Auckland barrister Allan Cooke became the new chair of the Family Law Section in April 2014, succeeding Garry Collin.
Having practised family law for almost 30 years, Allan finds it a “fascinating area of the law to be in”. That was not, however, always the case. “When I was at university, at Victoria, I didn’t like family law at all.”
After graduating, he worked for a couple of government departments in Wellington for about 18 months then moved to Auckland as regional solicitor for the Ministry of Transport, a role he didn’t much like.
He then moved to Meredith Connell for about 18 months, and ended up doing care and protection cases under the old Children and Young Persons Act, which was his introduction to family law.
After moving into his own practice, Allan undertook some criminal work. However he found that jury trials cutting into evenings “wasn’t doing particularly much for the life at home”, especially given that he had a new daughter, so he ended up spending more and more time in the Family Court.
It is now an area he has come to love, “because you work with people and you are also dealing with children and children’s welfare, which is a real passion of mine”.
He is married to Sue and they have three adult children, Frances, who lives in Wellington, and Hannah and Madeleine who both live in Auckland. He has a step daughter, Koha, who lives in Auckland and whose partner is Brent.
One of Allan’s interests has come as a result of Koha and Brent, who are both fluent in Te Reo as are their children. “Sue and I have gone to Unitech [Institute of Technology] to study Te Reo and we are now enrolling in the full immersion class at Unitech in the semester starting after Easter.” His other interests include reading, and music (vinyl) and going to the gym.
Postgraduate study has been another focus for Allan. In 2008, he completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Child Advocacy course with Otago University. His research paper was Contact issues for children who have been permanently placed out of their birth families: An examination of relevant literature and case law.
He undertook that study because he wanted to gain a better understanding of the issues and the theoretical underpinning of the work he does as a family lawyer – in representing parents, foster-parents/caregivers and children.
Otago University staff then suggested that he consider undertaking a PhD and in December he submitted his thesis, which examines the responsibility of the State for children placed permanently in State care. The thesis has now been marked and Allan is on track to graduating later this year.
Allan’s family law practice started in South Auckland, in Otahuhu and then Manukau City. He has been based in Auckland since 2000, although his practice is still primarily South Auckland in terms of where his work comes from.