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.