Keith Flaum, Weil Gotshal & Manges partner (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
If you run through the splashiest tech deals of the last six months, Keith Flaum’s name comes up a lot. He advised Applied Materials in its $9.3 billion merger with Tokyo Electron in 2013. Then he helped Lenovo walk off with Motorola Mobility for $2.9 billion. And last month, he advised Facebook in the biggest Internet deal in a decade. Flaum, who started his legal career at Cooley, joined Weil, Gotshal & Manges in 2012 after the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf.
Q: How’d you end up at this job?
A: After it was clear that Dewey & LeBoeuf was not going to survive, Rick Climan, Jane Ross, John Brockland, Jim Griffin and I decided that we would stick together as a team and look for a new home. The characteristics that were key to us included the highest-quality lawyers, great culture, international platform and great technology talent.
Q: Share one thing you learned working on the Facebook-WhatsApp deal.
A: How to download and use the best messaging app in the world.
Q: Any good stories?
A: It has definitely been a wild ride! Right after we announced the Facebook deal, I called my 5-year-old son and said, “Hey Buddy, I just announced my deal.” He said, “YES!” I said that I represented a company called “Facebook.” He said, “Who?” I said, “Don’t worry, you’ll know them (and WhatsApp) soon enough!”
Q: What’s your take on talk that there may be a new tech bubble?
A: I don’t know whether there is a tech bubble. I do know that Valley-based companies will continue to create significant change and value on a global basis.
Q: Last year, you worked with Applied Materials on its merger with Tokyo Electron in Japan. What are some of the challenges of doing cross-border deals, particularly with Asia?
A: Cross-border deals are incredibly complex and fun. You need to learn how to ask very concise questions. You also need to be patient. I’m often doing deals in Asia, Europe and the U.S. at the same time. The time-zone differences can catch up with you.
Q: Applied Materials has been your client since the mid-1990s. What advice do you have for creating long-lasting client relationships?
A: Obviously, you need to provide the highest-quality legal service. Clients also expect (and deserve) incredible responsiveness. They also want advice—I find that too many lawyers give clients a bunch of choices, but do not provide useful advice.
Q: Do you manage to have any free time? Where/when was your last vacation?
A: Thanks to a great team, I do have free time. I often take short trips to Carmel-by-the-Sea or to see my extended family in Southern California. During the last holiday season, my daughter was born—so no vacation then. During the prior holiday, I went with my family to Hawaii and before that we went skiing in Mammoth.
Q: Any book or movie recommendations?
A: If you are into golf, “The Match” is awesome. As for movies, “The Lego Movie.”
Q: Best career advice you ever got?
A: Someone once told me that a client does not care if a deal is valued at 1 million or multibillion dollars­—every single deal is important to the client. I completely agree, and I try to bring the same enthusiasm and level of quality and service to every deal I work on.