VOL. 128 | NO. 208 | Thursday, October 24, 2013
Memphis Law Talk
Jehl Stands Up For Those Unable to Defend Themselves
By RICHARD J. ALLEY
Attorney Cameron Jehl has ventured out on his own, opening the Jehl Law Group PLLC at 60 S. Main St. in Downtown.
Jehl most recently worked for 13 years for the firm of Wilkes & McHugh PA, a Tampa-based national firm that handles cases of nursing home negligence. He worked in the firm’s Little Rock office for a year before moving back to Memphis to open an office here.
The firm’s rented space was in the office of another local defense firm. Over time business increased, requiring the hiring of staff and additional attorneys to handle the workload.
“We continued to grow the operations here and then I worked out a deal with Wilkes & McHugh to take over the practice here in Tennessee,” Jehl said.
In August, Jehl and Wilkes & McHugh amicably parted ways, with Jehl essentially buying out the Tennessee business. It’s been a win-win for both parties and, Jehl says, they “have a great working relationship” with each referring clients to the other.
As far as entrepreneurship goes, the switchover has been a “smooth transition,” he said, with the safety net of ongoing cases pulled taught below. This isn’t to say there haven’t been challenges, but those have mainly fallen within the parameters of the more typical hurdles any small-business owner knows. In addition to Jehl, two other attorneys – Carey Acerra and Deena Arnold – work with the firm.
Jehl was born and raised in Memphis, leaving for college with the ambition, not of a career in law, but of one in advertising.
“I had an interest in advertising just growing up because I liked the creative side of things,” he said.
Going away to the University of Mississippi, Jehl was one of only two to receive a Bachelor of Science offered in the relatively new academic field. He enjoyed it and appreciated the creative outlet, and even spent his first college summer in London as an intern in the industry. In the end, though, it would be law that grabbed his interest and held it.
His family’s business was the Jehl Cooperage Co., founded in 1898 by his great-grandfather. After issues with government and EPA regulations took its toll, it was closed by Jehl’s father Ila in 1992.
“I enjoy practicing law more than I would have enjoyed doing (advertising) for a living.”
“Seeing him go through those struggles in dealing with those compliance issues made me never want to be in the position where you’re having to depend on others to defend you or take care of you,” he said. “Watching him go through that gave me an interest in becoming a lawyer.”
He returned after his time in Oxford to study at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, knowing that he wanted to practice in civil litigation. He clerked as a student first for Hanover Walsh Jalenak & Blair PLLC, and then throughout the rest of his schooling with Rossie Luckett Parker & Ridder PC, whom he would go on to work for upon graduation in 1997.
Jehl was in front of a jury solo within his first six months with Rossie Luckett. Though he found it “nerve-racking,” he won that case and he has enjoyed the challenge of a jury trial ever since, though they are fewer and fewer these days with many cases being decided out of court. The firm handled many Fortune 500 clients such as John Deere, Grand Casinos, Archer Daniel Midland Group and Circle K; Jehl working closely with Wal-Mart on insurance defense cases.
When he made the move to Wilkes & McHugh in 1999, he “went from one end of the spectrum to the other,” he said, switching to the plaintiff’s table with 98 percent of cases being the representation of nursing home victims who were neglected or abused. With the new firm, he focuses on such cases as well as medical malpractice, personal injury and elder law.
It’s the sort of work that affirms why he became an attorney in the first place, standing up for the rights of those unable to defend themselves. It also keeps him from looking back at his days spent as a hopeful advertising student.
“I enjoy practicing law more than I would have enjoyed doing that for a living,” he said.
Jehl met his wife, Amanda, while at Ole Miss, and the couple has two children – Madeleine, 10, and Cameron, 5. The avid runner is in training for the upcoming St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon, and he also enjoys trout fishing and playing squash in his spare time. He is a board member of the Tennessee Association for Justice.