The next generation of litigation has arrived — and one of New York City’s most iconic marketing strategies has a fresh face.
Three years after the shocking breakup of personal injury law firm Cellino & Barnes, famous for its “Don’t wait! Call 8!” jingle, its ubiquitous billboard campaign has undergone a major rebrand: personal injury attorney Timothy Cellino, the son of Ross Cellino, will now help advertise the family firm Cellino Law on billboards across the boroughs.
The since-split Buffalo-born business and its lawyers became local New York City celebrities after opening a city office in 2010 and investing millions into advertising — including omnipresent signage, painfully catchy TV and radio commercials, and the 1-800-888-8888 phone number. The extremely profitable firm then gained more fame when its attorneys began epically feuding, leading to an extensively covered divorce that led to dueling jingles being acquired by the new, competing firms — and even an off-Broadway play. Then, later in 2020, soon after the split, Steve Barnes was killed in an upstate plane crash.
Separate billboards soon began appearing for Cellino Law — featuring a solo Ross Cellino — and the Barnes Firm, featuring the face of Rich Barnes, the late Steve’s brother.
Now, Cellino Law’s billboards will once again show not one, but two smiling legal representatives adjacent to the ominous, all-caps question “Car crash?” and the new number, 800-555-5555. Ross Cellino appears on the left and, on the right, the 34-year-old son.
“Now that he wants me on these billboards, he’s like ‘time to get back in shape,’ so, I’m trying to lose a good 20-30 pounds so he’ll stop yelling at me,” Timothy told The Post of the pressures of being a billboard star alongside his father, the sole owner of the 28-lawyer firm. Currently only one billboard with Tim on it is up — but soon, 10-or-so more will be plastered across Long Island and Queens.
“As a little kid I got teased constantly for the jingle,” added Tim, noting that “My grandfather started the firm in 1958, actually. So it’s a generational business that went to my father and then, hopefully, it will pass on to me and my siblings.”
His three sisters — two older, one younger, all of whom are lawyers — still live up in Buffalo and were happy to let Tim join dad on the signs instead of themselves. (Tim lives many hours away from Buffalo, on Long Island.)
“Better him than me!” Tim’s sister and Cellino Law attorney Annmarie Cellino texted The Post, adding that “Although I am an attorney, I have stepped back from managing cases to instead focus on the business aspect of the firm.”
When he’s not beaming down at drivers, Tim enjoys playing with Sal, his 2-year-old German shepherd, hanging out with his girlfriend, golfing and hitting the gym. In November, for his birthday, his girlfriend got the pair tickets to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden only to be barred from entering after being flagged by MSG CEO James Dolan’s facial recognition technology.
As for Ross Cellino, the billboard development is invigorating. “It’s exciting for me to unveil the fact that I do have a son who can stand in my place,” he told The Post, adding that while he would like the firm to transition to “the next generation over the next 25 to 30 years,” he is most certainly not ready to stop working yet.
And even when he is ready, it seems likely his reputation as New York’s best-known personal injury attorney will live on into his retirement.
“I was just in Grand Central, walking to the office, and a guy came up to me and said, ‘Oh, Mr. Cellino, can I take a selfie with you?’” he recalled. “It’s a little bit weird, that people treat me like some super star,” he went on, explaining that while he’s flattered, “I don’t feel like I’m a celebrity in my mind. I’m just a regular guy.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.