Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with McDonald Hopkins attorney Courtney G. Tito to discuss her career and her plans for the future. She is a partner in the firm’s West Palm Beach office and practices in its national health care practice group. She has been with the firm for 10 years and focuses on payor relationships and disputes, audits and government investigations.
AALM: What first drew you to McDonald Hopkins?
CGT: My husband and I were living in Miami and we were looking to move up to Palm Beach County. I was really drawn to the culture at McDonald Hopkins – the genuine friendliness of the people combined with some of the smartest attorneys I have ever worked with – which makes for a great combination.
AALM: How is your practice different today than you’d imagined it in law school?
CGT: In law school, I dreamed of working overseas in nation building and international constitutional law. I was fortunate to do this type of work in Iraq through a nonprofit organization, the Public International Law and Policy Group.
At the time, it was literally my dream job and I loved every minute of it. I went to Baghdad and was the only female attorney on a full-time basis on the ground for the entire project. For much of the seven months I was there was, I was the only person from my organization on the ground. It was amazing work that allowed me to travel to various areas in Iraq, including Kurdistan, and meet lawyers and jurists from around the country who were eager to have a part in developing their federal Supreme Court and legal system.
I also met regularly with the Iraqi Supreme Court justices to discuss and debate implementing legislation for the federal Supreme Court. I also worked with the Iraqi Council of Representatives on human rights and other issues. And while there I was asked to be an international expert/panelist at a United Nations Multi-Part Dialogue in Cairo, Egypt, on developing the federal system in Iraq.
I met my husband, originally from New Zealand, in Baghdad and when we decided to get married and ultimately have a family, we realized that we wanted a different, more settled environment to raise kids. So we moved back to the states and I entered private practice.
AALM: What compelled you to seek board certification?
CGT: I met another board certified attorney in January 2020 at the Florida Bar’s Representing the Physicians program. We were both speakers and she answered my questions about board certification, and really convinced me to take the exam – and I am so glad I did. Part of it was the challenge of it, honestly. I wanted to see if I could pass, but realistically believed it would probably take more than one go (thankfully it did not!). But I also really liked the idea of being a part of an exclusive club, one that relies on merit and skill as its foundations.
Additionally, I felt like it was something that would resonate particularly well in the health care space since physicians also have a board certification process.
AALM: Tell us about your mentors and some of the best lessons they taught you.
CGT: I have been so fortunate to have amazing mentors both in law school and more recently here at McDonald Hopkins. I think the most important lesson I’ve learned along the way is to make sure I am as technically and substantively proficient at my craft as I can be. That may mean constant study and learning, but it also may mean thinking outside the box and being creative. In my current practice, it is absolutely critical to stay on top of the very fluid and changing health care arena and to be able to translate that legal framework and its requirements into potential business solutions and opportunities at the right risk tolerance for our clients.
AALM: Is there any particular case that has stood out in your career as a turning point?
CGT: My very first audit case with McDonald Hopkins – it is what got me hooked on the health care space. It allowed me to use all my conflict resolution and litigation skills combined with legal research to try to turn potentially devastating monetary demands around or to significantly reduce them. Seeing that impact for our clients and using those skills in a new way was really fascinating to me. From that moment on I was hooked.
I also want to credit my partners in my health law group. I work with really smart and talented lawyers, but most importantly to me they are great people outside of work too and they make work even on the hardest days more than tolerable and often incredibly fun. We are a very collaborative group and I’m not sure that I would still be in this space if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have such great people by my side.
AALM: Are you active with any nonprofits or legal organizations? Tell us about any you feel particularly passionate about.
CGT: With two kids in elementary school, my primary focus during my off hours are their activities and events. Currently, both of my boys are taking martial arts, which is six days a week – I’m exhausted after that!! I was, however, recently appointed to the Delray Beach Code Enforcement Board and I am really enjoying the civic community involvement.
AALM: What are you most proud to have accomplished professionally?
CGT: Board certification, hands down, no question! Studying for this test was one of the hardest things I have done in a long time – during a pandemic with two small kids who couldn’t understand why I was locked in my office on nights and weekends. I am so incredibly proud of this accomplishment!
AALM: What are your plans for the next five or 10 years of your career?
CGT: I really enjoy the work that I am doing right now. I made partner at the firm two years ago. My colleagues at McDonald Hopkins are amazing and we have such a tight-knit core group of health care attorneys that I absolutely love working with every day. I hope in the next 5-10 years that I am lucky enough to continue to work with these attorneys and learn from their brilliance and continue to hone my craft. I am happy with what I am doing for work and know that I am lucky that I can say that honestly.
AALM: Looking back on your career to date, is there anything you would change?
CGT: No, I don’t think so – perhaps I would have tried to get into this field earlier, but I do believe that the skills I’ve picked up along the way practicing in other fields have really given me a unique perspective–even the ones I learned in Baghdad. So no, I don’t think I would change my career path.
AALM: Tell us a bit about yourself outside the office. What’s something your colleagues would be surprised to learn.
CGT: I’m a pretty open book! Perhaps it would interest people to know that I’ve taken the road less traveled quite a bit. For example, during law school instead of going to Chile with the rest of my friends, I spent the summer in Russia. Then of course the decision to take a job in Iraq during a war and working there for seven months is not one many would have made. I also took that opportunity to travel around the Middle East (Jordan – Petra and Wadi Rum, Israel – Eilat, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv) and to Cairo, Egypt.