Morris L. Cohen: Book Lover, Librarian, Scholar and a Well Loved Person


What is the measure of a person’s life – the legacy left behind?

How will you be remembered?

MORRIS L. COHEN: The American Association of Law Libraries dedicated one entire volume of their Law Library Journal to reflecting back on the scholarly work Morris Cohen accomplished during his lifetime. Morris died in late 2010, but his memory burns brightly in volume 104, the Winter issue of AALL Journal printed in 2012.

What is the measure of a person’s life-how do we determine the legacy one leaves behind? How will you be remembered? What kind of lawyer will you be? How will your success be measured, will it be measured in dollars or by the number of people you helped in your lifetime?

Morris L. Cohen was known as a scholar who shunned the practice of law because it was too confrontational. Morris was a law librarian, at both Harvard and Yale law libraries, where he helped usher the schools into the era of computers.

“Morris was a towering figure in legal education,” said S. Blair Kauffman, now the law librarian at Yale, “and helped transform two of the world’s greatest academic libraries.” The computer catalog at Yale is known as Morris.

Among Professor Cohen’s books are “Legal Research in a Nutshell” (1968), “Law: The Art of Justice” (1992) and “A Guide to the Early Reports of the Supreme Court of the United States” (1995).

Born in the Bronx in 1927, Cohen earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1947 and his law degree from Columbia in 1951.

Morris Cohen wanted to be a labor lawyer, but his leftist activities in college led to many job rejections. Cohen practiced law with his uncle, Max Cohen, and then on his own for several years before starting to study for a master’s degree in library science at the Pratt Institute, which he received in 1959.

In an introduction to a tribute to Morris L. Cohen, librarian Fred R. Shapiro stated that when Morris Cohen died, “the New York Times printed a sizable obituary for Morris; probably no other law librarian, at least in modern times, has ever been accorded that honor. However, that was not the end of it. A few days later the Times printed an editorial hailing him: Professor Cohen saw law, its study and its practice, as a bountiful, all-encompassing, field… In an age when the internet …gives, many the illusion they are scholarly detectives, the meticulous, old-fashion research he put into [his] bibliography is almost unfathomable. It yielded a resource that is matchless, brilliant and of eternal value.

Check out the Volume 104, number 1, Winter 2012 (quarterly edition) of the Law Library Journal, published by the American Association of Law Libraries, to explore the 171 pages dedicated in a loving tribute to a man they knew and loved.

Law Library Journal Vol.104, No. 1 Winter 2012

A Tribute To Morris L. Cohen (1927-2010) 

~Jane Fraytet~

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