Lawyers file speedy appeal

Auto racing: A Maryland law firm specializing in personal-injury cases has an unusual place to advertise - NASCAR.

Auto Racing

April 14, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

LA PLATA - If you're out for a Sunday drive and get rear-ended by some guy tearing around like a maniac, you may need a lawyer.

If that Sunday drive happened to be on a NASCAR superspeedway - and the maniac was going about 200 mph - you may be in luck. Your new lawyer's name could be right there - on that guy's dented fender.

Maryland-based Jenkins, Jenkins & Jenkins is the first law firm to sponsor stock car racing teams on a season-long basis.

Call it synergy or call it irony, but a firm that does a lot of business in personal-injury cases is painting its name onto metal that stands a good chance of being crushed and twisted each week.

Jenkins, Jenkins & Jenkins has been in business since 1955, when Louis P. Jenkins Sr. founded the firm. Now, he runs the shop alongside his sons, Louis P. Jenkins Jr. and Frank P. Jenkins.

It's Frank P. Jenkins who has shaken things up with advertising in NASCAR's three top professional series - Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Trucks.

"Dad wasn't exactly for it," Frank Jenkins said while standing near the Nextel Cup garage area at Daytona International Speedway earlier this season.

And his brother declined to speak about it.

"My brother has called me crazy," Jenkins said.

His plan is, at the least, unorthodox.

Though the firm offers a complete range of legal services, the one that heads its list is personal injury. Even Jenkins smiles over that - a law firm advertising for personal-injury business in auto racing.

He acknowledges being teased about his choice of advertising vehicle, but Jenkins can see the humor.

He gets up from his chair in an office in a brick building down the street from the Charles County courthouse that is decorated, in part, in motor sports art, and asks a visitor to follow him into the hall. There, he points to a photo on the wall of a two-car racing crash.

"Last year, we advertised on the 48 of Jeff Green and, during a race in September, someone got a picture of him T-boning his brother, David Green," said Jenkins, 37. "You can see our logo is perfectly visible.

"You do hear a lot of smart comments, but lawyer jokes don't offend me at all, so this certainly doesn't."

"It is unusual," said Nextel Cup driver and car owner Hermie Sadler, one of 10 drivers who carries the Jenkins name on his car as an associate sponsor.

"But Frank wanted to expand his firm's name recognition. I've been in NASCAR for 10 years. I know the marketing power and passionate support fans give the teams and their sponsors."

And though Jenkins thought his "solid six-figure investment" would pay off, he said even he has been surprised by the response.

Recently, he went to the National Wild Turkey Federation dinner and auction. He donated two tickets to the Pontiac Performance 400 in Richmond, Va., May 15, with access to his firm's hospitality tent thrown in and was surprised when they went for $810.

The hospitality tent in Richmond will be the firm's first major entertainment effort at a track. Sadler and other drivers sponsored by the firm will make appearances, talk to the company's clients and sign autographs.

"Racing is incredibly popular," Jenkins said. "We never really advertised before. It's our first venture. And it has made a difference. We've noticed an increase in phone calls and in clients signed up. We get phone calls every day from all over the country."

The firm handles those cases in the states where it is licensed to practice and has a referral arrangement with other lawyers throughout the country.

"Anytime you are involved in a legal situation, it's pretty unsettling," Jenkins said.

"People want a friend there. They see we are involved in stock car racing as a sponsor and feel we have something in common - a love of racing. So they call to ask us to help."

Sponsored teams

Cars with associate sponsorships from Jenkins, Jenkins & Jenkins (drivers in parentheses unless otherwise indicated):

Nextel Cup: No. 0 (Ward Burton) and No. 02 (Hermie Sadler)

Busch Series: No. 00 (Jason Leffler), No. 02 (Sadler), No. 77 (Donnie Neuenberger), No. 87 (Joe Nemechek)

Craftsman Trucks: No. 4 and No. 18 (owner Bobby Hamilton), No. 21 (Hank Parker Jr), No. 38 (Brandon Whitt)

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