Miami-Dade FAWL
June, 2015, Vol. XXXV, Issue 1 
Welcoming our Incoming President Ileana Cruz
by: Elisa D'Amico
On Thursday, June 18, 2015, Ileana Cruz was installed as the 35th President of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. After being involved with Miami-Dade FAWL for many years, we are proud to see her step into the role of our chapter's President.

In 2012, Ileana joined the Office of the Miami-Dade County Attorney as an Assistant County Attorney in the Finance and Taxation section. Her practice involves, among other things, advising the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser and Tax Collector in both administrative and litigation matters. Ileana also represents the interests of those and other County departments in federal bankruptcy courts and other federal courts in Florida and other states. She also counsels the Finance department concerning legislative items, the Board of County Commissioners concerning tax and finance matters, and drafts ordinances and resolutions. Before joining the Office of the Miami-Dade County Attorney, Ileana practiced in the Financial Restructuring and Insolvency practice group of White & Case LLP and in the Business Restructuring Group of Stearns Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson P.A.

In addition to her work and the countless hours she has dedicated to Miami-Dade FAWL, Ileana was also a Chair of The Florida Bar Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee for the 2014-2015 term, sits on the Social Media and Communications Technology Committee, was selected as a fellow in The Florida Bar's Leadership Academy, and is a Board Member of the Florida State University Alumni.

Ileana has a bachelor's degree in political science from Florida International University, and a juris doctorate from Florida State University. She is a brilliant litigator, a fearless advocate of women's rights, and is fully committed to furthering the mission of Miami-Dade FAWL. To connect with Ileana, email

Ileana Cruz, President

Rebecca Ocariz, President-Elect

Katie Phang, Secretary

Lara Bueso Bach, Treasurer

Elisa D'Amico, Newsletter Editor

Deborah Baker-Egozi, Immediate-Past President

Ardith Bronson
Stephanie Moot
Lauren Brunswick

Kelly Peņa

Stephanie Casey
Jody Shulman
Brendalyn Edwards
Alicia Welch
Courtney Engelke
Talia Zucker
Mallory Gold
Membership Spotlight

Deborah Baker-Egozi
Ingrid P. Benson-VillegasIleana Cruz
Brendalyn Edwards
Jane Muir
Liana Nealon

Deborah Baker-EgoziMiami-Dade FAWL Immediate-Past President and founding member of the law firm of Lipscomb, Eisenberg & Baker, PL., was recently appointed to serve a three-year term on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee "C." Her term will run through May 2018. Congratulations Deborah!  

Ingrid P. Benson-Villegas, volunteer for Judge Jason E. Dimitris and Dade Legal Aid, published an article entitled: "Florida v. Georgia and the Management of Water Consumption," in the Spring 2015 issue of The AgendaThe Florida Bar's City, County and Local Government Section publication. Well done Ingrid! 


Ileana Cruz, Miami-Dade FAWL President, is a member of the second graduating class of The Florida Bar Leadership Academy. Congratulations Ileana!


Brendalyn Edwards, Miami-Dade FAWL Director, and Public Relations Chair, was recently elected as the President-Elect of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association ("GSCBWLA") for the 2015-2016 term. GSCBWLA's mission is to address the concerns of women lawyers as they relate to the social, economic, political, and moral needs of the community. Brendalyn also is a member of the second graduating class of The Florida Bar Leadership Academy. Congratulations Brendalyn!


Jane Muir has been named the recipient of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division's Lynn Futch Most Productive Young Lawyer Award. Congratulations Jane, we are so proud of you!


Liana Nealon, Miami-Dade FAWL Committee Chair and an assistant public defender with the Office of the Miami-Dade Public Defender, is a member of the second graduating class of The Florida Bar Leadership Academy. Congratulations Liana!


Rebecca Ocariz
Kelly PeņaAlice Sum


Rebecca Ocariz, Miami-Dade FAWL President-Elect and a partner with Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., is a member of the second graduating class of The Florida Bar Leadership Academy. Congratulations Rebecca!

Kelly Peņa, Miami-Dade FAWL Director and associate in the Miami office of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., published an article that was featured on the front page of the June 5, 2015 copy of DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar's "Life, Health and Disability," a newsletter. The article, entitled "Update on Relapse," explores whether the risk of relapse constitutes a present disability for purposes of determining employee benefits. Great job Kelly!

Alice Sum, a shareholder with the Miami office of Fowler White Burnett, P.A., is a member of the second graduating class of The Florida Bar Leadership Academy.Congratulations Alice!
35th Annual Installation and Awards 
Dinner at Jungle Island is a Wild Success
by: Freddi Mack
On Thursday, June 18th, Miami-Dade FAWL celebrated its 35th Annual Installation and Awards Dinner at the Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom. The evening started off with a beautiful invocation from the Honorable Beth Bloom. Immediate-Past President Deborah Baker-Egozi thanked the many supporters who have encouraged and assisted Miami-Dade FAWL throughout the past year.
Immediate-Past President Deborah Baker-Egozi (center) presents "Friend of FAWL" awards to 2014-2015 recipients

Next, Deborah presented President-Elect Rebecca Ocariz with the President's Award. Rebecca was recognized for her unwavering commitment to Miami-Dade FAWL and to supporting the President. The organization also presented awards to certain of its supporters who deserved recognition for their commitment to Miami-Dade FAWL's mission. Law firms K&L Gates LLP; Leesfield Scolaro, P.A.; SMGQ Law; Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.; Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A.; and Wargo French LLP received "Friend of FAWL" awards.


When asked, Daniel Casey, managing partner of K&L Gates had this to say:


We are extremely honored to receive this special recognition from Miami-Dade FAWL, an organization that has provided so many of our lawyers, and the lawyers of so many other firms, the tremendous opportunities to be mentored by highly respected senior lawyers, judges and in-house counsel, to build so many beneficial networks in this extremely competitive marketplace, and to be challenged to exercise their innate leadership abilities for the benefit of our community. I think that it is we who should be recognizing Miami-Dade FAWL for all that you do for us.

Miami-Dade FAWL then presented its Service Awards to the Honorable Beatrice A. Butchko, the Honorable Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the Honorable Gill Freeman, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, and Edith Osman. The organization's Platinum Sponsor, FTI Consulting, was presented with the Platinum Sponsor Award, and Miami-Dade FAWL Director Lauren Brunswick was presented with the Rising Star Award. Lauren was recognized for her hard work and dedication to mentoring our younger lawyers, founding the Young Lawyers Committee and organizing a number of large successful events this past year.

The Honorable Nushin Sayfie addressed the crowd to present the 2015 Mattie Belle Davis Award to her longtime friend and colleague, the 
Honorable Lisa S. Walsh. The Mattie Belle Davis Award is given each year to a female Miami-Dade FAWL member in the legal profession who exemplifies the ideals of professional achievement, perseverance, and dedication that were demonstrated by the late Judge Davis -- the first female judge of the Metropolitan Court of Dade County. Judge Sayfie treated attendees to a "top ten" list of the jobs that Judge Walsh would have held if she was not on the bench. (Watch out Khaleesi)! Ultimately, Judge Sayfie remarked, and we agree, that Judge Walsh -- incoming president of the National Association of Women Judges -- is truly suited for the life of a judge, in light of her intelligence, drive, and commitment to truth.


Miami-Dade FAWL President Ileana Cruz (right) and
her mother Liliana Cruz in a warm embrace

For most of us, though, the highlight of the evening was the incredibly moving inaugural speech by President Ileana Cruz, who advocated "justice, fairness, equality, and community" as guideposts of her past, present, and future. Moreover, she spoke to Miami-Dade FAWL's members and supporters about how fundamental these four principles are to those of us in the legal profession. She reminded us how important it is for us to provide a voice to those who have none, to foster meaningful relationships between the business and legal communities, and to support each other in times of hardship. Ileana's speech was a call to action, a reminder about the value of life, and a reminder about how privileged we are as members of the Bar to represent and help others. 


Thank you to Ileana, to all of our current and future members, and as always, to our supporters and Installation sponsors. We are looking forward to an amazing year.

Table for 8 Lunch with Judge Monica Gordo
by: Alicia Welch

On June 10, 2015, Miami-Dade FAWL hosted a members-only Table for 8 lunch honoring the Honorable Monica Gordo. The lunch, which was held at Steak Brasil Churrascaria in downtown Miami, was at capacity with eight Miami-Dade FAWL members in attendance to enjoy an intimate lunch with Judge Gordo who is a Circuit Judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit Civil Division.

From left to right: Giovanna Abreu, Salina Jivani, Judge Monica Gordo, Alicia Welch, Martha Dezayes, Kristen Reynoso, Deborah Baker-Egozi, Elisa D'Amico, and Matthew Jones
The Table for 8 was notable both for the delicious food and the evocative conversation. Judge Gordo shared her background and some of her treasured stories with attendees. She explained that prior to her election to the bench in 2010, she was a prosecutor with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office for approximately 12 years. In that capacity, Judge Gordo served on the Gang Strike Force and prosecuted major felony cases, including murder cases. In her eyes, this experience was key preparation for her current role as a trial court judge. After her election to the bench, Judge Gordo was assigned to the criminal division where she presided over a variety of cases and countless trials. Recently, Judge Gordo transitioned to the civil division.

Judge Gordo graciously shared valuable tips for attorneys appearing before her. Specifically, lawyers should submit motion papers to the Court in advance to allow her time to read and prepare for any hearing; judges read submitted papers and will remember parties that submit well-drafted motions. Lawyers should take care always to be courteous to one another and to the Court.  Finally, lawyers should be aware that judges remember lawyers who conduct careful legal research and who provide the Court with precedential legal authority - judges appreciate when lawyers make their jobs easier, rather than more difficult.

Thanks Judge Gordo for hosting this Table for 8, and thanks to Matthew Jones for treating all of us to a delicious churrascaria lunch!
Sushi Happy Hour Co-Sponsored by Miami-Dade FAWL Young Lawyers Committee and APABA
by: Lauren Brunswick

On May 28, 2015, Miami-Dade FAWL's Young Lawyers Committee and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida ("APABA") joined forces to sponsor a joint happy hour at Doraku in Brickell. At the event, the 30+ lawyers and judges in attendance had the opportunity to not only reconnect with friends, but also to make new connections, all while enjoying delicious drinks and sushi.

Attendees enjoying the happy-hour event at Doraku
Miami-Dade FAWL was honored to have several of its judiciary members in attendance, including Judge Jason Dimitris, Judge Diana Vizcaino, and Judge Veronica Diaz, as well as judicial candidate Carol Jodie Breece. Many members of the organization's board of directors, including Lauren Brunswick, Stephanie Moot, and Kelly Peņa, were in attendance, as was Corporate Counsel Committee Chair Alice Sum. Overall, the evening was enjoyable and productive.
Miami-Dade FAWL looks forward to partnering with APABA on many future endeavors! 
Table for 8 with Betty Koltis, Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel of Elizabeth Arden 
by: Diana Mendez
After organizing numerous successful events that present Miami-Dade FAWL's members with the unique opportunity to network with in-house counsel from some of the most prestigious private sector organizations in South Florida, on May 27, 2015, the Corporate Counsel Liaison Committee held yet another successful Table for 8 event featuring Ms. Beatriz (Betty) Llorens Koltis, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Elizabeth Arden, Inc.
Betty Koltis, SVP
and Deputy General Counsel for Elizabeth Arden

During a delightful dinner, Ms. Koltis recalled how she became part of the small and highly select team of attorneys who manage the majority of the legal work of the internationally recognized beauty products company. An accomplished student, Ms. Koltis graduated from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude, in 1990. During her student years, Ms. Koltis met Elizabeth Arden's current Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Oscar E. Marina. Their friendship and professional relationship continued to grow while working together at Steel, Hector & Davis LLP in Miami. Having personal knowledge of Ms. Koltis's legal and leadership skills, Mr. Marina asked Ms. Koltis to join his legal team in the fall of 2006.


Ms. Koltis currently handles Elizabeth Arden's SEC reporting and compliance, corporate acquisitions, financing transactions, executive compensation and international tax support, among other matters. She also provides support for operational functions including North America sales, supply chain, logistics, IT and distributor markets, as well as support for some of the company's international affiliates. These demanding functions often result in Ms. Koltis having to work long days - very similar to her days in private practice.


According to Ms. Koltis, one difference in working in-house is that you can plan for time off without being concerned about losing a potential client. Although Elizabeth Arden's legal department handles much of the company's legal work in-house, when it's time to select outside counsel, Ms. Koltis admits that it often comes down to responsiveness - taking a long time to respond may cause Ms. Koltis to find legal counsel elsewhere. Ms. Koltis is not fond of ".1" time billing entries either. She believes that attorneys are service providers and shouldn't "nickel and dime" their clients with ".1" time entries, but instead should focus on the value of their substantive work.


Miami-Dade FAWL's Corporate Counsel Liaison Committee is grateful to Ms. Koltis for taking the time to meet with our members and for candidly sharing her experience and perspective with us. To learn more about our upcoming Corporate Counsel Table for 8 event with Grace Mora, Vice President and General Counsel of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, a breakfast being held on July 8, 2015, please click here.

Not sure if you are still a member? Have any questions? Email
In our May newsletter, Miami-Dade FAWL thanked our organization's various sponsors and inadvertently neglected to mention our long-time sponsor, Esquire Deposition Solutions. We apologize and thank the company for its continued support of Miami-Dade FAWL.
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.
Miami-Dade Chapter Shines at 2015 FAWL Annual Gala & Awards 
by: Katie Phang
On July 24, 2015, six Miami-Dade FAWL members were recognized at the Florida Association for Women Lawyers ("FAWL") 2015 Annual Meeting as part of the "Class of 2015 Leaders in the Law." Lara Bach, Deborah Baker-Egozi, Ardith Bronson, Elisa D'Amico, Madelin D'Arce, and Rebecca Ocariz were named as "Leaders in the Law" by FAWL for their contributions to the community. 

According to FAWL: "
FAWL's Leaders in the Law award recognizes women who have made significant impacts in their communities. The recognition is intended to promote women who are not necessarily at the pinnacle of their career but rather women who have made meaningful contributions to their communities through their legal service or volunteer activities and who have provided a positive role model for FAWL members."
Immediate-Past President Deborah Baker-Egozi (left) and Membership Committee Co-Chair Kristin Drektrah accepting the award from FAWL for "Outstanding Membership Recruitment"
Not only were six of the chapter's members recognized individually, but Miami-Dade FAWL also received both the "Outstanding Chapter" and the "Outstanding Membership Recruitment" award. The Membership Committee Co-Chairs for 2014-2015, Kristin Drektrah and Emilie Kennedy deserve a huge thanks and a warm congratulations for all of their hard work and dedication to Miami-Dade FAWL. And, we also extend our gratitude to all of our members who have worked so hard to make Miami-Dade FAWL's past year such an amazing one. To all of the new members who have joined us this year, we look forward to meeting you and working with you in the future.
A complete list of the 2015 FAWL award winners can be accessed
Freddi Mack Wins Legal Eagle Competition
by: Elisa D'Amico
Freddi Mack, a litigation associate with the Miami office of K&L Gates LLP and newly installed Chair of Miami-Dade FAWL's Event Planning Committee was named the winner of the Fourth Annual Legal Eagle Competition.

The annual competition is open to all attorneys under the age of 40 practicing in the 11th Judicial Circuit and admitted to The Florida Bar for less than seven years. All event proceeds benefit 
the Gwen S. Cherry and H.T. Smith Law Student Fellowships at Legal Services of Greater Miami ("LSGMI"), providing the opportunity for law students to help vulnerable individuals and families resolve critical legal problems.
From left to right: last year's Legal Eagle Competition winner, Kristen Corpion; runner-up Dylan Gonzalez; event organizer, David M. Gersten; this year's winner, Freddi Mack; and event organizer Jane Muir
The annual competition was organized by Jane Muir (Gersten & Muir, P.A.) and David M. Gersten (retired Chief Judge of the Third District Court of Appeal and chair of the appellate practice group at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP). This year's competition judges included both sitting judges and private practitioners: Judge Norma Lindsey, past DCBA President Garrett Biondo, Elizabeth K. Coppolecchia, and last year's winner and member of Miami-Dade FAWL's board of directors Kristen Corpion.

Gersten said, "This is a competition that brings out the best of the best. To observe the contestants put their hearts and soul into winning this competition, to be known as the best closer in the county, is always a pleasure to watch.

This year's competition ended in an extraordinary final round where gut, determination, and moxy prevailed." Muir pointed out, "It is a challenge for young lawyers to prove the quality of their advocacy because cases often settle before trial. It can take many years for a lawyer to build a reputation for high-quality trial practice. This competition has given young lawyers the chance to sharpen and showcase their trial advocacy skills."
Legal Eagle Competition winner
Freddi Mack and competitor Olivia Kelman, both with K&L Gates
Freddi, a first-year litigator with K&L Gates, is a University of Miami School of Law graduate and a member of the firm's Commercial Disputes and Restructuring & Insolvency practice groups. This is the second year in a row that a Miami-Dade FAWL member claimed the top prize in the Legal Eagle Competition. Last year, Kristen Corpion took home the trophy. Thank you to Gersten & Muir for organizing a wonderful program. And, congratulations to all of the competitors, especially our own Federal Liaison Committee Co- Chair Olivia Kelman, for participating; and cheers to our champion, Event Planning Committee Chair Freddi Mack!
Miami-Dade FAWL, JAMS, and U.S. Legal Support Present CLE Seminar "Discovery in Arbitration: How to Avoid an Accident"
by: Ardith Bronson

On Thursday, June 4, 2015, Miami-Dade FAWL, JAMS, and U.S. Legal Support held the first CLE in their collaborative breakfast CLE series on arbitration. The program entitled "Discovery in Arbitration: How to Avoid an Accident" focused on the discovery process in arbitration from the perspective of an arbitrator, an advocate, and a technology professional.

From left to right: Trent Walton, Ardith Bronson, Laura Reich,
Jody Shulman, Kristin Drecktrah, Retired Chief Judge Joseph P. Farina, Michele Calder, and Sherman Humphrey
The top-notch panel consisted of Retired Chief Judge Joseph P. Farina, JAMS mediator and arbitrator; Laura Reich, Tenzer PLLC; and Trent Walton, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Legal Support, with Ardith Bronson, DLA Piper LLP (US); and Kristin Drecktrah, Gomm & Smith, as moderators. The panelists provided a packed house of attendees with their experienced insights on discovery in arbitration, including the applicable state and federal rules, and procedures for managing discovery throughout an arbitration; what discovery to seek in arbitration and standards for its use; and the challenges of managing and presenting discovery in arbitration in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

While all attendees learned volumes from the program, perhaps the biggest take-away was that attorneys always keep in mind that arbitration is a creature of contract - what you agree to in an arbitration clause can vastly effect the landscape of any arbitration that arises from a dispute under that contract. Stay tuned for future installments of this free series, which will cover other key topics relating to arbitration.
Young Lawyers Committee "Character & Fitness" Paddle Boarding in the Grove 
by: Kelly Peņa
On May 30, 2015, the Young Lawyers Committee of Miami-Dade FAWL hosted its first Character and Fitness event: Paddle Boarding in the Grove.  Participants of this event were able to test out their balancing skills on the water early that Saturday morning.

Most attendees were trying out paddle boarding for the very first time, and some of the attendees were also able to enjoy some tandem kayaking.


Judge Dimitris and his daughters
enjoying some tandem kayaking together.

Following the fitness portion of the event, participants shared a healthy, informal lunch at the marina from "The Last Carrot" in Coconut Grove, trying out some vegan and vegetarian fare.

Lauren Brunswick, shows off her paddle-boarding skills
The event was a big hit, and drew a crowd of several women solo practitioners and members of the judiciary. This "Character & Fitness" event was made possible from a generous grant from The Florida Bar.
Stay tuned for the next Miami-Dade FAWL Character and Fitness event coming up in July!  

Young Lawyers Committee First Mentorship Dinner Program
by: Evelyn Suero
The Miami Dade FAWL Young Lawyers Committee launched its first Mentorship Dinner on June 4, 2015, at Ristorante Fratelli Milano in downtown Miami. The theme for the first Mentorship Dinner was corporate law. Women lawyers from diverse legal backgrounds came together that evening not only to learn more about the practice of corporate law, but also to make valuable mentorship connections. Attendees included Young Lawyers Committee Chair Evelyn Suero, board members Lauren Brunswick and Mallory Gold, Amy Hinkler, Marlene Garcia, Negin Kordbacheh, Waynice Green, Stephanie Varela, Julissa Rodriguez, Maite De Barros, Danica Malloy, and Kenneth Oh.

The need for mentorship resonated deeply with all attorneys in attendance, both junior and senior, who sought practical guidance on issues such as work-life balance, marketing and branding, networking and making connections in a new city, unearthing employment opportunities, and transitioning to/from solo practice to a law firm. In the context of an intimate dinner, attorneys were able to ask straightforward questions, swap "war stories" and schedule follow-up meetings where they would be able to continue the dialogue.

Miami-Dade FAWL believes that a strong network of united and informed women lawyers is key to advancing the interests and influence of women in law. The aim of the Young Lawyers Committee is, in part, to foster meaningful, long-lasting connections, keeping these goals in mind. The Young Lawyers Committee is currently in the planning stage for its next Mentorship Dinner, so check back on our website for details, which will be announced shortly. All Miami-Dade FAWL members seeking mentoring, as well as to those who are able and willing to provide mentoring are encouraged to attend. We hope to see you there!
Miami-Dade FAWL applauds Ray Abadin for appointing more women to standing committees while he was President-elect than any of his predecessors!
"I chose to focus on recalibrating and providing opportunities for women on committees of The Florida Bar. They will ultimately be in a position to lead the commtitees and have more influence over the Bar and their own practices. And that's a good thing."
Ray Abadin, Florida Bar President
To read the full article by Jan Pudlow in The Florida Bar News, click here.
Miami-Dade FAWL Members Have 
Discounted Tickets to the
Adrienne Arsht Center!

Miami-Dade FAWL has teamed up with the Adrienne Arsht Center
to provide members with better access to programming. Taking advantage of the Miami-Dade FAWL special benefits are so easy.

Just enter our special code "FAWL" online to get discounted tickets to upcoming shows and more!


Check out our upcoming events here, and be sure to register for events that interest you.
We hope to see you soon!

Newsletter Editor
Elisa D'Amico
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