Anna is the vice chair of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor and Employment Law Department and the co-chair of the firm’s Higher Education Industry Group. She works in the Chicago office of the firm, which was formerly Meckler Bulger & Tilson, where she represents management in labor and employment litigation before state and federal courts and administrative agencies such as the EEOC, the Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board. Prior to entering private practice, Anna served as law clerk to the Honorable Rebecca R. Pallmeyer of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She resides in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago with her husband, two teenage daughters, Lili and Greta, and two dogs, Rowdie and Wilma.
Undergraduate and graduate institutions
DePaul University (BA ’91), Northwestern University (MA ’92)
How has your practice evolved?
For the last 17 years, I have practiced exclusively in the field of labor and employment law, representing employers in the full gamut of employment-related litigation, including class and individual discrimination claims, wage and hour actions, NLRB proceedings and non-compete cases. While I represent employers in a variety of industries—such as financial services, insurance, gaming, energy and agri-business—over the past 12 years in particular, I have developed a niche practice representing colleges and universities in faculty, staff and student litigation. As the daughter of a now-retired faculty member and university administrator and a former adjunct professor myself, my many years spent in academic life have provided me with the ability to relate to our university clients’ unique legal challenges. The recent interest by the National Labor Relations Board and national labor unions in organizing rights among student-athletes, graduate students and non-tenure track faculty at private universities has advanced the growth of my higher education practice. I was one of the lead lawyers that represented Northwestern University in the first-ever bid by scholarship student-athletes on the football team to form a union and I am negotiating the first collective bargaining agreements with non-tenure track instructional academics at the University of Chicago. I am so honored to have become one of a small group of “go to” labor and employment lawyers for colleges and universities in Chicago.
What do you envision for your career in the next few years?
I envision strong and steady growth of my firm’s national labor and employment law practice generally, and my personal practice in the higher education space. When my prior firm combined with Cozen O’Connor two years ago, the firm made it very clear that, unlike some other large firms who are shedding their employment law practices, Cozen was going to dedicate all the necessary resources to support growth in our Department. In addition, the firm has demonstrated a clear commitment to the representation of colleges and universities—a key practice area for myself—by, among other actions, hiring the nation’s most prominent Title IX practice group to complement the work we do in our Department. As a result, I expect our Department’s representation of colleges and universities to span the country in no time.
Why did you choose to attend Loyola?
I did not take a traditional path to the law, having first gone to graduate school and then working for five years. By the time I decided to go to law school, I was married and not in a position to relocate or to assume substantial debt. Loyola was incredibly gracious in helping fund my legal education. The multiple scholarship opportunities are what brought me to Loyola, but the collegial community of faculty, adjunct practitioners, my fellow students, and the opportunity to fully participate in the Law School’s broad community of scholars and service providers made me appreciate that I made the right choice.
Tell us about your time at Loyola.
I had a wonderful law school experience and took advantage of many opportunities that have helped me define my career. Beginning in just my first year, I took on a part-time job in the Career Services’ Public Interest Law Office. In that role, I used my prior experience working in social services to help identify public interest internships and jobs for Loyola Law School students. As a result of working in that office, I interned at an agency known as the Social Security Insurance Coalition and served as a judicial extern at the U.S. Immigration Court, where I worked closely with several immigration judges on asylum cases. I also served as an editor on two of the School of Law’s student-run journals: thePublic Interest Law Reporter and the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, where I was fortunate to have my own article on health insurance options for Illinois children published. My time at Loyola was also marked by intellectual growth which developed in great part as a result of my relationships with various faculty members, including two adjunct professors who helped hone my legal writing skills, the Hon. Darryl B. Simko, Cook County Circuit Court Judge, and the Hon. A. Benjamin Goldgar of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and Professor John M. Breen, for whom I worked as a research assistant. You can imagine my pleasure at being asked by Professor Breen during the early years of my practice to serve as an external reference for his successful tenure application at Loyola! Friendships that I forged in law school with my classmates have also now turned into client relationships as well.
What advice do you have for young lawyers?
My advice to young lawyers is the same advice I give my two teenage daughters: be present in everything you do. For emerging legal talent this means asking questions, taking risks, speaking up, and seeking out opportunities that challenge you. Young lawyers should constantly be thinking about how to contribute fully to the exercise at hand and demonstrating to supervisors, clients, and colleagues alike that their presence (at a meeting, on a pitch, on a project, on a case) has a purpose and adds value. New lawyers will not get that great assignment on pedigree alone—you must make it known that you can take on that work because you have spoken up, you have participated in the dialogue, you have asked questions and you have volunteered to put yourself in the game.