Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.
I care deeply about access to education and the economic impact of student debt. I was proud to represent public service workers challenging loan servicer
Similarly, I am thrilled about our landmark settlement for the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, and eight teachers over the government’s mismanagement of PSLF. As of March 2022, $6 billion in loans has been forgiven for more than 100,000 public service borrowers. Helping teachers and others secure life-changing loan forgiveness and address America’s $1.6 trillion student debt crisis has been a highlight of my professional life.
What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?
The value of credibility. Immediately following law school, while clerking for Judge
As a practicing lawyer, I orient my teams around this value—we must honestly address adverse precedent and facts, and still tell the best story as to why our client should prevail. That is a mark of an excellent practitioner—never bending the facts or law but instead putting together the puzzle pieces to win your case, earning the respect of the judiciary and your opposing counsel along the way.
How do you define success in your practice?
Success means excellence in client service, investment in junior attorneys, and work that has a real impact. For example, our class settlement on behalf of public servants against the student loan servicer Navient includes a new nonprofit providing essential information borrowers need to understand their individual loan forgiveness opportunities. This is a significant benefit with a profound impact on all public service employees. Also, with my guidance, our associates played key roles in the representation—e.g., drafting briefs, speaking at conferences, and obtaining service awards for the class representatives.
Another success story is our suit against the U.S. Department of Education following the prior administration’s failure to properly implement the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. There, we helped plaintiffs obtain a landmark settlement, including total debt forgiveness and the PSLF system overhaul. Once more, the client is happy, the public is benefited, and our young lawyers get excellent training.
What are you most proud of as a lawyer?
I am particularly proud of my leadership in bringing, litigating, and settling on meaningful terms a lawsuit on behalf of public service workers against the student loan servicer Navient concerning Navient’s advising of student loan borrowers as to qualification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Judge
Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?
I have been blessed with incredible mentors, including my partners at Selendy Gay Elsberg, Judge Wardlaw, and attorneys at the ACLU. From them, I’ve learned not only substantive trial skills, but also the importance of investing in the next generation, clarity in thought and presentation, and dedication to our clients. To highlight just one, however—
Just for fun, tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.
“About Damn Time” by Lizzo, when I need an extra bounce in my step and a reminder that change is positive.
“Five Little Monkeys” nursery rhyme [“CoComelon” sings a version], which I love to sing (admittedly off-key) to my 7-month-old daughter.
Lena Konanova has recovered billions of dollars for clients in commercial litigation matters and has secured constitutional rights for her public service clients, she reports. As a child, she fled religious persecution in Ukraine, which fueled her drive for justice. A founding partner at her firm in charge of recruiting, training, and evaluating lawyers, she is also a senior advisory board member at the Health Finance Institute.