Calling him old fashioned would not cut it. Calling him behind the times would miss the mark. Somewhere in the shades of gray, Nip Jenkins is smiling perfectly content.
Jenkins has done things in a particular way for longer than he can remember. The private attorney born and raised in Baltimore developed a manner for operating his practice and that was never extraordinary by design. He never changed. The times did.
An era of technology transformed what was regarded as the norm. The pace of the world grew faster. Advancements in every field came to redefine those who worked in them. A new breed of business overtook traditional ways of thinking. Now, lawyers and Blackberries are inseparable. Delay in communication is unforgivable. A lack of internet connection is unthinkable. New is an urgent necessity. Just not for Nip.
If not for the advancements, Nip’s office would seem perfectly ordinary. The 6th floor corner office in the heart of downtown Towson is full of windows, each with their own captivating view. Out one is the most perfect angle of the historic State Courthouse Building that a photographer could ever ask for. Another overlooks building rooftops all the way to the clock tower of Towson University. On the walls hang accolades and excerpts depicting over three decades of a successful law career. Because of the change, however it is host to several peculiarities.
There is no laptop open on Jenkins’ desk. There is not a printer-copier-scanner-fax-tanning bed combo machine inconveniently stuck behind his chair. There is no wireless modem, there was no digital clock, there is no spider web of wires hanging off of anywhere. Hell, there wasn’t even a bulky old PC stuffed behind the closet door. Yet, much to the chagrin of Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Alan Elkin, Nip Jenkins goes on.
This is not to say necessarily that Jenkins is behind the times. Jenkins has written and read thousands of emails. He just has never actually typed one. If you have ever received an email from Jenkins, you are likely in an elite crowd of people on Earth who have ever gotten a hand written email. Jenkins writes each and every email response by freehand, then has his legal assistant type and send the document.
“Many people might not believe me,” said Jenkins. “But I am actually fascinated by technology.”
Jenkins described his immense appreciation and admiration for technology. Using great depth, Jenkins explained the benefits of computer programs that help businesses to remain organized such as Quickbooks and Microsoft Excel, despite the fact that he has never personally used any of them. Using great depth, Jenkins described new applications on the Blackberry and iPhone that can be used for advanced navigation, despite the fact that he has never personally used either.
Jenkins owns a cell phone that he carries around with him at all times. It will never interrupt a meeting or conversation however, as Jenkins is adamant about having it turned off except for in times of emergency or when it is in use. Jenkins has his own website. He just has never actually accessed it on a computer himself. Jenkins is even one of the first attorneys in the state of Maryland to have his own Facebook page for his law firm, but don’t expect to receive any “pokes” from him anytime soon.
One meeting with Nip and it is clear that it is not a matter of elitism, just a matter of choice and a belief in specialization.
“I see great value and use in many of these new products and applications,” said Jenkins. “However, I am not very good at using them. So rather than interrupting time and effort from what I do best, I invest in others to implement these programs and applications for me and it’s working out in the end.”
Jenkins’ perspective likely has much to do with the way he regards his work. He holds a more traditional belief towards the field of law, adamantly defending it as a profession rather than a business. Jenkins said he cringes at the notion of lawyers being more regarded as businessmen.
“You go to a lawyer when you have a problem that requires professional attention the same way you go to a doctor,” said Jenkins. “I guess in many ways we as attorneys have brought it upon ourselves, because I rarely see doctors attentively seeking out patients.”
Jenkins said he felt that some of the use of advertisements in the legal field has cheapened the profession. Particular forms of advertising, such as buying print space, radio and television air slots, would have been referred to as barratry years ago. The practice of seeking out legal clients was once more intimately scrutinized. Derogatory terms such as “ambulance chaser” related to such practices are not as commonplace as they were years ago.
“Advertising certainly has a way of creeping into venues where it does not belong,” said Jenkins. “In sports for example, it started off on the outskirts of the stadium. It made its way down to the field. Soon enough it will be like soccer, and be right there on the jerseys front and center.”
The simple word of mouth has always been enough for Jenkins. He said that the human element of his work is the most important part for him. Jenkins is well known for his charisma. His skill as a communicator is an asset in his profession as well as in networking. His appreciation for communications and networking is what led him to explore social media.
“Social media was described to me as a vessel in which to communicate and network with people based off of word of mouth,” Jenkins said. “The ability to communicate with people through these means is a fantastic alternative to advertising, which is something I never wanted to do.”
Jenkins continues to have success using an old fashioned approach to keeping up with the times. Sometimes, the simplest approach to things is extraordinary in the end. Advancement without direction leads nowhere. Much can be gained, however, by utilizing technology with an approach which works both personally and professionally. It is important to remember that even in this new high speed era, how things work does not have to impact the way you work. Jenkins has done things in a particular way for longer than he can remember. His choice of how things work around him allows him to do so.