In a legal career that spanned six decades, beginning as an Arent Fox associate in 1956, David Osnos operated largely behind the scenes, gaining a reputation in business circles as an astute dealmaker, facilitator, negotiator and trouble-shooter for his high-profile clients.
In addition to Pollin, he represented the Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, the government contracting firm VSE Corp., the Clark Construction Group and Washington developer Conrad Cafritz. In the early 1990s, during the economic recession and the collapse of the commercial real estate market, Mr. Osnos helped Cafritz save his vast real estate portfolio by engineering a consensual arrangement with more than 70 lenders who were owed more than a $1 billion.
But it was his close relationship with Pollin that defined much of Mr. Osnos’s career. The two men met when Mr. Osnos, then a young lawyer, was asked to attend a meeting between Pollin and Al Arent, one of the law firm’s founders.
“I don’t remember what the issue was or how it was resolved,” Pollin said in 2006 at Mr. Osnos’s 50th-anniversary celebration at Arent Fox. “But I can tell you that was the last time I ever spoke with Al Arent. … Ever since, David has been my left hand and my right hand, my confidant and my friend.”
Pollin’s organization did not have an in-house transactional legal team, so Mr. Osnos handled all aspects of its endeavors, from the construction of what is now Capital One Arena in Washington to player salary contracts and trade negotiations for the Washington Wizards and Mystics basketball teams and the Washington Capitals hockey team.
David Marvin Osnos was born in Detroit on Jan. 10, 1932. His father owned a discount department store, and his mother was a homemaker.
Mr. Osnos graduated in 1953 from Harvard University with a literature degree and from Harvard Law School in 1956. Mr. Osnos, who was Jewish, found himself locked out of some major law firms in New York City, which at the time were largely segregated along religious and cultural lines.
He accepted a job offer at Arent Fox, which specialized in tax and real estate law, and for years he was the firm’s biggest-grossing partner. In 1978, he was named the first chairman of Arent Fox’s executive committee after having helped prevent the firm from dissolving by leading efforts to manage the succession plan from its first generation of partners to a second generation of lawyers.
He served on the board of the Greater Washington Jewish Community Foundation in Rockville, Md., and was a trustee at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.
In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 65 years, Glenna Osnos, and a daughter, Alison Doxey, all of Bethesda; and three grandchildren.
“David had a forceful personality and was extremely gregarious,” said Richard Brand, a protege who worked with Mr. Osnos at Arent Fox for more than 30 years. “He believed that clients don’t want to hear problems, they want to hear solutions. What’s the next step? Sure he’d tell you the bad news, but in connection with the bad news he’d tell you a solution or as close to a solution as you can get. Resolving problems was David’s strength.”