Frederic L. (Rick) Ballard, Jr., who played a pivotal role in transforming his great-grandfather's small law office into a national firm of more than 500 lawyers, died on May 11. A member of a prominent Philadelphia family known for its civic-mindedness, Mr. Ballard graduated from Harvard Law School when the IRS was in its infancy and became one of the nation's first public finance lawyers. Over his storied legal career, Mr. Ballard helped define the field and became a leading voice in American bond law.

Mr. Ballard was the recipient of the National Association of Bond Lawyers Bernard P. Friel Medal for Service in Public Finance (2005) and Frederick O. Kiel Distinguished Service Award (2007), making him one of the few people ever to win both. During the ceremony for the Friel Award, the presenter remarked, "I believe that we all agree that Rick Ballard has done more than any other person in the history of western civilization to educate the Treasury Department and the IRS about the law and regulations affecting tax-exempt bonds."

Mr. Ballard, 72, had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer but his death was unexpected and came as a blow to his loved ones and colleagues at Ballard Spahr.

In a firmwide e-mail Sunday, Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart told colleagues of Mr. Ballard's death, saying, "I could sit here for hours and still not have the words to adequately describe Rick's importance to the firm, his achievements as a lawyer, and his impact on those of us who were lucky enough to know him."

"Rick is what every lawyer should want to be—fiercely smart, caring, a gentleman," Mr. Stewart said.

Mr. Ballard graduated from Harvard College and received his LL.B. from Harvard Law School. He joined Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia as an associate in 1966 and became a partner seven years later, following his father and grandfather—both named Frederic L. Ballard—into the firm founded in the late 1800s by his great-grandfather, Ellis Ames Ballard.

In 1978, Mr. Ballard moved to Washington, D.C., to open the firm's first office outside Philadelphia.

His wife, Marion, said they were to be in Washington for just two years, long enough to get the office up and running, and then they would return to Philadelphia.

"At the end of two years, the office was doing OK, but they needed Rick to stay," she said.

Mr. Ballard served as Managing Partner of the Washington Office from 1978 to 1995, and as Chair of the Public Finance Department from 1995 to 2000 and of the Financial Planning and Management Department from 2000 to 2006. At the time of his death he was head of Ballard's Tax Group and Exempt Organizations Group. As was his wish, he maintained an active practice until the time of his death.

Mr. Ballard was the author of ABCs of Arbitrage: Tax Rules for Investment of Bond Proceeds by Municipalities (American Bar Association, 2011), a seminal reference work originally published in 1978 and used by public officials, municipal bond attorneys, and investment bankers. He represented government agencies, investment banks, nonprofits, and other borrowers of tax-exempt bonds and played a leading role in the bond financings of some of the nation's largest public buildings, including the Denver International Airport and the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

A master at translating extraordinarily complex information into terms everyone could understand, Mr. Ballard was the former Vice Chair of the American Bar Association's section on State and Governmental Law, the former Director of the American College of Bond Counsel, and the former Chair of the American College of Tax Counsel. He was a lifelong supporter of the National Association of Bond Lawyers and has served as both its Director and the Chair of its Tax Committee.

Mr. Ballard was also known for his dedicated community service. Lifelong supporters of women's issues, he and his wife received the first Visionary Award from the Washington Area Women's Foundation in 2013 for their longtime service to the organization, including leading multiple fundraising campaigns. He is a former trustee of the Chestnut Hill Academy, where he attended elementary and high school, and the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, both in Philadelphia.

In his advocacy on behalf of women—both those close to him and many more he did not know—he followed in the footsteps of his mother, Ernesta Drinker Ballard, who founded the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women and co-founded Women's Way, an influential funding organization.

"He encouraged me and all the women in his life to be everything they could be," Marion Ballard said.

Mr. Ballard had a wonderful understanding of literature and the arts, his wife said, and enjoyed his role as both producer and actor in a play-reading group to which the couple belonged. When it was Mr. Ballard's turn to serve as producer, he would spend hours online, finding just the right play for the group to read.

Above all, Mr. Ballard was the consummate gentleman, who possessed a gentleness of spirit to match his towering intellect, accomplishments, and physical stature. He was known for treating everyone, from the newest associate to the highest-ranking government official, with warmth and friendliness.

"He had a way of making everyone feel comfortable," said Joe Fanone, Managing Partner of Ballard Spahr's Washington Office.

In addition to his wife of 39 years, Mr. Ballard is survived by his daughter, Annie Ballard; his stepsons, William and Robert Dunning; his sisters, Sophie Ballard Bilezikian, Ernesta Ballard, and Alice Ballard; and two grandchildren.

A celebration of Mr. Ballard's life was held on Saturday, May 31, at Sidwell Friends School, in Washington, D.C.

Memorial donations in Mr. Ballard's name can be made to the following organizations:

Washington Area Women's Foundation
1331 H St., NW, Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20005 

Samaritan Inns (Development Office)
2523 14th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20009