training mostly complete and it was time to get to work and choose our first assignments. Following precedent set by previous summer classes, we got toget    her to discuss who was most interested in the available assignments from the different practice groups. In just the first week, we have had the chance to work across practice groups including Litigation, Land Use, Business Finance and Restructuring, Corporate, and Tax!

Luis and Alex have been researching Miami-Dade’s competitive bidding procedure for the Land Use group. Eric has been drafting a tolling agreement and conducting case law research on the eligibility of a plaintiff to file a derivative suit. Hannah has been helping out on a closing by working on the checklist and updating agreements. Forrest is learning about bankruptcy law and the formation of creditor’s committees. Meanwhile, I‘ve had the chance to work with Jay Ward in Litigation on the case that I completed my first research assignment for last summer. It has been very interesting to see how the matter has progressed!

The summer associates have already had some fantastic tag-along opportunities – Luis was able to go to the 3rd District Court of Appeals to see José Ferrer advocate for his client’s position. We look forward to many more tag-alongs to observe different court proceedings and client interactions throughout the summer.

Even though training is ending, the summer program has many fun social events and traditions to look forward to. For example, the intense rivalry between Jessica Buchsbaum and Paul VanderMeer in the annual bake-off! Each year, the incoming class of summer associates completes an in-depth dessert survey, and Paul and Jessica make desserts customized to our preferences. A blind taste-test and vote determines the reigning champion. This year, Jessica’s chocolate chip s’more cookie cake triumphed over Paul’s butter-finger cake! (The rules of the competition prevent me from sharing the real recipes the competitors used, but the links above are a close approximation.)

Now that we’ve completed our first week, we are looking forward to a summer of engaging work assignments and exciting social events as we get to know the attorneys at Bilzin Sumberg and the city of Miami!

In what feels like a matter of days, we’ve reached the third and final week of The Academy! Monday morning, we began the day at the office bright and early in the boardroom with Michael Kreitzer. Michael spoke to us about the basics of motion calendar and the different ways lawyers may prepare for their motions. We then took a trip to the Dade County Courthouse. Before motion calendar, we met with Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen in her chambers and had the chance to speak with her before what would be a very structured and eventful morning. The four of us first years filed into the jury box with Jessica Buchsbaum and Michael to witness the morning’s calendar beginning sharply at 9 a.m. In the approximate hour-and-a-half we were in the courtroom, we witnessed a variety of advocacy styles, legal issues, and requests from Judge Ruiz-Cohen.

Succeeding our morning’s theme of advocacy, we headed over to the Lotus House for a meeting with their Director, Anna Frusciante . She brought to our attention the issue of homelessness in Miami, specifically among women and children in the city. The discussion provoked thoughtful questions about the challenges homeless women face and the opportunities for assistance to the cause in the community. While at Lotus House, we learned that the center has the ability to accommodate up to 250 women and children, turning away thousands in need each year. Thankfully, after some pro bono work by many firm lawyers the organization is in the process of building a beautiful new location to accommodate over 500 women and children! While visiting, we were able to watch a short clip of a rendering of the new Lotus House facility, set to open in December of 2017!

Back at the office, we heard from David Trench and Melissa Pallett-Vasquez about arbitration and litigation issues that arise in specific cases. We ended the day with a visit from Alan Ojeda, the developer of our very own 1450 Brickell office space and much much more throughout the city of Miami. Alan spoke to us about how he started his development career in Miami after hailing from Spain. Most inspiring were Alan’s stories of acquiring property, building projects while others doubted his plans, and subsequently continuing to complete the numerous projects, all of which are still successful many years after their completion!

As part of the summer associate experience, Bilzin Sumberg coordinates tag-along opportunities for the summer associates to attend. This week, Elise and I witnessed Al Dotson represent Related Urban Development Company before the County Commission. Hundreds of Liberty Square residents stepped up to the podiums to remind those present of the exigency of the approval of the redevelopment. Continue Reading One Step Closer

The very first day of orientation, the summer associates were introduced to the concept of tag alongs. Bilzin Sumberg provides opportunities for us to shadow experienced attorneys as they interact with clients, learning by observing. We were asked to rank practice groups in order of personal interest, allowing Jessica Buchsbaum to assign the experiences in order of priority as they arise.

I don’t think any of us were expecting the number and variety of tag alongs we’ve experienced in just the first two and a half weeks of the summer. All seven summer associates have had opportunities to observe associates and partners “in action,” interacting with their clients on pressing matters. So far, our group has tagged-along with the Corporate & Tax, Litigation, Land Development & Government Relations, Business Finance & Restructuring, and Real Estate practice groups. Continue Reading Summer Associates Tagging-Along

IMG_1219Last week, the summer associates along with Jessica, Craig, Marty, and Alan traveled to Miami’s Design District. On the ride over, Marty explained Bilzin Sumberg’s role in the project. In representing the Miami Design District Associates, LLCBilzin Sumberg helped secure loans to finance the acquisition and construction of 40 buildings in the area. When we arrived at the Design District, our group was greeted by Dacra’s Chief Operating Officer Steven Gretenstein. He explained the development of the Design District including how the company secured luxury brands to open new stores and reached out to many reknown artists who participated in redesigning the area’s buildings and garages.

With Steven as our guide, we walked through the Design District and the paper layouts of the area came to life. Steven frequently stopped to explain the designs of certain buildings, location preferences of the fashion luxury brands, and progress of construction phases. One highlight was when Steven walked us into the Louis Vuitton store to show us the store’s three-story design and arrangement of the merchandise. Other nearby stores had rooftop gardens and building features designed by foreign artists. Overall, the tour was amazing (not to mention the final stop at MC Kitchen). It was incredible to watch as Bilzin Sumberg’s attorney’s could point to a specific block or building and recall the loan that was secured for it or their legal involvement in the project. As a Miami native, it was nice to finally learn the history behind buildings I drive by everyday!

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On site during the Design District Tour

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Brendan Studley enjoying the view.

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Jessica Kramer's view during the tour.

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The group learning about the Design District.

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Brendan Studley and Camille Manso enjoying the tour.

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