The Talent

February 23, 2011 11:00 AM

Skadden Name Partner Joseph Flom Dies at 87

Posted by Victor Li

Joseph Flom, who joined the firm now known as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as its first associate in 1948--and held the distinction of being its last living name partner--died Wednesday morning at the age of 87, the firm announced.

During a legal career that spanned six decades, Flom helped transform Skadden from a four-attorney shop to one of the world's largest law firms. A corporate lawyer by trade, Flom did pioneering work in the burgeoning M&A field, helping to establish Skadden as a top transactional firm in the process.

"Joe led significant change in the practice of corporate law during a storied career, and he was among the first to drive mergers and acquisitions to the top of corporate agendas," Skadden executive partner Eric Friedman said in a statement. 

Robert Sheehan, Skadden's executive partner from 1994 to 2009, added that Flom was "the architect of the modern day M&A law practice" and that Flom and Skadden "were at the forefront when other major law firms began to recognize that the transactional work he pioneered was indispensable to corporate clients seeking growth, diversification, and new markets."

That work also paid off handsomely for Skadden. The firm--which for years topped The Am Law 100 survey as the country's highest grossing law firm--ranked second on last year's list with $2.1 billion in gross revenue.

In M&A matters, Flom represented a wide range of clients with different interests and objectives. Among the transactions in which he played a role: Ronald Perelman's unsolicited takeover of Revlon and Sir James Goldsmith's takeovers of Diamond International Corp. and Crown Zellerbach Corp. Flom also helped defend Chemical Bank, Marshall Field and Co., and U.S. Steel against hostile takeovers, brought May Department Stores and Federated Department Stores together, and helped Anheuser-Busch sell itself to InBev.

Flom also dedicated much of his time to humanitarian and philanthropic work. He was the founding trustee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, which distributes awards to young attorneys that allows them to pursue public interest work. In 2008 he developed a legal studies program at the City College of New York aimed at increasing diversity in the legal profession.

Flom, a graduate of Harvard Law School, also gave back to his alma mater, endowing a professorship for the study of law and business. Flom's charity work wasn't confined to the law. He also donated money for cancer research at Mount Sinai-NYU Medical Center Health System and for the "Play Me, I'm Yours" program that installed 60 pianos in all five boroughs of New York City last summer.

The American Lawyer presented a lifetime achievement award to Flom in 2004--five years after naming him one of the "lawyers of the century." He also received an award from Chambers and Partners in 2004. Even best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell took notice of Flom's success, devoting a chapter in his 2008 book, "Outliers: The Story of Success," to Flom. "For twenty years," Gladwell wrote, "he perfected his craft at Skadden Arps. Then the world changed and he was ready. He didn't triumph over adversity. Instead, what started out as adversity ended up being an opportunity.”

Joseph Harold Flom was born in Baltimore on December 21, 1923. Flom was raised in Brooklyn and attended Townsend Harris High School and the City College of New York. He served in the U.S. Army and fought in World War II. After the war, he attended Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and earned his Juris Doctorate in 1948.

Flom is survived by his wife, Judi, sons Jason and Peter, and daughter Nancy Laing, as well as six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. His first wife, Claire, died in 2007.



He Built the Preeminent Law Firm in America
The American Lawyer, March 1989

Takeover Artist
The American Lawyer, December 1999

New Book Reveals Secrets to Joe Flom's Success
The Am Law Daily, November 2008



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