Winners of 1st Annual Matters of the Heart Pro Bono Awards Announced

Matters of the Heart
Press Release
July 1, 2020
Miami, FL – Bilzin Sumberg kick-started a new tradition as the firm hosted its first annual Matters of the Heart Pro Bono Awards, presented in a virtual ceremony on July 1, 2020, as part of the firm's longstanding commitment to serving the community.

The Awards recognized pro bono services provided during 2019 in two categories. The One-to-One Category highlights pro bono work that directly touches the lives of individual pro bono clients and their families. The One-to-Many Category acknowledges pro bono work aimed at assisting organizations that have an impact on entire segments of the community.

The One-to-One Category recognized Litigator Melissa Pallett-Vasquez for their work in connection with establishing and maintaining a guardianship in Florida and subsequently transferring the guardianship to Illinois. The client sought to establish a guardianship of his niece, after he already had obtained custody of her two severely autistic children.  The family then sought to relocate to Illinois for personal and medical reasons.  Through the team's efforts, an entire family was able to stay together, and both mother and children are thriving in Illinois. 

The One-to-Many Category recognition went to Land Development and Government Relations Attorney Javier F. Aviñó, Real Estate Attorney, Manuel Gonzalez, and Paralegal Sandra Cordoves for their work on behalf of Lotus House, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of homeless women, youth, and children.  Continuing the firm's longstanding relationship with Lotus House dating back to 2005, the honorees in this category assisted Lotus House with the zoning changes and special exceptions necessary for the current uses and structures at the campus now known as Lotus Village, which houses 490 women, youth, and children and is widely recognized as a national model for other organizations to emulate. 

The firm gave an Honorable Mention to Litigators Kenneth Duvall, and Philip Stein for their work on behalf of several organizations interested in preventing gun violence and promoting local democratic action. Although this type of representation is not categorized as Pro Bono work in the sense that it is not aimed directly at assisting low-income individuals, the firm honored these attorneys for their dedicated efforts to help the community by championing these worthy causes about which they are passionate. 

"Pro Bono work is truly a Matter of the Heart," said Raquel M. Fernandez, Litigation Partner and Head of the Matters of the Heart Pro Bono Program. "Pro Bono means 'for the good' in Latin, and there are many different types of pro bono services that our attorneys provide for the good of our community to those who cannot otherwise afford legal representation."

As part of Bilzin Sumberg's culture of community service, all attorneys are encouraged to participate in Pro Bono work. All those recognized by the Matters of the Heart Pro Bono Awards exemplify the firm's commitment to the community and the indelible impact of Pro Bono work.

"At Bilzin Sumberg, we stand alongside those who need a voice, and we will continue serving our community as assiduously as we have during our first 20 years," said Albert E. Dotson, Jr., Bilzin Sumberg Managing Partner. "It was truly an inspiring night, and we are immensely proud of our honorees."

About Bilzin Sumberg
Bilzin Sumberg works with clients whose business and legal opportunities and challenges span the United States and cross borders to Europe, Latin America, Canada, the Middle East, and Asia.  The firm's growth has paralleled that of its Miami home base, a region known for its rich cultural, social, and professional diversity. Bilzin Sumberg lawyers concentrate on services at the heart of both regional and international commerce, including real estate, land use and zoning, corporate law, joint ventures, international tax and estate planning, business litigation, finance, and public/private partnerships. For more information, please visit 
Javier F. Aviñó
Practice Group Leader, Land Development & Government Relations
Manuel Gonzalez
Kenneth Duvall
Partner & Assistant General Counsel
Philip R. Stein
Practice Group Leader, Trial & Litigation
Albert E. Dotson, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer & Managing Partner
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