This past Wednesday evening, the summer associates and several other Bilzin Sumberg employees volunteered to serve meals at the Chapman Partnership‘s Miami Homeless Assistance Center. It was a rewarding and meaningful experience for all in attendance. Chapman Partnership seeks to empower homeless men, women, and children to build a positive future by providing the resources and assistance critical to growth and independence.
Chapman Partnership operates two Homeless Assistance Centers with 800 beds located in Miami and Homestead. The organization provides a comprehensive support program that includes emergency housing, meals, health, dental and psychiatric care, day care, job training, job placement, and assistance with securing stable housing. Since 1995, Chapman Partnership has had more than 98,000 admissions, including 20,000 children in Miami-Dade County, and a 63% success rate of moving people from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
The Bilzin Sumberg volunteers proved to be a fantastic team outside of the office as well. Several volunteers formed an assembly line behind the cafeteria counter and put together dinner trays containing chicken, mashed potatoes, bread, corn, and dessert. Other volunteers served these trays. According to Rafael Ribeiro, a Partner in Bilzin Sumberg’s Litigation Group, Jerry Goldsmith was the “MVP of the night” because he “kept the supply lines open and took an undue amount of abuse from all of us!”
Nadia Kruler, an associate in Bilzin Sumberg’s Tax Group, arranged for Bilzin to participate in the volunteer opportunity. Nadia first became involved with Chapman Partnership in 2011 when a colleague and close friend invited her to volunteer at a meal service. Nadia continued volunteering at events and shortly thereafter joined the Nextgen Council. Nextgen is a group of young professionals that works to increase awareness, revenue, and advocacy for Chapman Partnership. Nadia now serves as the Vice Chair of Service and Advocacy for Nextgen.
Tuesday night marked our First Annual Summer Associate Poker Tournament with the Real Estate Group. The no limit hold’em event took place at the nearby Conrad hotel, and, with an iPad being offered as the grand prize, it provided a great opportunity for some friendly competition.
The night began with food and drinks, providing the summer associates an opportunity to get to know the real estate attorneys on a personal level. There was then a brief tutorial to make sure everyone understood the rules before we split up into three tables to begin the tournament. However, the tutorial did not seem to help Leah Aaronson very much, as she was knocked out by Bryan Hawks on the very first hand! Before long, others followed suit, and we were down to our champtionship table.
The championship came down to Jennyva Araque and I. After trading chips back and forth in an intense battle, I was eventually able to win by the narrowest of margins. In the end, we were all winners, though, as we were able to attend another fantastic event planned by Jessica Buchsbaum and strengthen relationships that we will carry into our professional careers.
It’s hard to believe, but we’re already two thirds of the way through the summer program. Just as Marshall Pasternack predicted on our first day, the summer has flown by. As we get closer to the end, we have all begun to reflect on our assignments and contemplate which practice group we feel fits us best. While the type of work and interest in that work is the most important factor, fit within a practice group is also important. Bilzin Sumberg also believes that fit is important, and has several different mechanisms to help us identify how each of the summer associates would fit in a particular department.
In addition to the ability to pick our own assignments and interact with practice groups at periodic social events, the summer associates have moved offices throughout the summer in order to see how each department practices on a day-to-day basis. We started the summer on the 22nd floor, where we spent three weeks with the Real Estate, Corporate and Tax departments. We then moved up to the 23rd floor, where we spent another three weeks with the Government Relations and Land Development department. And this past Monday, we moved up to the 24th floor where we will spend our final three weeks with the Litigation and Business Finance & Restructuring groups.
Moving floors periodically has a number of advantages (especially some of the views), but the greatest advantage is that it enables us to see each floor’s dynamic, as each floor has a different environment and feel. It also allows to meet attorneys and staff from different departments more frequently and more intimately–we have found that, naturally, people stop by our offices more frequently when we’re on their department’s floor. This has been a great opportunity for us to get to know them both on a personal and professional level.
Last night was the Bilzin Sumberg Trivial Pursuit Challenge. Each of the summer associates were teamed up with a partner and an associate. Jeff Snyder served as the moderator and final authority during the challenge. It is possible that Stan Price tried to bribe him with a fake million dollar bill. Competitions are taken very seriously both among the summers and the attorneys at the firm and bragging rights are not taken lightly. There was even an audience of several attorneys stopping by to witness the challenge in action!
A few hours before the challenge, we received an email from Marshall Pasternack reminding us that “the World Cup is one thing… the Bilzin Sumberg Trivia Cup is Something Else”. I later received a call from my teammate Stan Price to confirm that I had been memorizing the Encyclopedia Britannica in anticipation of the event. Overall, the scores were pretty close until the final question, where each team chose a category and wagered up to five points. In the end, Leah’s team (including Eric Singer and Alan Axelrod) was victorious.
The firm has created numerous opportunities for us to meet and engage with employees across all practice groups during our summer. The social events, tag along opportunities, lunches, and even the trivial pursuit challenge are all designed so that we become familiar with the attorneys at the firm. It is an excellent way to develop informal mentoring relationships and to learn more about the firm culture. These opportunities are invaluable and truly make us feel included in the Bilzin Sumberg community.
Among the many wise words that Marshall Pasternack expresses to the summer associates each year, “enjoy every moment because the summer is going to fly by” has hit home the most. It is hard to believe – mind-blowing, in fact – that we have been working at Bilzin Sumberg for over five weeks and are approaching the middle of week number six. The summer truly has flown and we are thoroughly enjoying our time at the firm.
Last week all five summer associates met for our mid-summer evaluations. A “love-fest,” as it has been coined, the evaluations were both informative and important. The evaluations were informative because listening to feedback from completed assignments helped to understand where improvements can be made and what we’ve been doing right thus far. Further, the evaluations were important because we discussed what practice groups we’re interested in joining. These conversations have really forced us to focus on what areas of the law we see ourselves practicing down the line.
We are all feeling comfortable at the firm and have established several great relationships with the attorneys and with each other. Although the summer has flown, I can say with earnest that we have learned a lot and that we enjoy coming into the office more and more each day.
Last Tuesday night, the Summer Associates went go-kart racing with Bilzin Sumberg‘s Business Finance and Restructuring Group at K1 Speed Indoor Go Kart Racing. The event started off on a bit of a sad note as we watched the United States soccer team‘s demise in the World Cup. However, excitement and anticipation soon filled the air as we walked over to the indoor race track. The K1 Speed instructors gave us a quick tutorial on how to operate the go-karts, and then split us up into two groups. Each group drove a 14 lap qualifying round and the group members were ranked according to their fastest laps. K1 then rearranged the two groups for a championship round of 12 laps and once again ranked the group members.
Theories abound regarding how K1 rearranged the groups. Most believe that K1 selected the fastest drivers from each group and placed them in group 1, and then placed the remaining drivers in group 2. Others (mostly folks from group 2) maintain that the rearrangement was completely random.
Scott Baena, Chair of the Business Finance and Restructuring Group, came in first place in both the qualifying and group 1 championship rounds and was the fastest and most efficient driver by far. He later disclosed that a family member of his is an avid go-kart racer, and that he has had some practice. John Atkinson and Jay Sakalo came in second and third place respectively.
Jenny Araque was also one of the night’s best racers. After a mediocre performance in the qualifying round, Scott Baena observed that Jenny had some serious talent but was not actualizing her full potential. He urged her to “be aggressive, Jenny!” and she ended up coming in first place in the group 2 championship round. Jared Spector, the only summer associate to rank, came in second place in group 2 and Eugene (“Gene”) Polyak came in third.
We ended the night with a Mexican dinner and an award ceremony. Overall, the night was an excellent opportunity for the summer associates to spend quality time with Bilzin’s Business Finance and Restructuring attorneys. We were able to learn about the relationship between business finance and restructuring and get to know many attorneys we have worked with over the course of the summer.
One of the most unique and rewarding aspects of spending a summer at Bilzin Sumberg is the opportunity to interact with clients and watch more experienced attorneys in a real world setting. A “tag along”, as it is commonly referred to, gives summer associates the opportunity to watch other lawyers practice in their respective fields, whether it be in court, during a negotiation, or at the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners.
Most of the time, Jessica Buchsbaum arranges the tag alongs based upon our practice group interests, but, sometimes, a tag along derives from an assignment we have been working on. For example, I did an assignment for Stanley Price involving real estate on Miami Beach that was recently designated as a historic landmark. After conducting research on whether the Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Board had the authority to make this designation, I traveled with Stan to the Preservation Board to watch him deliver his argument. It was extremely rewarding to see my research used in a real-world setting in order to help a client!
There have been many other exciting tag alongs that have already occurred throughout the summer as well, although it is impossible to mention them all. A few weeks ago, we all had the opportunity to travel to the Board of County Commissioners with Al Dotson and Wendy Francois to watch them secure funding for renovations at Dolphin Stadium. We were even lucky enough to have a guest appearance from Dan Marino and Jason Taylor.
Also, Moshe Zaghi recently sat in on a client meeting with Suzanne Amaducci-Adams where she went over a management agreement for a new hotel in Miami. At the end of the week, Leah Aaronson and Desiree Fernandez will be going to watch David Gersten, the retired Chief Judge for the Third District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida, give an oral argument at his old stomping grounds.
There is no better way to understand the day-to-day practice of law and to decide what practice groups we are most interested in than by attending tag alongs. We are all very excited to attend a few more before the end of the summer!
Bilzin Sumberg keeps all of the summer associates busy and on the move. Whether it be through community involvement, social events, or practical simulations like the mock real estate transaction, our calendars are often full of interesting opportunities to both learn and immerse ourselves in the firm.
Even with all of these activities, the vast majority of our summer is spent working on assignments–real assignments, for real clients.
One of the unique things that sets Bilzin Sumberg’s summer associate program apart is the ability for us to choose our own assignments. As Leah pointed out, we all met on our first day to decide which practice group we were most interested in taking our first assignment from. The next day, we received instructions from Jessica detailing how to access the assignment pool. The assignment pool listed a number of available assignments, from a number of different attorneys. We were each able to pick up our first assignment and start moving from there: Desiree took a Government Relations and Land Use assignment, Leah a Litigation assignment, and Moshe a Business Finance and Restructuring assignment. Jared and I took Corporate & Tax assignments.
The best part of the assignment pool is that it is constantly being updated with new and exciting projects. We are nearly four weeks into the summer program and have all taken a variety of assignments from different practice groups. This allows us to get a feel for the type of work attorneys do in each department and also allows for informal mentoring opportunities to arise: everyone that I have worked with has been happy to sit with me and give me feedback on my work product, as well as more general advice about the practice of law. It has made taking assignments more efficient and made whole departments accessible, and is another great part of working at Bilzin Sumberg.
Last Friday, the summer associates (with special guest and renowned former summer associate blogger, Mike Levine) participated in a Community Service Project Day by assisting with The Virginia Key Restoration Project hosted by Citizens for a Better South Florida, a service learning program to restore the endangered coastal ecosystem on Virginia Key. This project began after Hurricane Andrew ravaged the landscape in Virginia Key in 1992. Summer associates from South Florida firms participated in the event as well. Our group helped to propagate native plants in Virginia Key’s nursery, while others helped with clean-up of the coastline, or worked to remove invasive and exotic plant species. As always, Jessica Buchsbaum came prepared with water bottles, Gatorade, snack bars, fresh oranges, special-edition wet wipes, bug spray, gardening gloves, and sunscreen. Afterwards, we were led on a nature walk to learn more about the various ecosystems in the area. During the nature walk, we were able to see what the seedlings that we planted will eventually grow to become. At the end of the day, there was delicious barbeque food catered by Shorty’s BBQ!
It was a great experience to work together outside of the office and get involved with the restoration and maintenance of such a valuable and beautiful natural area in Miami. From day one, the employees of Bilzin Sumberg have emphasized the importance of being actively involved in the community through the Bilzin Sumberg Cares initiative, and Friday was yet another example of the firm’s commitment to giving back and serving the Miami-Dade community.
Last night, the Bilzin Sumberg summer associates, both old (alumni) and new (current), endured the traffic on US1 to drive to Two Chefs in South Miami for a night of great food, wine, and company. A favorite night of the summer for many who have attended over the years, the summer associate alumni cooking event was certainly a ton of fun.
We cooked our own dinner! After being handed an apron and a towel by our ’master chefs,’ the 20-or-so of us split into groups. Each group was responsible for making a different dish; the menu included quesadillas, tuna tartare, risotto, quinoa, salmon, steak, and of course, Two Chefs’ famous chocolate soufflé. There was plenty of work to go around and we all played a part in some aspect of the meal.
I began my cooking contribution by helping Shalia Sakona with the soufflé – a much harder task than I had anticipated. Thankfully, Shalia had the skill needed to get the job done. I, on the other hand, found that slowly churning a giant pan of risotto with Eric Singer was much more my speed. The steak was delicious too, despite the fact that Brandon Rose almost ruined it by incorrectly laying the meat on the grill (which, admittedly, none of us knew could ruin a steak).
Eating the meal was just as fun as cooking it. Everyone had a great time sharing past summer associate stories while cleaning their plates of all the delicious food. The Two Chefs event was certainly a success!