Ballard Spahr’s famed culture of collegiality and commitment to legacy clients in Philadelphia, along with its lawyers’ competitive desire to delve into new areas of the law, has enabled it to thrive for nearly 130 years, despite challenges like the death of legendary litigator Arthur Makadon last summer.

When a business has been around for as long as Ballard Spahr has, it will have to cope with the passing of its giants, said firm Chair Mark Stewart. Frederick L. Ballard, Jr., the great-grandson of the founding Ballard, died in May.

The passing of Mr. Makadon, a trial lawyer with long-standing relationships with GlaxoSmithKline, University of Pennsylvania, and other key clients, and a former chief assistant district attorney under Arlen Specter in the 1970s, was particularly challenging, Mr. Stewart said. But the firm was well positioned to face the future, thanks to advance planning, he added.

"That’s a blow when you lose somebody of that stature. He truly was one of the giants of Philadelphia legal history," Mr. Stewart said. "People looked at us and wondered how we would do."

The Philadelphia office still boasts plenty of local talent, however. Former Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell—a firm partner before he was elected governor—is now special counsel, focusing on public-private partnerships and housing, with an emphasis on infrastructure. Pennsylvania First Deputy Attorney General Adrian R. King, Jr., who has deep ties to local and state government, has rejoined the firm as well. Mr. King will help clients identify and pursue opportunities that lie at the intersection of business and the public sector.

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Adrian R. King, Jr.
Edward G. Rendell
Mark Stewart