People and Community

Miami Law Bricks Named

The popular courtyard is named ‘Hilarie Bass Bricks’ for the superstar lawyer, community leader, and loyal ‘Cane.
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 Reflecting on her days as a new Miami Law student, Hilarie Bass remembers the panic she felt over being called on in class, the dread of checking her grades, and the aha! moment when she withstood a withering drilling in her elements of law class and realized she really could be a trial lawyer. But best of all, the co-president of the global law firm Greenberg Traurig remembers the importance of the brick courtyard at the center of the School of Law where she and her classmates would gather daily to dissect what they were absorbing in the classroom.

“The bricks really are the heart of the law school,” Bass, vice chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees, said Friday night at a celebratory dedication in that very courtyard now known as the Hilarie Bass Bricks, in honor of the 1981 alumna who has been unwavering in support of her alma mater, most recently with a $1 million gift to the law school. 

“As critical as the substantive teaching and learning that goes on in the classrooms,” Bass continued, “it was always my view that the discussions that take place on these bricks, the synthesizing of ideas, the communicating about different concepts, and the implementation of everything we learned in day-to-day life … was really one of the most important parts about our law school experience. So I am absolutely thrilled that for years from now I will in some small way be a participant in that important function.”

As UM President Donna E. Shalala noted, there could not be a more fitting tribute to an alumna who has done her alma mater proud, not only with her time, wisdom, generosity, and legal prowess, but for her role as a mentor and her dedication to bettering the lives of those who need it most. In particular, Shalala cited Bass’s successful pro bono challenge of Florida’s law that prohibited gay people from adopting children, even foster parents who were lovingly raising foster children. Today, prospective adoptive parents are no longer asked about their sexual orientation.

“She’s very smart, strategic, and fearless, but the real key to her success is her passion for helping others, for always doing what’s right and her hard-earned rise to co-president of Greenberg Traurig is a hallmark of a 33-year career of doing what’s right,” Shalala said. “Her landmark cases have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for clients, but it is her deep desire to help those that need it most that has guided her pro bono work.”

Pointing to the brick on the patio Bass bought years ago for $100, Shalala joked that either inflation or Bass’s rise in her firm, where for eight years she served as national chair of the 600-member litigation department and is consistently recognized as one of the nation’s top litigators, fueled her passion for the U. In addition to her gifts to the law school, Bass has supported the College of Arts and Sciences, UM Athletics, and the School of Education and Human Development, where she serves as chair of the Momentum2 campaign.

A picture of that brick adorns the plaque that Shalala and Miami Law Dean Patricia D. White presented to Bass Friday evening at the dedication ceremony attended by Bass’s family, a number of judges, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, a who’s who of Miami Law faculty, alumni, other top lawyers, and of course, Sebastian the Ibis. The UM mascot led the gathering in a cheer, and fired a cannon of confetti.

Thanks to alumni like Bass, Wayne E. Chaplin, J.D., ’82, a UM trustee and chair of the School of Law Momentum2 campaign, said, the School of Law is just $1 million shy of its $25 million Momentum2 goal, and expects to eclipse it this year, two years ahead of schedule.

“Hilarie, it is your support of this School of Law that has been as solid as a brick, which truly is apropos for today,” he said.