Norman H. Brown, an esteemed and influential estates lawyer and Firm leader who ended his illustrious career with a flourish, taking early retirement at age 61 to embark on a sailing adventure with his wife, died March 31 in New Canaan, Connecticut. He was 95.

Mr. Brown had been with the Firm for 36 years when he retired. He joined in 1949 as an Associate, at a salary of $275 a month. The Firm at that time was called Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll and the young lawyer’s offer of a job came in a long, conversational letter from name Partner R. Sturgis Ingersoll.

Mr. Brown was promoted to Partner in 1959, elected Managing Partner in 1962, and became head of the estates practice in 1979. Former colleagues remember him as a gifted lawyer, speaker, and writer, a savvy litigator who litigated several important cases in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and a leader who made lasting contributions to the legal community.

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Brown – representing the American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law – chaired the Committee on National Fiduciary Accounting Standards, a consortium of judicial and professional organizations that formulated and advocated for a set of uniform standards for fiduciary accountings. Their national adoption gave rise to the development of commercial software for the preparation of fiduciary accountings, an improvement that would have been impractical if every state had different standards. Among other professional honors, he was a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and served as Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Probate and Trust Law Section.

“Norman had a great, intuitive mind and a wonderful ability to read situations and connect with people, whether clients, his colleagues at the Firm, adversaries across the table, or his grandchildren,” Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart said. “When you talk with those who knew Norman best, that is the thing they remember – his depth on both a personal and professional level. And the joyful way he lived his life.”

As an undergraduate at Harvard College, Mr. Brown joined the Navy Officer Training Program and, after earning his degree, was commissioned as an Ensign in 1944 and served aboard a Navy destroyer near the end of World War II. He returned to Harvard after the war to study law and then joined Ballard Spahr, where he spent the remainder of his career. He was admired for the breadth of his abilities, which included developing and advocating for legislation, his generosity as a mentor to younger lawyers, and his service to the profession through various organizations.

“He was the person we all aspired to be professionally,” said Robert Abramowitz, who practiced with Mr. Brown at Ballard Spahr.

Mary Lawler, a retired partner of the Firm, said of her former colleague: “It was the gift of a lifetime and a real privilege to work with and for Norman Brown. I say ‘with’ because Norman treated me, a lowly first-year associate, as a colleague and collaborator. His was a first-class intellect and yet he was always willing to listen, to hear, and to encourage.”

Provident National Bank (now PNC) was one of his and the Firm’s top clients, and his relationships there were extraordinarily strong. When Mr. Brown retired, the bank hosted a party in his honor. Some of the other clients he developed also are still at the Firm today.

Work-life balance was important too. One morning a week he played tennis with his wife, Doffy, and came into the office late. He went on sabbatical. And, at a high point in his legal career, he called it quits. He and Doffy sold their home and belongings and set sail for the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

“Their dream had always been to live on the sailboat and be fancy free for a while,” said Willa Brown Schell, who followed her father into the legal profession and practiced for a time at Ballard Spahr. “They had the happiest, sweetest marriage, and the testament to that was that they could live on a boat together for two years.”

Before her parents left, she talked with them about the perils, including seafaring drug runners they might encounter along the way. Her father said they were prepared. “For him, a little risk was part of the adventure,” Ms. Schell said. “He lived and loved well.”

Sailing was Mr. Brown’s lifelong passion, whether he was cruising between Maine and the Chesapeake Bay – where the Browns lived for nearly 30 years – or racing, which he pursued until the age of 90.

He was a devoted alumnus of The School in Rose Valley in suburban Philadelphia, which Mr. Brown’s parents helped to found and where he and his children attended. It was small and informal; the students wore jeans and called teachers by their first names.

Edmund “Chip” Harvey, a fellow Rose Valley graduate who practiced at Ballard Spahr with Mr. Brown, said that the two of them had concluded that the school shaped the people they became. “The Rose Valley part of Norman’s personality kept him grounded, sane, and lovable,” Mr. Harvey said. “Harvard and Ballard turned him into an amazing lawyer.”

Martinis were Mr. Brown’s drink of choice, and when he was advised to give them up in his later years, he turned to milkshakes. Three generations of Mr. Brown’s family, unable at this time to be together in person, planned a virtual celebration of his life. The theme: “Martinis, Milkshakes, and Memories.”

In addition to Ms. Schell, Mr. Brown is survived by his children Cornelia Brown, Haig Brown, and Oliver Brown, nine grandchildren, and a sister, Ursula Perivier. To read his obituary, click here.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to The School in Rose Valley.