Tribute to Joe Flom: Skadden’s Solo Role Model

As solos, mega-firm Skadden is perhaps one of the last places we’d ever think to look for a role model. But being solo doesn’t just mean working for oneself.  Solo is a state of mind; a combination of vision, hustle and sheer doggedness that together, convert adversity into a best friend.

That’s the story of Joe Flom, Skadden’s last living name partner who passed away yesterday at the age of 87. Back in the day, when mega-firm Skadden was nothing more than a trio of three fellows named John, Marshall and Les, they took a chance on a Harvard Law School graduate named Joe Flom who couldn’t find work anywhere else and liked him well enough to work odd jobs to afford his $3600 salary. Meanwhile Flom pitched in wherever he could: when the firm brought on litigation work, Flom litigated and when another partner brought in tax work, Flom became an expert in tax. But it wasn’t until 1955, seven years after he was first hired that Flom found his calling, mergers and acquisitions. M&A wasn’t much of a practice area at all back then – it was a rough-and-tumble brawl of a practice area that big firms wouldn’t touch — so Flom had the field all to himself. And the rest of course, is history.

As the obituaries bear out, Flom was many things: a big firm lawyer and innovator, a humanitarian and philanthropist (his firm funded 620 fully funded legal aid fellowships), a father, grandfather and husband. But make no mistake:  he was also a solo.