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Allan H. Gordon: A Personal Profile

by Rochelle M. Fedullo

Spring 2002, Vol. 65, No. 1

He is an exceptional Philadelphia lawyer, well respected and much admired. He is a former president of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an Associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates, a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and most recently, a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers. He leads the nation's oldest chartered metropolitan bar association as it enters its third century. Self-possessed, dignified, and elegantly turned out in beautifully tailored suits, our seventy-fifth Chancellor is the picture of success-a lawyer at the top of his game. Viewed from a distance, Allan Gordon looks great. Closer up he looks even better. Closer up, Allan is a charming, funny, compassionate, generous, good-natured, completely accessible, regular guy (sort of "Everyman" in an Armani suit). He is the adoring and adored husband of his wife of thirty-nine years, Sharon, the devoted father of three beloved daughters, a loving friend to his two sons-in-law, and a wonderful son-in-law. He is "Z" (short for Zayda) to six cherished grandchildren. He is loyal, caring and supportive to his many friends. He is a happy man, comfortable in his own skin, who has his life well balanced.

This Philadelphia lawyer is a born-and-bred Philadelphia boy. Allan lived in Wynnefield with his parents, Joseph and Thelma, until his mother passed away when he was barely 4 years old. Allan then lived with his father's parents in Atlantic City for two years and then moved back to Philadelphia to live with his mother's parents. When Allan was 10, Joseph remarried, and Allan then went to live with his father and Ethel, his new mother.

Allan attended Central High School, graduating in 1958. The classic "late bloomer," Allan was the class clown, and it was suggested by his guidance counselor that he should consider making a living using his hands instead of his head. The 17-year-old enlisted for a six-month stint with the United States Army. This experience helped him realize that he really was college material, and in 1959, he enrolled at Temple University, where he was an accounting major with plans to become a CPA. In his junior year, Allan's business law professor suggested he consider law school. Allan took this advice and enrolled at Temple Law School in 1963 where this late bloomer fully blossomed, making Law Review and graduating at the top of his class. In 1966, when Allan took the bar exam, he had the second highest score in the state of Pennsylvania.

After clerking for a year in a small law firm, Allan joined some of his law school classmates to form a partnership known as Segal, Zazlow & Gordon, which later became Segal, Weiss, Gordon & Levanson. He left this partnership in 1972 to work at Kolsby & Wolfe and to learn from Herb Kolsby, one of the great trial lawyers in town, who was to become his mentor and friend. Now almost thirty years later, the firm of Kolsby, Gordon, Robin, Shore & Bezar is one of the premier firms in the city for the representation of plaintiffs in medical malpractice, products liability and other serious personal injury matters.

No story about Allan Gordon really begins until it gets to Sharon. The story of Allan and Sharon started like this: In July 1957, the tall, dark and handsome 16-year-old Allan saw the stunning 15-year-old Sharon Saner on a bus in Atlantic City, and said to himself, "This is the girl I'm going to marry." What Sharon remembers about that bus ride is being instantly attracted to a boy who was staring at her so intensely that she became a little nervous. Two nights later at the Atlantic City Sub Shop, Sharon saw the same intense young man again who continued to stare. She thought he was a stalker. When Sharon left the sub shop, her 16-year-old stalker followed her out and onto a bus that was entirely empty except for them. He sat next to her and said, "This might sound silly but will you go out with me?" She replied, "It may be silly, but yes." That began a five-year sometimes off but mainly on courtship leading to marriage in October 1963 and an enduring love affair and romance that still burn bright forty-five years after that bus ride. All anyone needs is an hour in their company to know that Allan and Sharon are sweethearts, best friends and completely devoted to each other. They share the kind of love that lights up the room, and they light up each other's lives.

Allan and Sharon have three beautiful daughters, Tara, born during his last year of law school, Lauren and Pamela. Tara and her husband, Cary Kochman, both lawyers, live in Chicago with their four sons, Gordy, age 7, Tyler, age 5, Ryan, age 3, and Dylan, 6 months old. Lauren and her husband, Lenard Cohen, also both lawyers, live in the western Philadelphia suburbs with their son, Alec, age 4, and their daughter, Davi, who will be 2 years old this April. Pamela, a part-time actress, also works as a server at a popular Center City restaurant and is a certified massage therapist.

Almost every Saturday night you can find Allan and Sharon at the home of Lauren and Len, babysitting with Alec and Davi. Friends often join them for a take-out dinner of hoagies and steak sandwiches. Despite the many possible variations on the hoagie/steak sandwich theme, Allan always gets everyone's order straight and then sits around the kitchen table with Alec or Davi (sometimes both) on his lap, laughing and talking with Sharon and their friends, enjoying the good life.

With telephone calls, e-mails and even faxes from Gordy, along with frequent visits, Allan and Sharon stay close to the Chicago branch of their family. When the events of September 11 raised concerns about air travel, instead of postponing their scheduled October trip to Chicago, Allan and Sharon drove twenty-four hours roundtrip to spend time with Tara, Cary and the boys.

Allan, a sports buff, can be found cheering at Sixers games, and shivering at Eagles games with his buddy Pamela. This past summer, Allan's mother, Ethel, died after a short illness. Pam traveled to Florida to help and comfort her parents, and in her own way, to say goodbye to her grandmother, as the three of them shared the heartbreaking job of packing up Ethel's apartment. When Allan got back from Florida, he was on the telephone to friends, reading aloud the funny and sweet letters and stories he had found in Ethel's apartment that were written by his three girls as they were growing up.

When Allan and Sharon recently moved into their new apartment on Rittenhouse Square, from their home near Head House Square where they had lived for sixteen years, he commented that one of the best things about it was that he could now get to Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores in thirty seconds. What Imelda Marcos was to shoes, Allan is to books. In typical Allan style, he reads everything from best-selling popular fiction to unknown foreign literary novels in English translation. Although Allan certainly enjoys what Center City life has to offer, including its excellent restaurants and theater, he is also very happy in a deli, ordering in pizza with friends, or having popcorn at an early movie with Sharon.

With his tremendous sense of humor, Allan is quick to laugh and to make others laugh, and he is frequently the target of his own quips. Allan's humor often serves as a vehicle for his observations about life. Recently, at a small dinner party that Allan had purchased as the high bidder at a silent auction benefiting the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program, he told the story of how his father would fall asleep in his armchair every night at 8, only to wake up around 11 p.m. to have tea and a Tastykake before going to bed. When he was younger, Allan just couldn't understand how his father could sleep the evening away. Now, not only is Allan thrilled when he has the chance to do it himself, he said, "I want to have the Tastykake injected so I don't even have to wake up."

Allan, a true extrovert, gets energy and pleasure from being with people and has a ton of good friends. He appreciates the talents, good qualities and achievements of others and is always generous with his praise. It is not unusual to hear Allan say, "Aren't they terrific," about people he admires.

Allan has had his share of difficult personal challenges, beginning with the death of his mother, Thelma, when he was a tiny boy. A heart attack and heart bypass surgery brought him face-to-face with his own mortality. Drawing on his own great personal strength, Sharon's unwavering love and devotion, and the love and support of family and friends, Allan has cleared life's obstacles with his characteristic grace.

Allan will lead the Philadelphia Bar Association into its third century with energy, dignity, maturity, wisdom and humanity. Viewed from any vantage point, Allan Gordon is undeniably special and is a Philadelphia lawyer of whom we can all be very proud.