The Doodler

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Joseph Flom, a pioneering corporate lawyer who helped to build Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom into one of the nation’s powerhouse law firms, died on February 23, 2011 in Manhattan. He was 87.

Mr. Flom rose to prominence in the corporate mergers and acquisitions field. “Mr. Flom participated, on one side or the other, in virtually every major takeover battle of the last 20 years,” the author John Taylor wrote in The New York Times in 1994. Companies often hired his firm just to make sure that Mr. Flom would not oppose them.

But Mr. Flom was also known by other lawyers for the elaborate doodles he drew while in thought. These tightly wound, intricate geometric patterns filled the margins of his notes and were uniquely his own designs.

In his 1994 book, “Skadden: Power, Money and the Rise of a Legal Empire,” Lincoln Caplan described Skadden lawyers in thrall to Mr. Flom as they tried to decode his doodles: “One Flom cryptographer identifies them as the prefect symbols, mazes that he creates and solves as he intuits his way through the problems of his clients and then imagines a solution.”

Artist Susan McLaughlin, who worked at Skadden Arps as a graphic artist, wrote about Mr. Flom and his doodles in her blog, Depingo Ergo Sum. “These doodles, which were amazingly controlled and complex, were always rendered on lined yellow legal pads in a ballpoint pen.”

In her blog post on Mr. Flom she included a sample of one of his doodles, which to my eye combined a six-pointed star, a snow flake, and a spider’s web. See it here.

Do you doodle?

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