We started the day with a legal writing seminar taught by Ed Lintz of Legal Writing Pro—a resource to which I attribute much of my success in law school (Point Made, written by the company’s founder, was by my side at all times then and now). But the seminar was particularly helpful because we discussed not only writing for courts but for clients too. Us lawyers often indulge ourselves with legal ruminations in client letters when the client simply wants advice written in plain English. Though most of us know this, we still forget to write from the reader’s perspective.  

After lunch, Michael Moore, legal researcher extraordinaire, stopped by with Shalia Sakona from our litigation department to give us an overview of best practices when facing a research problem. Another thing clients don’t like—being billed for inefficient research. And who can blame them? 

 The next event of the day was perhaps my favorite. Jeff Levin and Mimi Klimberg of the Greater Miami-Dade Jewish Federation gave a fantastic non-denominational presentation on how to find a passion and pick a charity organization with similar values. We shared stories of how we’ve helped others, discussed the sense of fulfillment that came from it, and planned how we could make an impact going forward. 

 The last bit of training for the day was given by Scott Baena, the creator of this wonderful program. Can you guess what it was about? Here is a hint: we ultimately work in the service sector, and without clients we are nothing more than unemployed philosophers. I’m sure you guessed it—client satisfaction. I learned that oftentimes the best way to serve a client is simply by asking what his or her needs are. What are your goals in dealing with this matter? How would you like to be updated? Clients want us to know what they want; we just need to ask (and deliver).  

Last but not least was an experience that I will never forget. We had a wonderful dinner with Bilzin Sumberg’s founding partners and its next managing partner, Al Dotson. The discussion was moderated by Marshall Pasternack, who led us through a range of topics, from our firm culture and the importance of pro-bono work, to the mistakes partners made as young associates. People say it’s almost impossible to get a group of lawyers to coordinate a conference call, yet we had a three-hour-dinner with a group of partners who are likely busier than I can even fathom. What a testament to the firm’s development of its young lawyers!  

I am so proud to be a part of the Bilzin Sumberg family. The firm does not give mere lip service to serving the community; it walks the walks. And it true—you don’t just “fit in” here, you belong here. 

 

 

 

The Academy participants with Meg Daly, Founder of Friends of the Underline

It’s hard to believe, but we’re now more than halfway through the Academy.  We began the day by visiting with Oksana Esberard, who led us in our second mindfulness session.  Scott Baena and Jessica Buchsbaum joined us for this “heartful” session, in which Oksana directed us to close our eyes, lean back in our chairs, spread our arms, and focus on our hearts.  While we did breathing exercises, Oksana encouraged us to think about all the things that we felt grateful for in our lives.

My thoughts turned to my family and friends of course, but also to the present moment.  I felt lucky to be part of an organization that takes wellness seriously and gives each first year associate the tools needed to become successful young attorneys.  It was a powerful experience, and it’s an exercise I plan to do again on my own.  I left the session with a tremendous feeling of gratitude.

In the afternoon we visited Lotus House, a nonprofit homeless shelter dedicated to improving the lives of homeless women, youth and children.  Lotus House shelters approximately one quarter of the sheltered homeless population in Miami-Dade County, but receives little public funding.  As a result, support from the community is of paramount importance.

Program Director Isabella Dell’Oca gave us a tour of Lotus House’s new building, which was completed in December 2017.  The new facility can house over 400 individuals and includes a play zone for children, a full kitchen, a beauty salon, a second-floor garden, and an educational area.  Before we left we had the pleasure of meeting the founder and president of Lotus House, Constance Collins, in a section of the building that Bilzin Sumberg sponsored. We were proud to learn that Bilzin Sumberg had played a role in Lotus House’s successful move to the new building. Before heading back to the office we had lunch together and reflected on the impact that one person with a big idea can have on the community.

Back at the office we met with Meg Daly, the founder and president of Friends of the Underline. After falling and breaking both of her arms, she was riding the Metrorail to physical therapy a few years ago when she noticed the unused space underneath the train tracks.  That was how she got her big idea: the Underline, a proposed 10-mile linear park running under the Metrorail line from the Miami River to Dadeland.  Once completed, the Underline will incorporate a wide variety of amenities and activities, including recreation areas, dog parks, dining and gaming tables, and artist spaces.  Meg helped us understand her vision for the Underline and the positive impact it will have on the community, while Land Use associate Carly Grimm explained some unique zoning issues that are presented by such an ambitious project.

At the end of the day we spoke with Scott. He challenged each of us to think about what we could do to give back to the community and to help those around us. Fortunately, the Academy continues to provide excellent examples for us.

One of my primary objectives coming into the summer was to establish a plan of action for my future, both at Bilzin Sumberg and in the Miami community. Of course, at the top of the list was figuring out which of the firm’s prestigious Practice Groups I would prioritize, but I also wanted to put myself on a path to career development and community entrenchment that would carry me for the duration of my career. Over two-thirds of the way through the summer, I can confidently say that the summer associate program has helped me to accomplish this goal through meaningful work with substantive feedback and consistent attorney mentorship opportunities. Everyday has proven to be a new chance for us to learn, grow, and have fun, and Bilzin Sumberg could not be more welcoming in helping us to feel at home while providing us with a  practical dose of real legal work. Continue Reading Learning from Lawyers over Lunch: The Life of a Summer Associate

Bilzin Sumberg hosted a wine and cheese reception this Monday to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. “Celebrate” in this context has a double meaning. Brian Adler ran through the history of Pride Month and taught me aspects of the movement that I never considered. From Pride Month’s inception–beginning with the Stonewall Riot–members of the LGBTQ community have used positivity and acceptance as a form of resistance. My previous understanding was that the movement essentially served as a single-issue platform: to fight for the acceptance of gay marriage. But I was completely wrong. The community through Pride Month has successfully fought for greater HIV/AIDS research, for anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Matthew Shepard Act), for more inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the military, and various other initiative pushing for equality. There is much more work that needs to be done, but certainly a lot to celebrate. Continue Reading Happy Pride Month!

(L to R, Jessica, Eric, Lucas, Ben, Devin and Brianna)

Bilzin Sumberg provides opportunities to work together to benefit charitable organizations in South Florida and beyond.  The firm’s strong commitment to the community has constantly been conveyed.  This past Friday, our summer associate class took a break from assignments and volunteered at Feeding South Florida (FSF).  FSF is the sole Feeding America food bank serving Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties; they have the largest service area in the state, serving 25% of the state’s food insecure population and rescuing 46 million pounds of food per year.

Once we arrived to the sorting warehouse, we had orientation and got separated into 4 groups: inspectors, runners, sorters, and builders.  The Bilzin Sumberg volunteers were inspectors, managing three tables in the inspection room.  We examined the donated food, threw out unusable food, and called for a runner to bring our inspected box to the sorters, who classified food into categories.  Lastly, we were provided with the number of meals we helped provide to families in need of food assistance that day, which was—drum roll, please—a whopping 35,000 meals.

 

To finish up another amazing week, Eric Singer invited the summer associates to go sailing together on Saturday.  During the trip, we saw the beautiful Miami skyline and the historical houses of Stiltsville.  His sailboat is great, the Miami views are great, but Eric is even greater for thinking to include us!  Thanks again, Eric!

 

Brianna Sainte

Our first two weeks at Bilzin Sumberg surpassed all expectations!

On Thursday, May 24th, we participated in one of the numerous opportunities the firm offers to give back to the community. The firm supported Red Nose Day, an international fundraising campaign dedicated to ending child poverty. After donating, we were all invited to clown around for a good cause at a photo booth filled with props—including crowns, taco hats, and, of course, red noses. From day one, everyone has highlighted the significance of being involved through the Bilzin Sumberg Cares initiative, and Thursday was yet another example of the firm’s commitment to philanthropy.

Bilzin Sumberg not only empowers us to give back, they invest in our development to become better lawyers. Our Friday WestLaw training session included lessons on how to: find court filing rules and checklists, compare law across jurisdictions, and craft a systematic research approach. I appreciate that if I ever get stuck in my research for an assignment, there will be a small army of people to help me get on the right track; I have never felt overwhelmed, just encouraged and supported. Through substantive training programs and day-to-day legal practice support, Bilzin Sumberg fosters efficiency to ensure our success. I’m looking forward to the upcoming seven weeks!

 

It’s the middle of week 2 here at Bilzin Sumberg and things are starting to get serious. Now to be clear, the daily outings to lunch with a partner or associate are still in full swing and heavily taken advantage of, just served with a side of real world advice. On Monday, partner at the firm Jay Sakalo, took myself and two other summer associates out to lunch to the ever popular PM restaurant directly across the street. While discussions of baseball, football, and the real housewives were had, the topic of client acquisition was also touched upon. Jay Sakalo explained how Bilzin Sumberg prides itself in ensuring the social growth and networking capabilities of each of its associates. He explained the firm’s many programs designed to help associates foster relationships within the community that can then lead to business ventures in the future. I found this to be comforting as a summer associate seeing as how client acquisition is rarely talked about at school, and I therefore have little knowledge on the topic despite its importance in the legal world.

As if also sensing the written assignments we all had due, the firm’s summer associate legal writing program was held just in the nick of time. On both Monday and Tuesday, we had the pleasure of working with Susan McCloskey on our legal writing skills both in a general sense as well as through individual feedback. The other summer associates and I participated in several group exercises that included revising and editing excerpts under the guidance of McCloskey. With all of us working on major assignments and seeing how our writing assignments are impacting the cases we are working on, the work we did with Susan was much appreciated. All of the techniques we learned were so helpful and really had an impact on the way I plan to approach future writing assignments for the rest of the summer and my legal career.

Finally, I, along with two other summer associates, went out to lunch with associates Salomé Bascuñan and Sean M. Gleason.  As the host jokingly commented “welcome back,” we were seated at a table with a view of the outside terrace of PM restaurant. Topics ranged from childhood summer vacations in Chile and Haiti to Sean M. Gleason‘s stint in the Peace Corps.  More importantly, however, was Salomé Bascuñan and Sean Gleason‘s discussion of the different practice areas within the firm and specifically their experiences in the real estate group at Bilzin Sumberg. What was really great was their encouragement for us to participate in each practice group through assignments. It is such a nice feeling to know that Bilzin Sumberg allows us to explore multiple practices areas that we might be interested in and doesn’t box us into one practice group for the entire summer. With that thought in mind, I am truly excited for the projects ahead of me.

As freshly sworn-in attorneys, Jenny and I headed in to our final days with renewed enthusiasm and excitement to officially start our careers at Bilzin Sumberg. On Friday, we began with the 21st Century Business Writing Workshop. We reviewed important skills we honed in law school and during our summer positions, and we also got to focus on the other types of writing we will engage as young associates. I left with a new perspective on how to share scholarship and insights as an attorney rather than a student, as well as how to find my voice and convey it through my writing.

 Next, we put our accountant hats on and learned how to read various financial statements with Stacia Wells, a partner in the Corporate department. While I successfully avoided diving in to this topic during law school, Stacia had an uncanny ability to make something quite complex understandable and relatable. I can confidently say I am no longer intimidated by financial statements. Also, this session with Stacia reminded me that the lawyers at our firm are great resources for complex issues that are not necessarily legal.

 Our next presentation was from John Sumberg and Scott Baena, and they told us about the firm’s creation and history, mission, values, and goals. It was a truly incredible and unique experience to hear about the growth and success of the firm from two of its founders. The emphasized the importance of community involvement, building relationships, and Bilzin Sumberg’s role as a large law firm uniquely embedded in the fabric of Miami.

We ended the day with a discussion about Client Satisfaction with Scott Baena. He explained his findings after meeting with many of the firm’s clients about what they value about Bilzin Sumberg, and what we can do, even as first year associates, to enhance service and add value to our client’s experience.

 Our last full day of The Academy began with a Practice Development talk with Jim Cranston from Law Vision Group. Jim helped us set short, mid, and long term goals for our own practice development. He helped us think about what we can do now to build relationships and eventually create a network that benefits us both personally and professionally.

 Later we went to lunch with the second year associates, Brendan Studley, Anthony Sirven, and Jennifer Junger. It was nice and relieving to hear about the lessons they learned their first year, and to know we always have people to talk to for any of our concerns. After lunch, we met with Michael Kreitzer to discuss real ethical dilemmas. We went through some interesting and realistic hypotheticals, talking about both what we would do as the attorney in the situation as well as what the Rules of Professional Conduct require of us. It reminded us that sometimes just because something is not an ethical conflict, it might still be a business conflict, and it is just as important to handle those with care in order to be the best lawyer for your client.

We ended the day with the Advanced Legal Research Skills seminar with Michael Moore, our Research and Competitive Intelligence Analyst and Jeff Snyder, a Business Finance & Restructuring partner. Michael gave us great research sources, tactics, and tips that will surely help us this coming year. Jeff supplemented Michael’s great tips with advice on how to do research most efficiently and accurately for the assigning attorneys.

 The last couple days of The Academy were jam-packed with invaluable discussions, advice, and information. As The Academy comes to an end I realize how helpful the last week will be to my career going forward. Furthermore, I am honored to join a firm that sees the importance in my personal and professional development at such an early point in my career. I feel equipped with all of the tools I need, and I am ready to get started!

 

The second day of The Academy highlighted a common theme attributable to the success of the professionals I have encountered: unwavering dedication to improving our community. Representative David Richardson is such an example. We had the pleasure to learn of Mr. Richardson’s contributions to the reform of Florida’s correctional system. His commitment and passion materialized into actual changes in the system. The attorneys at Bilzin Sumberg are no different; they have shared with us valuable insight into their careers and the choices that have lead them to success. Fueled by their desire to implement changes that would improve our beloved city, our attorneys have made a significant impact in Miami and forged valuable relationships along the way.

A significant part of the legal profession involves engaging with your community and developing your network. As such, Scott Baena, Brian Bilzin, Jennifer Junger, and Anthony De Yurre shared with us invaluable advice based on each of their unique networking strategies and experiences. Similar to the commitment necessary to impact your community, developing worthwhile relationships requires an investment of your time and efforts. As first-year associates, we are interested in refining our networking skills to ensure that we maximize the opportunities to expand our network. In our networking seminar, we learned of various opportunities and methods to develop valuable relationships based on the experiences of Bilzin Sumberg attorneys who are all at different stages in their careers. “Working a Room” involves taking a real interest in the discussion with individuals whom you want to learn more about, as well as a continuing desire to develop such relationships.

We concluded our second, eventful day of The Academy with happy hour at the SLS Brickell. We had the opportunity to catch up with the attorneys in our Recruiting Committee, as well as implement some of the networking strategies we learned. Scott Baena and Jay Sakalo shared with me some wonderful stories about the history of Bilzin Sumberg. The history of our firm zeroed in on many of the takeaways from our course offerings during day 2 of The Academy – making a meaningful impact on your community and cultivating relationships can lead to great success.

 

I can say with confidence that our first day as associates at Bilzin Sumberg was unique. Thanks to Hurricane Irma, Jenny and I started our careers at Bilzin Sumberg a week later than planned. Although this resulted in a lot of rescheduling of The Academy, it made for a very exciting beginning! Our first day focused on community, charity, and managing our time to maximize giving back to Miami as well as personal growth.

First, we met with members of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation who spoke to us on finding that cause that makes us “tick.” We talked about the values that motivate us and the multitude of ways that we can contribute to our city. They stressed the importance of finding an organization where we can both make a valuable impact and gain personal fulfillment and enjoyment.

Later we drove over to Goodwill Industries. I was astounded at what this organization has accomplished. Going beyond its mission of vocational training and placement of people with disabilities, the South Florida division of Goodwill has created several of its own businesses where intellectually and physically disabled people can work. We got to see this social entrepreneurialism in practice on our tour of the facility, where Goodwill employees make Army uniforms and assemble inserts for the Miami Herald. We also had the opportunity to talk with David Landsberg, the CEO of Goodwill South Florida, about the organization’s history and initiatives.

After we visited Goodwill, we headed to lunch at Soya & Pomodoro and met up with members of the Land Development & Government Relations practice group. After a delicious Italian lunch we walked over to the Brightline. We put on our boots, hardhats, gloves, vests, and goggles, and were ready to tour the construction site that will soon be the Miami hub for the high speed train connecting Miami to Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. I had never been to a construction site before, and it was fascinating to see the bare bones of a major project from the inside. It is going to be absolutely incredible when it is completed, not to mention the convenience and innovation it will bring to Miami.

Our last meeting of the day was with Juan Martinez, Vice President/Chief Financial Officer of the Knight Foundation. He spoke to us about the plethora of incredible initiatives the foundation is a part of, from funding the arts to hiring and encouraging others to hire minority and women-owned investment banking firms. He explained that the Knight Foundation looks to invest in ideas and opportunities that will be a catalyst for more change. We learned that we can translate this to our own individual experience, by choosing to invest our time where there will be a big and lasting impact.

Although all were unique, each of the organizations we met with today taught two consistent lessons. First, there is always time to give to causes that matter to you, you just have to make sure you utilize it. Second, find a cause that truly brings you joy, and success will follow. Our first day reminded me that the legal profession is more than what goes on within the firm, and to be a great lawyer you must be involved in the community you live in. To say I was inspired would be an understatement, and I cannot wait to join some of these great organizations and get to work!