40 Under Forty Feature – Anna Lozoya

Interviewed by Kenny Matuszewski

Now celebrating its 21st Anniversary, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s 40 Under Forty recognizes rising stars in the legal community. Past winners come from all practice areas and settings, including the government, private practice, and in-house. The one thing they all share is their commitment to excellence and dedication to the legal profession.

The Nightingale Pledge is a statement of the nursing profession’s ethics and principles. Nurses must:

  • Adhere to the profession’s code of ethics;
  • Not do anything evil or malicious;
  • Not reveal any confidential knowledge learned in the course of their work;
  • Pledge themselves to raise the standards of the nursing profession; and
  • Devote their lives to service.

These aspirations parallel the legal profession’s code of ethics. For the rare few who are able to apply the lessons learned from both professions, they will always have a guiding light, no matter the difficulty of their journey. 

Since college, Anna has worked as a nurse in some capacity. First, she worked on the hospital floors as an ICU/critical care nurse, and with cancer patients. During law school, Anna would work the Friday and Saturday night shifts. Doing so allowed her to make a comfortable salary, interact with people other than her law school classmates, and enjoy financial stability. Even during law school, working as a nurse allowed Anna to live life on her own terms. While she received the usual advice that law students should not work at least their 1L year, Anna’s nursing shifts served as stress relievers, even during finals. Because her weekends were so busy, Anna completed all her readings and assignments during the week, so she could relax after her shifts at the hospital.

Anna was so diligent in her studies and work that she occasionally needed to remind herself to eat. A hypoglycemic with a family history of diabetes, Anna was insulin dependent for many years. This caused problems for her earlier in her life, because she would often fall ill and wake up in the hospital.

The appointment of Justice Sotomayor to the Supreme Court was significant to many, including Anna. In fact, in an interview with ABC 7, Anna considered Justice Sotomayor her role model not only because of their shared cultural background, but also because they were diabetics. Like Justice Sotomayor, Anna found a way to fully work with her diabetes. In addition to working with an endocrinologist and dietician, Anna has also committed to lifestyle changes throughout her 30s, such as running and dancing.

But diabetes was not the only challenge Anna faced at the beginning of her legal career. While she originally had detailed career plans, her father’s death before her final year of law school derailed them. Even though she stayed in school, it was difficult for Anna to get into the proper mindset to focus on her studies. At one point, she contemplated leaving Chicago and heading back home.

But two things caused Anna to stay. First, her cousin encouraged her to stay in Chicago and accomplish what she set out to do. Second, Anna signed up for a “litigation for non-litigators” seminar at the American Bar Association. Because she was interested in the course material, Anna put on a brave face and donned a new suit for the occasion. During the seminar, she met a lawyer who had more than 20 years of experience in transactional law. The pair bonded and eventually, Anna told him her story. In response, that lawyer gave Anna some life-changing advice: life is not linear. This inspired Anna to finish her studies and take the Illinois bar exam. While they live halfway across the country, Anna and her mentor have kept in touch over the years, and always visit each other when one is in the other’s city.

After law school, Anna wanted to practice defense litigation, particularly in medical malpractice. However, Anna kept her options open, because she wanted legal experience and time to figure out the practice area and environment that was the best fit for her. Within the first week of starting at her new firm, Anna realized that it would not be a cultural and long-term fit for her.   

Because her first firm was such a mismatch, Anna cared only about getting out of that environment, and did not care what she did next. Perhaps not coincidentally, a junior attorney had recently left a real estate company. The owner of that real estate company was also a friend of her boyfriend’s family. The next time she saw the family, Anna mentioned that she was looking for a new job. While she had no background or prior experience in real estate, she was confident in her ability to learn the area. The transition to real estate was difficult at first. However, that job allowed Anna to refine her negotiation skills and develop flexibility. Even though the romantic relationship did not work out, Anna realizes her ex-boyfriend came into her life for a reason and is grateful for his and his family’s help.

Over time, Anna realized she missed working in healthcare, so she went back to her roots and founded a healthcare consulting firm. At first, the workload was unpredictable at the consulting firm. Some weeks, she would have little to no work to do. Others, she worked seven-day work weeks. Despite these challenges, for the first time ever, Anna enjoyed her legal career, because it allowed her to build up her health law knowledge. Her hard work soon gave her an opportunity that she could not refuse: to work in risk management at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center (“Jesse Brown”). To this day, moving into risk management is the thing that Anna is most proud of accomplishing in her career so far.

At Jesse Brown, Anna felt she finally belonged professionally. She could work as both a lawyer and nurse there and enjoyed her work. Over time, Anna realized that while she loved her work, there were limited opportunities to advance within the hospital. The opportunities that were available were not in areas that Anna wanted to practice in long-term.

As a result, Anna moved to Mt. Sinai Hospital (“Mt. Sinai”). As the Assistant General Counsel, she started her career at Mt. Sinai by working on insurance, worker’s compensation, risk management, and medical malpractice cases with the Associate General Counsel. Anna was finally able to use her broad skillset and excelled. She also found her purpose there.

The largest safety net hospital in Illinois, Mt. Sinai treats patients from the South and West sides of Chicago. Lacking access to reliable transportation, many of the patients are also in the lowest socioeconomic status. Anna has dedicated her life to ensuring Mt. Sinai’s patients have access to healthcare, even if she has to work evenings and weekends. Anna’s love for her work was noticed by everyone around her. Five months later, she received a promotion, and became the hospital’s Associate General Counsel. Ordinarily, such a promotion would take decades, but Anna proved she was no ordinary attorney.

Over the course of her career, Anna has had several mentors and role models. For example, she considers Diane Webster, the Managing Partner of Hinshaw and Culbertson’s Chicago office, her biggest champion. Anna met Diane during law school, at a point when Anna was looking to learn how to excel in a male-dominated profession. The most important thing Diane taught Anna was that it was okay to express her feminine side. Always wearing skirts to court and work, Diane has never been belittled or mocked for her femininity. This gave Anna comfort, because she enjoys expressing herself through her fashion choices and image. For example, Anna always dressed up for her law school classes and refused to carry a bookbag. Anna and Diane are also completely honest with each other. No matter what, Anna can always count on Diane to give her great advice or a pep talk.

Michael Favia, the former chief prosecutor at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation who now owns his own firm, helped Anna reach her full potential. He invited her to join his firm as Of Counsel while she was running her consulting firm. They worked incredibly well together and showcased the two-way relationship of mentoring. By learning from each other, Michael and Anna developed unique niches in their practices, such as working with retail pharmacies.

Finally, Sulema Medrano, the previous Region IX President of the Hispanic National Bar Association (“HNBA”) is one of Anna’s close friends. Not only is Sulema a partner at Faegre Drinker, she is also a past recipient of the 40 Under Forty award. Whenever Anna has questions about life or serving as the Region IX President of the HNBA, she can always count on Sulema for help.

Anna thanks bar associations for many of these connections. Realizing that the goal of networking is making connections, Anna has developed close relationships with her bar association colleagues. No matter where a lawyer grew up or went to school, bar associations like the HNBA allow people to come together and share common struggles. The HNBA also taught Anna the importance of word of mouth and that opportunity can come from anywhere. For example, a fellow HNBA member referred her business after chatting with her at the annual conference.

Locally, bar associations help attorneys understand the city and state where they live, and that jurisdiction’s best practices. They are also good for teaching the unwritten rules of a particular city’s practice and its local politics. While Anna does not want to go into politics herself, local bar associations such as the Illinois State Bar Association have taught Anna how to navigate certain social situations, including who to know, who to greet at an event, and whose judicial or political fundraisers she should attend.

Juggling work and bar association responsibilities is a skill that takes time to master. But Anna has successfully gone above and beyond by also taking leadership roles in the Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (“NAHN”). Consisting of some of the most inspiring and accomplished nurses Anna has met, the Executive Committee of NAHN all have either a PhD or multiple masters’ degrees. Unlike lawyers, nurses must obtain a master’s degree of some kind in order to progress professionally. However, these educational requirements are often unspoken, which leads to few nurses of color in leadership roles. For example, top positions such as the Director of Nursing are predominantly white.

After hearing about this problem, Anna developed a mentoring program for the Illinois Chapter of the NAHN. Working systematically, Anna researched other mentoring programs for nurses across the country and used elements of successful mentoring programs to develop her own. She also held everyone who participated in the program accountable through mandatory quarterly meetings and surveys. Anna’s mentoring program was so successful that the NAHN asked her to give a presentation about it at the national convention.

While Anna was proud of her efforts, she was even happier for her Co-Chair of the mentoring program. It was the first time that Anna’s Co-Chair had ever taken a leadership position in an organization. After this success, she studied for the GRE and enrolled in a dual-degree MBA/MPH program. Before the mentoring program, Anna’s Co-Chair was ready to leave the nursing profession altogether. But she stayed, thanks to Anna’s dedication and ability to help new members of a profession succeed, no matter what.

Over the course of her career, Anna’s professional identities as a nurse and lawyer have been synergistic. In fact, Anna considers her nursing background to be the perfect training for her legal career. When she was on the hospital floor, Anna was able to give patients the best care by noticing subtle nuances and changes in their condition. This ability to pay attention to often-overlooked details has served her well when negotiating contracts and evaluating litigants’ claims. For example, if plaintiffs argue they suffered a certain injury while having a stroke, Anna uses her nursing background to determine whether it was scientifically possible for a stroke patient to act a certain way. No detail is too small for Anna, even the weather on the day the incident allegedly occurred.

Taking this detail-oriented approach prevents Anna’s clients from facing disaster, a goal also rooted in her nursing background. In a hospital, a code blue scenario occurs when there is an urgent medical emergency. While cold blue situations are commonly seen in pop culture, Anna found that the best nurses work to avoid cold blue situations from the outset.

With all this in mind, it was only a matter of time until Anna won the Daily Law Bulletin’s 40 Under Forty award. But Anna was incredibly surprised when she learned she won. While she won 40 Under Forty awards from other organizations, she knew that winning the Daily Law Bulletin’s 40 Under Forty was one of the most difficult of all to win. In addition to having numerous accolades and accomplishments, the nominees tend to have several years of experience. While Anna was accomplished, Anna was not a traditional law student due to her past career. In fact, she had only been practicing law for six years when she won. She had also been nominated for the award the year before by some of her friends.

But Anna’s supporters, including Sulema, did not give up. On her second try, Anna reached the pinnacle of the legal profession by winning the 40 Under Forty award. The significance of this moment was not lost on Anna. She succeeded despite an atypical career path and only having six years of legal experience. If life was linear, it never would have been possible for Anna to win. Because she merged her two unique professional identities, gave back to her community, and acted according to the Nightingale pledge, Anna found success by taking the path that worked best for her. 

About Anna Lozoya:

Anna Lozoya is the Associate General Counsel of Risk for Sinai Health System. She directs and oversees the system’s claims, insurance, risk, and workers’ compensation programs. In this role, Anna collaborates with multiple departments such as compliance, patient safety, and human resources to address a plethora of operational matters concerning the hospital system. She previously serves as the Risk Manager at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

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