From the Board: Q&A with Jason Cooke

  • May 13, 2019

Jason Cooke, a partner with Burchells LLP in Halifax, is the Board member from Nova Scotia.

Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done as a board member?

A: I think it speaks well about the CBA board experience that this is a very difficult question for me as there are so many potential answers. My first thought would be the opportunities that I was not aware of. Having dinner along with my fellow board members and Branch Presidents with the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada in their private dining room, for example, would have been inconceivable before I joined the Board. Or sitting next to and chatting with former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin on the shuttle to the CBA President’s Dinner (and I have the selfie to prove it). Recently, I was privileged to sit on the selection panel for the Viscount Bennett Fellowship, a CBA scholarship which provides support to a student for post-graduate studies in law. To engage with a group of brilliant and passionate scholars was truly inspiring. I think, though, my answer has to be that the most interesting aspect of serving on the CBA Board is getting to know and work with my fellow Board members. It has been such a great experience to work with Board members from coast to coast to coast who bring such diverse backgrounds, both personally and in their practices. When I am done on the Board, I think it will be those relationships which I will treasure the most.

Q. What has surprised you about being a board member?

A. Perhaps surprised would not be exactly the way I would describe it, but what has struck me the most – which I perhaps did not appreciate before – is the dedication of CBA staff. I would be disingenuous if I did not acknowledge that it is a significant investment of time (I estimate 200-300 hours annually) and effort to serve on the CBA Board. However, in reality that is much less of a burden that it may look on its face given the tremendous support we are given from the CBA team. There are many examples I could give but my recent experience with the Viscount Bennett Fellowship is fresh. The interviews of the short list of applicants were scheduled for the better part of a full day on a (cold and cloudy) Sunday in Ottawa. Thanks to CBA Coordinator Richard Pilon, a day which could have been a slog was instead a pleasure as everything was so well organized on every front. To get to work with such committed and competent people like Richard is another unexpected benefit of serving on the board.

Q. How are you able to balance your board responsibilities with your practice and your personal life?

A. In our profession, I think balance is often more something to aspire to rather than to actually achieve at a given moment. One big advantage of a CBA Board commitment versus other volunteer commitments, at least in my experience, is its predictability. We learn an entire year’s schedule of Board and committee meetings and the like well ahead of time. With that lead time, I have found it much more manageable than expected to balance with practice commitments. For personal life, I think those of us who choose to be on the CBA Board typically have had a history of volunteering, whether professionally or in the community, or both. As a result, I think my family accepts that there will be an investment of time and effort into being on a board and appreciates the value in such an investment.

Q. What advice would you give someone who is thinking about running for the board?

A. I think the two factors to keep in mind are timing and support. For timing, it is important for you to think carefully about how the significant commitment of time and effort fits with your current personal, professional, and volunteer commitments. In my case, I was fortunate that those stars aligned pretty well. My wife was very encouraging. My firm truly values and expects that our lawyers give back to our profession and our community, and particularly through contributing to the CBA. I also had some other volunteer roles which were coming to an end at the same time I was starting with the Board. My final piece of advice is not to stretch yourself too thin. If you are joining the Board, it may mean fewer volunteer roles than previously. But if the timing makes sense and you have the support of family and colleagues, then I strongly encourage you to run. I guarantee that you will not regret it!