MDFAWL had a great FALL and is gearing up for another amazing year, so get ready!
FALL EDITION 2016, Vol. 36, Issue 2
MDFAWL Enlists Men in the Fight for
Gender Equality in the Legal Profession
By: Rebecca Ocariz

This past September and November, MDFAWL hosted two dinners attended by over 60 male managing partners or male firm leaders/decision makers of as many firms in order to engage men in the advancement of women lawyers and in the quest for gender equality in the profession. 
The dinners are part of the "GOOD Guys" program created by the National Conference of Women's Bar Associations. "GOOD" stands for "Guys Overcoming Obstacles to Diversity." At the dinners, the attendees were recognized as leaders in their firms, in the local legal community and as GOOD Guys in the fight for gender parity. Judge Lisa Walsh, Immediate Past President of the National Association of Women Judges, facilitated the discussion. Attendees were encouraged to discuss ways to obtain gender equality, measures that either the invitees personally or their firm have taken to improve gender equality in the profession, and ways to continue to improve gender equality in the future. 
At the end of the dinner, the attendees were given a "Monday Morning To-Do List" that contained seven tasks (with subparts) to undertake at their firms to address gender bias. The attendees were also given a Pledge where they pledged to be a GOOD Guy and to be an agent for measurable change. The Pledge required attendees to complete three of the seven tasks set forth in the GOOD Guys Monday Morning To-Do List.
MDFAWL wants to recognize the GOOD Guys and ensure that everyone else in the legal community is aware of what they and their firms are doing to champion women in the legal profession. Accordingly, MDFAWL recognized every GOOD Guy who has signed the Pledge by name and firm at the December Judicial Reception, and it will do so again at the June Installation, on its website, in its newsletter, in email blasts, in ads published in the Daily Business Review and other media.

Want to be a GOOD Guy? Commit to completing three items in the Monday Morning To-Do List and sign the Pledge! With you we can overcome gender bias in the legal profession!


Announcing a New Member Benefit:

MDFAWL Member Directory

As an additional membership benefit, MDFAWL members will now have the option to create a public profile in our new member directory at . To appear in the directory, simply log in to your account at , and after updating your profile information, click "save and continue." On the next screen, you will be able to change the privacy settings of your account by unselecting the "do not list in member directory" option.
We hope all of our members take advantage of the opportunity to promote their practice on our website and connect with other members by using this new feature.
  For questions regarding the directory, please contact .


Rebecca Ocariz, President

Katie S. Phang, President-Elect

Lara Bueso Bach, Secretary

Elisa D'Amico, Treasurer

Ardith Bronson, Newsletter Editor


Lauren Brunswick
Kelly Peña
Stephanie Casey
Jennifer Ruiz
Kristin Drecktrah Paz
Jody Shulman
Freddi Mack
Evelyn Suero
Diana C. Mendez
Alicia Welch
Stephanie Moot
Ileana Cruz, Immediate Past President


 Alexander Bokor 

  John H. (Jack) Hickey and Bjorg Eikeland 

 Diana C. Mendez 

                        Rebecca Ocariz 


Alexander Bokor was appointed by Governor Rick Scott on October 20, 2016, to the Miami-Dade County Court Bench.  Immediately preceding his appointment, Alex served as an assistant county attorney for Miami-Dade where his practice focused on litigation, commercial practice and providing counsel to a wide range of County boards and committees.  He also served as counsel to the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works, the Property Appraiser's Office, the Tax Collector's Office and the Metropolitan Planning Organization.  The press release of Alex's appointment can be viewed here.

John H. (Jack) Hickey and Bjorg Eikeland, trial lawyers with the Hickey Law Firm in Miami, received a $4.5 Million jury verdict on behalf of their client, Ana Watson as personal representative of the Estate of Maria Deposada. The verdict was reached in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court on Friday, September 16, 2016. The case arose out of a July 8, 2008, car crash, in which the plaintiff suffered a subdural hematoma to the skull and ultimately was left with a serious and permanent brain injury. A press release regarding the victory can be found here.

Diana C. Mendez, MDFAWL Director and senior associate at Llorente and Heckler, P.A., was an integral part of the legal team that negotiated a joint development and lease agreement between Miami-Dade County and 13th Floor Investments and Adler Group to develop a $464 million mixed-use, transit-oriented project at the Douglas Road Metrorail Station. Diana played a lead role in advising the developer on procurement law issues, including proposal preparation and contract negotiations. Her involvement helped pave the way for the team to receive the unanimous recommendation by Miami-Dade County's evaluation committee followed by the approval of the County Commission. The news was covered by the Real Deal here.
 Rebecca Ocariz, MDFAWL President, received the University of Miami School of Law, Law Alumni Association Leadership Award on September 21, 2016. Rebecca was recognized for her many years of leadership, support and dedication to her alma mater. Rebecca was one of only two recipients this year to receive the award among a field of other highly qualified nominees, and MDFAWL is so very proud of her!

MDFAWL Making a Difference in the Lives of Children in Our Community

By: Stephanie Casey

(From left to right) Latoya Brown, Stephanie A. Casey, Natalie Rico, all from Colson Hicks Eidson

(From left to right) Nicole Comparato, Ed Soto, Rosa Lopes, Nellie Camerik and Lara Bach, all from Weil Gotshal

The Back-To-School Supply Drive, co-sponsored by MDFAWL and the Dade County Bar Association ("DCBA") was a great success! The month-long drive benefitted hundreds of underprivileged students in Miami-Dade County, collecting more than $10,000 worth of donations and supplies with the support of the local legal community. The drive was spearheaded by MDFAWL member Latoya Brown, with the help and support of MDFAWL director Stephanie A. Casey, MDFAWL member Ingrid Benson-Villegas, and DCBA member Natalie Rico. Latoya, Stephanie, and Natalie are attorneys at Colson Hicks Eidson. Ingrid is an attorney at the Law Offices of Isaac Benmergui, P.A.

MDFAWL and the DCBA received donations from more than 35 law firms and local organizations. In total, the team raised more than $5,000 in monetary donations and received more than 100 backpacks as well as an abundance of school supplies, from composition books and notebooks to rulers, paper, index cards, pencils and more.

"In an ongoing effort to support underprivileged students in our community, we reached out to our colleagues and peers in the legal community for help . . . and the response has been tremendous," said Brown, an associate at Colson Hicks Eidson who initiated the program. "We are grateful for the kindness and generosity offered to ensure the drive was a success for so many deserving students that otherwise would not have access to basic school supplies. It was truly a community effort."  Donations were given to parents and children at the Camillus House and the Division of Student Services for Miami-Dade County Public Schools' Project UP-START, which assists students living in homeless shelters, on the streets, in motels, or "couch surfing."  Over the course of the school year, the Division of Student Services identifies and serves approximately 6,000 underprivileged students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The students and their families go to the "UP-START Shop" to retrieve items they need, such as these important tools for the classroom.

Participating law firms and organizations included: Akerman LLP, Bercow Radell & Fernandez, BNI Biscayne Connection, Brian F. Spector, LLC, Carlton Fields, Coffey Burlington, Colson Hicks Eidson, De Cardenas Freixas Stein & Zachary, P.A., Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A., DLA Piper LLP, Genovese Joblove & Battista, Grossman Roth, P.A., Gunster, Hamilton Miller & Birthisel, LLP, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Kozyak Tropin Throckmorton, LLP, Jackson Lewis, Jarbath Pena Law Group, Jones Day, Law Offices of Karim Batista, P.A., Legon Fodiman, P.A., León Cosgrove, McDermott Will & Emery, Miami Parking Authority, Mitrani, MRD Consulting, Inc., Robinson Commercial Real Estate, Rynor, Adamsky & Toland, P.A., Panter, Panter & Sampedro, P.A., Peckar & Abramson, P.C., Podhurst Orseck P.A., Sandra Echevarria, P.A., Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Weiss, Alden & Polo, P.A., and Western Union.
The school supply drive ran throughout the month of August and MDFAWL hopes to build on the program's success next year.
MDFAWL Adopts Resolution Calling for Trial Judges to Take
Diversity into Consideration in Making Appointments of Lawyers
By: Rebecca Ocariz

At its October Board Meeting, MDFAWL adopted a resolution urging trial judges to take diversity into account when making important appointments of lawyers. Judges control who become lead counsel on complex multi-party disputes, who become receivers, financial monitors, trustees, mediators, arbitrators, special masters and guardians. Often, the appointing decision of a judge may make a lawyer's career. It is essential that these judicial decisions be inclusive of women and minorities.

The resolution was based upon a resolution drafted by the National Association of Women Judges and has been adopted by the American Association for Justice, the Defense Research Institute, the Federation of Corporate Counsel, the Academy of Defense Trial Advocates, the Conference of Chief Justices, and the Hispanic National Bar Association. Click here to see the resolution.
A copy of the MDFAWL resolution can be viewed here.
Miami-Dade Courthouse Receives First Ever Lactation Room
By: Lara Bach

It was an historic moment for the county when, on September 8, 2016, it opened the first lactation lounge in a courthouse, and MDFAWL was partially responsible.  Along with Judge Bailey, Judge Bernstein, and Chief Judge Soto, MDFAWL worked to furnish, prepare and decorate the lactation room in the Miami-Dade Courthouse on 73 West Flagler. 
In just eight weeks, the clerks and county building staff cleared hundreds of bankers boxes from an unused room on the third floor of the courthouse.  After a fresh coat of lavender paint and intense cleaning, the room now contains comfortable seating for multiple users and, most importantly, it is a clean and private space for nursing mothers.  The room is only accessible with a code.  MDFAWL ensured to decorate the room with inspirational quotes from leading women who refused to accept the status quo and encouraged women to continue pushing for gender equality.  The children of MDFAWL members also contributed a large butterfly piece for the room. 
For years, MDFAWL has been talking about different ways to advance women in the legal profession.  The implementation of this room means that nursing mothers will no longer be forced to pump breastmilk in the unsanitary and cramped quarters of bathroom stalls or their steaming hot cars.  It relieves much of the anxiety they face when trying to pump milk for their children and balance their legal careers.  
Similar lactation rooms--all furnished by MDFAWL--were opened in the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center, Miami-Dade Children's Courthouse, and Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building.



MDFAWL Lunch with U.S. District Court Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr.

By: Alicia H. Welch
Pictured with Judge Scola (from left to right): Kristin Reynoso, Maite Garcia, Freddi Mack, Claire Armagnac, Alicia Welch, Amy Bowers, and event organizer Vanessa Snyder. Not pictured, but in attendance: Carlos Chardon, Vivian Fazio, and Veronica Meza.
On August 17, 2016, the MDFAWL Federal Court Liaison Committee hosted a members-only lunch with U.S. District Court Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. in his Chambers at the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse.
Judge Scola, who served as a judge on Florida's Eleventh Judicial Circuit for over fifteen years before his appointment to the federal bench in 2011, imparted a number of useful tips for lawyers who practice before him. In particular, Judge Scola advised that in drafting motions, lawyers need not cite cases from other jurisdictions when there is binding law in the Eleventh Circuit. Judge Scola also noted that additional pages in excess of those permitted under the Local Rules are rarely necessary in motion practice. Additionally, oral argument before the Court should not consist of mere verbal recitation of argument in the motion papers. Last, in contrasting his experience as a state court judge with his current role, Judge Scola lauded his law clerks and the work they do, noting that they are one of the best perks of serving as a federal judge.
MDFAWL appreciates the time Judge Scola took to meet with the group, and especially for the practice tips and insightful war stories from his long legal career in Miami.  
Judge Seitz Leads Inspiring Third Annual
Federal Luncheon and Courthouse Tour
By: Melissa Madsen

On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, MDFAWL members had the unique opportunity to sit in chambers for an intimate lunch with the Honorable Patricia A. Seitz of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Reflecting on her career, which includes becoming the first female associate at Steel Hector & Davis and serving as the first female president of The Florida Bar, Judge Seitz stressed the importance of quieting the inner critic and taking a risk while maintaining one's values and internal compass. After lunch, Judge Seitz gave MDFAWL members a tour of the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse. She highlighted the ship-like design of the building and invited MDFAWL members to sit on the bench and in the jury box of her courtroom--an invaluable opportunity to see the courtroom from all perspectives. Judge Seitz also led the group on a tour of the servery, attorneys' lounge, judicial conference room, and the jury assembly room.
MDFAWL thanks Judge Seitz, her law clerks, and the Federal Court Liaison Committee for an inspiring afternoon.

Pictured with Judge Seitz (from left to right): Melissa Madsen, Rebecca Ocariz, Alicia Welch, Tiffany-Ashley Disney, Marla Grant, Yuliya LaRoe, Virginia Perez, and Michele Calder

Corporate Counsel Committee Corner:
Table for Eight with Marcus Bach

By: Stephanie Varela

On August 24, 2016, MDFAWL's Corporate Counsel Liaison Committee had the great honor of hosting Table for 8 featuring Marcus Bach, the Director of Legal and Government Affairs for Miami Dolphins, Ltd.
Over lunch at Komodo in Brickell, Mr. Bach recounted his early days in sports and entertainment law, when he represented several professional swimmers in connection with the 2008 Olympic Games.  He also shared memories about his transition into commercial litigation, after joining Holland & Knight, as well as his clerkship experience with United States District Court Judge Alan Gold.    
Mr. Bach explained how he first became involved with the Dolphins organization, his current day-to-day operations, his collaborations with others within the community, and his passion for giving back to the city in which he was born and raised. 
We are grateful to Mr. Bach for spending time with MDFAWL members and look forward to seeing him at future events.

  Legal Learning Series and MDFAWL Join
Teams for the Critical Issues in Sports Law CLE

By: Lara Bueso Bach
At the Miami Dolphins season home opener on September 25, 2016, MDFAWL, along with Legal Learning Series, hosted a continuing legal education course entitled "Critical Issues in Sports Law."  The panel was comprised of industry experts Myles Pistorius, Senior Vice President of the Miami Dolphins; Marcus Bach, Director of Legal and Government Affairs of the Miami Dolphins; Vered Yakovee, Vice President and Associate General Counsel of the Miami Heat and American Airlines Arena; and, Angelade Cespedes, a partner at Akerman LLP.  The panel was moderated by Lara Bach, an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Secretary of MDFAWL.
Close to 200 attendees, including several law students from the University of Miami, gathered in the Gallery of Legends prior to kick-off to discuss various legal issues such as those involved in the $500+ million private investment in Hard Rock Stadium as well as the naming rights deal.  Further, on the heels of Miami being awarded the 2020 Super Bowl, Mr. Pistorius and Mr. Bach discussed the legal intricacies involved in bidding for and securing a Super Bowl in our home town.

Ms. Yakovee provided insights as to legal issues she addresses as counsel for the Miami Heat.  She also discussed how new technologies (such as virtual reality goggles) may affect the sports arena and explained how those interested in sports law may break into the industry.  Ms. de Cespedes, a litigation partner at Akerman, discussed the impact of social media on litigation as well as the best way to anticipate her clients' needs.
The CLE was complemented by a Miami Dolphins victory in the newly renovated Hard Rock Stadium.
State Court Liaison Committee Hosts
Table for Eight with Judge Areces

By: Julissa Rodriguez
Several MDFAWL members gathered at Tarpon Bend in Coral Gables to meet with Judge Areces, who shared with us her distinctive legal career as a private practitioner and, as of 2005, as a Circuit Court Judge in Miami-Dade County.  For those appearing before her, Judge Areces provided a few tips on what to do and not do in her courtroom:
  • when presenting arguments, attorneys should not interrupt or speak to each other - she appreciates when attorneys ask her if they should respond to an argument presented by the other side;
  •  when appearing before the court, attorneys should know what they are arguing and do not presume the judge knows -- for example, what type of motion is before the court, who has the burden, when does the burden shift, what evidence is needed?; and
  • as a general tip, it is a good idea to sit in the courtroom of the judge before whom attorneys will be appearing to learn first hand what that judge likes and dislikes.
We are grateful to Judge Areces for spending time with our members and look forward to seeing her at future MDFAWL events.


Fourth Annual Trial Skills Program
Prepares Women Lawyers for Courtroom


By: Lara Bueso Bach



Studies have shown that women continue to face gender bias in the workplace, do not receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts, and are consistently underrepresented in lead counsel roles.  This disparity is even more pronounced among women of color.  In effort to combat some of these issues and prepare young women lawyers for the courtroom, MDFAWL, along with Judge Diane Ward of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, hosted MDFAWL's Fourth Annual Trial Skills for Women Lawyers.  Over two days, participants received hands-on training from sitting judges and practicing attorneys regarding opening and closing statements and direct examinations of lay and expert witnesses. 


"This was a remarkable opportunity for talented litigators from our legal community to share their experience with young women lawyers in a trial setting to help them develop skills to enable them to move from the office to the courtroom," said Judge Diane Ward, co-organizer of the program.  "These trial skills workshops benefit not only the participants, but are also an opportunity for distinguished attorneys from our community to witness the efforts that these young woman are making in order to get a seat at the table."


Judge Ward was joined by faculty members Judge Betty Butchko, Judge Yvonne Colodny, Judge Laura Stuzin, Angela Daker, Gail Levine, Katie Phang, Sabrina Puglisi, Detra Shaw-Wilder, and Yolanda Strader.  As recounted by faculty member Ms. Strader, the program successfully encouraged "each participant to go beyond her comfort zone and try out new methods, take constructive criticism, and apply what she had learned by observing others."


Prior to the event, sponsor K&L Gates LLP hosted a kick-off cocktail and CLE entitled "No More Honey: Overcoming Gender Bias in the Courtroom." The panel consisted of Ret. Judge Gill Freeman, JAMS; Lee Stapleton, K&L Gates LLP; Kim Cook, Sedgwick Law; and Michelle Suskauer, The Suskauer Law Firm; and was moderated by Lara Bach, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.  Panelists discussed a range of unique issues facing women in the legal profession and provided advice for women lawyers to continue rising to the top and appropriately address the gender biases they may face along the way.   


Another sponsor, Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A., hosted a CLE luncheon during the program featuring Gail Levine, Joy Lundeen, Maria Rubio, and Jayne Weintraub, and moderated by Judge Ward.  There, panelists discussed practical tips for young lawyers in the courtroom.   


A final panel discussion was held on Friday featuring John Hogan, Holland & Knight LLP; Eugene Stearns, Stearns Weaver; Joseph I. Zumpano, Zumpano Patricios & Winker; and Michael Olin, Michael Olin, P.A., entitled "Moving from a Chair in the Office to a Chair in the Courtroom."  Judge Butchko moderated the panel in which the men offered advice to the participants on how they could achieve a more active role at their respective firms.


MDFAWL thanks its sponsors, the participants, and the numerous members of the legal community that volunteered to serve as witnesses for the program, including Ret. Judge Joe Farina, Ret. Judge Israel Reyes, Russel Dohan, Jonathan Feldman, Liz Gonzalez, Daniel Mazanec, Bert Ocariz, Gary Pappas, Maria Rubio, Scott Saranson, and Jayne Weintraub.
Pssssst.....Are You Interested in Helping Plan the
Third Annual MDFAWL Foster Youth Day Picnic?

MDFAWL is planning its Third Annual Foster Youth Day picnic to take place in February 2017. This picnic provides a day of fun, games, and food for over two hundred current and former members of Miami's foster youth community, and a chance for members of the legal community to learn about pro bono opportunities and spend a day with the kids. To get involved in this project, please contact Kelly Peña.
MDFAWL Membership Lunch Presentation Series

In an effort to get the word out and encourage membership in MDFAWL, the chapter's Membership Committee has started a membership luncheon series for firm and government entities.  The goal of these luncheons is to provide information about MDFAWL and to encourage people to get involved. A few MDFAWL members in leadership positions--usually a co-chair or member of the Membership Committee, along with an officer--attend the meeting at the firm or entity with lunch. Depending on what the firm or entity wants, MDFAWL provides either an informal or more formal presentation on the benefits of MDFAWL and ways for people to get involved. Ultimately the luncheon is a place for the community to learn about MDFAWL's goals, activities and many benefits to members, both professionally and personally.

Over the past several months, MDFAWL has hosted four membership luncheons, which took place at Liebler, Gonzalez & Portuondo;  Akerman, LLP; White & Case LLP; and the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office. So far, the luncheons have been warmly received by those who have attended. One attendee even called the experience "empowering." At each luncheon, attorneys in attendance have had an opportunity to introduce themselves and discuss issues important to them, which they felt MDFAWL could provide the platform to address, such as promoting flexibility for mothers of newborns returning to the workplace, maintaining a positive work-life balance, and enhancing client relations.
If you would like to welcome MDFAWL into your organization for a luncheon where we may present our many programs, events and benefits of membership, please contact our Membership Committee at for more information. We hope to see you all at an MDFAWL event soon.
Miami-Dade FAWL 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.
Ardith Bronson, Newsletter Editor | Miami-Dade FAWL