(1934 - 2021)
At 87, Bob Zeff died peacefully while watching a basketball game at home in Westport, Connecticut. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Bob grew up in Detroit where he played high school baseball well enough to pitch at the University of Michigan and for the Tigers Farm Team until bad knees forced him to make another career plan. He remained an avid baseball fan for a lifetime and rarely missed a Detroit Tigers game.
Bob graduated from the University of Detroit Law School at 22, and in 1957 was among the youngest applicants to ever pass the Michigan bar exam. He began trial practice immediately in his ailing father's law firm and although he was initially a "pink-faced young lawyer trying to retain his father's clients," by the early 1960s Bob had successfully built the firm's practice in handling catastrophic personal injury cases. When million-dollar verdicts first began, Bob became a national leader in seven-figure recoveries. Bob was proudest of a series of press machine injury cases that changed the industrial codes in Detroit's plants.
Newsweek covered Bob in their issue of the "Top 20 Personal Injury Trial Attorneys," and his closing arguments to juries were events that drew spectators from all parts of the courthouse. Bob was also featured in a Detroit News spread which named him as one of a handful of "Most Eligible Bachelors" in Detroit - long before he met and married his wife Susie.
Bob was a world traveler and avid collector of fine art. On a visit to South America, Bob had an Indiana Jones-type jungle adventure complete with artifacts and flying arrows. He was also once surprised to find himself seated at a table with the President of Indonesia at a state dinner discussing international business.
Although mysterious and seemingly unapproachable, Bob was nothing but heart. Brian McKeen related the following upon hearing of Bob's death:
"Bob was a legendary figure in Detroit in the 70s and 80s. I first heard about him when the judge I was clerking for in law school excitedly told me well, hes coming! I asked who he was referring to and he told me A. Robert Zeff. The judge was obviously very impressed by Bob and I soon found out that Bob was really all of that. He was a really handsome guy who dressed to the nines. He had a tremendously charismatic courtroom demeanor. When it was time for closing statements the courtroom was packed with attorneys who came to see the man. Nobody left unimpressed. I was particularly enthralled and became a big fan. Bob was always friendly with me and willing to talk and offer advise. It was really cool to see him in the audience at the Philadelphia meeting when I was inducted into the Circle. I was proud to credit him for being such an inspiration to me in my career...."