NNWLA's monthly newsletter is archived here
THANK YOU TO OUR FEBRUARY CLE PRESENTER
NNWLA would like to thank the February CLE presenter Amrita Mallik, who presented "Managing Bias for Strong Workplaces." There was a great turnout and we hope everyone who attended enjoyed the presentation.
March 31 at 5:30 p.m.
Join NNWLA for a happy hour event at Grafted Whiskey & Wine Bar. Please bring a donation to Safe Embrace, and receive a free drink ticket!
April 23 at 10 a.m.
Join NNWLA for yoga in the park. This event will be held at Idlewild Park on the grass near the enclosed play area. NNWLA members may attend for free and non-members should bring $5. NNWLA will provide coffee and snacks. Kids as young as five years old are welcome to join. NNWLA will also provide child care in the enclosed play area. Please RSVP to email@example.com by April 22, 2022 at 5 p.m.
NNWLA CHATS WITH JUDGE VALERIE COOKE (RET.)
Northern Nevada Women Association Member Profile: Hon. Valerie P. Cooke
Valerie P. Cooke, a third generation Nevada lawyer, former President of NNWLA, and retired United States Magistrate Judge, has been a trailblazer in northern Nevada through both her legal career and community service. Now retired, Judge Cooke is liberated from the restrictions of the Hatch Act, and she is actively engaged in Democratic politics, having served as her precinct chair for the 2020 election. To the sorrow of some, she is also an open trails advocate and joined the grassroots effort to prevent the Steamboat Ditch Company from enclosing the ditch in cement. She also joined in the fight to reopen a public easement to U.S. Forest Service land that property owners adjacent to the easement closed off and fenced. (You may contact Judge Cooke any time to hike these beautiful trails!) Judge Cooke is now on the board of the Nevada Land Trust, and she has worked with groups for many years to provide meals for Reno's houseless population. Last but not least, she is a doting grandmother to her six grandchildren and cannot seem to say "No!" when asked to take care of them; hence, she is often tired. This month, NNWLA connected with Judge Cooke to reflect on her career, gain her insight on women in legal field, and collect all her tips and tricks to success.
Northern Nevada Women Lawyers Association (NNWLA): Can you describe your career path?
Judge Valerie P. Cooke: My grandfather, H.R. Cooke, was a mining lawyer in Nevada and the first president of the Nevada Bar. My father, Tom Cooke, was also a lawyer and served as the 1970-71 State Bar President. Had I been a male, I may well have been encouraged and expected to follow in their footsteps. However, it never occurred to anyone that a girl would go to law school, at least not in the Reno of the 1950s and 60s. I recall being in an elevator on my way to my dad's office late one afternoon, and a man asked me what I wanted to be. When I told him I wanted to be a lawyer like my dad, he laughed and said, "Sweetie, girls aren't lawyers." The real choice was to go to college to find a husband and become a secretary, nurse, or teacher. Secretaries married lawyers or businessmen, nurses married doctors, and teachers married whomever they could. After snagging myself a husband, I would "retire" to a life of children, the PTA, and become a "club woman." So, I became a high school English teacher until I went to law school at the ripe old age of twenty-seven. (Nevertheless, I married a law student at twenty-three, just in case.)
NNWLA: What was the most rewarding aspect of serving as a United States Magistrate Judge?
Judge Cooke: There were three areas that I especially enjoyed in my work as a magistrate judge. First, I greatly enjoyed settlement work, from early neutral evaluations in employment cases to working with parties and lawyers in resolving complex civil cases. Second, as an offshoot of settlement work, we created an Inmate Early Mediation Program to address the incredibly high caseload of inmate cases about conditions of confinement. Settling these cases early had two benefits: First, they did not languish for years as inmates tried to navigate federal court practice. Second, resolution of these cases allowed the court to manage its non-pro se cases more efficiently. Finally, I early enjoyed helping lawyers and parties work together to resolve discovery disputes to resolve issues quickly and cost effectively.
NNWLA: What has been a career highlight of yours?
Judge Cooke: Doing the daily work of a magistrate judge everyday was wonderful. How many people can say they love going to work everyday? Apart from the work itself, I was very honored to be part of the Ninth Circuit ADR Committee that organized two Ninth Circuit conferences on inmate litigation. They were the first of their kind in the entire country and brought together attorneys general, corrections officials, plaintiff's lawyers, judges, and other stakeholders to discuss how to work together to manage these cases for the benefit of everyone. We also had former inmates talk about their perspective, which was very eye-opening.
NNWLA: How would you describe entering a male-dominated profession when you did?
Judge Cooke: I was scared to death and wondered what I had been thinking to have the nerve to become a lawyer. I was my own worst enemy in thinking I could never cut it. Women lawyers in Reno were just beginning to grow in numbers and, although small in number, we took refuge in networking with one another. As a result, we created a circle of lifelong colleagues and friends. "Dress for Success" was a best-selling book, and the uniform for a woman in the law was clear: dark, plain-colored suits, white or beige-colored blouses, floppy bow ties, panty hose (of course!), and sensible pumps. Many of us shared tips about how to become "one of the guys," from talking men's sports to fit in, to working six days a week to show we could cut it in a man's world. I started my first job in a law firm eight weeks after my first daughter was born, and I remember driving to the office on Saturday mornings to show up like the "guys," crying all the way to the office. Good times. Wait! Here comes my PTSD!
NNWLA: Over the course of your career, what progress did you see for women in the legal field and what continues to need improvement?
Judge Cooke: I confess, it sometimes seems like women in the law are all female versions of Sisyphus, relentlessly pushing the boulder up the hill, nearly reaching the top, only to have it go crashing down to the valley below. That said, we have seen tremendous progress. Gone are the days when there were the "first women" on the Nevada Supreme Court, the federal courts, state courts, district attorneys, the Nevada State Bar, and constitutional office holders at the state and federal levels (Thank you, Frankie Sue Del Papa, Miriam Shearing, Johnnie Rawlinson, Miranda Du, Phyllis Halsey Atkins, Catherine Cortez Masto, Jackie Rosen, Deborah Agosti, Robin Wright, Dorothy Nash Holmes, Margo Pisecevich, Jann Chubb, and Kate Marshall, to name just a few!). In the “olden days,” many elected the "be like a man" option, and I don't begrudge them at all. Others like me, chose the "Total Woman" option and ended up leaving private practice, or -- better yet -- opening their own law firms, working at all levels of government, or becoming judges. In addition, male lawyers, especially those with children and wives who worked outside the home, began to understand that they, too, needed balance in their lives. Women have humanized the law and lawyers. Most important, however, is how we settle disputes in the 21st century: alternative dispute resolution. It is no accident that the development of ADR coincided with the growing numbers of women in the law. The classic male model of the law - the jury trial - has given way to settlement conferences, mediation, and other innovations for settling cases. Why? Because ADR is more cost effective for clients, lawyers and clients collaborate to resolves disputes, and there are no dead and wounded lying on the courtroom floor after an epic trial.
NNWLA: Any tips for balancing professional, personal and family life?
Judge Cooke: There are dozens! Here are six:
1. Exercise daily.
2. Stop beating yourself up about not being a good enough mother or partner. When your children complain about what a rotten mother you are, buy them a journal and tell them to write it all down. Then, when they are in therapy in their 20s and 30s, they can save time and money by recounting in detail how you scarred them. As for your partner, find someone who likes to laugh and loves every side of you!
3. Never be the president of a youth sports club of any kind - EVER.
4. Try to sit down and have dinner as a family as often as you can. NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED.
5. When driving to work, you will hit stoplights. As you wait for the lights to change, curl up three fingers, put them in your mouth, and say "AHHH." This will relax your jaw!
6. Finally, DON'T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF! Do the best you can. If that's not enough, too bad!
MENTORSHIP GROUPS WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON!
NNWLA endeavors to create mentorship circles to meet your needs and preferences. Each small mentorship group will have a leader who will organize meetings and facilitate discussions. Thank you to everyone who filled out our Statement of Interest. We will begin these mentorship circles on the third Thursday of March.
PLEASE PAY YOUR 2022 DUES!
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