Norton J. Cohen
November 5th, 1935 - July 23rd, 2014
Norton has been my partner in the practice of law for fifty years. Maybe even a little bit longer. Fifty years! My! My! My! That is a long time to be together.
In fifty years you learn something about one another. You observe your partner from many perspectives. Professionally - how good is he? As a partner - how loyal is he. As a person - how good is he.
Norton was a source of great professional pride to me and our firm. He was without a doubt the best worker's compensation lawyer in the State of Michigan. I take pardonable pride in saying that. It is not just my opinion. All during the day yesterday I was reading responses from lawyers in his field on both sides of the issue who talked about his professionalism, his knowledge and skill and most repeatedly, his ethical behavior. He was inducted into the workers Compensation Hall of Fame. I know he would have preferred the Baseball hall of Fame, but he accepted the honor graciously.
My partner was totally loyal. We knew beyond doubt that we could absolutely trust one another. We stuck together. He had my back and I had his back. That trust was tested when we had to fight for our professional lives after the large successful law firm we built was undermined by lesser persons. Together, no longer so young, we together rebuilt our practice.
I do not want to indicate this fifty year relationship did not have its problems. We did not always agree. We disagreed on politics. He was a dove and I a hawk. Now, I don't want to split this audience into rival camps by recalling our differences. On the contrary, I want to demonstrate that you can have those differences and still maintain a close personal relationship. These political differences always surfaced at Christmas time. We would send out Christmas cards to clients and we would select the cards very carefully. The touchstone to our internal debates was whether he could slip a card with doves on it by me. I had to be very vigilant. But we always worked it out.
I would be remiss in talking about my buddy if I did not mention that he was a great punster. Some people like puns more than others. Sometimes they can be very trying. Yet, you have to be very clever to be able to pun effectively. And Norton was certainly very clever. I wish I could dredge up some examples. But I think we can all connect with him about this.
And he was nuts about baseball. His office is filled with baseball memorabilia. He went to baseball camp. He had baseball cards printed with his picture on him. He went to opening day every year. I'm from Brooklyn. There was a team called the Dodgers. They played in Ebbets Field. I went to one game - a double header - and walked out in the fourth inning because I was bored. Yet we co-existed in joy and harmony.
There is a cement that bound us together. When you are united in a common cause that goes beyond the personal it creates a bond. Our cause was, and remains, the cause of the working people. Not just working people but the institutions that protected them and advanced their interest. That is the labor movement. We were ideologically and personally and emotionally bound to that cause. It is what made us stick. It was - it is - the cement that bound us together.
Norton was a very good person. He was extremely kind. His clients did not exist for him or his purposes. He was there for them. He said: "I simply enjoy working for my clients. They are good people and the fact that I can help them on an individual basis makes me feel so good, and that's what really drives me." We are talking about the injured, the sick, the weak - without income, insecure and frightened, facing doubtful futures in a sometimes very harsh world. It takes a special kind of person to give the support and reassurance that carries them forward. Norton's clients loved him.
Two days ago, quite coincidentally, our receptionist alerted me to a call from someone who was inquiring after him. I took the call. The gentleman said that he had not heard from Norton in a long time and just wanted to speak to him. I told him it was unlikely that he would ever get a chance to speak to him again. There was a very short silence. Then this wonderful man started to cry and talk about how wonderful Norton is and how much he loved him!! I was stunned by this unexpected reaction but not surprised.
Norton was very optimistic. He did not give up. Before his surgery he exercised to get in shape for it. It was like he was in training for an athletic event. After the surgery he tried to get his strength back and was totally convinced that he was going to be cured. He was wrong. The prognosis was bad. But he did not act on that basis. He acted like a man who loved life and was going to fight to enjoy it.
Norton separated his private life from his business life. So I cannot be very helpful in illuminating how the qualities I've described were carried over to the home. But it is clear the law was not his only love.
He also had a great love for Lorelei, his wife of forty years. They had a fantastic relationship. Their children, Debrah and Sander, are the living testimonial to the success of their marriage. Lorelei, as you know, became ill with cancer. She was beyond cure. Norton decided that he would spend the rest of their lives together to fill out all the voids that a busy life left unfilled. They traveled extensively. He doted on her. And was bereft when she died. Some of his partners chastised him for putting business aside for love. I was outraged by their behavior.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Norton was devoted to and appreciative of Edith Kaufman, his companion for these later years.
Norton was a mensch in every way. He was my friend. I miss him.
Serving Workers Statewide
Employees who have been injured on the job, denied wages or victimized by workplace discrimination must fight their employers and their employers' legal teams. Without representation, these individuals have almost no chance of recovering the damages they are owed.
At Miller Cohen, PLC, we provide workers with the legal representation they need to fight against employers that are negligent or break the law. We represent only employees, not businesses. You can rely on our commitment to the rights of workers in all types of employment disputes. To schedule a free consultation with our Detroit employment law attorneys, please call 313-566-4787 or 800-221-6021.
Leaders In Employment Law, Workers' Comp And Labor Law
Our lawyers have been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers and Rising Stars. Founding partners Norton Cohen and Bruce Miller were also named to the Top Lawyers in Metro Detroit for 2012. We have decades of combined legal experience and have recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients.
As one of the foremost employee rights law firms in Michigan, our practice encompasses:
Throughout the firm's history, our lawyers have represented union workers, teachers, auto workers, professionals and executives, public sector employees, industrial workers, service industry workers and construction workers. There is no employer too large or case too complex for our experience, skill and resources.
Additional Commitment To Protecting The Rights Of Michigan Individuals
In addition to employment law matters, we provide representation in family law cases. We can also protect your rights and your relationship with your children in divorce, child custody, child support and property division.
Contact Our Macomb And Oakland County Workers' Compensation Attorneys
For a free consultation, please call 313-566-4787, 800-221-6021 or contact us online.
Detroit Industry, North Wall (detail), 1932-1933
Diego M. Rivera
Gift of Edsel B. Ford
Photograph ©: 2001 The Detroit Institute of Arts