Spring Edition 2018, Vol. 37, Issue 3    
Dear MDFAWL Members and Supporters,

We hope you enjoy our spring edition! MDFAWL and its many committees have remained active over the past months, offering a variety of substantive programming, networking opportunities, and wellness events for the body and mind. We welcome you to take a look at some of our recent highlights and member achievements in this issue.

Moving forward, we have lots of terrific programming in store over the next couple of months. As a sampling, the 5th Annual Leadership Summit is fast approaching on May 10, 2018. This year's empowering focus is on women lawyers who have blazed pathways to leadership in media and business, on boards, and at law firms. Our 38th Annual Installation and Awards Dinner on June 8 is a can't-miss event. This year, MDFAWL will be honoring The Florida Bar President-Elect Michelle Suskauer with the Mattie Belle Davis Award for her exemplification of the ideals of professional achievement, perseverance, and dedication that the late Judge Davis demonstrated. Stay tuned for more information, sponsorship, and registration details!

Lastly, the membership year for MDFAWL runs concurrently with that of The Florida Bar, from July 1st through June 30th of each year. As we approach the end of the current membership year, we are in the renewal phase for the 2018-2019 year. We invite you to renew your membership, or to join if you are not currently a member, by visiting the FAWL website here (select the Miami-Dade Chapter when prompted). It only takes a few minutes.

Thank you for your membership and dedication to MDFAWL's mission. Please feel free to reach out to me at with any comments, ideas for future programming or newsletter items, or simply general interest in MDFAWL.

- Kristin
35th Annual Judicial Reception
Thursday, December 7, 2017 | JW Marriott Marquis
MDFAWL President Katie Phang, Judge Beatrice Butchko, and 2017 Theodore Klein Award recipient Patrick Montoya  
By Jody Shulman

Another spectacular MDFAWL Judicial Reception took place at the JW Marriott Marquis on Thursday, December 7, 2017. In attendance were approximately 300 attorneys and judges eager to celebrate the holiday season together and honor Patrick Montoya, the recipient of the 2017 Theodore Klein Award.

A member of the inaugural committee for the GOOD Guys program, Patrick has shown a lasting and sincere commitment to the advancement of women and women's issues in the legal profession. Throughout the years, Patrick has been a loyal supporter of MDFAWL and a strong advocate for gender equality.

A special thanks to our Title Sponsor, Wargo French, and to our Grand Benefactors: Akerman LLP, DLD Lawyers, Greenberg Traurig, JAMS, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, Shubin & Bass, Shutts & Bowen LLP, U.S. Legal Support and Wicker Smith. It is our loyal sponsors who allow us to continue with our ongoing dedication to the professional advancement of women lawyers and the promotion of women's rights.

Be sure to scroll down to view our photo gallery from the Judicial Reception.
MDFAWL Hosts 5th Annual Trial Skills Workshop for Women Lawyers
January 31-February 2, 2018

By Lara Bueso Bach

Opening CLE panel at K&L Gates LLP
In an effort to train and prepare more young women lawyers for courtroom litigation, MDFAWL hosted its 5th Annual Trial Skills Workshop for Women Lawyers. Along with faculty Judges Diane Ward, Monica Gordo, Bronwyn Miller, and Maria Elena Verde, two dozen women participated and received critical instruction and feedback regarding opening and closing statements, direct and cross-examination techniques, and deposition skills. Taught by local practitioners and the judiciary, participants were encouraged to seek out courtroom opportunities. 
The two-day workshop kicked off with a CLE panel titled Female Lawyers Can Talk Too: Strategies for Getting Into the Courtroom, sponsored by K&L Gates LLP and featuring panelists Ret. Judge Gill Freeman, Alexandra Bach Lagos, April Boyer, Jennifer Ruiz, and moderator Lara Bach. This panel was inspired by Southern District of New York Judge (Ret.) Shira Scheindlin's op-ed in the New York Times on the same topic, commenting on the lack of female representation in court. The panelists emphasized that young women should advocate for themselves, take the time to observe more seasoned litigators in court, find a mentor or sponsor, and volunteer for pro bono cases to hone their courtroom expertise, among other advice. This program is re-featured by The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division and is available for viewing and CLE credit at this link.

Trial Skills Program participants and faculty

Participants in action at  
trial skills program workshop
During a lecture at trials skills program 

On the second day of the workshop, in addition to lectures, participants also sat in on a CLE titled Tips for Young Lawyers in the Courtroom, sponsored by Stearns Weaver and featuring panelists Kim Cook, Mary Barzee Flores, Trisha Widowfield, and moderator Judge Diane Ward. The panelists provided valuable insight regarding strategies to deal with difficult opposing counsel, bias, and other issues. 
Participants at lunch presentation at Stearns Weaver 
"The Trial Skills program was really helpful and was a great experience. I was able to practice my courtroom skills and receive valuable feedback from experienced attorneys and judges. I would recommend it to any young lawyer looking to gain confidence and insight in to what works well in court," participant Claire Armagnac said.
MDFAWL thanks all of the faculty, volunteers, and sponsors for making this Trial Skills Workshop a success. We also thank the participants and looks forward to seeing them in court soon!

Taking on Workplace Harassment in the #MeToo Era
March 8, 2018 | Pipeline Workspaces

By Tiffany-Ashley Disney

Panelists at Taking on Workplace
Harassment in the #MeToo Era

On March 8, 2018, a room full of participatns, both men and women, attended a a CLE luncheondi at Pipeline Workspaces for titled Taking on Workplace Harassment in the #MeToo Era. Not only was this luncheon timely because of the recent viral social media movement where social media users utilized the hashtag "MeToo" to raise awareness of sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace, but the luncheon was also held on National Women's Day.

The panel consisted of Karen Coolman Amlong, The Amlong Firm; Oshia Banks, the Equal Employment Opportunity Comimssion (EEOC); Sherril Colombo, Littler Mendelson P.C.; and Kelly Kolb, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, P.C. Kelly Peña of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. moderated the panel. 

Ms. Amlong kicked off the panel by defining what sexual harassment is and what it is not, and the other panelists built from her definition. After defining sexual harassment, the panelists discussed some of the difficulties and hurdles victims may encounter when bringing a claim. Mr. Kolb pointed out that while he has not seen an increase in claims filed since the "#MeToo" movement, he has seen an increase in employers proactively training and educating their employees on ways to prevent workplace sexual harassment. The panel concluded with questions from the audience, including questions on presenting evidence in cases and inquiries on the amount of settlements that sexual harassment claims receive.

The panel was wonderful and informative and, indeed, a great way to celebrate International Women's Day. MDFAWL sends heartfelt thanks to event sponsors Pipeline Workspaces and Buchanan, Ingersoll, & Rooney, PC.
Train, Rest, and Repeat
January 27, 2018 | Legacy Fit

By Carolina S. Piñero

Taking no weekends off at Legacy Fit
On January 28, 2018, the MDFAWL Character and Fitness Committee collaborated with the boot camp-style gym, Legacy Fit, offering MDFAWL members and non-members alike an intense class of high intensity partner interval training. Attendees paired up to take on 20 different exercise stations, each of them set to up to elevate the heart rate and increase strength. Basic muscle conditioning exercises were followed by short bursts of cardio to rev up metabolism and burn calories.

Founded in 2012, Legacy Fit has quickly become the number one boot camp gym in Miami, Florida. Legacy Fit now has three locations in Miami-Dade County (Doral, Coral Gables, and Downtown Miami) and one location in Summerville, South Carolina. The Character and Fitness Committee sends a special thanks to Legacy Fit's Certified Personal Trainer, Joseph Stempien, for an amazing class! For more information on Legacy Fit, please visit this page or call Certified Personal Trainer Joseph Stempien at (305)799-0850.

Fight Like a Girl! Self-Defense Class with Sensei Carol of White Tiger & Dragon Martial Arts
March 11, 2018 | White Tiger & Dragon

By: Elisa D'Amico

(L-R) Jennifer Allegra, Judy Price, Melissa Madsen,  
Elisa D'Amico, Sensei Carol White, Karen Poy,  
Martha Rosa de Zayas, Mallory Cooney

On Saturday, March 11, 2018, MDFAWL members attended a self-defense class taught by Sensei Carol White at her Coconut Grove martial arts studio. Sensei Carol, a former stunt person and Olympic trainer, holds multiple black belts in Kenpo Karate and Jiu-Jitsu. In this hands-on class, she taught a series of safety strategies and physical techniques to help escape, resist, and survive a violent attack should one ever occur. Attendees practiced a number of techniques to avoid a "stranger danger" situation, and how to get out of one alive if it happens.

After the class, we sat down with Sensei Carol to pick her brain:

Q: So, how many belts do you actually have?

A: Well, I have a few - I have a 4th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate, a 1st degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a 1st degree black belt in Hapkido, and an advanced belt in Jiu-Jitsu.

Q: When and where did you start training in the martial arts?

A: I started training when I was six years old. My father, a martial artist, first taught me everything that he knew. Eventually I wound up in a recreational program where a very hard-core sensei (teacher) trained me. The program I was in wouldn't let students get their black belt until age 15 so, although I was ready before that, I waited until I was 15. I remember the testing was an entire week of testing. Very intense, but well worth it.   

Q: When did you open your White Tiger & Dragon Martial Arts studio?

A: Believe it or not, we opened in 2000! The first location was inside a gym (where the old Grove Fitness was). I started with five students and taught classes on Saturday mornings. Fast forward to 2007 we had a different stand-alone location and were open six to seven days a week. The current location (3051 SW 28 Lane, Coconut Grove) opened on August 21, 2017 and we are open Monday through Saturday with private classes on some Sundays.

Q: Do you have any classes available for women (or men) who want to begin studying martial arts?

A: Yes! It's never too late to study the martial arts. Presently we have adult group classes Monday through Thursday where we teach American Kenpo Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts. We also offer personalized classes seven days a week.
Q: What are your top tips to avoid a dangerous attacker situation?

A: I always tell people to first, trust your instincts. But you also have to follow basic awareness. Be aware of your surroundings, which means don't be so buried in your smartphone that you forget to pay attention to what is around you. That sounds so simple but many people forget this and are completely distracted. Another good tip is to constantly change up your routines. Don't park in the same spot, switch it up. Don't go to the ATM at night. And don't run at night or early in the morning when it is dark. You never know who is watching.

I always tell my students that your best weapon is your mind. And it's true. 

Q: What if a dangerous situation is unavoidable? What do you recommend?

A: Again, be aware. Try to pre-qualify what your attacker wants. Do they want your wallet? If so, give it to them. Do they want your jewelry? If so, give it to them. Do they want your car? Hand over the keys. If they want to attack you and hurt you, then you fight back.
Q: Do you recommend carrying pepper spray or something similar?

A: No! I recommend to my students that they do not carry pepper spray because it can be used against you. As I taught in the MDFAWL class, anything can be used as a weapon. Instead I recommend that women carry their keys in one hand and their phone in the other - not to check Facebook, but instead gripping it firmly to use as a weapon if need be.

Q: Any other tips about self-defense for our members?

A: Training is key, so everyone should take some sort of self-defense class. But, since staying safe is about muscle memory so your body and mind know how to attack, I recommend following up on a regular basis, to stay sharp.

Thanks to Sensei Carol for the solid training and for chatting with us to share her safety tips!
If you are interested in learning more about Sensei Carol or White Tiger & Dragon Martial Arts, check them out on Facebook, on Instagram at @whitetigeranddragonmartialarts or email

MDFAWL and House of Movement Team Up in Honor of International Women's Day
March 17, 2018 | House of Movement

By Carolina S. Piñero

African dance class at House of Movement
On March 17, 2018, MDFAWL's Character and Fitness Committee teamed up with House of Movement to celebrate International Women's Day. MDFAWL members and future members came together to partake in an African dance class. The class included a blend of Central, East, North, South, and West African rhythms and movements. African dance involves moving the shoulders, chest, pelvis, arms, and legs to different rhythms in the music. The movements vary based on the African region from which they originate.
The House of Movement is a holistic wellness center and Pilates Studio in Brickell Miami. The local studio provides a tranquil environment to enrich and heal the mind, body, and spirit through exercise classes, therapy services, lifestyle nutrition, growth seminars, and artistic culture. The House of Movement's classes include Pilates, Functional Fitness, Yoga, Meditation, African Dance, Ballet, Indoor Cycling, Swimming classes, Therapeutic Massages, Doula classes, and more. The unique studio also serves as an art gallery to support artists and its mission of inspiring wellness through creativity. The Character and Fitness Committee sends a special thanks to the House of Movement Founder and Owner Ana Delia Benito for partnering up with MDFAWL in honoring International Women's Day through African dance! For more information on House of Movement, please visit the House of Movement's website .

Spotlight on Our Members*
News and Accomplishments of the People Who Make MDFAWL 

D'Amico's Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project Obtains $6.4 Million Judgment for Victim of Sexual Cyberharassment
In early April of 2018, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California awarded an impressive $6.45 million judgment in favor of a woman, named "Jane Doe" in the lawsuit, and against a former boyfriend who initiated an aggressive online "revenge porn" campaign. MDFAWL Secretary Elisa D'Amico is part of the team of lawyers from K&L Gates, through the firm's Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project ("CCRLP"), who represented Jane Doe and obtained for her what is believed to be the second-largest judgment for a non-celebrity victim of the posting of nonconsensual pornography, whose sexually explicit images were posted online without consent.

Elisa D'Amico
In this case, the former boyfriend, David Elam II, posted nude photos and videos of Ms. Doe online, created fake online dating profiles of her, sent images to her family and acquaintances, and even encouraged online viewers to visit her home. Her legal team filed a civil lawsuit alleging copyright infringement, online impersonation with intent to harm, stalking, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. To prevail on the copyright infringement claim, Ms. Doe registered her ownership of the images before the U.S. Copyright Office. On April 4, 2018, Judge Gutierrez entered a default judgment in Ms. Doe's favor, awarding $450,000 in damages for copyright infringement; $3,000,000 for the online impersonation, stalking, and emotional distress claims; and an additional $3,000,000 in punitive damages.

The CCRLP is a pro bono project providing legal services to victims of nonconsensual pornography (i.e., "revenge porn") when their sexually explicit images are distributed and displayed online without consent. Elisa D'Amico is a co-founder of the CCRLP. Congratulations to Elisa and the CCRLP for obtaining justice for Ms. Doe!

Media articles highlighting this judgment are available
here and here .
MDFAWL Members Become Law Firm Partners
Marcela Lozano
Erica Rutner   
Stephanie Varela 
MDFAWL congratulates Marcela Lozano, Erica Rutner, and Stephanie Varela on becoming partner at their respective law firms!

Marcela Lozano, a former member of the MDFAWL Corporate Counsel Liaison Committee, helped organize last year's Inaugural MDFAWL Corporate Counsel Summit. Marcela became a partner at the Miami office of the Florida firm, Shutts & Bowen LLP, where she is a member of the Business Litigation and International Dispute Resolution Practice Groups. Marcela regularly represents a wide range of Latin American clients as well as domestic clients in international transaction and litigation matters, including regulatory compliance and financial services. Marcela has represented multinational institutions in the finance, energy, and healthcare sectors. Born in Colombia, she graduated cum laude from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Bakehouse Art Complex, which provides gallery space to contemporary artists in South Florida. She is also a board member of the Colombian American Chamber of Commerce.
Erica Rutner was promoted from associate to partner at the Miami office of Lash & Goldberg LLP. Erica represents clients in a variety of high-stakes commercial litigation matters.  She has handled litigations involving complex financial instruments and deal structures, business torts, products liability, health care and bankruptcy.  Erica also has significant experience in the defense of class actions and multidistrict litigations, and she has successfully litigated several high-stakes putative class actions brought under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).  In conjunction with her class action and multidistrict litigation practice, Erica works closely with companies to develop short term and long term strategies for minimizing class action exposure.
Stephanie L. Varela was promoted to shareholder in Greenberg Traurig's Miami office. Stephanie focuses her practice on appellate litigation and trial support during all stages of litigation, including pre-trial and post-trial motion practice. Stephanie represents clients in products liability, medical malpractice, employment litigation, and contract disputes matters, and brings a practical, client-driven approach to each case. She has co-authored publications on various issues, including stays. Stephanie is a graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a former staff attorney to Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga. She has been recognized as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers magazine.

Trisha Widowfield's Article Featured in Daily Business Review

The Daily Business Review recently published an article authored by Trisha Widowfield, co-chair of the MDFAWL Leadership Committee, entitled "Why Are Female Attorneys' Voices Going Unheard in the Courtroom?" In the article, Trisha addresses the need for increasing women's participation in the courtroom. Trisha is a trial lawyer and partner at the Fort Lauderdale firm Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm, focusing her practice on complex civil litigation in the areas of medical malpractice and personal injury. Thanks to Trisha for placing this important issue in the spotlight! The article is available here.
Trisha Widowfield 

*Have something to shout about or know someone who does? Email us at We want to put you in the spotlight!
35th Annual Judicial Reception
December 7, 2017 | Marriott Marquis Miami    
From Our Social Channels
MDFAWL Around Town

Amber Kornreich, Dana Chaaban, and Diana Mendez holding down the MDFAWL tent at the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Picnic on February 3, 2018

Stephanie Casey, Lauren Brunswick, Elisa D'Amico, and Allison Leonard with their future MDFAWL members at the Membership Picnic on April 7, 2018

Liana De La Noval, Liana Matthews, and Ingrid Benson-Villegas at the MDFAWL Membership Picnic

Setup of the Membership Picnic at Peacock Park

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez with Liana Matthews, Gia Abreu, and Sylmarie Trujillo, with a special recognition from the City of Miami, in celebration of International Women's Day, for the commitment of MDFAWL to promote women's rights and elevate women's standing in the legal profession and beyond
Liana Matthews, Gia Abreu,
and Sylmarie Trujillo


Our Leadership




Katie S. Phang

Lara Bueso Bach

Elisa D'Amico

Ardith Bronson

Newsletter Editor
Kristin Drecktrah Paz

Ingrid Benson-Villegas 
Lauren Brunswick 
Stephanie Casey 
Allison Jade Leonard 
Freddi Mack 
Diana C. Mendez 
Stephanie Moot 
Kelly Peña 
Julissa Rodriguez 
Jennifer Ruiz 
Jody Shulman

Immediate Past President  
Rebecca Ocariz

Committee Chairs

Giovanna Abreu
Claire Armagnac
Angela Benjamin
Tammi Calarco
Gabriela Castillo
Diana Castiov
Dana Chaaban
Madelin D'Arce
Liana De La Noval
Tiffany Disney
Amanda Fernandez
Maite Garcia  
Keri Joseph
Olivia Kelman
Amber Kornreich

Christine Louissaint
Vannessa Mari-Milhem 
Liana Matthews
Sheila Oretsky
Cristina Pérez Soto
Carolina Piñero
Deborah Ross-Ocariz
Geri Satin 
Schuyler Smith
Marycarmen Soto
Alice Sum
Sylmarie Trujillo
Courtney Walter
Alicia Welch
Trisha Widowfield

MDFAWL is a voluntary bar association dedicated to actively promoting the advancement of women in the legal profession, expanding the leadership role of its members in the community at large, and promoting women's rights.

Kristin Drecktrah Paz, Newsletter Editor | MDFAWL |