Whoever said the wheels of justice turn slowly never followed a lawyer to Bike Week.
The week-long celebration in Daytona came screeching to a halt Sunday and once again the Jacksonville legal community was well represented among the motley crew of about 200,000 that descends annually on the beach community.
“You see Oakland outlaws riding along with dentists from Detroit,” said Spohrer Wilner partner Bob Spohrer.
And, of course, the Jacksonville lawyers.
There’s a surprising number of attorneys downtown with a black leather jacket hanging with their three-piece suits. Spohrer said a lot of lawyers keep their fascination with chrome and triple-digit speeds private because it flies in the face of the sober, reasoned behavior people expect from their advocates.
“People expect good judgment from their lawyers and there’s a sense that riding a bike is reckless,” he said.
Not at all, explains Spohrer. Although he admits he rides his silver Harley-Davidson for the “adrenaline rush,” he said his days of zooming through mountain passes are over. Like many of the legal riders, Spohrer favors cruising the open roads.
“Like anything worth doing, there’s an element of risk, but it’s manageable,” said Spohrer, sounding every bit the personal injury advocate.
Clients on the other side of the personal injury aisle don’t mind a motorcycling lawyer. E.T. Fernandez, a partner at Inman and Fernandez who specializes in personal injury defense, said his clients like his biking experience.
It gives him an edge, he said, when he’s defending a client against an injured biker suing for damages. It’s relatively easy to defend against lawsuits from bikers, said Fernandez. He can look at the circumstances surrounding a wreck and tell whether the biker was driving recklessly, he said.
Fernandez has been riding bikes since he was a teenager when his older brother tore apart a lawnmower and attached the motor to a scooter frame.
“It was great. We had a bike and we didn’t have to mow the lawn for a while,” he said.
Fernandez’ s Herschel Street office is a shrine to a life spent on bikes. There’s no law school diploma on the wall but there is a plaque from Harley-Davidson certifying the construction of his Harley “Fatboy.” Nobody at the office seemed particularly surprised Friday that Fernandez wore leather chaps to work.
Unlike Fernandez and Spohrer, personal injury attorney Barry Bobek does most of his riding these days on the track. He dismisses the current trend toward the wide body Harley-Davidsons, favoring antique sport bikes instead.
Bobek drives a 1969 Triumph — it’s the same type of bike that Steve McQueen used to escape German prison camp in “The Great Escape” — and another English bike, a 1973 Norton.
Like the other attorneys, Bobek admits to some crazy driving in his youth. But the gleam in his eye when he kick starts his Triumph gives the impression that he might not have completely outgrown it. As Bobek explains how to get the bike up on one wheel, he’s asked if that kind of driving “isn’t a little bit crazy?”
“I don’t know, I guess so,” he said shrugging his shoulders. “Hell, I was in Vietnam. A wheelie doesn’t seem so crazy after that.”