As a history major at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, Shayna S. Cook developed a particular interest in the legal issues surrounding the courts that were established in the South after the abolition of slavery. That interest, along with two constitutional law courses, helped her realize that she wanted to study law rather than pursue a PhD in history.
Cook, who was a Murchison Scholar at Trinity, graduated with a BA in history, summa cum laude, in 1998, and went straight to law school. She chose Michigan, she said, not only because of its clinical programs but also because of its strong tradition in public service, which Cook valued, given that she had served as president of the Trinity University Voluntary Action Group, the school's student volunteer organization.
"I had a great experience at Michigan," Cook said. "I met a lot of smart, wonderful people there. All of the professors seemed to have an open door and a willingness and interest to talk to students about anything at any time. I really appreciated that. Professor Evan Caminker [now Dean of the Law School] was my con law professor his first semester at Michigan. He was a great professor and I learned a lot from him, and he was very supportive of me and my career pursuits."
Cook served on the Michigan Law Review and was executive note editor in her 3L year. She also took the Domestic Violence Clinic and worked with Jim Hathaway, the James E. and Sarah A. Degan Professor of Law, on research related to refugee law issues.
Rewarding Legal Experiences
After graduating from Michigan Law with a JD, magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, in 2001, Cook served as a law clerk for the Honorable Sam Sparks, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas, from 2001 to 2003. She then had a three-month refugee law fellowship in Brussels with the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, before working as a trial attorney in the Attorney General's Honors Program at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2003 to 2005. The experiences, she said, were rewarding.
"The clerkship was very interesting and fun, and I encountered a variety of cases. My judge was a great mentor and still is, and I learned so much from watching him and watching the lawyers in the courtroom. I feel it prepared me very well for my practice now. My work with the Department of Justice was also interesting, because I was in the division that handles constitutional challenges to statutes and regulations. So I dealt with some hot issues in constitutional law, such as faith-based initiatives."
Following her stint with the Department of Justice, Cook joined Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP in 2005, because she wanted to become a trial lawyer. She handled "high-stakes, complex litigation, ranging from pharmaceutical product liability and intellectual property cases to government contracting cases." Cook is now a partner and trial lawyer at Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum LLP, where she represents "multinational clients in a variety of commercial litigation, including intellectual property, products liability, class actions, and contract disputes."
The Benefits of a Darrow Scholarship
Cook said she is grateful to have had the opportunity to practice different types of law after graduating, and she credits Michigan, in particular, being a Darrow Scholar, with providing those experiences.
"The education I received at Michigan helped to open my eyes to all the different lines of work that are available," Cook said. "The Darrow Scholarship really gave me the freedom to pursue different areas and find out, through experience, where I really wanted to be. The whole path of exploration is something I never could have done without the scholarship."
Story written by Lori Atherton.
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