Dara A. Cooley graduated magna cum laude from the University of South Florida in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. During her tenure, she served Hillsborough County in the classroom and throughout the district as a staff development trainer and math specialist resource teacher. In 2010, she embarked on a legal career, graduating magna cum laude with a Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law. She earned awards in Trial Advocacy, Negotiation and Mediation, and Pro Bono Service.
While at Stetson, Dara studied under the Honorable Elizabeth A. Kovachevich at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and prosecuted as a certified legal intern at the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, State Attorney’s Office. She served as a teaching fellow, research assistant and the Stetson Chapter President of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers for multiple semesters.
Prior to joining Wilkes & McHugh, Ms. Cooley was an associate at Burr & Forman, L.L.P., handling a variety of cases with concentrations in casualty law, premises liability, products liability, auto negligence, wrongful death, and civil rights litigation. She studied defensive tactics through the Defense Research Institute in Boston and Chicago. She also worked as staff counsel in the Circuit Civil Division, at the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit.
- Stetson University College of Law (J.D., magna cum laude, 2010)
- University of South Florida (B.S., magna cum laude, 2002)
State Bar Admissions
- U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida
Ms. Cooley is a member of the American, Florida and Hillsborough County bar associations; Florida Association for Women Lawyers; Hillsborough Association For Women Lawyers; Tampa Bay Business and Professional Women; Phi Delta Phi International Legal Fraternity; J. Clifford Cheatwood American Inn of Court; and President-Elect of the Young Lawyers Division of Hillsborough County. She is on the Board of Directors for the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers.
Ms. Cooley was named Business & Professional Women Statewide Outstanding Young Careerist, and Tampa Bay Business & Professional Women Outstanding Young Careerist. She also was named to the Super Lawyers Florida Rising Stars list for General Litigation in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Charitable & Civic Involvement
Ms. Cooley is on the Board of Directors for the Lawyers Autistic Awareness Foundation.