Arthur Makadon, a fearsome and enormously respected litigator who served as Chair of Ballard Spahr for nine years and was a quietly influential figure among Philadelphia's business, legal, and political leaders, died July 24 at the age of 70.
A trial lawyer whose courtroom gifts were honed as Chief Assistant District Attorney under Arlen Specter in the early 1970s, Arthur represented many of the Commonwealth’s largest institutions, including PNC, University of Pennsylvania, GlaxoSmithKline, and Comcast, in their most sensitive and significant cases. He represented a wide swath of public officials and was a friend and trusted adviser to many others – U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, and Philadelphia Mayors Bill Green, John Street, and Michael Nutter. He was a devoted alumnus of Penn, where he also taught and served as a Trustee from 1996 to 2007, and where the firm established the Arthur Makadon Appellate Advocacy Program in his honor two years ago when he stepped down as firm Chair.
Athletic and handsome, with custom-made suits and shoes, eye-catching ties, and silver hair worn much longer than that of his peers, Arthur was an iconic figure at the firm and around the city – blunt, insightful, irreverent, unconventional. He worked in his corner office overlooking City Hall until the week before he died, when he became ill and was admitted to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where doctors discovered that he had advanced lung cancer.
Arthur had one daughter, Dr. Claudia Makadon Sauerteig, who made him enormously happy and proud. The deep relationships he formed at Ballard made the firm feel like a family, too.
He was Ballard's most recognizable and widely known figure. He led the firm from 2002 until 2011 with passion, compassion, and an unshakable resolve that carried it through the most difficult days of the global economic collapse in 2008 and 2009.
“If someone were writing a history of Ballard Spahr, Arthur would be the leading man,” said Mark Stewart, who succeeded Arthur as Chair and was his friend and protege. “His influence on the firm and his role in its success is unfathomable. He’s just been part of everything.”
Arthur joined Ballard as an associate in February 1975 and was promoted to partner just two years later. In 1984, he became Chair of the Litigation Department. Building the department into a national powerhouse was one of his proudest professional achievements.
“I’ve never seen anybody better able to separate the wheat from the chaff than Arthur," said Geoff Kahn, leader of Ballard Spahr’s Commercial Litigation Group and longtime friend. "If there were 100 facts to a case, his remarkable intuitive abilities enabled him to tell you straight off the one that mattered. And, damn it, he was invariably right. Arthur became Chair of this firm because we needed him to be the Chair. He was selfless when it came to building Ballard Spahr, and he recruited so many of its greatest talents here. He was, without a doubt, the firm’s most important partner over the past 30 years. He was larger than life.”
Known for his cut-to-the-chase style and sense of humor, Arthur is also remembered for his generosity to everyone, from partners to staff members to clients – and even those he barely knew. Pulling out his sizable Rolodex if a colleague’s child needed an appointment with a hard-to-see doctor. Taking up a collection of donated sick days for a critically ill employee. Arranging for the children of a pro bono client who received asylum from a war-torn African country to fly to the States to join their mother.
As news of his passing spread, condolences flowed in – calls and e-mails from around the country and across the firm. Staff who had experienced Arthur's extraordinary largesse, and his legendary intensity, wept openly. As one secretary said, "He did so many good things that people didn't even know about."
That was one of Arthur's greatest joys: working behind the scenes to make things happen for people – people from all walks of life who needed help in all kinds of ways.
In the elevator one day, Arthur and a woman he didn't know struck up a conversation. By the time they reached the lobby, Arthur had found out her name and that she had just interviewed for a job in the firm's Marketing Department. He called the head of Marketing and said, "I like her. Hire her." Only years later did he find out how badly she had needed that job.
One client who called to express condolences told this illustrative story: “Two weeks ago, I was at a baseball game with Arthur. The Phils hit a foul ball that was caught by a little boy about 10 years old. A half hour later, another foul ball was hit to that very same spot. The same little boy nudged a little girl out of the way and grabbed the ball. Now, he has two. What does Arthur do? He goes to the gift shop and buys a signed, commemorative ball and gives it to the little girl. Her parents were so thankful and Arthur sort of waved it off. That was Arthur. He did for people, but quietly. He had an enormous sense of justice.”
He also could be tough and brutally candid.
“He would rarely go through the niceties of pretending to be enamored with someone he wasn’t enamored with,” Mark Stewart said.
Few could equal Arthur's skill as a litigator. Said Stephen Kastenberg, a litigation partner and close friend: “Arthur had a brilliant, piercing legal mind. He had incredible judgment, an uncanny ability to read people and situations, and he was fearless in the courtroom. In times of crisis, people turned to Arthur because he knew how to get things done. He knew how to think eight steps ahead.”
Arthur was also known for his keen memory for detail, which made him a formidable legal adversary. He could dissect the language of a contract for the smallest sign of weakness and create an unshakable legal argument. His recall for conversations and events stretched back decades. He won cases by outthinking his opponents, employing a direct and minimalist approach, and concentrating on the endgame.
Main Line bred and educated at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Arthur was a man of extravagant tastes who also enjoyed simple pleasures. He loved the South of France, quiet dinners at Bistrot La Minette, going to Phillies games, golfing in the Dominican Republic, reading in Washington Square, running, hot weather, and political satire.
Whatever he loved – whether a Joseph Epstein book of short stories or a fabulous new restaurant – he shared it with his friends. Arthur correctly considered himself an exceptional judge of character. As one partner said of him: "The greatest attribute of Arthur was that he knew when someone had something special." For those fortunate people in whom Arthur spotted some rare or endearing quality, he simply could not do enough. His profound impact on the lives of those who knew him was evident in the flood of e-mails on the day he died.
"… incredible mentor and friend to me."
"… someone who marched to his own beat and was without pretense in the sincerity of his advice."
"… an amazing lawyer and a charismatic man, and one of the last of that era of powerful legal leaders."
"… a prince."
"… my friend and protector."
" … He enabled me to have the most unforgettable moment of my life: attending a Philadelphia championship with my father."
"… one of those awe-inspiring individuals who remain in your memory."
"… can't imagine not ever seeing him again."
"… master strategist and problem solver."
"… a classic."
Even the staff at a nearby pharmacy, whose countless visits from Arthur were part of the store's daily routine, were shaken. "They kept coming back to the fact that although they knew he was important, he never acted that way," one partner said.
"I was stunned when I got the news, but the sorrow didn't really hit me until I returned to the office," said partner Michael Sklaroff, who has known Arthur since 1965 when they met in law school. "Kind of like being back home and you've suddenly learned that you've lost a brother."
One partner channeled his grief into reading through, and laughing over, his trove of e-mails from Arthur – many of them written in Arthur's signature cryptic style – calling them "comedy gold."
Arthur had many, many acquaintances, but his circle of close friends was intimate. He loved nothing better than sitting around with those friends – "hacking around," as he called it – talking about books, movies, sports, people, politics, and the New York Post's "Page Six" gossip column.
Arthur gathered a small group of those friends together in mid-March to celebrate his 70th birthday with Quizzo, bistro food, and endless champagne. That night he was also celebrating the news that his beloved daughter, Claudia, had been named Chief Resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. "Arthur had high expectations of those he knew, including me," Claudia said. "He modeled that with his intellect, astuteness, and keen sense of judgment. But he also had a sharp, even wild, sense of humor, and there wasn't a conversation between us that didn't involve a hearty laugh. The fine balance he struck between working exceptionally hard and playing with abandon has motivated me to live my life the same way."
Life was short. Arthur knew that. Among the condolences that arrived at Ballard on the day Arthur died was one from a former associate who attached an e-mail received two years ago from Arthur on the day the associate left the firm. The lawyer hadn't known Arthur well and was moved by both the gesture and the message:
I have always heard terrific things about you, and I regret not having had a chance to work together. I am sure you will have much success in new york, but try to stay in touch with your friends. It is easier said than done because a new world always seems to take precedence. But at some point years later, you might look back and say why did i not stay in touch. in any event, be well and if you ever need anything, just call. Arthur
Arthur is survived by his daughter; his former wife, Marcia Makadon; his brother, Dr. Harvey Makadon; and his longtime companion, Naomi Wyatt.