Frederick Penney: Building the Power Firm

“I have never failed in my life.”

If this sounds boastful or a bit hyperbolic, you must know a little about the man to appreciate the validity of this statement. His name is Frederick “Fred” Penney, founder of Penney and Associates. Originating in Roseville, California, the firm quickly extended its reach to encompass multiple offices across the state and forged partnerships with other highly skilled, experienced attorneys and law firms throughout the United States

In the realm of law, where tradition often holds sway merely by relying on the well-worn adage, “We’ve always done it this way,” there exist individuals who defy conformity and instead forge their own unique paths to success. Penney stands out as one such trailblazer, recognized for his inventive mindset and distinctive approach to not only his legal profession, but also as a businessman and in his personal endeavors. Penney defies the conventional mold of all these areas by combining astute entrepreneurial savvy with what used to be called good, old-fashioned horse sense.

Starting at the family farm in Northern California, his trajectory has been diverse and undeniably triumphant. It’s a journey propelled by dedication, enthusiasm, and a bold spirit, transitioning him from the strenuous tasks of agriculture to savvy business choices. He evolved from donning work boots and Levi’s picking peaches on the farm, to sporting Brooks Brothers suits and harvesting global recognition through a multitude of ventures.

These achievements stand as evidence of diligent effort, unwavering commitment, and a deep-seated dedication to justice. Brought up with robust work ethics and small-town values, Penney, in contrast to numerous highly accomplished individuals, has never relinquished these principles. In fact, he currently resides on a small farm, upholding the same traditions and character-building principles that were instilled in him during his childhood and imparting them to his own children.

I hire good people and great attorneys, that’s the key. I invest in people first, not the business. If you don’t have the right people, it doesn’t work.

A Failure or An Opportunity?

Despite his obvious success in a multitude of areas, especially the legal arena, one still must ask, “How do you attain all these achievements without encountering at least one or two failures?”

Penney’s response is indicative of his mindset and his inimitable perspective. He tells of a time, early in his career, supporting his wife and their young daughter, and temporarily living with his in-laws. 

“I was working for a respectable Bay Area law firm,”  he says. “I wanted to do construction/real estate law, but they had four of us working in their personal injury defense department. As we worked through the summer, they let us know that they were going to hire one of us for a permanent position. Later, they amended that to say that three of us would have this opportunity. Guess who was the one not offered the job?

“So, I had to go home to my wife and in-laws, tail between my legs, and say, ‘I didn’t get the job.’ Most people would see that as a failure and become depressed,” he adds, “but I saw it as an opportunity. If that had not happened to me, I would not have had the audacity to do what everyone told me not to do, and that was at a young age start my own law firm.”

Spurred on by his entrepreneurial spirit and a genuine desire to assist others, Penney took the initiative to establish Penney and Associates in 1992. This choice was driven by the numerous appeals from prospective clients who acknowledged his dedication to justice and legal proficiency.

With assistance from his brother, who at the time was a prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Office, Penney trained to become a trial lawyer. He began trying personal injury cases within the first year of opening his practice.

“I went to a national law firm where I knew the managing partner,” he explains, “and told him to give me all the ‘terrible’ cases that they didn’t want to take to court, or just didn’t want, and I would take them to court. And I did!”

His first case, just about eight months after passing the Bar, was against a government entity. “It was a snowplow versus an automobile accident,” he says. “It was a terrible case, and here I was a rookie going up against the county government and their lawyers. I lost, but I gained valuable experience from that.”

From there he was off and running, trying personal injury cases. Soon, losses became wins, and, after 31 years, a firm built of highly experienced trial lawyers with offices throughout California.

Resist, Resist, Resist

Since childhood, Penney grasped the value of a dollar and the necessity of budgeting and thriftiness. His father, a humble man, a dedicated police officer and farmer, instilled in his son a profound gratitude for the rewards of honest labor. As the family exerted relentless efforts to meet their needs, young Penney absorbed every lesson the farm imparted, unknowingly establishing the groundwork for an extraordinary future.

“I’m not one of those who manifested a career in law,” he says. “Growing up on a small, family farm I actually wanted to be a farmer or rancher. It was my father who helped me consider other options. ‘It’s fine if you want to be a farmer or rancher, but if you go to law school you can buy all the farms you’d like.’ My older brother set the example for me, but I think the real epiphany came one day when I was about 18. I was working on a car in a wrecking yard and a bunch of oil spilled. Now covered in black oil my dad said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to go to law school?’ I quickly responded, ‘Yeah, I do.’

Not born into wealth and privilege or afforded the luxury of an Ivy League education, Penney was raised on the principles that seemingly can only be gleaned through the unending toil demanded on a farm. Nevertheless, he made sure to acquire a top-notch education. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy at Brigham Young University in 1988, his academic pursuits led him to J. Reuben Clark Law School, where he earned his Juris Doctor in 1991. Expanding his outlook even further, Penney’s philosophy studies allowed him to sharpen his analytical and critical thinking skills, proving to be invaluable not just in his legal career but also in the myriad other endeavors he would pursue.

The influence of his agricultural roots is evident in numerous aspects of Penney’s life, particularly in how he decided to utilize his hard-earned dollars once the success of his law practice became undeniable. While fellow prosperous attorneys were treating themselves to luxury toys or extravagant McMansions, he chose a more modest lifestyle. Instead of succumbing to the natural impulse to reward himself lavishly, he shrewdly embarked on a path of diversification, investing rather than spending. Today these investments include real estate, a chain of fast-food restaurants and many other business ventures.

In real estate the mantra is “location, location, location”, Penney’s is “resist, resist, resist.”

Presently, Penney finds himself soaring to new heights, courtesy of his very successful law firm’s Phenom 300 jet. Demonstrating the attorney’s sharp business acumen, the aircraft seamlessly fulfills two crucial roles. Firstly, and perhaps most prominently, it addresses the practical need for a jet at the firm’s disposal, given the extensive travel demands placed on the attorneys. Additionally, the impeccably crafted graphics serve as a striking means of perpetuating the firm’s market branding.

A man of considerable accomplishments, such as Penney, often finds himself the subject of inquiries from those seeking insights into his success or from admirers. One recurring question he regularly fields revolves around the origins of his business acumen. It seems improbable that a former farm boy turned attorney with a background in philosophy could achieve such remarkable success in law and business. Penney has even extended his prowess into the field of information and talk radio. He hosts a live, call-in radio program, Radio Law Talk, which is currently the second largest nationally syndicated legal radio show in the United States. This popular program addresses the most relevant legal issues of the day and is produced by three-time Emmy winner Cal Hunter. It’s just another avenue this dedicated attorney has chosen to serve his community and the country.


Make sure that you’re happy no matter what, but don’t be satisfied or content. I’m always happy where I am, but I’m never content, I’m always building.

In addition to all his other achievements, Penney is the author of two bestselling books Goose and Goose 2 featuring glimpses into his life, career, and philosophy for success both personally, as a lawyer and in business.

“People always ask that,” he says, “is innate or is it learned? I think it’s both. I didn’t grow up in a family of businesspeople. I grew up in the country and the school of hard knocks. It’s a lot of hard work, but people frequently credit my success to luck. My response to that is, I put myself in a position to be lucky.

“I hire good people and great attorneys,” he continues, “that’s the key. I invest in people first, not the business. If you don’t have the right people, it doesn’t work. I grew up with next to nothing financially, but don’t get me wrong we weren’t on the welfare lines. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad a police officer. We lived off the land too with our fruit trees, vegetable garden and every once in a while we would butcher a cow. That taught me a lot of important things. When the time came to open my firm, and it started to do well – I think we had our fourth child at the time – we opted to live humbly and paid off almost all our debts. My wife, a former nurse helped put me through law school, and then when the children began to arrive was a stay-at-home mom. That’s when I adopted the mantra resist, resist, resist. All we did with that newfound money was invest back into the law firm and other successful ventures.”

Back to His Roots

There’s no denying the powerful influence his parents and the family’s lifestyle have had on Penney. Many people might not realize it, but as he points out, having the kind of business success he now enjoys can have its own challenges. Because it’s important to him and his wife to instill these same values in their children.

“My boys and I build fences, install sprinklers, take care of cattle, and I’ve taught them from the age of 8 that they have to work,” says Penney. “They’ve now become lawyers in our firm. Just because you have financial resources doesn’t mean that you just give it to the kids. People always found it strange that after putting in a full day at the office, I’d rush home to do chores with my boys. They asked why I didn’t just hire people and I’d tell them because I’m raising boys.”

Penny’s priorities are unmistakably evident, and his life philosophy stands firm. Having achieved success in both business and the practice of law, as well as raising a beautiful family that now includes eight grandchildren, he remains a down-to-earth individual. Despite the celebrity status he has acquired through Radio Law Talk, he maintains the same demeanor whether in the court room or engaged in the practical task of mending a fence.

“Make sure that you’re happy no matter what,” he offers, “but don’t be satisfied or content. I’m always happy where I am, but I’m never content, I’m always building.”

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Los Angeles, CA 90025

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Favorite Quote

I hire good people and great attorneys, that’s the key. I invest in people first, not the business. If you don’t have the right people, it doesn’t work.