Donald S. Bernstein
  1. Partner

Mr. Bernstein, chairman of Davis Polk’s Restructuring Group, is globally recognized as among the small group of leading restructuring lawyers in the world. He has received numerous honors, including being elected by his peers as the Chair of the National Bankruptcy Conference, the most prestigious professional organization in the field. Mr. Bernstein’s practice includes representing debtors, creditors, liquidators, receivers and acquirers in major corporate restructurings and insolvency proceedings, as well as advising financial institutions and other clients regarding credit risks involved in derivatives, securities transactions, and other domestic and international financial transactions.

Work Highlights

  • Companies in restructurings and reorganizations, including Ford Motor Company, U.S. Industries, LTV Steel, Lomas Financial, Liberte Investors, Allis-Chalmers and Johns-Manville
  • Agent banks, major lenders or official creditors’ committees in restructurings and bankruptcy proceedings, including those of Tribune Companies, Delphi, Syncora, Lehman Brothers, Refco, C-BASS, Centro Properties, Enron, Conseco, Adelphia, Bethlehem Steel, McLeodUSA, Dow Corning, Memorex Telex, R.H. Macy, Morrison-Knudsen, Drexel Burnham Lambert, Crown Paper, U.S. Office Products and Toshoku America
  • Liquidators or receivers in international insolvency proceedings, including those of L.J. Hooker and Princeton Economics/Cresvale International
  • Global financial institutions, such as JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, on credit exposures and global credit risk management


Mr. Bernstein is listed as a leading lawyer in numerous legal industry publications, including:

  • Chambers Global – Senior Statesman, USA: Bankruptcy/Restructuring 
  • Chambers USA – Senior Statesman:
    • Nationwide: Bankruptcy/Restructuring
    • New York: Bankruptcy/Restructuring
  • Legal 500 U.S.  Leading Lawyer, Restructuring (including Bankruptcy): corporate
  • IFLR1000  "Highly Regarded"
  • Euromoney USA Best of the Best Expert Guide – named one of the top 30 practitioners of Restructuring and Insolvency in the world
  • Super Lawyers – "Top Rated Bankruptcy Attorney"
  • Practical Law Company’s Cross-Border Restructuring & Insolvency Handbook
  • Law Business Research’s Who’s Who Legal – Restructuring & Insolvency Thought Leader 2018, Who’s Who Legal – International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers and Who’s Who Legal – International Who’s Who of Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyers
  • American Lawyer Media’s Corporate Counsel: Annual Guide to the Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights Law

In addition, Mr. Bernstein’s distinguished practice has earned him the following distinctions:

  • Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards – “Lawyer of the Year,” USA: Banking, 2017 
  • Law Business Research's Who's Who Legal: Insolvency & Restructuring:
    • "Most Highly Regarded Individual," 2014
    • "Lawyer of the Year"
  • Best Lawyers:
    • "Leading Bankruptcy Lawyer," 2014 
    • "Lawyer of the Year," Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law, 2013  
    • "Lawyer of the Year," Bankruptcy, 2013
  • Turnaround & Workouts – "Outstanding Restructuring Lawyer," 2010
  • Euromoney’s Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyers – "Leading Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyer," 2010
  • The American Lawyer – "Dealmaker of the Year” (lead role in Ford's restructuring), 2010 
  • Super Lawyers survey – A Top 100 Lawyer, New York
  • K&A Restructuring Register Advisory Board – One of “America’s Top 100 Restructuring Professionals”

Of Note

In 2015, Mr. Bernstein was awarded UJA-Federation's Judge Joseph M. Proskauer Award.

Current Public Service
  • Commissioner, ABI Commission on the Reform of Chapter 11
  • Chair, Advisory Committee, Program on Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University
  • Fellow and Former Director, American College of Bankruptcy
  • President and Founding Director, International Insolvency Institute
  • Member, Financial Stability Board, IMF Legal Advisory Panel 
  • Member, Editorial Board, Global Restructuring Review
  • Official U.S. Delegation to the Insolvency Working Group of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
Past Public Service
  • Chair, National Bankruptcy Conference
  • Treasurer and Member of the Executive Committee, New York City Bar Association
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
  • Chair, TriBar Opinion Committee
  • Chair, Committee on Bankruptcy and Reorganization, New York City Bar Association
  • Director, New York County Lawyers Association
  • Chair, Visiting Advisory Committee, University of Chicago Law School
Current Memberships
  • American Bar Association, including Business Bankruptcy Committee and the Committee on Legal Opinions
  • American College of Bankruptcy
  • American Bar Foundation
  • New York City Bar Association
  • New York County Lawyers Association
  • INSOL International
  • American Bankruptcy Institute
  • International Insolvency Institute

Professional History

  • Partner, 1986-present
  • Associate, 1978-1986

Bar Admissions

  • State of New York
  • U.S. District Court, E.D. New York
  • U.S. District Court, S.D. New York


  • A.B., Princeton University, 1975
    • cum laude
  • J.D., University of Chicago Law School, 1978