2L redirects career into estate law
For 2L Erica Cook, law school was a way to rediscover excitement in her career.
She was rising through the ranks at Booz Allen Hamilton, contracting to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a branch of the Department of Defense located just outside of Washington, D.C.
It was her second professional job, and although she enjoyed the experience, she was looking for more.
“I started thinking about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I could have stayed at DARPA, and that would have been fine. I worked with a fantastic group of people,” she said. “But when I was looking at growth potential within the organization, I wasn’t really excited necessarily. So I wanted to get back to doing something that I could get excited about.”
Most of the jobs that piqued her interest had one thing in common: They required or preferred a law degree.
So Cook, a Perrysburg, Ohio, native, made the decision to move back to her home state and attend The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
“I knew I wanted to come back to Ohio, and Moritz is the top school in the state. I figured: Why would I look anywhere else?” she said.
Though her background was more in investigation and defense, Cook wanted to keep an open mind during her first year of law school.
In the spring, she took a particular liking to Professor Amy J. Cohen’s Property Law class, and it sparked an interest that she’s still pursuing today. Cook wants to practice estate law, which includes handling people’s wills and trusts.
“I like the human aspect that’s different than a lot of business-type of law where you’re actually sitting across from someone who is trusting you with their life essentially,” she said. “Here’s what they’ve built, and here’s how they want to distribute it to their heirs or to charity or in whatever manner. You’re essentially helping them to make sure that happens.”
Cook works at Emens & Wolper, a law firm where she has the opportunity to work with and learn from professionals practicing estate planning on a daily basis. In the summer, she’ll work in downtown Columbus for the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, where she will have the opportunity to further her expertise.
Before attending Moritz, Cook had been out of school for six years. She earned her undergraduate degree from Ohio University in 2004 in criminology and psychology and got her master’s of justice law and society with a focus in public policy from American University in 2006.
While finishing her master’s, she started conducting background investigations for the federal government, investigating potential employees for the Pentagon, the State Department, and a variety of other agencies.
She left that job in 2008 to start working for DARPA, whose mission she described as “to think of what the military will need in 20 years and figure out how we can do that now.” Cook’s role was to coordinate project contracts and financial documents.
It’s not directly related to estate law, but Cook feels her years of professional experience give her a better perspective for her future career and an advantage in the job market.
“I think something I have going for me is I do have six years of full-time work experience,” she said. “I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunities that I’ve had and the mentors – both at Booz Allen and at Moritz – who have helped me to this point. I can’t overstate just how much I owe to their guidance.”
Moritz has helped Cook further that experience and explore her specific interests.
“I think Moritz puts you in a good position to actively do what you want to do,” she said. “There’s a lot of support, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of networks. You have to take the initiative to do it, but there are people who can help make it happen.”