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.

 

The first week has really flown by and it is hard to believe it is already the end of our first week of the Academy. The morning started out with a firm-wide breakfast for Teach for America – an organization near and dear to both the firm and our clients.  

After the breakfast, Stacia Wells walked us through a session on understanding financial statements. As a firm catering to commercial clients, spotting potential legal issues in financial statements is a critical skill. I know we all appreciated Stacia’s engaging and straightforward approach to what can be an intimidatingly complex area for recent law school graduates.  

Oksana Esberard then led us through a mindfulness session. We learned that we can add value and increase productivity by simply giving everyone a moment to gather their thoughts before diving into business in meetings.  

We then headed over to the Design District for lunch at MC Kitchen, where we were joined by clients Steven Gretenstein (of Dacra, a real estate development company) and Lyle Chariff, Mauricio Zapata, and Luis Guevara (of Chariff Realty Group). After a delightful lunch, they took us on a tour of emerging neighborhoods – starting with the Design District. The Design District is home to cafés, restaurants, and art galleries, as well as to flagship stores for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Louboutin. Our group was privileged to visit Dacra in the Design District and see their fascinating private art collection adorning the walls of the Dacra offices.  

After the Design District, we toured Wynwood (famous for the Wynwood Walls, as well as many excellent restaurants and breweries) and the emerging neighborhood of Allapattah. It was an eye-opening and inspiring experience to hear the stories of how these three neighborhoods have evolved and grown over the years. We felt truly privileged that Bilzin Sumberg’s deep and meaningful client relationships allowed us to benefit from these insights.

 

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.

 

After practicing our meditation at home in the early morning, we started our second day of the Academy at Bilzin Sumberg with a presentation by Werten Bellamy, on the topic of the “Indispensable Associate.” Werten discussed the best ways for us, as new associates, to make ourselves valuable to the firm and to promote our personal growth as lawyers. What will our personal brands be as new associates? How will we learn the styles and communication preferences of the partners with whom we work? These are all questions we need to be asking ourselves as new attorneys, and I think that Werten provided us with truly useful tools to make these decisions.

After Werten’s presentation, we sat down for a roundtable discussion over lunch with representatives from Bilzin Sumberg’s five practice groups: Tax, Trusts and Estates, Land Use and Government Relations, Real Estate, Corporate, and Litigation. Each partner briefly discussed his or her group’s work and then filled us all in on a few recent projects. The firm has a ton of exciting cases and deals going on, many of which include several practice groups, so it was really interesting and useful to hear how the collaboration works. We also had the opportunity to ask questions about each practice.

Next, we heard from Eric Singer about best practices for billing our time and from Laura Galeano about leveraging and improving our social media presence before sitting down for a panel on effective networking. Elise Holtzman Gerson, Adrian Felix, Andrej Micovic, Scott Baena, and Brian Bilzin sat on the panel, with Sara Herald moderating. Their pointers and advice was different from what we heard from Werten, but echoed the idea that as junior lawyers we need to be taking initiative and looking for ways to distinguish ourselves. Even though we are only two days into the Academy, I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to be working at a firm that invests so much in its young associates and emphasizes our personal development to such a degree. Afterwards, we got to practice our new skills at a fun happy hour at Morton’s with the recruiting committee!

 

The first year associates, Jessica Buchsbaum & Scott Baena take a picture with Oksana Esberard after our Mindfulness Session

Thanks to the Academy, our first day as real attorneys was action-packed and eye-opening. Our long-waited reunions took place last night at the Welcome Dinner, so this morning we were able to dive right into the sessions. It started off with none other than John Sumberg and Al Dotson. John and Al welcomed us to the firm with words of wisdom and helpful insights into what we should be getting out of the week. Then, Scott Baena outlined the firm culture and emphasized how imperative cohesiveness of culture has been to the success of the firm. He also spoke about the value of collaboration and partnership. These remarks from some of the most senior partners at the firm dissolved feelings of nerves and replaced them with excitement for practicing law in such a thoughtful environment.

Next, we worked on our business development skills with Jim Cranston of Law Vision Group. Jim spoke about getting into the habit of maintaining relationships early on in our careers. After arming us with networking techniques, we role-played networking scenarios and learned how to properly approach developing business out of relationships.

Next, we had lunch with first and second year associates and spoke about the keys to success in those early years of working. We were able to ask candid questions and the associates spoke honestly about what they’ve done that has worked, what they’ve done that hasn’t worked, and what they wished they had known as entry-level associates.

We finished the day with a presentation on mindfulness. Oksana Esberard from SattvaMe gave us a crash course in how to identify and manage stress in the workplace. She spoke about body and breath awareness and the importance of remaining present in the moment. Finally, she led us through a meditation exercise. I left the session feeling rejuvenated, and with a newfound respect for mindfulness. I look forward to her other sessions throughout the week!

After a full day of training and information, I feel one step closer to being an effective attorney! I remain eternally grateful that Bilzin Sumberg emphasizes the importance of these ineffable aspects of the practice of law and doesn’t, as Al Dotson said, just “throw us into the ocean and tell us to swim.” I’m so excited to see what else the Academy has in store for us!

Last Friday, the Summer Associates attended the Federal Court Observer Program at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Federal Courthouse. This event is hosted every year by the Honorable Paul C. Huck, a Senior U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, and provides a forum for law students working in South Florida to learn and network with judges and attorneys practicing in the area.

 

Our day began with a moot court argument between four law students regarding a motion hearing in Fresh Results, LLC v. ASF Holland, B.V. et al–a case that is actually before Judge Huck right now. This experience was great because we were able to witness how a Federal judge reasons through competing debates during oral argument. After, there was the “From Law Student to Young Lawyer” panel. Young lawyers from various different law firms gave their personal advice on how to succeed as a summer associate and practical steps we can take today to better situate ourselves for a successful career. The next panel, “How to Keep Partners Happy,” was my favorite segment of the morning. There, partners at some of the largest law firms in Miami gave advice about what they are looking for in a junior associate. They gave us real stories of characteristics that really made a particular associate stand out or, contrarily, fall behind. The event ended with a panel from U.S. District Court Judges about their daily lives and general anecdotes about the things they see from the bench. The judges included Judge Altonaga, Judge Bloom, Judge O’Sullivan, and Judge Huck.

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 strives to make the summer associates an integral part of the team to see what it is like to work within the office. From participating in client meetings to tag-a-longs, Bilzin Sumberg makes the summer experience as realistic as possible. We can dabble in multiple practice areas to interact with several lawyers and better understand the firm’s culture; consequently, I’ve learned diverse tips from numerous Bilzin attorneys that have helped me grow as a summer associate.

Here are some quotes of advice I’ve noted that may be beneficial to an incoming summer associate:

  • Immerse yourself in the community in whichever way makes you happy. Get involved and be a citizen. –Scott Baena
  • Enjoy dabbling in different areas of the law and meeting as many people as you can. This will help you determine which group/practice area is the best fit for you. –Misbah Farid
  • Communication and effort are keys to success; you aren’t expected to know everything about the law. If you communicate and try your best to do things right that you have control over, you should be in good shape. –Elise Holtzman
  • Everything is a learning opportunity, get to know the people you’re working with, communication is key, and don’t forget to have fun. –Jennifer Junger
  • My advice to summer associates would be to be diligent, check your work product for accuracy and consistency, as if there will not be another layer of review before it goes to the client, and ask follow-up questions when necessary. –Jennifer Llano
  • You miss every shot you don’t take. Also, treat every person with courtesy and respect, no matter the job title. –Marshall Pasternack
  • Follow-up on assignments for feedback. And if you make a mistake, do not be afraid to ask for a 2nd chance. –Jay Sakalo
  • Communicate to the attorney every fork in the road you encountered in your research, which path you chose, and why you chose it. Do not be afraid to reach out, pick up the phone, and ask questions to vet your assumptions. –Eric Singer
  • Get as much exposure to as many different practice areas as you can because you may be surprised by what captures your interest. I would also take time to understand how the firm operates, learning the ins and outs of the firm’s operations will be more important than you think as a young associate. –Craig Thompson

With the summer zooming by at Bilzin Sumberg, the summer associates and I have found ourselves in the next phase of the mock real estate transaction. Until now, battle lines were drawn with Eric and me playing the Seller and the Seller’s attorney and Devin, Lucas, and Ben playing joint Buyers and the Buyers’ attorney respectively in previous mock real estate negotiations.  Last week, however, a temporary truce was called with the introduction of the joint venture seminar.  In this new exercise, Devin, Lucas, and Ben continued to portray the company The Good Guys LLC composed of the Avengers. Instead, however, they were tasked to see things from the perspective of a Developer.  Eric and I, on the other hand, portrayed the mighty Starlord, also known as the leaders of the Guardians of the Galaxy. We were tasked with seeing from the perspective of a business partner. The seminar was expertly presented by Partner at the firm Marshall Pasternack and associate David Resnick, and we were all given a crash course on the pillars of joint venture contracts. We reviewed the key components of a joint venture and some of the essential elements necessary to make a joint venture succeed.  In this exercise, the venture was to build a super hero home base condo in Miami.

 

Prepared with the necessary tools, the summer associates and I came together to work on our first operating agreement. In the agreement, details like preferred returns and monetary distributions were discussed until both parties could come to an agreement. The exercise was definitely less intense as compared to the other negotiations that have occurred. It was obvious that both sides wanted to reach the end result of a good partnership, which helped the discussions to go smoothly.  Overall, it was a great exercise! However, things will definitely heat back up again once we return to our real estate transaction between The Good Guys LLC and the Bad Guy LLC!