Ten Years of Rules of the Road

Ten Years of Rules of the Road

Ten years ago, Trial Guides first published its best selling book: Rules of the Road, by Rick Friedman and Patrick Malone.

As we approach the holidays, we wanted to take a moment and give thanks for the past ten years. We are proud not only of all our authors and the wonderful work they do, but of each and every one of our customers. The work you do representing the injured, bereaved, and downtrodden—though it may be hard, demanding, and often thankless—is vital our society. You are the reason we come to work everyday and the reason we strive to create products aimed at helping you and your clients. So thank you for the work you do.

Rules of the Road has been instrumental to tens of thousands of lawyers working to represent their clients more successfully. Earlier this year, we had the chance to reach out to the authors of Rules of the Road. They were kind enough to share a few thoughts on what the book has meant to them, ten years after it’s first publication. After reading their responses, the company’s founder thought he would share a brief recount of the history of Rules of the Road and what it has meant for Trial Guides and the way it has impacted the practice of law. Their thoughts are below.

From the Authors:

Some have likened publishing a book to putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out to sea. You don’t know who—if anyone—will read your message; you don’t know who the message will connect you with.

Ten years after Pat and I threw Rules of the Road into the sea, I have been changed by the book in ways I could not have imagined. Or, more precisely, I have been changed by the readers of the book. First, the book connected me to one of the finest lawyers I know, my coauthor, Pat Malone. Then, it connected me with a group of professionals at Trial Guides, committed to assisting plaintiffs’ lawyers in all aspects of their practices. They took a chance on a strange and unusual book. And, most important, it connected me with courageous lawyers throughout the country, fighting for something bigger than themselves. So happy birthday [anniversary?] Rules of the Road, and thank you for connecting me to a community of smart, idiosyncratic, neurotic, funny, resilient, and values-driven lawyers, who are fighting for the soul of this country.

—Rick Friedman

Ten years! It feels like only yesterday that we launched Rules of the Road. I’m grateful for many things: for the chance to work with a great lawyer like Rick Friedman and the superb staff at Trial Guides, for the opportunity to get to know a bunch of wonderfully dedicated plaintiffs’ advocates across the country who want to do their very best for their clients, and—selfish, maybe, but it’s true—I’m grateful for how I’ve become a much better lawyer by toiling on this book and the many talks I’ve given about our approach to advocacy. There is no better way to learn something than to confront the terror of having to develop your own ideas and explain them in public. Thank you, Rick, for giving me that chance. And thank you, Aaron and the whole Trial Guides team, for sticking with us.

—Patrick Malone

A Note from Our Founder:

Insurance guru Gary Fye introduced me to Rick Friedman in early 2004, not long after I’d self-published my book on Colossus—the beginning of what would become Trial Guides. At the time, I was just four years out of law school, knew little about the practice of law, and had no intention of starting a publishing company. I had no background in publishing, and had no idea how to put a book together. I had turned down offers on my Colossus book from three of the major legal publishers because, despite my lack of experience, I strongly believed in creating uncensored resources for plaintiffs’ lawyers that I could prohibit from being sold to insurance companies.

Gary told me that Rick was, although little known at the time, one of the best trial lawyers in the country and that I should get to know him. He told Rick about my self-published book on the insurance industry’s secret bodily injury software. During our brief first meeting, Rick talked about wanting to write a book on the methods he had successfully used to win difficult cases in Alaska. He was interested in having me help him because he didn’t want to work with the established legal publishers. He didn’t think the book matched their model of publishing. I told him I’d be happy to help.

Rick and I corresponded regarding cases for about a year before he sent me an email on July 1, 2005. It said, “I am starting my book.” Three weeks later, he had finished seven chapters and told me he would have it done in August. He wanted to know if the book would be out by January. Looking back, I was oddly optimistic about this request, given that Trial Guides had neither any editors nor graphic designers and I didn’t even know anyone with those skills. Instead, I was more concerned about finding outside legal counsel to review it in time to meet the deadline, per the requirements of my media insurance.

Two days later, Rick emailed me:

For the title, I am thinking of The Rules of the Road for Trying Insurance Bad Faith and Other Difficult Cases. Kind of a long title. If you have any other ideas, I’d like to hear them. I am thinking the book cover might look a little like a driver’s ed manual. Maybe yield and stop signs in the background, but the signs saying “don”t yield” and “don’t stop.” But I”ll leave that to the experts.

Apparently Rick thought I was that expert, since I was running the company alone out of one small office in my solo law firm.

Early on, Rick and I discussed some of the problems with legal publishing, and how we thought it could be improved. Instead of going with a binder, and providing annual updates that would be billed to lawyers who hadn’t ordered them, we decided on a conventional book format. Rather than going with a conservative text-only cover, we would use graphics. Instead of focusing on case law, we would focus on the more timeless and practical skills practicing lawyers need to succeed. And instead of starting prices at $300 with annual updates of $85 or more, we would sell the book at a one-time price of $95. While its beginnings were humble, the formula Rick and I discussed for Rules of the Road has changed legal publishing. Rather than focusing on profits, Trial Guides has always put helping practicing lawyers and their clients first.

Rick finished the first manuscript of Rules of the Road on August 5. The original manuscript was 200 pages long. Five covers were developed by our first (part-time) employee, and Rick selected a cover that matched his idea of looking like a driving manual. At the time, we were operating under a different name. Due to Rick’s concerns about another similarly named publishing company that published romance and erotic novels, I renamed the company “Trial Guides.”

After sending Rules of the Road out for reviews, Rick realized that the book could be improved by bringing in his fellow Inner Circle member Patrick Malone as a coauthor. Pat did a good deal of work on Rules of the Road, expanding concepts and broadening the scope of the book. On October 7, the book was retitled Rules of the Road: A Plaintiff Lawyer’s Guide to Proving Liability. With Rick and Pat’s collaboration, the manuscript increased to 300 pages.

The legal review for the Colossus books had taken nearly a year, and the necessary rewrites to get legal approval took almost another. Aware this was not going to work with Rick’s time expectations, I found a new publishing lawyer for Trial Guides who has been our outside counsel ever since. He was able to turn the legal review around quickly and it helped us keep the book moving forward.

At the time, the only experience I had in printing a paperback was a small 100 page version of the Colossus book I had printed at a local Kinkos in 2002 before the larger binder books came out. I had never had a problem with the quality, so I went back to Kinkos to print the first run of Rules of the Road.

I’d like to tell you that it was a smashing success, and in a way it was. The book sold more quickly than any of us had expected. The downside however, was that Kinkos had used the wrong kind of glue to bind the books, and I quickly received reports that pages were falling out. I agreed to replace every defective copy for free, and Rick and Pat were both very forgiving.

In quick order, I researched the best book manufacturing machines in the world (Swiss) and then found a printer that used those machines in the US. I wanted to ensure Trial Guides never had a quality issue again. I reprinted Rules of the Road in hardcover, and Trial Guides continues to use that printer to this day. I still keep a few copies of that first failed paperback in the office to keep the company focused on creating the very best quality products.

In addition to excellent writing and editing, Pat also brought something that proved to be instrumental to the success of both Rules of the Road and Trial Guides—a review by David Ball. As Rick and Pat say in the preface to the second edition:

"Like those of countless other plaintiff’s lawyers, our ideas have been picked up, polished, and refined by one of the great legal tacticians of our age, David Ball. Ball picked up an early copy of Rules of the Road and ran so fast we often lost sight of him. He immediately understood the power of this approach and brought his own energy and creativity to improving it. He saw things we did not and knew how to teach things we had trouble articulating."

While Rules of the Road would have found some level of success on its own, I think we all agree that had it not been for David’s praise, it would not have become the overwhelming success it has been since its release. I also have no question in my mind that were it not for David Ball’s promotion of Trial Guides, our company would not exist today.

Rules of the Road is the best selling book that Trial Guides has ever released, and its sales have all been put back into creating new products for plaintiffs’ lawyers. I know that were it not for the book’s success, none of the other Trial Guides products would exist. From the feedback I’ve been given over the years, I know that tens of thousands of lawyers, and likely hundreds of thousands of injured people, have benefitted from this book. Ten years later, I am still in the trenches trying larger cases and have benefitted immensely from learning all I have from Trial Guides products.

Aaron DeShaw
Founder of Trial Guides

Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road by Rick Friedman and Patrick Malone