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Beyond Washington

While there, he has defended clients including allegedly corrupt drug company executives and former FBI agent Eugene Bennett, charged with trying to blow up a Manassas church with his estranged wife inside. He's also stood up for a host of Clinton associates, including fundraiser Charlie Trie and former commerce secretary Ronald H. Brown.

Winning acquittals for Espy and Carey strengthened his reputation, and the 2002 corporate scandals overloaded his calendar. At one point last year, he was simultaneously defending Ebbers, Belnick, former Rite Aid lawyer Franklin C. Brown and former Enron accountant Richard A. Causey, who goes on trial in January.

"If you come into my office with a story that moves me, I'll take your case. My firm gives me that freedom," Reid H. Weingarten says. (Yoni Brook For The Washington Post)

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Steptoe recently opened a New York office in December in part to capitalize on Weingarten's success. Warin said the firm had toyed for several years with acquiring a smaller New York firm without finding a perfect match.

But Weingarten's burgeoning white-collar practice kept growing, as did the civil litigation department's roster of Manhattan-based insurance company clients. Warin said he finally agreed to take the plunge when he boarded a 7 a.m. shuttle from Reagan National Airport to LaGuardia Airport and found seven other Steptoe lawyers aboard.

The firm's new focus on New York dovetails with Weingarten's personal and professional interests.

"There's more action in the Southern District [of New York] in a day than in D.C. in a month," Weingarten said.

Divorced and a single father for the past 12 years, Weingarten structured his life around his son Ross, now 19. He never missed a high school basketball game and was usually home in time for dinner, Ross Weingarten said.

"He has done so much professionally. . . . He has taken the cases that he wanted and represents the people zealously, and yet he's never compromised his relationship with me," Ross said. "Whatever I need, he's there."

Ross Weingarten is a college sophomore now attending Vassar College, a short train ride from the Big Apple, and his father is in a long-term relationship with Cheryl Gould, a news executive who lives in Manhattan with her young son.

"My personal center of gravity has moved to New York," the lawyer said.

Still, he remains deeply committed to the Washington area, where he and Holder helped start See Forever, a District foundation that works with youngsters caught up in the juvenile justice system and now runs a charter school.

"I love the Washington practice. I love being there," he said. "This is a real fork in the road for me."

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