A Glen Burnie attorney known locally for his family name and for his former job portraying Chuck E. Cheese is assuming the leadership of the county's lawyers organization, with a focus on cultivating its next generation of officers and enhancing its educational and social activities.
"You've never really practiced law until you've settled a case in the bowling alley," said Gregory P. Jimeno, the recently installed Anne Arundel Bar Association president and son of retired state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno.
Settling cases in an atmosphere where a strike refers to bowling pins, not prospective jurors, is part of the nature of the collegial bar association.
Jimeno, 38, whose law practice focuses on criminal defense, drunken-driving and accident-related cases, notes that the organization has grown over the past decade from a small number of lawyers to 1,187 members today. That, he said, is a sign that lawyers think it's "worthwhile to belong" and enjoy being part of a legal community that retains its small-town feel.
"One of the things we wanted to stress is finding the next generation of leaders," said Jimeno, who worked his way up in the association from playing on its sports teams and organizing events to joining the governing board.
Social aspects of the organization, such as its crab feast, softball league and community service projects, help identify up-and-coming officers, he said.
"What is important at this point is to recognize those people who have been working very hard but haven't been on the board," said Jessica Daigle, Jimeno's predecessor as president. Daigle said that's a key part of creating a pipeline of future leaders.
Jimeno said he is inheriting a superb organization. The association hosts small seminars — featuring members as instructors — which provides something of an informal continuing education program. He led one recently on drunken-driving cases, which was attended by about two dozen attorneys.
The son of a father who served 28 years in the General Assembly and a mother who was a teacher, Jimeno said this is his first elective office.
"I was the class clown. I wasn't the class president," he said.
Growing up campaigning for his father "made this profession an easier fit in terms of talking to strangers," he said.
While a student at North County High School and Anne Arundel Community College, he talked to many strangers — clad as Chuck E. Cheese, the mouse mascot for the pizza restaurant of the same name. He performed at children's parties, mostly at the chain's Glen Burnie location.
Jimeno worked briefly as a prosecutor in the county before entering private practice. He's now half of the Jimeno & Gray practice with Frank C. Gray Jr., but it wasn't always apparent that he'd be a lawyer.
"Early on, there was a struggle to get him to do his homework and pay attention," said Philip Jimeno, who said his son "took off" academically at the University of Baltimore, where he received bachelor's and law degrees, and was editor of the law journal. "I'm very proud of him."
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