In Memoriam: Michael A. Cooper

We regret to inform the New York City Bar Association community that Michael A. Cooper passed away on November 16 at the age of 84. He died peacefully after a brief, courageous battle with COVID-19.

As President of the City Bar from 1998-2000, Mr. Cooper was prescient in identifying issues and supporting programs that continue to resonate — some more than ever — in the legal profession today. He was instrumental in the creation of the Lawyer Assistance Program for those in the New York City legal community suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues. In the January 1999 edition of the 44th Street Notes, he wrote, “It is time, indeed, past time, that we took care of our colleagues suffering from this scourge.”

Relatedly, he was a strong supporter of the Quality of Life Task Force that straddled his tenure and dealt with what we today call “burnout.” He spoke of the issues that “are troubling so many young and not so young lawyers these days. Those issues include overwork, inequitable work distribution, inadequate training, insufficient feedback and impersonal workplace relationships” and said, “It is antithetical to the very concept of a profession for a law firm to view its associates as assembly-line workers.”

For the roughly one-third of City Bar members who were solo practitioners and lawyers in small firms, he oversaw creation of the Small Law Firm Center to provide the same access to resources and technology available to big-firm lawyers. His focus on the latest technologies extended to the administration of the Association itself, with implementation of the first generation of member-management software when the member-services department was created. And proof of Mr. Cooper’s commitment to CLE is in the Training Center he saw built on the Second Floor of the House of the Association.

During his Presidency, Mr. Cooper also expanded both the services and facilities of the City Bar Justice Center. This reflected his deep, career-long commitment to pro bono legal services, which spanned his work at the City Bar, Volunteers of Legal Service and other organizations. Indeed, Mr. Cooper is further appreciated as a founder of the City Bar’s Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.