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.

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!

 

IMG_2508At the end of the last week, Bilzin Sumberg’s Women’s Initiative organized a Floral Design event for the women attorneys and summer associates. After work, we all headed down to a conference room and were greeted by tons of gorgeous flowers, Mediterranean food, and some wine to get the creativity flowing. At my table, we chatted about travel, tennis lessons, and how quickly the summer has blown past us, as we got ready to make flower crowns and carnation bouquets.        Continue Reading Flora and Fun

IMG_0183Alex, Hannah, and Lauren had a chance to volunteer Wednesday night at Casa Valentina, but on Friday all the summer associates (along with Jessica Buchsbaum and Betsi Cobas) came together to give back to the community by volunteering at Feeding South Florida (FSF).  FSF is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the hungry; it rescues 44 million pounds of food per year, as well as leads hunger and poverty advocacy efforts throughout Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties.

We all got up early to drive to Hallandale Beach, where FSF has a sorting warehouse. Once we arrived, we were directed into an orientation room, where we were told to sign in and sit down. There were many summer associates from other South Florida law firms there to volunteer; each of us recognized some familiar faces from law school.  Joe Baldelomar, FSF’s Volunteer Coordinator, entered the room and told us about FSF’s mission and methods.  He also shared some harrowing facts about hunger in South Florida, including that 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry in the region.

Joe explained the process of how donated food is distributed to the hungry.  Donated food is first brought to a FSF warehouse, where it is then inspected, sorted, and shipped away to be distributed in various communities throughout South Florida.  We were there to help in the inspection and sorting process.  Joe concluded his presentation, and we were directed into another larger area of the warehouse, where donated food is stored. Continue Reading Feeding South Florida

IMG_9272Early in our tenure here, we learned how much Bilzin Sumberg likes to give back.

Yesterday, the women of Bilzin Sumberg went to the Casa Valentina shelter as part of a United Way volunteer project. Casa Valentina is a shelter for former foster care and homeless youth. The shelter serves as a transition tool for its residents to learn to live and thrive independently. For weeks, the firm has collected cleaning supplies to donate to the shelter as housewarming gifts for new and current residents. Last night, the women of Bilzin Sumberg went to United Way to arrange baskets for the residents. We were joined by a room full of women from other firms around the city. Karyl and Salome showed Hannah, Lauren, and me the ropes packing baskets, decorating them with ribbon, and writing cards to the residents. Continue Reading Bilzin Gives Back

The Academy attends a rehearsal session for the "Spirit of Goodwill" Band
The Academy attends a rehearsal session for the “Spirit of Goodwill” Band

With two full weeks of the Academy behind us, I’ve been able to reflect on something that is truly inspiring. Bilzin Sumberg is not only investing in our development to become better lawyers, they are empowering us to become better people. Community is a major pillar of Bilzin Sumberg’s culture. This week was largely focused on ways in which we can give back to Miami.

We had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Levin and Mimi Klimberg from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation about identifying a cause for charity or community involvement. Throughout their presentation they cited research demonstrating that people are happier when they give back to the community. They stressed what Scott Baena and Marshall Pasternack have been reminding us all along: commit yourself to a cause that is important and meaningful to you.

Eileen Mehta introduced us to a cause that is important and meaningful to her. We had the honor and privilege of visiting Goodwill Industries of South Florida, a long-standing firm client. We met with David Landsberg, the President and CEO, who shared Goodwill’s vision and explained that Goodwill of South Florida is committed to creating jobs for people with disabilities. This particular Goodwill strives to train, employ and eventually assist in transitioning individuals with disabilities into the private work force. Goodwill South Florida is one of Miami Dade’s largest employers, and a large majority of those employees are people with disabilities, including autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, visual impairments and behavioral and psychological disabilities, who may otherwise have a difficult time seeking and maintaining employment. Goodwill has government contracts to produce Army uniforms and veteran’s flags, and additionally to clean many of the government buildings in Miami-Dade. Individuals with disabilities, employed and trained by Goodwill, complete a vast majority of this work.

Walking around the Goodwill facilities was completely invigorating. There were rows and rows of sewing machines, manned by incredibly hardworking and able individuals who appeared to take great pride and satisfaction in their work. Everywhere we looked there were pants being made, flags being produced, work being done and individual lives being shaped and bettered. As we walked around, we were greeted with many enthusiastic smiles, high fives and handshakes that certainly brightened all of our days.

The absolute highlight of my day was having the pleasure of hearing the “Spirit of Goodwill” band perform. The band members are talented, and their feel good music is guaranteed to touch your heart. The group is comprised of individuals with a wide array of disabilities, but their musical skill, excitement to perform and commitment to the band spoke so much louder than their disabilities.

Being in this incredible, opportunity-creating place made me so proud to work for Bilzin Sumberg. Eileen’s dedication helps make something like this possible. This experience reinforced the notion that the work we take has tremendous power to impact lives in a real and profound way.

United WayWeek two of The Academy is underway and we’ve already had two field trips. Up first was a visit to the United Way’s Center for Excellence in Early Education – a leading educational facility for children between one and five years old. While there we toured the educational facilities and also received a big-picture synopsis of what the United Way of Miami-Dade is doing in our community. In short, the United Way has partnered with other South Florida organizations that focus on three areas: Education, primarily in the early years; Financial Stability; and, Health. Though we had already participated in several of the United Way’s projects last summer, it was enlightening to learn more about the specific issues affecting our community – such as income and educational gaps and how they feed off each other – and, more importantly, how we can continue to get involved.

For our second trip, Suzanne Amaducci-Adams and Jon Chassen invited us to ride the Miami Metromover to tour the city. As we zipped through the Miami Skyline, Suzanne and Jon gave us a history lesson about the development of Brickell and Downtown Miami, and pointed out the projects they have worked or are currently working on – which, as an aside, included practically every building we passed along the way. Seeing these projects firsthand helped me appreciate our firm’s footprint on our city. But, as Suzanne emphasized, her primary goal was to introduce us to Miami Dade’s transportation system, which has seen exciting developments over the years and for which there remains many exciting opportunities.

In addition to the field trips, we’ve also had presentations by the Corporate and Real Estate Departments. It was exciting to learn more about what the departments do, the projects they have worked on, and how their deals often require teaming up with lawyers from other departments. Of course, that entailed covering a lot of material. So, to put that information into context, Stephen Sandiford and Christopher Pierson hilariously acted out a lawyer-client meeting in which Chris retained Stephen to help him sell a company that manufactures surgically-implanted communication devices – surely something many law partners would be lining up to buy for their associates. And after, we too became part of the program as Alexandra Lehson and Kent Koch turned the tables and asked us to negotiate a Guarantee Agreement for a multi-million dollar loan.

Overall, The Academy has provided us with an exciting introduction to our legal careers. We’ve had opportunities to interact with key members in our firm, leaders and organizations in our community, and professionals across many industries. I am excited to see what this last week holds, and even more excited to begin practicing after that.

This week was by far the quickest, which says a lot considering how quickly nine weeks came and went as summer associates at Bilzin Sumberg. On Tuesday, we closed our summer-long Mock Real Estate deal with signatures and ceviche. Even after the exercise I think we’ll always question whether the other side really did get the better deal of the vacant-lot Brickell property. That night, the five summer associates went to our last group dinner where we declared unofficial superlatives ranging from “Most Likely to Be the Earliest to Every Event” to “Best Dressed” and importantly, “Cleanest Car.”

Later in the week, we participated in the Land Development and Governmental Relations practice group event at the Chapman Partnership. Armed with hairnets and aprons, we served dinner to the homeless for two hours. Notably at the front of the food line was Al Dotson, scooping mashed potatoes like a pro. The work we did was unannounced, but certainly appreciated. Walking out of the Chapman Partnership to “Thank You’s” made the event well worth it. We finished the night at Proof Pizza & Pasta where we enjoyed locally brewed beer and great food with the department. We also had the chance to talk about upcoming projects and cases some of the attorneys will be involved with.

Thursday night we were invited to Marshall’s home for a summers’ end dinner. We reminisced on the summer and shared stories from office trip-and-falls to our celebrity look-alikes. The last we left it, Jay was deciding between One Direction and N.W.A. for his personal favorite artist.

On our last day in the office, we finished up ongoing assignments and had our last days’ lunch together with our mentors. Reminiscing on the summer again was inevitable, but the stories we could (and did) share were endless. People we’ve known for such a short time have become mentors, and friends. The time the five of us spent together this summer has taught us so much, from balancing a workload to forging new relationships and more. Summer 2015 did more than manage our expectations, it exceeded them.

We went to Virginia Key Beach in Key Biscayne to volunteer with Citizens for a Better South Florida at the Virginia Key Restoration Project, which began after Hurricane Andrew had damaged the landscape back in 1992. To help with the project’s goal of removing and replacing invasive exotic plant species throughout the 15-acre hammock, we took on planting and digging duties. I was in charge of mixing soil to create “compost,” an environmentally-friendly fertilizer that significantly reduces plant greenhouse gas emissions, and then taking it to the others for their plants. Breaking a sweat with my fellow summer associates for a good cause, and doing so while overlooking Key Biscayne’s shoreline, allowed us to bond and appreciate how lucky we are to work in such a beautiful city, and to be in a position to give back. Even though I am from Miami, its beauty never grows old for me!

After a hard day’s work, we were treated to Shorty’s Barbeque. For anyone who has not been to a Shorty’s before, there are few places in town that grill tastier ribs–take it from “Chef Tony!” During the delicious lunch we talked about how much fun we have had so far and how quickly the summer is going by. It feels like only yesterday that Marshall welcomed us to the Summer Associate Program and warned that this summer would flash by in an instant. Looking back, Marshall was absolutely right. We have now completed about 50% of the summer program and have had the opportunity to work on headline-grabbing cases, make new and lasting relationships, and eat at some of the most delicious restaurants in Miami (particularly at Edge, a firm favorite). I am excited about what the second half of the summer will bring, but am hoping to figure out a way to make the time go by just a bit more slowly since–and I know I can speak on behalf of the entire summer class–we are truly enjoying our summer journey together.

.