By Jan Pudlow
In 1920, the year Malvin Englander was born, American women were finally allowed to vote, alcohol was sipped in secret, and the first traffic light was installed in Detroit.
In 1942, the year Englander joined The Florida Bar, a gallon of gas cost 15 cents, duct tape was invented, and the war bond was introduced.
More than 70 years have rolled by since Englander graduated from the University of Miami and first became a lawyer in Miami Beach. Now, at 92, Englander is finally ready to retire, but he will never stop loving the law.
“I began my law career during the World War II, and I think lawyers believed that it was the law that set us apart from other countries,” Englander said.
“We worked as a team with our clients. I assumed the problems of my client and worked on them as if they were my own. A lawyer was a necessary part of a client’s life, going through all of their ordeals, from adoption to incorporation, to real estate closings, to wills. It was all very personal.”
Oldest daughter Nicki Grossman can attest to just how personally her dad represented his clients with their problems, as though they were his own.
“One of the cases that my father was involved in was a boy from Massachusetts whose grandparents brought him to Florida to escape family issues. He brought that little boy home to our house. Everything he did as an attorney, as a gentleman, was never part way. It was 100 percent of the way,” Nicki Grossman said.
“When another client passed away and left a dachshund, we got the dachshund.”
Prominent in the community, Englander served as vice mayor of Miami Beach in the ’50s until 1969, and served as a justice of the peace, coroner, and small claims judge.
Blessed with a sense of humor, one case about two fighting neighbors who threw dog excrement over the fence became known as “The Case of Who Flung the Dung,” Nicki Grossman said with a laugh.
She described how the Englanders were a “dinner-table family,” and there were no excuses for not being home for dinner on Friday night, as the six children gathered around Mal and Sophia Englander to laugh, share, and learn.
A love of the law rubbed off on many of those children: Nicki is married to 17th Circuit Judge Mel Grossman, Patti Englander Henning is also a 17th Circuit judge; Tobie Englander Bagliebter is married to Broward County attorney Gary Baglietber, and youngest child Joe Englander is a lawyer in Ft. Lauderdale, too. Rounding out the half dozen Englander children are Donna Englander Fleishman, who lives in Atlanta, and Marla Englander Carroll, whose middle name is Chanel, because she was child No. 5.
Though Nicki took her father’s political path and was elected to the Hollywood City Commission in 1978, and served as a Broward County commissioner, she remembers as a girl working in her father’s law office, learning how to shepherdize cases before there were Westlaw and other online services.
Englander’s wife Sophia has also filled in as her husband’s secretary over the years.
“He loves the law and he has always loved the practice and helping others. The way he has always spoken about it, and the way his clients have told me how much they appreciate him, I get that feeling there is a mutual love,” Sophia said.
“Mal never wanted to specialize. I’ve heard him say many times that his clients’ problems were his problems.”
Celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in March, Sophia laughs as she tells how she first met Mal in Miami Beach.
She was a member of a service club at Miami High School, called a sorority back then, and they rented a house on Miami Beach for a week of summer fun.
“Those were the Big Band days,” Sophia reminisced, listing songs like “Stardust,” crooners like Frank Sinatra, and band leader Tommy Dorsey.
“In the evenings, we would play the juke boxes and our friends would come and we would dance. One night, one of my friends came over and said, ‘Would you teach this young man how to dance?’ And we’ve been dancing together ever since.”
As Mal closes his practice, Sophia talks about his deep respect for the law.
“This is what Mal has taught me over the many years: The law profession is one of the few professions you could practice for 70 years, and it’s worth spending the time.”
When Mal thinks back over his seven decades in the practice of law, he said, “Technology is the greatest change I have seen over the years. It allowed attorneys to specialize, giving more focused representation to our clients and optimizing the results. Going from flat fees to hourly rates also affected our clients. With a flat fee, the client was aware of the cost of the action. There were no surprises about fees when they were agreed to up front.”
What kept Englander practicing law for as long as his health allowed? His answer brims with enthusiasm:
“I have never been bored one day of my career as an attorney. Something new, something interesting, something to learn about every day!”