Obituary: Joel Zweibel
Leading bankruptcy lawyer Joel Zweibel died at home on Tuesday, Sept. 24, after a long illness. He was 78.
Zweibel, who retired in 2001, played a principal role in the representation of creditors in many major corporate reorganizations and restructurings in the last 25 years of the 20th century, including Texaco, Lomas, Eastern Air Lines, Macy's, Public Service Company of New Hampshire, LTV Corporation, Baldwin-United Corporation and the airline Braniff.
"He was a very strong advocate for his clients," said Peter Pantaleo, the head of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett's bankruptcy practice who in 1984 was hired by Zweibel as an associate at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. It was Pantaleo's first law firm job, and he would later follow Zweibel to O'Melveny & Myers.
"He taught well. He was a very good teacher," Pantaleo said. "You always wish to have a mentor who takes an interest in you as a young person, and Joel took the time to do that with me. And he was very meticulous. We had a phrase: 'Zweibelized.' It meant that a brief came back from Joel with all his markups. That was his tendency."
Zweibel earned his undergraduate degree from Baruch College in 1955 and graduated from Yale Law School in 1958. Bankruptcy was his focus from very early in his career. In 1965 Zweibel started at Kaye Scholer—then called Kaye Scholer Fierman Hays & Handler— where he became a partner and founded the firm's creditors' rights department. In 1979, he left to cofound the now-defunct firm Gelberg & Kronovet. In 1981 he joined Kramer Levin, then called Kramer Levin Nessen Kamin & Soll—to head its creditors' rights department.
In 1990, Zweibel was asked by Warren Christopher, then chairman of O'Melveny, to establish an East Coast bankruptcy and creditors' rights practice for the firm's New York office. Zweibel accepted, and served as senior partner and cochair of the department.
Zweibel was a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference, serving on its executive committee and as chair of its committee on avoiding powers. He was a former regent and director of the American College of Bankruptcy, as well as a former chair of the New York City Bar committee on bankruptcy and corporate reorganization. He coauthored the textbook Herzog's Bankruptcy Forms and Practice (6th Ed., 1980) and was a contributing author to the Collier Bankruptcy Practice Guide.
In retirement, Zweibel mentored young adults. He served as an alumni advisor to Baruch College's Prelaw Society, and in 2002, he cofounded the school's Executives on Campus program.
"He was determined to provide support and guidance to young men and women of limited financial means who sought a career in law," his family wrote in a biography of him.
A 2011 profile of Zweibel in Baruch College's alumni magazine noted the strong bonds he formed with his mentees.