Q&A: Jeffrey Pagano
At a recent meeting of Crowell & Moring partners, Jeffrey Pagano, a member of the firm's labor and employment group, sat next to Keith Harrison, a long-time colleague from the Washington office with whom he shared an interest in street racing.
Harrison was a veteran of "Drag Week," a grueling event sponsored by Hot Rod Magazine, in which drivers travel 250 to 300 miles between several Midwest tracks, pausing to race at each.
Harrison previously had taken along family members. This year, he invited his fellow Crowell & Moring partner. Pagano did most of the driving between tracks, while Harrison took the wheel for the racing.
Pagano said that he was honored to join Harrison in his quest, which took him back to a period of his life he thought he had left behind. The participation of Harrison and Pagano caught the interest of many in the firm who followed their progress in daily bulletins.
Pagano, 63, already is looking forward to next year's Drag Week.
"As I observed and confirmed during Drag Week, passion is the only reason to engage in any activity, whether practicing law, drag racing or otherwise," Pagano said. "Indeed, practicing law and racing are similar, as both activities require courage, preparation and focus within a competitive environment."
Q: What appealed to you about drag week?
A: Drag Week immediately appealed to me. First, it was focused upon auto racing, and second, because the essence of Drag Week is mechanical survival, both on the track and on the street for a five-day period. In short, like trial work, Drag Week is about "put up or shut up." Drag Week has no jury or judge to decide the outcome. Rather, timing lights and distance travelled distinguish the winners. Indeed, surviving five days of racing and driving the race vehicle on country roads in the Midwest, with no mechanical support for more than over 1,000 miles, was a challenge I could not pass up. That Keith Harrison, a partner who has been central in my professional life, invited me only heightened my desire to return to a focus in my life, which existed 45 years ago. That Crowell took an active internal interest in our unusual non-legal exploits reaffirmed my view that Crowell's focus upon diversity in all facets of life, coupled with the themes that lawyers should not take themselves too seriously and that creating value was important, was confirmed once again.
Q: Were you a drag racer in your youth?
A: I grew up in Asbury Park, N.J. There were very few opportunities to distinguish yourself in Asbury Park during the '50s-'60s beyond school grades and sports, or through achieving higher education. At the time higher education was not in the cards. I focused on individual sports, such as surfing, wrestling, cross country and bowling as a youth, but saw auto repair and racing early on as my career opportunity. At the time, my dad, who was a former successful Shore Area High School athletics coach and professional baseball player, was managing a car dealership in Asbury Park. I gravitated to the mechanics area of the shop, not the "white collar" area. The mechanics took an interest in me, teaching me how to build engines, how to focus on reliability and how to be fast, but safe.