Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
At Bilzin Sumberg, we understand that a diverse workforce improves our ability to serve the needs of our clients while creating a more dynamic firm culture. We continually strive to foster an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to all aspects of firm life.
Our commitment to diversity is reflected in our multifaceted mission, which seeks to:
- Create a more collaborative culture that nurtures the creativity and innovation required to solve our clients' most challenging legal issues
- Provide an inclusive environment where people of all backgrounds can thrive, an environment where all people, including and especially historically underprivileged, are empowered to succeed and excel
- Facilitate necessary institutional changes through strategic partnerships with various organizations to create environments that foster success and raise awareness to recognize and respect individual differences
- Ensure historically underprivileged attorneys have opportunities to network within the firm, the profession and the business community - providing them access to strong ally, mentor, and sponsorship opportunities
Recruiting & Diversity Pipeline
Professional Development & Inclusive Workplace
Commitment to Social Justice
Press Release | June 20, 2023
Bilzin Sumberg is pleased to announce that Real Estate Partner Sara Barli Herald was selected as a finalist for Chambers Diversity & Inclusion’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year award. The highly competitive award recognizes a U.S. attorney who demonstrates an extraordinary degree of dedication to pro bono work locally or globally.
Press Release | December 8, 2022
Albert Dotson, Jr. and Javier Aviñó Named Law Firm Leaders by Lawyers of Color
Bilzin Sumberg congratulates Albert E. Dotson, Jr., Managing Partner, and Javier F. Aviñó, Practice Group Leader for Land Development & Government Relations, on being recognized as “Law Firm Leaders” by Lawyers of Color.
Press Release | October 18, 2022
Bilzin Sumberg Announces Winners of Third Annual Matters of the Heart Pro Bono Awards
On October 13, 2022, Bilzin Sumberg continued its long-standing tradition of putting community service at the center of firm culture by hosting its third annual Matters of the Heart Pro Bono Awards. The Awards recognized attorneys whose pro bono work touched the lives of individuals in need of legal services and whose representation assisted organizations that have an impact on the wider community.
People in the photo from left to right: Nicolas Noto, Javier Aviño, Tina Brown (CEO of Overtown Youth Center), Albert E. Dotson Jr., Sara Herald, and Alonzo Mourning. The group were the winners of the One-To-Many award for their work with the Overtown Youth Center.
“The South Florida legal community is very diverse relative to other areas of the country, but that diversity is in large part singularly focused in Hispanic diversity… We are looking to broaden that diverse group and involve other communities, be that Haitian lawyers, Black lawyers in general, Southeast Asian or Asian lawyers, and LGBTQ+ attorneys.” - Litigation Partner Adrian Felix
Juneteenth Panel Examines Issues of Equity and Social Justice
June 24, 2022 – In celebration of the national Juneteenth holiday, Bilzin Sumberg invited two accomplished black leaders to share their insights on timely issues related to equity and social justice, while also sharing their personal journeys and experiences with discrimination and bias. With the discussion moderated by Partner Sara Barli Herald, T. Willard Fair, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, and Topeka K. Sam, Founder and Executive Director of Ladies Of Hope Ministries, offered thought-provoking ideas about constructively dealing with the challenges faced by marginalized communities.
Both panelists described the personal circumstances that led to their current leadership of inspiring organizations to work for positive change. Fair’s journey began with his move to Miami in the 1960s to work with other community members to revitalize the historically black Overtown neighborhood and improve the lives of its residents. For Sam, the impetus for her mission to lift up others was her personal experience of incarceration, where she came face-to-face with victims of social injustice, trauma, and deprivation. Both Fair and Sam focused much of their discussion on the need to eliminate seemingly innocuous practices that often lead to unintended discriminatory consequences, such as the widespread employment practice of asking job applicants to disclose jail time or criminal convictions, which are neither relevant for employability, and tend to foster unconscious bias.
Both panelists recognized the key role of safe and accessible housing in lifting marginalized minorities out of poverty, a central service that both of their organizations provide and also stressed that housing initiatives targeted towards the vulnerable must also integrate incentives programs that encourage tenants to seek gainful employment and obviates their need for such living assistance. In closing the discussion, Fair and Sam highlighted that while racial diversity in professional settings was important, it was just as critical that companies seek diversity of experience, specifically seeking to integrate individuals with a history of adversity into their professional families.
April 5, 2022 - In honor of Women’s History Month, Bilzin Sumberg invited a set of accomplished local leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss the continuing challenges that women face in advancing professionally and what they see as the way forward for greater gender equity in management roles and organizational leadership. The panel was moderated by Jane Wooldridge, Senior Director for Journalism Sustainability and Partnerships at the Miami Herald, and consisted of Arden Karson, Managing Principal of Karson & Co, Judge Mindy A. Mora of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District Of Florida, and Crystal Wagar, Miami Shores Councilperson and Partner at LSN Partners, LLC. Following opening remarks, the panel delved into a range of issues facing the professional advancement of women and gender equity in the workplace.
While the panelists shared diverse experiences and perspectives, they all stressed the important role of mentors and sponsors as resources for ambitious female professionals, in particular the practice of having a “Board of Directors for You” in which young professionals maintain close personal connections with a handful of seasoned role models whom they can regularly approach for career advice and direction. Some of the panelists noted that community service and involvement in professional associations, such as the Florida Bar, constituted excellent opportunities for developing leadership skills and forming links with prospective mentors. Despite the long strides women had made in professional gender equity, with the strong support of male colleagues, all the panelists agreed that women needed to continue to be persistent and aggressive in advocating for themselves when disparities and shortcomings become apparent, whether the goal was striving for equal pay, achieving accommodating arrangements for working parents, or instituting a firm culture that is more embracing of equity and inclusivity.
Bilzin Sumberg Marks Black History Month with a Virtual Presentation on “The Groveland Four”February 22, 2022 - In honor of Black History Month, Bilzin Sumberg invited Bill Gladson, State Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gilbert King to discuss an episode of racial injustice involving four young Black men in mid-20th century Florida, known as “The Groveland Four.” King is the author of an acclaimed book on The Groveland Four, and Gladson was instrumental in recently having the indictments of the four young men tossed out and the sentences and judgments imposed on the accused set aside. King and Gladson detailed the harrowing series of events and failures of the criminal justice system following an allegation of rape and assault, “an abomination of justice” as King described the unfolding saga. Both presenters spoke of the challenging work that each undertook to uncover facts surrounding the case and new evidence, which ultimately culminated in the accused’s exonerations.
In addition to informing participants on an oft-forgotten chapter of Florida’s race relations history, the presentation reinforced the importance of due process and prosecutorial integrity as key pillars of equity and justice. Gladson remarked that the same serious failure of justice that occurred would be inconceivable today given the laws, prosecutorial procedures, and standards of transparency that operate as protections for the accused, which did not exist at the time of The Groveland Four’s events. Both King and Gladson agreed that the exonerations and renewed historical clarity surrounding the events, as late as they may have come, were of paramount importance because of the confidence such corrections instilled among citizens in the justice system. Highly appreciated by those who attended for its thought-provoking content, the presentation formed part of Bilzin Sumberg’s wider year-round programming aimed at elevating the firm’s consciousness surrounding issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Bilzin Sumberg Marks National Hispanic Heritage Month with a Virtual Conversation with Albert Milo, Jr.
October 18, 2021 - In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Bilzin Sumberg invited Albert Milo, Jr., President of Related Urban Development Group, to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing Hispanic-Americans and his own personal journey as a Hispanic-American. The event was introduced by pointing out that while the discussion with Mr. Milo was organized as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, it nonetheless formed part of Bilzin Sumberg’s wider year-round programming aimed at elevating the firm’s consciousness surrounding issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and mentioned that the audience should expect more thought-provoking discussions in the near future.
The event took the format of a live Q&A discussion between Javier Aviñó, the Practice Group Leader of Bilzin Sumberg's Government Relations and Land Development Group, and Albert Milo, Jr. A local Miamian with a decades-long career in South Florida’s real estate industry, Mr. Milo was well-placed to comment on the current status of the local and national Hispanic community, and lingering challenges to be addressed for both. He also spoke extensively about the positive developments Related Urban Development Group had brought to local communities, Hispanic and non-Hispanic, through their transformative affordable housing projects.
“Anybody can build a building, but not everyone can rebuild a community,” remarked Milo, “Our inclusive approach addresses the existing community’s needs as part of new development.”
Bilzin Sumberg, Greenberg Traurig, and Holland & Knight Come Together for a Discussion on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with The Honorable William Thomas
On February 8, 2021, Bilzin Sumberg's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee hosted a virtual discussion with The Honorable Williams Thomas on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the legal profession. The event was held in conjunction with local commercial law firms Greenberg Traurig and Holland & Knight, with attorneys and staff from all three firms in attendance. A widely respected Circuit Court Judge on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, Judge Thomas was invited to speak as part of Bilzin Sumberg's collaboration with Greenberg Traurig and Holland & Knight on raising the consciousness of diversity, equity, and inclusion among Miami's legal professionals during Black History Month.
The program opened with remarks from Kelly-Ann Cartwright, the Directors Committee Chair of Holland & Knight, highlighting the achievements of Judge Thomas, including his work as an Assistant Public Defender and an Assistant Federal Public Defender for Miami-Dade County and the Southern District of Florida respectively, before being elected to the Circuit Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for Miami-Dade County, where he has served for the past 18 years.
Judge Thomas focused his talk on the historical context within which today's racial discontent and strained race relations have developed. He discussed the economic and social policies at the state and federal levels that have disadvantage African Americans, as well as how willful and systemic bias has created a relentless cycle of high poverty, low education, and lack of opportunity for the African American community, which has developed into racial tension and social disharmony in our society.
During the Q&A session moderated by Albert E. Dotson, Jr., Managing Partner of Bilzin Sumberg, Judge Thomas talked about the way forward for achieving greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. He opined that the two greatest challenges to effectuating change in the legal community when it came to diversity and inclusion was the lack of resources aimed at young people from underrepresented communities to learn about the practice of law as a career, and the lack of mentorship opportunities for professionals from these communities once they had started practicing law. Educating young people about the rewarding prospects of the field of law prior to college, and then providing them with valuable mentors in the profession to build their technical expertise and business development skills, were crucial for strengthening the diversity, equity, and inclusion of the professional pipeline. Judge Thomas also emphasized the importance of candid and open discussions about race and other forms of diversity in professional settings because of their ability to galvanize change, and warned that treating uncomfortable issues with silence would only perpetuate inequity and misunderstanding.
Jaret L. Davis, Co-Managing Shareholder of Greenberg Traurig's Miami office, closed the discussion by thanking Judge Thomas for his valuable insight, and reminded attendees that the event served as a form of calibration, allowing them to reassess how best they can enhance meritocracy in the legal profession going forward.
Our Street Law Partnership
Bilzin Sumberg works closely with the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) through their Street Law Legal Diversity Pipeline Program. Street Law introduces students from underrepresented communities to the legal profession by connecting them to practitioners from law firms. Bilzin Sumberg employees volunteer with the program to educate such students about the practice of law and cultivate interest in the field, thereby strengthening the diversity of the legal profession's recruitment pipeline.
The firm's volunteers participate in every aspect of the program, which includes teaching lessons in substantive areas of law, introducing students to the many professional roles that support a law firm, and growing awareness of how the law impacts ordinary people in their daily lives.
Year Up South Florida
Bilzin Sumberg proudly partners with Year Up South Florida, a non-profit workforce development program for motivated and talented young adults, to take on interns from diverse backgrounds from the South Florida community. Through this partnership, Bilzin Sumberg provides interns with enriching professional development that serves as the foundation for their future careers in law. The internships are full-time, paid opportunities in which participants can also earn college credit. Bilzin Sumberg's work with Year Up South Florida demonstrates the firm's commitment to growing extraordinary talent among the diverse communities that make up the fabric of South Florida.
Bilzin Sumberg celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month: A Conversation with Jose Gonzalez
October 12, 2020 - In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Bilzin Sumberg dedicated its first event as part of its Diversity and Inclusion Lunch Series to discussing the challenges and opportunities facing Hispanic-Americans. Al Dotson, the firm's Managing Partner, introduced the event by highlighting the importance of the Hispanic community's contribution to American society while noting Bilzin Sumberg's proud record of operationalizing diversity and inclusion within the firm and promoting it in the community.
The event took the format of a live Q&A discussion between Javier Aviñó, the Practice Group Leader of Bilzin Sumberg's Government Relations and Land Development Group, and Jose Gonzalez, the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at All Aboard Florida, a high-speed intercity passenger rail project being developed by Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) to connect Miami, Southeast Florida, and the Orlando area. Mr. Gonzalez's decades of experience in both Miami-Dade County Government and the private infrastructure sector in South Florida allowed him to give special insight on the Hispanic community in the region.
"[Bilzin Sumberg] was also one of the many that joined the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance. Launched in June, the group’s action items include developing a legal inventory of laws and policies that result in negative outcomes for people of color. The aim is to inform and implement legislative and regulatory strategies to address anti-Black racism.
'The focus is to prioritize and support anti-racism and to create commitments and goals within our firms, as well as our communities,' Dotson Jr. said.