Our firm is very saddened to announce the passing of its founding member and leader, Austin Cooper, Q.C. Austin was a passionate and celebrated lawyer, who was justly regarded as one of the finest criminal lawyers this country has ever seen and “The Dean of the Criminal Bar”. He was well known for his integrity, impeccable judgment and civility. He brought tremendous dignity to the criminal bar.
Austin practiced for 60 years, first as a sole practitioner, and ultimately with the firm of Cooper, Sandler, Shime and Bergman LLP. His contributions to the Canadian public and the legal community were widely recognized, most recently when the Law Society of Upper Canada bestowed an honourary Doctorate of Laws upon him. He was also the recipient of the G. Arthur Martin Medal, the Criminal Lawyers Association’s highest honour, the Advocates’ Society Medal for his mastery of the art of advocacy and countless other awards. Austin was a strong believer in the right of all people, regardless of their background or income, to have a zealous defence to criminal allegations. He defended many indigent people pro bono and strongly advocated for the introduction of legal aid in Ontario. He also defended the first murder case under the new Legal Aid Plan.
But Austin was much more than a brilliant lawyer. He was a wonderful person, who remained the paragon of humility and modesty despite his remarkable accomplishments. He was remarkably kind and gentle, always offering his advice, encouragement and a kind word. Over the course of his lengthy career, he shared his knowledge and acted as a mentor for innumerable criminal lawyers, many of whom have become leaders of the Bar themselves thanks to his mentorship. He taught all of us how to be zealous advocates for our clients while maintaining the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. His example serves as an inspiration to us all. He will be sorely missed every day.