No one who met Alan Margolis was ever unsure of where they stood — or where he stood on any given issue, for that matter.
But along with freely giving his opinions, Margolis was just as generous with his time and money. And his advice, often unsolicited, came from a sincere effort to help the recipients of it, his former partners said.
Margolis, co-founder of Margolis Edelstein, died Tuesday from cancer at the age of 78.
Margolis was the founder of law firm Frank and Margolis, which was established in 1960. That was the predecessor firm to Margolis Edelstein.
"Those who had the pleasure of being in his company will recall fondly the colorful, animated manner he approached every topic, law-related or otherwise; he was not shy in sharing his opinion and he was a classic example of an individual who wore his heart on his sleeve," the firm said in a note on its website.
Margolis’ death comes less than three years after the passing of firm co-founder Edward L. Edelstein, who died in December 2010.
Michael P. McKenna, managing partner of Margolis Edelstein, will have been with the firm for 31 years come next week. It was Margolis who hired McKenna and who served as McKenna’s "professional father" for the last three decades.
In an email to the firm, McKenna described Margolis as "gregarious, confident, smart, extremely well-read, and always brimming with ideas."
"Though sometimes quick to anger, he was always quicker to forgive and forget," McKenna continued. "He was ever-generous with his time, his money, and, unsolicited, his opinions on religion, politics and everything else. He could be impatient, but only because he knew the right answer. Above all else, Alan was unfiltered, an endearing, though occasionally exasperating, trait. He was quite a character. Once you met him, you did not forget him and you did not meet his like again."
In 2000, Margolis helped recruit partner and fellow Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel member John A. Livingood Jr. to the firm. Livingood said Margolis used to brag that he never tried a case to verdict. Whether or not that was true was up for debate, but Livingood said it was a testament to Margolis’ true talent of focusing his energy on business initiatives and building relationships.
At PADC monthly meetings, where he was a regular fixture, speakers would often get interrupted by questions from Margolis.
"He had a reason and it was always to help whoever he was talking to," Livingood said of Margolis’ unsolicited advice.
Though in his late 70s, Margolis was still always throwing out ideas on how to improve the firm or the profession, McKenna said. Everyone who spoke of Margolis referenced his "boundless energy" and enthusiasm.
"In a firm with younger people, he was the most cutting-edge guy," McKenna said. "[He was] always thinking of new ways to do things."
Margolis was one of the eight or nine founding members, and a past president, of The Harmonie Group, a network of independent law firms that provides defense services to companies, captives, third-party administrators and risk retention groups. The organization was started about 20 years ago.
"We thoroughly enjoyed his boundless energy, his enthusiasm, his outgoing friendliness for everybody that he knew and his vision for making Harmonie what it is today," Harmonie Executive Director Timothy C. Violet said.
At one point, Margolis was named general counsel of the Delaware Valley Financial Corp., a national sales financial company, and subsequently became vice president of that organization. Over the years, Margolis focused his private practice on professional liability and insurance coverage issues.
Margolis received his undergraduate degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1955 and his law degree from the university in 1958. Margolis was a member of the International Association of Defense Counsel, the Defense Research Institute, the Pennsylvania Defense Institute and the American, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia bar associations.
"Alan was exceedingly generous with his time, counsel, and advice and he contributed as a mentor to many members of the Philadelphia bar," Margolis Edelstein said. "He was a vital and important part of the dynamic and culture in this firm as well as the entire legal community and we will sorely miss [his] infectious optimism."
Margolis had been cancer-free for about a decade, but it returned last October and was untreatable, McKenna said. He said Margolis continued to work through the fall. He died just shy of his 79th birthday.
Services are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Temple Beth Hillel, 1001 Remington Road, Wynnewood, Pa. Burial will follow at Haym Salomon Memorial Park in Frazer, Pa. The family will be returning to the late residence for shiva. Contributions can be made to Chabad of Chester County, Temple Beth Hillel or the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Margolis is survived by his three children, Richard J. Margolis, Andrew S. Margolis (Lisa) and Jackie Bitensky, and a sister. Richard Margolis is an attorney at Margolis Edelstein and Andrew S. Margolis is an attorney with his own company, A. Margolis Realty Co.