Biglaw, Deaths, Money, Partner Issues, Pro Bono, Public Interest, Trusts and Estates

How Much Was Joe Flom Worth? Some Clues From His Will

Joseph Flom

Back in February, Joseph Flom — name partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and one of the nation’s most successful and prominent lawyers — passed away, at the age of 87. During his life, Flom earned well-deserved renown as an attorney, philanthropist, and mentor. He was also a wonderful father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, many times over.

Joe Flom, R.I.P. — and R.I.C.H. As you might expect from the name partner of one of the world’s largest and most lucrative law firms, Flom left behind a vast fortune.

It might seem tacky to talk about this. But that hasn’t stopped us before given Flom’s commitment to charity, it’s actually heartwarming to see all of the worthy causes that will be receiving much-needed funds from the Flom estate.

So how much are we talking about? And who are beneficiaries of his will?

Nate Raymond has the rundown over at Am Law Daily, in a post that’s a preview of a forthcoming American Lawyer magazine story. According to Raymond, Joe Flom’s estate is “estimated to be in the low nine figures” — WOW. (But we don’t know the final tally yet, since Flom’s affairs are still being sorted out.)

Where’s the wealth going? Mainly to charity, Raymond reports:

The biggest beneficiary is the Flom Family Foundation, which will get half of his estate or $50 million, whichever is less. The foundation previously made donations to the Innocence Project and the Southern Institute for Education and Research, among others.

Flom grew up poor and went to law school on the G.I. Bill. During his life, he gave millions to charity. “He felt a social responsibility,” says his widow Judi. One inspiration was his client, Milton Petrie, a large stakeholder in Toys ‘R’ Us, who gave generously to cultural institutions in New York. Son Jason is also not surprised at the extent of the charitable donations: “From the time we were kids, he told us that he was planning to give his money to charity, and we should go out and make our own.”

Trés Très Warren Buffett. Well, we hope that he at least paid for his kids’ schooling.

Other beneficiaries are Harvard Law School, which will get $2 million for a program dedicated to health law and bioethics; City College of New York, Flom’s alma mater, which will get $500,000; the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which will get $200,000; and Sing for Hope, which will get $100,000. Last summer, the organization decorated New York’s streets with 60 pianos.

There’s also good news for the organization behind the celebrated Skadden Fellowships:

The Skadden Fellowship Foundation, the charitable arm of the firm that provides funding to law students looking to go into public interest work, will get $1 million or 1 percent of his estate, whichever is less. Flom was a founding trustee when the foundation was established in 1988.

And what about Joe Flom’s relatives? Will they be reduced to taking poorly-paid Craigslist jobs? Thankfully not:

Judi will get a $7.5 million bequest, which the will calls “more generous” than the $5 million required under their October 2008 prenup, on top of money from their marital trust.

Here’s some sound career advice: marry rich. Perhaps you can find a nice gunner while in law school, and stay with him (or her) through partnership. Or maybe you can find a spouse who’s already a well-heeled partner at a major law firm (and who’s willing to settle for you after getting rejected by the top slam pieces).

If you marry a Biglaw partner and then divorce him (or her), you could do very well for yourself. Just don’t screw it up by agreeing to a stingy prenuptial agreement.

Back to Joe Flom. During his life, through his superb legal work and client service, his commitment to the public interest, and his generous support of charity, he served as an example of all that a lawyer-citizen should be (for which you recognized him as an ATL Lawyer of the Month). Through the generous bequests contained in his will, Flom continues to serve as a role model, even in death.

Details from Will Underscore Joe Flom’s Charitable Nature [Am Law Daily]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Joe Flom

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