On the first day of summer, we sat in the Bilzin Sumberg boardroom with Marshall Pasternack and Jessica Buchsbaum. Marshall was telling us that the summer program would fly by before we knew it. Well, here we sit nine weeks later and his words have proved prophetic.
The summer experience has been fulfilling in a number of different ways. We were all exposed to work that forced us to critically think about complex legal issues. Experienced attorneys–from senior partners to associates–helped us with our work, providing us with guidance and invaluable feedback, and inviting us to join them on tag-alongs. We participated in simulations designed to expose us to some types of work otherwise inaccessible to summer associates. Finally, we each selected assignments that were interesting to us, which allowed us all to experience what practicing is like in each of Bilzin Sumberg’s different departments.
We made professional and personal connections with people throughout the firm. It started with our mentors, who were a tremendous resource for all of us. The summer associate program was full of social events designed to allow us to meet attorneys in a non-workplace setting, and we found attorneys more than happy to engage with us on a personal level. We were able to witness first-hand the commitment that Bilzin Sumberg has to giving back to the community through Bilzin Sumberg Cares, and how important giving back is to our firm.
The summer program was a tremendous experience. It was well-organized and well-executed from beginning to the end. My experience would not have been the same without the people that shared it with me every step along the way: Leah, Desiree, Jared and Moshe. What started as just work friendships has turned into something much more meaningful, and I couldn’t have picked a better group of people to have spent the summer with.
Last night was the beginning of our last week of the summer program at Bilzin Sumberg. We attended our last departmental social event of the summer. This time, it was with the Land Development & Government Relations practice group. We were able to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the American Airlines Arena: Home of the Miami Heat! It was such a neat experience to walk down the hallways lined with highlights and snapshots of the Heat’s history and learn more about the arena. We even got a glimpse of Pat Riley and Coach Spoelstra! After the tour, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Perricone’s Marketplace & Café.
This summer truly has flown by! It is hard to believe that we are in the final days of our summer associate program. This week we are looking forward to having dinner at Marshall Pasternack‘s home, our end-of-summer review, and a final farewell lunch on Friday. It has been an amazing summer and we have gained so much from our time at Bilzin Sumberg. It will be hard to say goodbye, but the friendships and connections that we have made with each other, the firm staff and attorneys have made our experience exceptional. We look forward to keeping in touch and continuing the relationships established this summer at the firm.
The summer associates and several attorneys met at Bilzin Sumberg’s offices to hop on a bus set for Key Largo on a sunny Saturday morning. Lead by the firm’s fishing legend himself, Mitch Widom, we ventured aboard a chartered fishing boat and began our journey on the water.
After a wonderful ride through the clearest water any of us had ever seen, we anchored at a beautiful spot where the fish were certainly biting. We caught all sorts of fish but could only keep those that were legally large enough, so we had to throw a lot of them back. Jerry definitely had his fair share of small fish – he must have caught and released at least 20!
The second spot was even better than the first. Almost every one of us caught a “keeper” snapper, or a snapper that we were able to take off the boat. The fish were even hungrier at this spot; we were losing bait so quickly that the captain and boat mates had to refill our bait containers numerous times! Better yet, we had an awesome cheerleading squad. Nadia Kruler and Jessica Buchsbaum were there every time someone yelled “fish on!” with a giant smile and a camera.
After docking, we went to Snappers! The chefs cooked our just-caught snapper into delicious fish-fingers that we enjoyed as our appetizer. The rest of the meal was fresh as can be. The fishing trip was definitely one for the books – a top activity of the summer on all counts!
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!