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Call him the phoenix. The transformations of Jay Krupin’s firms have become legend around Washington, D.C.’s labor and employment bar. And his current D.C. boutique, Krupin, Greenbaum & O’Brien, underwent a major change last month with the move of name partner Jonathan Greenbaum, along with four other employment litigators, to the Reston, Va., and D.C. offices of Boston’s Mintz, Levin, Cohen, Glovsky & Popeo. The departures occurred amid what former firm attorneys say were conflicts over partner profits and associate retention. Krupin and Greenbaum offer completely different versions of who initiated the breakup and why. The renamed Krupin O’Brien is now hiring to build itself back up to Krupin Greenbaum’s 20-attorney size, and few doubt Jay Krupin’s ability to make it work. Krupin, Greenbaum & O’Brien was formed in 1997, when Krupin led a nine-lawyer group away from his former firm, David, Hagner, Kuney & Krupin. With him came partners Greenbaum, James O’Brien, and Caryn Pass. The setup, according to several former KGO attorneys, placed Krupin on the top rung, with the largest number of partner shares and thus the biggest wad of cash come payday. This arrangement did not sit well with Greenbaum, whose clients helped him bring in the majority of the firm’s revenue, the former KGO attorneys say. Not so, says Krupin, who contends that Greenbaum only had one major client, and that was one of the least profitable of all of the firm’s clients. “Jon took one major client” to Mintz Levin, he says. “In fact, one of the issues we had was that he only had one major client, which I had given him.” Krupin and O’Brien say that is why other partners voted Greenbaum out of the firm. “We asked Jon to leave the firm because there was a difference in commitment in growth and development,” Krupin says. “Our profit margin will increase since Jon left by 10 to 15 percent,” he adds. Pass could not be reached for comment. Greenbaum hotly disputes any suggestion that his clients were not profitable or that he was told to move on. “No one asked me to leave,” he says. “My practice was growing, along with my clients, and I just felt it was the right time to move,” says Greenbaum, who adds that he is pleased with Mintz Levin’s culture, the firm’s larger platform, and the increased salaries for his associates. “It was a very hard decision to make because I felt it was my firm.” The current disagreements between Krupin and Greenbaum are typical of the conflicts they had as partners at KGO, say a number of former firm associates, including two who did not go with Greenbaum to Mintz Levin. Greenbaum attempted unsuccessfully to renegotiate his shares in the firm, they say, and the two men had very different attitudes toward the mentoring and retention of associates. Several former associates who declined to speak on the record say Greenbaum was easier to work with than Krupin, allowing more client contact and giving them a greater sense of job security. “I just think that [the split is] a function of attorneys attempting to work together,” says former associate William Trezevant, “and unfortunately, sometimes when people can’t resolve their differences, they go their separate ways.” Krupin deflects the criticism, saying he expects associates to bring in clients quickly. If they do, they will be rewarded with a partnership track as short as five years. Those who do not thrive in his firm’s culture need to be ready to move on. “At any firm, sometimes you don’t get a return on your investment” with associates, says Krupin. “Where that happens, we try to be as amicable as possible.” This is not the first time that one of Krupin’s firms has seen a change in leadership. Krupin, whose primary focus is labor law, joined with three colleagues to form D.C.’s Krupin, Carr, Morris & Graeff in 1982. He left that firm in 1990, with Greenbaum and O’Brien, for the D.C. office of Reid & Priest (now Thelen Reid & Priest). Two years later, Krupin moved over to D.C.’s David & Hagner (now part of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice). Krupin’s name was added to the David & Hagner door in 1995, but a decision to form KGO soon followed. Of his present firm, Krupin says that partners from other firms have already extended feelers regarding joining Krupin O’Brien. But, he says, any future growth will only happen as needed to service clients. “We’ve always grown with the client demands,” he says. “We’re not growing for the sake of growth.”

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