Willamette Alumna Nena Cook Elected OSB President

Willamette University College of Law's own Nena Cook JD'91 was recently elected as the Oregon State Bar (OSB) president. At 38, she's the youngest president ever elected and one of only three female presidents in the association's 70-year history.

Cook, who heads Portland's Sussman and Shank LLP labor and employment law practice, is being touted as one of the state's most powerful women. "She's outstanding in every way," says Law Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Kathy Graham, who remembers Cook doing well in her torts course at Willamette. "Her appointment as bar president at age 38 says that she's very mature and someone we can trust. She's hardworking and certainly a role model for the profession."

Oregon State Bar presidents are elected for a one-year term by OSB's Board of Governor's. To be considered for the office, a person must be an attorney board member who is in his or her fourth and final year on the board. Heading the 13,000-member professional organization is a daunting task. "The president does everything," says Kay Pulju, OSB's manager of communications and public services. "All of the board positions require a big commitment of time and effort, but that's particularly true for the president. They are the OSB's spokesperson on policy issues. They preside over the meetings and agenda preparation and do a lot of outreach that requires traveling to local bar associations and community organizations. They also respond to the many letters and member requests that come in. It's a very time-consuming job."

William "Bill" Carter, last year's OSB president says the job of president took half to three-quarters of his time. "Time-wise it's a huge commitment," he says. "I was lucky during my presidency that I was slowing down my law practice. Nena is right in the middle of her's, but she's already doing very well as president."

Since Cook and her partner just welcomed a new baby boy, Charles Stuart, into their family, her presidential duties will require some shrewd time management. "Nena will face the challenge of balancing her career with a family," says Dean Graham. "But a bar president is a special person and Nena has certainly proved she's up to the task."

Carter says Cook possesses a number of traits and skills that makes her uniquely qualified to be the OSB president. "Nena listens carefully and is very collaborative. She does well in bringing everyone together to a conclusion. She's also smart as a whip and she's energetic. I think it's going to be a great year for the bar."

A full profile on Nena Cook and her new role as OSB president is available on the Oregon State Bar Web site.