Iowa State Bar AssociationPresident Guy Cook was drawn to law because he likes to argue or as he calls it “debate,” a skill which helped lead the bar’s successful judicial retention campaign as opponents targeted Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins last year.
“I can’t remember a more aggressive effort by the bar focused on one thing,” Cook, who was sworn in as president last month, said this week. “We learned our lesson in 2010. We didn’t shy away from debates. We did a bus tour at the same time (anti-retention) groups did a tour. We also did a marketing campaign and went out and provided education on the judicial process. We shouldn’t be afraid to get involved and face our critics. It made a real difference in this election and helped raise the bar profile in the public.”
Cook, a lawyer with Grefe and Sidney in Des Moines, said the voluntary bar membership of about 8,000 lawyers and judges across the state can help with civic education as they did during the retention fight and continue to look for more opportunities to be a resource for the public. When court rulings come down, like the two recent Iowa Supreme Court decisions regarding a dental hygienist being fired for being too “irresistible” was deemed legal and an anonymous tip isn’t enough probable cause for police to stop a suspected drunk driver, it’s an opportunity to explain how the rulings will impact an average person’s life.
“We can help explain under what circumstances can you be fired and what rights you have under the 4th Amendment regarding an illegal search. Many people are unaware of their rights and we do have rights in this country.”
Another goal for Cook as bar president is to help the next generation of lawyers. The practice of law is changing rapidly with technology and more outsourcing, and the pace of the practice is different. There are no longer so many traditional firms which have several partners and associates.
“The fundamental role of a lawyer hasn’t changed,” Cook said. “Lawyers are basically problem solvers but we need to be mentors to the next generation and help them achieve success.”
Cook said the law school applicants have decreased about 20 percent after the market was inundated in the last few years with new lawyers who couldn’t find jobs. It has improved but he wants to work with law schools to address the cost of education.
He intends to lead the charge on his goals and be a hands-on president by attending continuing education events for lawyers and also making time to talk to the public about legal issues when they arise.
“The benefit is that my office is right across the street from the bar’s office in Des Moines, so I can be available. We can help with the image of lawyers and judges. Some aren’t aware our judiciary is rated as one of the top judicial systems in the country.”
Cook has a busy law practice, handling complex civil and white collar criminal cases across the state, so he knows taking on the presidency is a challenge but he said he’s looking forward to the work.
Cook was encouraged to run for president by past presidents and bar members. He has always been involved in grassroots politics and co-chaired the committee to build a new Polk County Courthouse a few years ago. The group’s attempt was unsuccessful but he enjoyed the challenge. He has been fortunate with some success and wants to “give back.”
When Cook isn’t working his stress relief is deep sea fishing. This is not exactly a leisurely sport but more a “unique adventure” as he views it. It seems like work as he explained wearing a waist belt to hold the heavy pole needed to hook the Yellow-fin Tuna or a Barracuda. Cook was looking forward to his annual trip coming up soon, where he spends six days on a boat out in the Pacific Ocean.
Cooks enjoys the saltwater fishing and his boat “Not Guilty” which is anchored at a marina on the Des Moines River, and he is a “car nut,” but he would never give up law.
He was the first in his family to go to college. His father Jack was a janitor at the Iowa Supreme Court and he would comment about the “important” people that worked there and said many had a “gentle nature.”
After studying art, philosophy and political science at the University of Iowa he decided to go to law school. He then clerked for now retired Justice J.L. Larson. Every once in a while one of the court secretaries who knew Cook’s father would call him Jack but it never bothered him to be confused with a “good man.”