Geared Up

Racing or litigating, Keiner aims to win.

Published in 2007 Florida Super Lawyers — June 2007

As Jeffrey Keiner sees it, racing a car around the track is not so very different from taking a case to trial. He’s been doing both for three decades.

As head of the litigation department at Orlando’s GrayRobinson, Keiner represents architects and engineers in construction lawsuits and businesses in commercial disputes.

Keiner’s love of auto racing was born in his hometown of Indianapolis, where his father, also a lawyer, took him to the Indy 500 and helped him build his own go-carts. These days he’s moved up in the world, favoring Porsches.

His love affair with Porsches began in 1969, when he went on a skiing trip in a Navy buddy’s 1963 Cabriolet. “I’d never seen one before, but fell in love with the car during the trip, and I vowed I had to have one.”

Keiner scraped together enough to buy his first Porsche while he was in the Navy. After graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, he found a 1955 Porsche—a 550 Spyder—and made a persuasive presentation to his bank loan committee.

He got the money, and Keiner took the Spyder to the Sebring International Raceway in 1980.

“I had been to racing school but didn’t have a clue about some of the details that go into preparing for a race,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about putting together a racing team.”

Through the ’80s and ’90s, Keiner raced Porsches several weekends a year. His most ambitious project was assembling a team to race his 1974 Porsche 911 RSR in the 2004 Le Mans (France) Classic, a lifetime dream for race drivers. He gathered racing suits, tools, radios, extra parts—then shipped them off in a container with the car.

“The invasion of Normandy was probably not as complicated as this,” Keiner says.

There was a mix-up after the ship arrived. The car was loaded onto a truck … and mistakenly sent to Zurich. One of Keiner’s co-drivers asked a port dispatcher to help find the missing shipment. The woman said she loved racing and asked if she could have tickets. The driver agreed, if the car could be located. The dispatcher called back several tense hours later, having found the lost Porsche. It barely made it to Le Mans.

But it was all worth the trouble: Keiner’s team finished third in the 24-hour race.

To Keiner, 60, there are similarities between his vocation and his hobby. “They are both competitive. You have to have the drive to win. You have to be better prepared than your opponent.”

Keiner races and shows his vintage Porsches on weekends. “It’s actually good for business, because I’ve met interesting and wonderful people along the way, and many of them have become valued clients over the years.”

Besides, as Keiner can testify, it keeps him sharp for his day job.

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