By Sarshar Hosseinnia
I’d barely switched the Otter transcript recording on when Frederick W. Penney, Injury Lawyer, hit me with ‘the key to happiness.’ Fortunately, I’d just caught the very last – and arguably most important part, “enjoy where you are.” I immediately knew I’d be in for a wild ride.
Growing up in a small northern California ranch in a town of just over 600 inhabitants, Penney initially studied Philosophy. When his father insinuated that you could either be the person standing high above holding the money, or the people laying prone on the ground, he had a drastic rethink. This admission served as the basis to propel him into the world of law where he would ascend – both literally, and metaphysically, to heights unconquered.
Starting out in the Bay Area at a big mega firm, his superior work ethic led to him starting his own firm within a year of passing the bar exam. Armed with a “watch me do it” mentality, Penney set off on his journey to innovating the legal industry, blending entertainment with the white-collar aspect of it.
A self-professed ‘hot shot’ lawyer, Penney began his sojourn into the world of jurisprudence by taking the cases his peers didn’t want. Soon enough, he was taking the largest firms in the U.S. to trial, and even a county. Yes, you read that correctly, a county! While he wasn’t successful in that specific trial, he’d learned a valuable life lesson; “the great lawyers lose some (trials) because they risk taking on the tough cases.”
While Penney’s brashness and notoriety may have led to some turning their noses up at him, his achievements through the years have earned him the nickname “the Super Lawyer,” such is the sheer amount of times he’s been nominated for the coveted Northern California Super Lawyer Award. His escapades earned him TV time on local news stations in the era before The Jerry Springer Show, Judge Judy, Maury, etc started what was eventually coined “trash T.V.”
But don’t let this infamy fool you. Penney was also establishing his own law firm, initially called The Law Offices of Frederick W. Penney in the greater Sacramento area. Having already conquered the “TV lawyer” years earlier, Penney was already readying for his next pioneering move. “I started bringing in the top Trial Lawyers from the insurance companies, and from there it just boomed.”
Possessing a business-first mantra, Penney created routes for attorneys to propagate alternative career paths, all the while living by the three words that would define his future direction and methodology. “I wanted to diversify but I told myself three words; resist, resist, resist. People say that’s my mantra.”
In the span of a decade Penney began investing in companies – taking on partners in 46 states nationwide. “All my success has taken time. It’s okay not to get rich quick,” he says in a pragmatic tone. While sensible and astute in his business reflections, it’s clear he’s still a philosopher at heart. Reminiscing on his years growing up in the peach ranches, the man who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Designation by America’s Top 100 Attorneys for the Northern California Region, emphasizes the need for balance. “I’ve made more successful power business moves and decisions on a swing out in the country,” he says. “Not in a boardroom, not with individuals in a meeting, but sitting on that swing, eating my mandarin oranges from my 36 mandarin orange trees.” It’s clear the challenging life lessons of toiling away on a ranch has served its purpose. “You need to learn as a good entrepreneur to find that place – no matter where it is, to think, to analyze, and to decompress, and then you make good decisions.”
Even though Penney emphasizes his role is as a businessman first and foremost, he admits that success isn’t dependent on passion for an endeavor, and credits others with his success, because “other people helped me get there.” Penney’s vision of what ‘business’ is, is certainly unique. As an “outside-of-the-box thinker,” Penney became one of the first high-profile lawyers to sponsor race cars, as he noticed the minimal competition for race car parts. Starting Penney Racing in the late 90’s, it became the second largest distributor of racing parts in the Western United States.
Not stopping at simply owning race car parts, Penney was part of the ownership of the race-engine building company Comptech Racing Engines, whose engine was responsible for winning the Indy 500 in 2001, with its Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya, once ranked among the top 50 Formula One drivers of all-time. “Why did I do that?” he asks rhetorically. “Because I built my name. It’s all about marketing. Why do I get into radio stations? My name. Everyone knows the name. I did it to sponsor my name and my company. And that’s my philosophy.”
Speaking of radio, Penney’s Radio Law Talk is years ahead of its time. Reaching a new generation of budding lawyers, the show focuses on excitement, entertainment, and informing the audience on the latest legal stories, trends, and advice for those looking to break into the industry. “I’m proud that my name and voice is a draw,” he says. “The networks want us to compete against the biggest shows in the country.”
Certainly, Penney’s work ethic is unparalleled, and slowing down is not an option. Unless it’s from a 14-hour day, to a 10-hour one. And – even though his work rate and success stories stem from life lessons learned from people like his Grandmother, “who never took no for an answer,” and his conviction that “success is fluid,” Penney’s joy for living keeps him driving forward.
So what was the part of the key to happiness I’d missed at the start of our interview? “I’ll always make money,” he responds. “You know why that is? Because my boat is always on the ocean and I adjust my sails constantly.”
Frederick W. Penney is the CEO and Founder of his California firm, Penney and Associates, and of the national firm; Penney, Galbraith, Elder, & Brannen. He is a 2018-2021 selectee for the Northern California Super Lawyer Award, has the highest AVVO personal injury attorney rating – a “10 – Superb Lawyer,” as well as an AV Preeminent-rated Attorney by Martindale Hubbell, one of the most prestigious ratings systems in the United States.
Penney was awarded Best Attorney Lifetime Member by Rue Ratings Best Attorneys of America.
Oh yeah, he also owns a plane – a Phenom 300 Jet to be exact.
For a greater insight into the inner workings of Frederick W. Penney, please visit: https://www.penneylawyers.com/