Linda Cook ’87: Living a life of service
Linda Cook ’87 knew when she went to law school that she wouldn’t be defending criminals or representing corporations. Those are fine choices, but not the reasons she chose to become an attorney.
“I always knew that I was going to be a bleeding heart,” Linda said with a laugh. “I first thought about becoming a public defender, but I learned that was not for me. Then I decided that legal services work was a good fit, and it obviously has been.”
Linda began her legal career in the Southeastern Ohio Legal Services’ Chillicothe, Ohio, office. She started as a staff attorney before eventually becoming the managing attorney for the office. In 2006, Linda became a senior staff attorney with the Ohio State Legal Services Association’s State Support Center.
“I’m proud of the fact that I got to do some casework that led to changes in the law or procedures that affected low-income or indigent people throughout the state,” she said.
Linda recently was presented with Ohio State Legal Services Association’s Pembroke Award. The award, in honor of John Pembroke ’82, is awarded to attorneys in the association who best emulate Pembroke’s outstanding qualities as an advocate, employee, and friend.
Linda has advocated on behalf of countless Ohio residents during the more than 20 years she’s worked in legal aid.
One of Linda’s proudest accomplishments is an alteration she helped make to Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. Now people in Ohio who are filing for divorce and cannot locate their spouse to serve a summons can post it in a designated public location and mail it to the last known address to proceed with the separation. In the past, Ohioans were required to pay the sometimes costly fees to advertise in local publications over a six-week period.
“Some people couldn’t afford to pay that,” she said.
In her role at the Ohio State Legal Services Association’s State Support Center, Linda is the project manager for the Ohio Foreclosure Grant. Some of her recent efforts have aided the movement against predatory lending practices.
In September 2007, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland recommended that legal assistance to homeowners struggling with mortgage payments be increased throughout the state.
“The state partners, including legal aid, started working together to figure out how all the pieces needed to be put into place,” she said. “How were we going to recruit volunteer lawyers, train them, and then match them with eligible homeowners?”
To date, more than 1,300 Ohio attorneys have agreed to participate. The program, part of the state’s “Save the Dream” initiative rolled out in April. Linda said that she primarily acts as a liaison between the Save the Dream program and the legal assistance partners throughout the state.
Before becoming an attorney, she worked as a medical technologist in hospital laboratories and as a technical editor at Battelle Memorial Institute. She returned to law school when she was 30 years old.
Linda said that she plans to stay in legal aid for the foreseeable future.
“As long as I am still having a good time and it meets my needs so that I feel like I am contributing positively to a segment of the populations that needs legal assistance and a voice that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” she said. “Poor people aren’t an effective or powerful voting block. If they don’t have people like myself who are going to speak up for them, change is not going to happen. I feel very committed to that.”