Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin, an outspoken authority in family law, has died at the age of 80.
Gold-Bikin was a partner at Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby and chair of the firm’s family law department, and an actively practicing lawyer until the end of her life. Former colleagues and friends remembered her as a zealous advocate with strong opinions, and a trailblazer for women lawyers and family law.
“My mom literally worked until the day she passed away,” said Gold-Bikin’s daughter, Sheryl Gold, an entertainment lawyer for Universal Music Group. “This was her passion, her whole life. It was about helping people.”
Her death on Tuesday followed a brief illness. She had recently been diagnosed with and started treatment for multiple myeloma, Gold said.
Gold-Bikin was involved in shaping family law from early in her career, as she was involved in the enactment of the 1980 Divorce Code. In 1994, she published the Divorce Practice Handbook.
“Her legal ability was unmatched and she was way ahead of the social situation at that time” in being a woman lawyer, said Jack Rounick, who hired Gold-Bikin straight out of law school. “She became an immediate leader in her field.”
Gold-Bikin started her career at Pechner, Dorfman, Wolffe, Rounick & Cabot in Philadelphia, after graduating from law school at Villanova University in 1976. About five years later, she wanted to become partner but the leaders of her firm said it was too soon, Rounick said. So Gold-Bikin started her own shop in the early 1980s, which Rounick later joined.
She led that firm until the mid-1990s, when she returned to working as part of a larger firm, merging her five-lawyer shop with Wolf Block. She was a senior partner and chair of the family department there until the firm found itself on the brink of dissolving, at which time she joined Weber Gallagher. As she wrote in her LinkedIn profile, “I went down with the ship.”
Gold-Bikin was known for being upfront with her opinions. For example, she landed herself in the spotlight internationally in 1993, when she was chair-elect of the American Bar Association’s family law section, with her response to insensitive comments made by male judges in Australia about female victims, a report in The Legal Intelligencer said. At the time, she expressed surprise that Australian judges could not be removed from the bench by their communities.
“She had opinions, voiced them, she was heard,” said Paul Fires, former chairman of Weber Gallagher, who recruited Gold-Bikin from Wolf Block. ”When people retained Lynne, it set the tone of the case. In fact, many people tried very hard to conflict Lynne out of cases.”
In 2009, Gold-Bikin made her move to Weber Gallagher along with a group of family law attorneys she had worked with at Wolf Block. They brought a new practice area to Weber Gallagher—the firm hadn’t offered family law services before—and a new office in Norristown, Pennsylvania. At the time, it was one of the firm’s largest group acquisitions ever, Fires said, but there was no hesitation around the move.
“You can’t help but be impressed by Lynne’s personality,” he said, recalling their first meeting when her group was preparing to move. “We closed the deal in three weeks.”
As zealously as she represented clients in disputes, Fires said, Gold-Bikin also sought resolutions outside of court whenever possible.
“She’s very aggressive on behalf of her clients, but she was a human being too. And that’s important,” Rounick said.
Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Daniel Clifford, who practiced law with Gold-Bikin for nearly 30 years, said she was “a trailblazer” who “raised the national profile of family court.”
“If you were the underdog, you absolutely wanted her on your side. She would never give up the cause of the underdog,” Clifford said. “Many times, she was representing people and wasn’t being paid, and she fought as hard for those people.”
While much of her work centered on divorce and custody matters, she also organized a video education program in the 1990s for over 3,000 high school students across the country about how to build a lasting marriage.
“There’s not many divorce lawyers who are known for trying to keep marriages intact,” Clifford said, noting that the program is still in existence at some high schools today.
Gold-Bikin also spent decades collecting hundreds of marriage certificates from throughout history, including some from the 1700s.
“I believe in marriage, and I believe that a lot of marriages that end in divorce don’t have to,” she said in a 2013 interview with The Times Herald about her collection, when she added to it a same-sex marriage certificate for the first time.
Weber Gallagher chairman Andrew Indeck, in a statement, called Gold-Bikin “a pioneer who always lifted up other female attorneys along the way.”
“Lynne started at a time when women were belittled and told they didn’t have a place in law,” Fires said. “There’s no question that Lynne broke ground for women. … Her influence goes beyond the family law bar but goes to the bar in general.”
But Gold, her daughter, said Gold-Bikin’s main message to her two daughters and two sons wasn’t about breaking gender barriers. It was to work hard and get an education.
“My mom was my mom. She was just strong and just did what she needed to do,” Gold said. “When she did what she did, we were just proud of her. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, there’s a woman doing that.’”
In 2015, Gold-Bikin won the 2015 Lynette Norton award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession as well as The Legal’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. The PBA’s family law section awarded her the Eric Turner Memorial Award in 2014.
She served as chair of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section in the 1994-1995 year, and as a mentor in the ABA’s diversity program. She previously co-chaired the ABA’s Commission on Domestic Violence, and was a member of the ABA’s house of delegates and board of governors. She was also a longtime instructor at The National Family Law Trial Institute in Houston and a frequent contributor to The Legal.
Gold-Bikin is survived by four children—Russell Gold, Sheryl Gold, Lisa Untracht and Michael Gold—as well as 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She had recently married her husband, Bruce Martin, earlier this year.