Gary A. Poliakoff
Gary A. Poliakoff ()

Gary Poliakoff, the co-founder of Broward law firm Becker & Poliakoff and managing shareholder for 35 years, died early Friday. He was 69.

Poliakoff died from non-smoker’s lung cancer after a two-year battle, said his son, Keith Poliakoff.

Poliakoff devoted his entire practice to condominium and homeowner association law and drafted laws governing shared ownership housing in Tallahassee. He and partner Alan Becker built the law firm into one of South Florida’s largest, with more than 150 lawyers and 19 offices.

“Gary and I were friends since the first year of law school and partners for 42 years,” Becker said in a statement. “That is quite a run in the law business. Gary had the toughness to build and run a large law firm, combined with rare compassion and caring for the people who worked for the firm and the clients we served.”

In addition to managing daily operations of the law firm and helping grow it to become one of South Florida’s largest firms, Poliakoff, with Becker, helped create an entire new area of law: condominium association law. The firm quickly became the go-to firm for the hundreds of condominiums dotting South Florida.

Poliakoff became a prolific author and lecturer on the subject and even added new terms to the condo vernacular including “I Speak Condo” and “Prescription Pets.” He testified before the U.S. Senate on the topic and internationally, was invited to assist post-Communist countries with their transition from state housing to private ownership.

In more recent years, Poliakoff reinvented himself as a city attorney and was instrumental in the incorporation of the town of Southwest Ranches in western Broward. He served as town attorney there for 10 years. Poliakoff also served as adjunct professor at the Shepard Broad Law Center of Nova Southeastern University, where he taught condominium law and practice and was named adjunct professor of the year.

“Gary is solely responsible for introducing me to the community association practice and for opening the door for me to teach at the local law school on the subject of condo law,” said Kenneth Direktor, chair of the community association practice at Becker & Poliakoff. “I have almost 30 years of memories of Gary as a colleague, a friend and a mentor, and am forever indebted to him for the imprint he made on my professional life.”

Poliakoff is survived by his wife of 47 years, Sherri, and his two sons, Keith, a lawyer at Arnstein Lehr in Fort Lauderdale, and Ryan Poliakoff, a lawyer at Sachs Sax Caplan in Boca Raton.

Funeral services will be held at noon Monday at Temple Sinai in North Miami Beach.