Aquinas alumna finds her ‘calling’ in the legal field

Photo courtesy of Julia Cooke

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In middle school, Julia Cooke set her sights on a career as a therapist.

"I’ve always been an empathetic person and I wanted a career in which I could help people get through the hardest times in their lives." says Cooke, now a 1L student at Detroit Mercy Law “It's also very interesting to learn about the motivations behind certain behaviors and why people act the way they do.”

Cooke, who earned her bachelor's degree in Counseling Psychology from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, is sure her knowledge of psychology will help in her future law work.

“I plan on pursuing a career in prosecution and I think my background in psychology will help me when it comes to working with victims suffering the effects of recent trauma,” she says. “I have a better understanding of how trauma affects people and I think that knowledge will be valuable when it comes to building relationships with the victims and their families.”

In undergrad, Cooke also developed a love for research and writing. Receiving a research grant, she teamed with a professor for several years on an original study— focused on socio-cognitive judgments of single mothers with alcohol use disorder and gender disparity—culminating in the manuscript being published in the Journal of General Psychology.

Cooke’s career path from therapist to lawyer changed quite suddenly during her senior year at Aquinas. A couple of months before graduation, she attended a particularly moving trial in which the victim suffered from PTSD and had a difficult time throughout the proceedings.

“When I went to this trial, I had already been questioning whether a career as a therapist was right for me. As I sat in the courtroom, everything clicked. I realized that if I pursued a career in law, I could still help people through the hardest times in their lives while using the research and writing skills I developed during my time at Aquinas. It felt like a calling," Cooke says.

In 2022, Cooke spent three months as a file clerk at Secrest Wardle in Grand Rapids, where her father, Christopher Cooke, is an executive partner, and a member of the Employment, Insurance Coverage, Motor Vehicle Litigation, Premises Liability, Product Liability, Property, Fire and Casualty, Practice Groups.  

His daughter enjoyed seeing the inner workings of the profession. “Working at Secrest Wardle gave me an insight into working in the field of law, specifically what the day-to-day of a lawyer looks like,” she says.

She headed to Detroit Mercy Law last fall, where she is a member of the Women's Law Caucus and 1L representative for the Mental Health Association; and appreciates the community experience at the law school.

“The student body as a whole is so welcoming, helpful, and supportive,” she says. “The professors are also wonderful and truly care about our success.”

Her career goal is to work as a prosecutor, and eventually move into civil litigation.

Cooke also has worked at the Kent District Library, first as a shelver, then as an assistant branch librarian, and enjoyed helping patrons access the many free resources.  

“I still tell all of my friends to get library cards because not enough people know about all the resources libraries offer outside of books. The library is a place where anyone can go, regardless of where they are in life, and get whatever help they need,” she says. “One of my favorite memories from the library was calling AAA for an elderly patron who got a flat tire and didn't have a cell phone. She came to the library because she didn't know where else to go and knew we would help however we could. Working at the library really aligned with my love of learning and my passion for helping people.”

While living in Grand Rapids, where her mother is an elementary school teacher, Cooke worked as an Election Inspector; and also coached a middle school cheerleading team. She was a Varsity cheerleader in college, as well as on the bowling team—a sport she still enjoys.

In her free time, Cooke enjoys listening to audiobooks and podcasts; and continues her interest in learning about psychology and other social sciences.

Originally from Traverse City, and with some time in Grand Rapids, Cooke now makes her home in Grosse Pointe Park, and enjoys attending law school in the Motor City.

“I love going to sporting events and the big city atmosphere is so fun,” she says.  “It was very cool to be in Detroit this year when the Lions did so well. The city was electric on game days, and it was fun to see the community rally around the team.”

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