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Krupin O’Brien is an 18-lawyer D.C.-based firm that does management-side labor, employment, and immigration law exclusively. Founded in 1997 by Jay Krupin, James O’Brien, and Caryn Pass, the firm started out by representing hospitality industry clients in labor disputes and soon branched out to represent other service industry clients. It now does labor work nationwide. In addition to defending companies in courts and agencies across the nation, it drafts policies and procedures to meet the demands of ever-changing employment laws, negotiates collective bargaining agreements, testifies before congressional committees and government agencies, enables the transfer of corporate executives and management to the United States, and offers counsel in every aspect of the employment relationship. Why did you decide to start your own practice? Krupin O’Brien was started six years ago. Our goal was to develop a law firm that would be a specialty practice. We are “left eye doctors,” and that is exactly what we want to be. We practice in three major areas representing employers and management. They are labor relations, employment law, and business immigration. We wanted to be the place to go with any workplace issue. Other firms practice in these areas as a service for work brought in from other major business. We wanted our clients to know that they were getting the best advice from true experts and specialists in these fields. We were not going to be a mega-firm, one-stop, HMO shop. We also wanted to establish a firm that prides itself on two major elements: a great culture and the opportunity to make business decisions decisively. We wanted to practice law in a place where creative legal thinking was a valued commodity, where being creative and cutting edge were not clich�s, but actual day-to-day events. The ability to advise clients, not by telling them what they cannot do, but instead finding lawful methods for them to meet their business objectives, is what we are all about. So we decided to build a firm on three principles from the inside out, which is much different than how traditional firms are developed. We strive to treat our people very well, and service our clients with incredible attentiveness. We knew if we succeeded on these two building blocks, we would succeed on the third, profitability. Tell us about your clients. Our practice is national in scope and transcends industry boundaries. Our clients are businesses that have employees requiring them to deal with the alphabet-soup of employment laws and regulations promulgated each year and interpreted by agencies and courts. We have represented clients in almost every state, and in a variety of industries. We are well-known in the hospitality, restaurant, and food service arena. We represent major hotel companies throughout the United States, national restaurant groups, dairies, bakeries, and food supply operations. From that base, we have developed ancillary relationships with golf course companies, catering, and other hospitality-related business. In fact, the hospitality contacts have opened doors for us to represent health care enterprises. We have a substantial footing in the field of education. Although not thought of as a traditional employer, it is. Our work ranges from representing universities and colleges on such cutting-edge issues as the organizing of graduate teaching assistants, to counseling and defending independent schools, to advising museums in employment matters. Our client base in the airline industry and in associated airport facilities is a cornerstone of our practice. This is a wonderful area for using creative solutions in an ever-changing environment. In addition to the above, our client base is very eclectic. To name a few, we represent trade associations, architectural firms, banks, accounting firms, sports teams, law firms, laundry operations, and software companies. If it is a business that has employees, we represent them. Where do you find your clients? Our business development comes from our prominence in the three areas of our practice. Clients regularly refer us to others in their fields. We have found that while companies may compete for business, they do not want a similarly situated enterprise to be on the losing end of a high-profile legal matter. If one company gets in trouble, they see themselves as next in line. So, to our distinct advantage, our clients recommend us to their fellow industry brethren. This leads to lots of speaking engagements, newsletter articles, and convention appearances. Business develops from that exposure. We also develop a tremendous amount of business from fellow attorneys. If a lawyer is representing a company that runs afoul of a labor, employment, or immigration issue, and that is not their distinct specialty, they call on us. As a specialty firm, they know we are not a threat to do other work for their clients. All we do is workplace law. When it is a “bet the company” matter, lawyers looking out for their clients do not want to be advising on matters for which they have none or only limited experience. So, they call us. In turn, we have developed alliances with these law firms when one of our clients has had an issue outside of the three areas of our practice. How do you measure business success? As noted above, we measure success by the satisfaction of our lawyers and staff, and on the continuing relationships with our clients. You cannot measure a law firm’s success by looking at last year’s numbers. To do so would be akin to driving while looking solely through the rearview mirror. We have enough work that we don’t need artificial billing guidelines. However, our lawyers bill between 1,900 and 2,100 hours annually. Those indicators only tell where you have been. You must look forward to where you plan to go. That means having a culture that breeds great personnel. If your lawyers enjoy what they are doing, have interesting and challenging work, are part of the firm’s development, and are treated with respect and dignity, they will go through walls for the firm and for its clients. That “fire in the belly” is the true measurement of success. Another key metric is the repeat business we get from clients. Our goal is to develop institutional relationships, not merely transactional ones. Some of our clients have worked with us for nearly 25 years. We develop personal relationships with the key players in our client companies. They know we are not only looking out for their business interests, but also to help them do their jobs better. What challenges to your practice do you foresee in the future? At Krupin O’Brien, we put the emphasis on lawyering � the verb � as opposed to being a lawyer � a noun. You have to be creative. You have to want to deal with cutting-edge issues. We want the best and the brightest. The only challenge we see is to attract individuals to match the high caliber of people we already have on board.

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