Phillip Margolin grew up in New York City in 1944 and spent his childhood in Levittown, New York and New York City. As child, he was inspired to pursue a career in law by reading far too many Perry Mason books. He earned a bachelor's degree in Government from The American University in Washington, D.C., and then spent two years working for the Peace Corps Liberia. After his return, Margolin enrolled at the New York University School of Law and earned his law degree by night while working as a junior high teacher by day.
After graduating, Margolin moved to Oregon and clerked for the Honorable Herbert M. Schwab on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Margolin has worked both in private-practice defense and the Public Defenders office, and has argued before the US Supreme Court and the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, among other courts. Margolin was the first Oregon attorney to use the Battered Women's Syndrome to defend a battered woman accused of murdering her spouse.
After giving a piece of his writing to a fellow lawyer who worked in the publishing industry, Margolin found himself a published novelist. His first novel, Heartstone, earned him an Edgar nomination for Best Original Paperback Mystery of 1978. He has been writing full time since 1996. Margolin's novel The Last Innocent Man has been also been adapted for the screen. In addition, he collaborated with his daughter, Ami Margolin Rome, on a young adult novel titled Vanishing Acts.
Besides writing novels and practicing law, Margolin has been President and Chairman of the Board of Chess for Success and has served on the Board of Literary Arts,
which sponsors the Oregon Book Awards, The Writers in the Schools
program and Portland Arts and Lectures.