Arthur W. Lefco, 71, of Conshohocken, a Philadelphia-area lawyer who specialized in legal malpractice, died Thursday, Oct. 5, at home after a two-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Known to friends as "Terry," he began his career in 1973 as general counsel for the Philadelphia Housing Authority and then moved on to a series of law firms in Center City, Conshohocken, and West Conshohocken.
From 1975 to 1994, he served as associate and then partner at Mesirov, Gelman, Jaffe, Cramer & Jamieson. From 1994 to 1998, he was a shareholder at Sherr, Joffe & Zuckerman P.C. From 1998 to 2002, he was a senior member at Cozen O'Connor. And from 2002 until just before his death, he served as senior counsel at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin.
He wrote and lectured widely on his areas of expertise — legal malpractice, insurance coverage, and commercial liability.
"Terry had a spectacular combination of gifts which made him the attorney whom other attorneys wanted as their defense counsel," said Christopher E. Dougherty, his colleague at Marshall Dennehey.
Those gifts, he said, were "an extraordinary intellect; deep passion for the law; a unique ability to use the law advantageously; constant commitment to his clients; steely courage to take on any case despite the level of complexity; unshakable confidence in himself; and a personality formed by years of experience to put his clients' fears at ease.
"Most of all, Terry sought fairness and justice in its pure sense — which set a wonderful example for us lawyers he left behind. When one hears the phrase 'a Philadelphia lawyer,' one should think of Terry Lefco," Dougherty said.
Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Lefco grew up in Wyncote. He graduated from Germantown Academy in 1964, and from Michigan State University in 1968 with a bachelor of science degree in economics.
He attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School beginning in 1968, while serving in the Army Reserve as a lieutenant. He received his law degree in 1971.
Mr. Lefco was recognized by "Best Lawyers in America" as an achiever in the field of legal malpractice, and as a distinguished practitioner by Martindale-Hubbell, which ranks lawyers by peer review. He also received the University of Pennsylvania Law School's Alumni Award of Merit.
"Terry represented his clients passionately and intellectually, never afraid to test a new theory or press forward to victory, when others might have been willing to compromise," said his sister, Deborah.
He took many cases on appeal and was responsible for establishing precedents in state and federal jurisdictions. He served as a mentor for scores of young lawyers who worked on his cases. They liked to refer to themselves as "Terry's Team," his family said.
He was an elected member of the American Law Institute; a temporary judge for Common Pleas Court; and hearing committee chair for the disciplinary board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2004.
In the civic realm, he volunteered as a member of the Whitemarsh Township Planning Commission.
On weekends, Mr. Lefco could be found on various closed racetracks throughout the eastern seaboard, where he was a talented and patient driving instructor for the Riesentöter Region, Porsche Club of America.
"Warning," the club cautions in a light-hearted post on its website. "You will have dreams about various turns and wake up with memories of your instructor yelling, 'Brake!' This adventure can become very addictive." http://www.rtr-pca.org/index.php/activities-side/drivers-education
Mr. Lefco's love of fast cars and driving was equaled only by his zest for tinkering in the garage, lovingly restoring old vehicles to their former glory.
"He worked methodically and carefully until he achieved perfection," his family said.
Terry was a lover of classical music and a patron of the Philadelphia Orchestra, attending scores of concerts each year. He occupied the same seat, just above the violins.
At home, he found peace listening to classical music on large speakers in his "man cave" while smoking his daily cigar. He also was a talented musician, playing the guitar and banjo, while singing along with perfect pitch.
He hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail, played tennis, sailed, and skied. He loved his family, his German shorthaired pointers, and his friends.
In addition to his sister, he is survived by his wife, Ann V; sons Daniel and Jake; three grandchildren; and a brother.
A 1:15 p.m. visitation will be followed by a 2 p.m. memorial service Sunday, Oct. 15, at Rodeph Shalom Synagogue, 615 N. Broad St. Interment is private.