The first year associates after they took their Oath of Attorney and became members of the Florida Bar!

We’ve wrapped up the 2018 Academy for Professional Development and we hope it was an experience that will resonate with the first year associates!  They were exposed to substantive areas of practice and professional skills, community needs and clients.  We were able to cap off an amazing Academy program with a motivational speech by Alonzo Mourning of the Mourning Family Foundation.  He spent time talking to our lawyers about the Power of One and how each of them has the ability to make a positive change in our community.

While Zo was a powerful speaker and so gracious with his time, the highlight of the day was a private swearing in ceremony for our first year associates and their loved ones, presided over by Judge Michael Hanzman, with a celebratory lunch following.  It was a nice opportunity to reflect on all that we accomplished during the program and celebrate our first year associates’ matriculation into practicing attorneys at the firm.  We hope we’ve equipped them in a way that will make their transition easier!  We are excited to see what they do as lawyers and members of this community.

 

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!

 

The first year associates with Judge Thornton after taking their oath.
The first year associates with Judge Thornton after taking their oath.

Today was an exciting day!  Not only did our first year associates conclude their participation in The Academy for Professional Development, they also became members of The Florida BarJudge Thornton graciously took time to talk to us about civility, ethics and motion practice.  With family, friends and loved ones present, Judge Thornton then administered the Oath of Attorney.

We hope that over the past two and a half weeks, we filled the hearts and minds of Jennifer, Jessica, Anthony and Brendan.  They’ve seen great need and innovation in our community and we can’t wait for them to embark on their legal careers and grow to become leaders in our community.

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.

cava
Commissioner Cava visits Bilzin Sumberg

Our first week of the inaugural Academy continued with modules presented by members of our own law firm. We learned much about the different practices within the Business Finance and Restructuring group from bankruptcy to loan agreements and more. We also witnessed a live mock commission hearing from the Land Development and Governmental Relations group! This gave all of us attending the opportunity to witness not only how a they prepare for presentation to a county or city commission, but also the real interplay of commissioner questions and general public comments that are involved. This provided us with great insight to one of the advocacy components of the specific practice area.

Along with the presentations by attorneys from Bilzin Sumberg, unique perspectives from outside speakers helped our first-year class appreciate the importance of both community involvement and interaction. On Tuesday, a visit from Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava brought close-to-home meaning to more general words like “citizen” and “service.” Commissioner Cava spoke not only of her own triumphs in the greater Miami area, but causes our new attorneys (myself included!) could dedicate time to in an effort to improve areas within the community. Issues such as water conservation, education, and housing were some of the specific areas we discussed as showing plenty of need for local attention and service. A subsequent group discussion of the concept of giving back really enforced the idea that although attorneys serve those who need help with legal concepts, our broader role of assisting others in need extends far beyond law, and well into the community.

Later in the week, Jim Cranston from Law Vision Group hosted a morning session about practice development. Besides reinforcing the importance of networks and business development, Jim introduced us to concepts linking social media networks to professional interactions. It is easy for us to think of the two as necessarily separate, but with LinkedIn, and at times sites like Twitter, the two can truly be merged to foster professional networks and connections! Attorneys at the firm who publish blog posts covering an array of legal topics for example often share their discussions on different platforms to inform members of our own firm and far beyond of the changes in law or other findings. Utilizing these platforms effectively will definitely be helpful in discovering other individuals who are involved in areas related to our practice.

Overall, this week has sparked important ideas and concepts for the beginning of our professional careers as lawyers and also as community-members. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Academy lessons on these two aspects and more!