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Krupnick Campbell: Accident Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale

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Krupnick Campbell’s Winning Ways

Krupnick Campbell's Winning Ways Lawyers at the small Fort Lauderdale law firm consistently win tough cases against big foes. Along the way they treat their staff well, foster loyalty and play as hard as they work.

LEGAL secretary Shirley Marsden threw her arms around personal injury lawyer Jon Krupnick and sobbed as she thanked him for the bonus.

The check came to a half year's salary.

Krupnick and his partners at the then 12 lawyer firm were capable of such largesse a year ago thanks to a $214 million settlement they had just negotiated for their crop grower clients from chemical giant DuPont.

To celebrate, the Fort Lauderdale firm rented a yacht and threw what partners said was a $50,000 party for 110 guests. Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Better things for better living thanks to DuPont," they danced to live music. And Krupnick handed out bonuses to lawyers and staff that he says totaled $1 million.

"I was stunned," Marsden recalls. "I had raised four kids by myself after a divorce. When this came along, I was 58. It made it possible for me to put money down on a retirement home. It was like a dream come true."

Other employees at Krupnick, Campbell, Malone, Roselli, Buser, Slama & Hancock also found good use for the windfall.

Krupnick Campbell's Winning Ways"My entire law school education was paid for by the proceeds of my first case," says associate Robert McKee, who worked exclusively on the DuPont litigation.

"It was exciting," says paralegal assistant Suzanne Merton. "I went to Africa."

The party marked the end of 2 1/2 years of intense effort at the firm, which represented 220 flower, fern and ornamental growers in Florida, the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Hawaii who alleged that DuPont's fungicide Benlate® had ruined their crops.

Krupnick Campbell's lawyers risked hefty personal and professional stakes to take on DuPont. Twelve-hour days were the norm, weekends off a rare luxury.

Partners skipped vacations. They also skipped paychecks for three or four months at a time so the firm could afford to front costs totaling $7 million for soil and water tests, travel to confer with clients and witnesses, and the fees of expert witnesses, a jury consultant and mock jury.

But the payoff was tremendous. The Benlate® settlement resulted in $34 million for the firm, excluding the $7 million in costs that DuPont was ordered to reimburse. Added to revenue from its other cases, the small firm brought in $47 million in 1994 making it South Florida's third highest grossing firm, according to The Daily Business Review's annual survey. And with an average of $5.5 million in profits per partner, Krupnick Campbell's seven partners at the time easily outstripped the single year average income of any big firm lawyer in the region.

"Benlate® was a real turning point in the maturity of the firm," Krupnick says. "I didn't have a hand in producing this result. It was not a one or two man firm but a firm of eight diverse partners in a much more equal way. It was like a father who has a family, and all of a sudden the young ones are equal adults. It was very exciting."

Ownership shift

That has been translated into more equitable firm ownership interest for younger partners. Before the settlement, Krupnick and longtime partner Walter G. "Skip" Campbell owned the largest amounts of firm stock, although no one at the firm would specify the percentage. Younger partners used the Benlate® payouts to buy shares of Krupnick's and Campbell's stock.

Beyond that, the huge cash infusion has had little apparent effect. The firm has no plans to move from the modest office building it owns near the Broward County Courthouse, although partners have decided to buy new computers and update the phone and dictating equipment.

While partners—three of whom were millionaires before the settlement—certainly live well, including homes in such affluent areas as Rio Vista in Fort Lauderdale and Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, their style is far from flashy. Krupnick, for example, wears a $20 watch he bought at a flea market so as not to attract muggers and drives a 5-year-old BMW.

"Their lifestyle really hasn't changed," says former associate Jeffrey Walker of the partners. "They are real down-to-earth people. They are very successful and financially secure, but they are not ostentatious... They are all good businessmen as well."

And even though their net worth is sufficient to consider retirement, they all continue to practice law.

"The joy of practicing remains even when some of the motivation of 10 years ago is gone," Krupnick said. "Some people want to structure things so they have less stress, but nobody wants to retire. I've never been happier with the firm than I am now."

Firm culture

Krupnick Campbell was able to pursue the Benlate® work and the lean times that went with it thanks to a firm culture that stresses discipline, hard work and camaraderie, according to interviews with current and former lawyers, employees, friends and competitors. The firm is demanding, but makes up for it with lavish office parties, hefty bonuses and generous vacation time - a system that fosters strong loyalty. No partner has ever left the firm that now has 14 lawyers, and at least a dozen secretaries have been with Krupnick Campbell for more than 10 years.

Areas of practice
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