Fred Blume, the former managing partner and CEO of Blank Rome from 2003 through 2006, died Monday at the age of 72, the firm said.

Blume spent his entire legal career at Blank Rome, joining the firm the year following his 1966 graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1996, he was named administrative partner of the firm and eventually managing partner and chief executive officer.

"Fred’s tenure with Blank Rome lasted close to half a century," said Alan Hoffman, Blank Rome co-chairman and managing partner, in a statement. "During his time with us, he demonstrated a fierce dedication to his work, his community and his family. We mourn not only the loss of an esteemed colleague, but also that of a true mentor and beloved friend."

Under his leadership, Blank Rome experienced significant expansion. The firm opened in New York through its merger with Tenzer Greenblatt and then in Washington, D.C., through mergers with Wigman Cohen Leitner & Myers and Dyer Ellis & Joseph. Blume became chairman emeritus of Blank Rome in 2006.

In his private practice, Blume represented clients in aspects of corporate law ranging from mergers, acquisitions and divestitures to capital-raising activities.

Perhaps above all of his efforts in firm leadership, client counseling and community involvement came Blume’s commitment to mentoring. Hoffman said in an interview that Blume started Blank Rome University to teach younger attorneys both substantive legal skills and business of law skills. Blume also created the firm’s associates committee and would attend those meetings. Blume spent time mentoring younger partners on business development. He had recently been asked by the firm’s business department chairman, Alan Zeiger, to lead up a mentoring program for the firm’s corporate associates, Hoffman said.

"We in the legal industry don’t value that, in my opinion, probably as much as we should because the people who are the leaders of the law firm today are those that Fred mentored 20 years ago, 30 years ago. He was a huge believer in that," Hoffman said.

Blume was still active in the firm before his death, though he was working toward retirement and transitioning his clients to younger attorneys, Hoffman said.

For nearly 30 years, Blume had battled a rare noncancerous growth in his abdomen that was being treated by an infectious-disease doctor, his longtime friend and Blank Rome colleague Morey Rosenbloom said. Hoffman said Blume’s death was unexpected. He said even when Blume seemed to be in failing health, he would always bounce back. He passed away Monday surrounded by his family.

It was his family that really came first. Hoffman said Blume figured out work/life balance before it was in vogue, always making time for both his family and his Blank Rome family.

Blank Rome trusts and estates partner Rosenbloom joined Blank Rome three years after Blume and the two first shared a mentor/mentee relationship and then ultimately became close friends.

As a corporate attorney and a trusts and estates lawyer, the pair’s practices meshed and they often worked on cases together.

The photos of Blume with politicians or dignitaries weren’t displayed in his office, but rather stuck in a drawer, Rosenbloom said. Instead, he always had pictures of his family displayed.

And as he loved his family, he also loved his law firm.

"He loved the law and he loved the law firm," Rosenbloom said. "Much more so than anybody I remember. He just loved being part of Blank Rome."

Aside from his life in private practice, Blume was also very active in community service. He served on the boards of City Year Greater Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office and was a member of the board of trustees of the National Museum of American Jewish History, the board of advisers of the Institute for Law and Economics of the University of Pennsylvania and the Board of Visitors of Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Blume lived in Penn Valley, Pa., with his wife, Sylvia Blume. He is also survived by his three children, attorney Edward Blume, attorney Michael Blume and Deborah Blume, his brother Martin Blume of Phoenix, and seven grandchildren.

The family will have a memorial service at 10:30 a.m. today at Temple Beth Hillel in Wynnewood, Pa.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to City Year Greater Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania Law School or the Fox School of Business at Temple University.

Gina Passarella can be contacted at 215-557-2494 or at gpassarella@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @GPassarellaTLI.