HAROLD E. KRENTS has moved into a corner office befitting his new status as a partner in Surrey, Karasik and Morse, a major international law firm with branches in Washington, New York, Paris, London and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The view from his office window includes much of Washington's skyline and the top of the Washington Monument. But, said Krents, "It's all wasted on me. They could have put my office in a windowless closet."
Krents is blind.
There are roughly 500 to 1,000 blind lawyers in the country, but Krents is one of the few - if not the only one - to have made partner in a nationally-known firm, according to Philip E. Pofcher, a Boston lawyer who is president of the American Blind Lawyers Association.
There are other prominent blind lawyers in Washington. David Tatel, the head of the office of civil rights in the Department of Health Education and Welfare, became blind recently, and taught himself to read braille so he could continue his carrer once he lose his sight. Before taking the HEW job, Tatel was active in public interest law and was the partner in charge of community service activities in Hogan & Hartson.
Daniel Meador, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Office for Improvements in the Administration of Justice, became blind five months after getting the Justice Department post in the Carter administration.
He uses staff members to read memos to him, and adjusted so well to his blindness that Attorney General Griffin Bell refused four times to accept his resignation.
The difference between Krents, 33, and many other blind lawyers is that he went through college and law school without being able to see.
He joined Surrey, Karasik and Morse as an associate in 1971 - a year after graduating from Harvard Law School with top grades and after having been turned down by 40 other firms because they couldn't imagine how a person who is blind could function as a lawyer.
Krents' life story formed the basis of the movie and Broadway play "Butterflies Are Free." His autobiography, "To Race The Wind," details how he got through Harvard Law by never going to class and, instead, having a steady stream of young women - one of whom he later married - read him the law books as he took notes in braille. After all that, in the early hours of the morning, he would listen to tapes of the lectures supplied by friends.
Krents called his elevation to partner "tremendous" and said it resulted from his opening an untabbed the firm's "pro bono attorney" - the one rehabilitation and handicapped - for the firm.
"Becoming a partner is a dollars and cents issue," said Krents, who was passed over last year. "The law firm gave me no quarter, and I asked for none. So it's especially meaningful to come in and build up to be a partner."
Krents said he was anxious to avoid being tabbed the firm's "pro bone attorney" - the one who took on a lot of good causes that produced no fees. Although he does do some work for no fee - especially for Mainstream Inc., an organization he founded to pull the handicapped into the mainstream of American life - most of his clients in the rehabilitation field pay.
"It's an area which has really begun to open up," he said - especially with the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is a kind of bill of rights for the handicapped.
He also handles corporate clients and is working for the City of Miami Beach's Redevelopment Board on its proposal to revitalize the southern tip of the resort city.
Krents' practice is unusual in a firm whose specially is international law.
Surrey, Karasik & Morse named another new partner who fits in more with its normal practice - William McC. Blair Jr., former ambassador to Denmark and the Philippines, general director of the Kennedy Center, political advisor to Adlai E. Stevenson and, before all that, a Chicago lawyer.
At the same time the firm announced the opening of its new branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to handle its growing middle East business.
Robert J. McManus was named counsel to the firm in its Washington office. He is the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency's oceans division in the office of international activities and an alternate U.S. representative to the Third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea.
Law firms are lining up to get into Washington. At least seven out-of-town firms - some of them biggies - are looking for established Washington firms with which they might merge, according to James B. Gordon, a specialist in arranging mergers between law firms.
He said one firm, whose name he could not reveal because of confidentially rules, is approaching the 200-attorney size and is ranked among the largest in the nation. Now it has found it needs it own Washington branch, as well as Washington expertise, to properly take care of its clients.
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association is taking a leaf from the supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment. It has decided to boycott all of the 33 states that have the death penalty when it holds its 1,000-delegate annual meeting.
The NLADA previously took its 1978 convention from Las Vegas because Nevada didn't pass the ERA amendment and instead will hold it in Washington Oct. 19. It has taken its 1979 convention from Houston because Texas has the death penalty, and that's a problem. The NLADA has to find an alternate spot, which is not easy since many of the states still open to the association do not have the facilities in any one hotel to handle a meeting of that size.