Fifteen years ago this month, I turned down offers from three major legal publishers and published the first two books for Trial Guides. The books were on one of the auto insurance industry’s secret weapons—the Colossus software used to evaluate bodily injury claims. At the time, I had only been practicing law (starting my own solo firm) for three years. I had very little experience as a lawyer, no experience in publishing, and I had no interest in starting a legal publishing company. But because of the sensitivity of the material, carefully written and cited with over three years of research, the wording had to be precise or I would have faced career-ending litigation from the insurance industry.
Beyond this, I was unhappy with the quality and price of what some of the legal publishers were offering. So I decided to publish the books myself, believing I could produce the book at a higher quality, provide it at a lower cost, and control when or if I released updates. The result is that I had to find vendors, publishing attorneys, media liability insurers, eCommerce technologies (then almost nonexistent), and create the entire structure for a publishing company for just two books. It was a much larger undertaking than I ever expected. That was before figuring out how to let lawyers know about the books or get them to understand that I had just unlocked the secret to how insurers evaluated their claims, which became the most difficult task of all. But once they were released in January 2004, the books started selling much better than I had ever expected.
Riding on the success of strong sales for my two books on Colossus, I was introduced to Rick Friedman at an insurance bad faith CLE and he let me know he was writing a book called Rules of the Road. He wanted to publish with me rather than through one of the established legal publishers that would require him to write annual updates. I was a bit surprised, but I gladly accepted. Honestly, I expected it would be the last book for Trial Guides because I wanted to get back to practicing law full time. After Rick and Patrick Malone finished the manuscript (very quickly), I edited and laid out Rules of the Road in a few days and sent it off to print. (For more on what happened to that first paperback, see the blog post on the ten-year anniversary of Rules of the Road.) Rules of the Road went on to become one of the largest selling legal books ever published and continues to sell heavily fourteen years later.
The result of publishing both the Colossus books and Rules of the Road was story after story of life-changing outcomes from the lawyers who read them. The first call I remember was from the wife of an attorney in Louisiana who had purchased an early paperback version of my Colossus book and went from being nearly bankrupt to being able to buy a house within a few months because of the massive changes that happened in his practice once he realized what the insurers were evaluating in his cases. She was crying on the phone, thankful for the change that the book had provided. It had changed their lives in a quick and dramatic way. Then there was a flood of seven- and eight-figure verdicts attributed to Rules of the Road that changed the lives of the injured people whose attorneys had used Rules of the Road to win their cases. More and more stories like these kept flooding in. It didn’t take long to realize that I would do more good for more people running Trial Guides than I could ever do for individual clients in my own legal practice. So Trial Guides continued, creating over 100 products for lawyers over the past fifteen years.
Trial Guides was created to help practicing lawyers learn practical skills that are not taught in law schools. The reasons that made me start a publishing company, and the advice I obtained from Rick in 2005, have guided the company’s goals ever since: provide career-changing practical advice from the best lawyers in the country; offer prices that are generally a third of our competitors; no annual updates and bills that are sent to customers without their permission; high-quality editing performed in the United States that results in books that are easy-to-read for customers who are already over-worked; and a dedication to best-in-class quality books, videos, and CLEs. The result is that Trial Guides has gone on to publish nearly every meaningful book in plaintiff’s law for the past fifteen years. Many lawyers use our methods in everything from practice management and hiring to case intake, writing demand letters, mediation, arbitration, and trial. Trial Guides products have become the basis of many CLEs for AAJ and many of the state TLAs, and are regularly discussed on legal Listservs.
My own trial practice has grown substantially using the methods I have learned from Trial Guides products. Whether it is using my original research to create demand letters to obtain great outcomes, or seeking guidance from David Ball on Damages 3, Polarizing the Case, our 30(b)(6) book, the timeless wisdom in Moe Levine’s books and recordings, or many others, I have used the advice in Trial Guides products throughout my legal career to obtain increasingly better outcomes and increasingly better cases. Nearly anything the defense throws at me, I already know how to handle (in most cases successfully) because one of the Trial Guides authors has previously addressed that issue in one of their products. Since I am in the trenches with our customers, I know what new products we need to consider, and what products will be most useful in practicing law.
Despite the success of Trial Guides, I have come to realize that our customer base is very limited. Despite there being over 1 million lawyers and approximately 150,000 plaintiffs’ lawyers in the United States alone, only about 5,000 lawyers in the world buy a Trial Guides product every year. Those lawyers generally remain the same core group of lawyers dedicated to excellence, and the same lawyers who obtain better outcomes for their clients. Since I continue to practice law, I have run the company for free for the past fifteen years, focusing all of the money from sales on creating the highest quality products for our customers at the lowest possible price. Every author is dedicated to helping our customers, providing a lifetime of advice in each book and video with royalties that could never make up for the time they invest in the products they provide for the benefit of the profession. Since these lawyers write between trials, practice, and personal life, it can take years for a book to go from idea to completion. In addition, every Trial Guides staff member is dedicated to social justice causes, in line with the products they help create. Our end goal is to help you help your clients.
Trial Guides would not exist without your support. The company does not seek donations for our operation, we do not allow advertising on our web page, we don’t sell our email list, nor do we charge membership dues. We do not have a legal research engine that drives revenue like West and Lexis. The support of our customers over the last fifteen years has allowed the release of career-changing products that likely would not have been published by other publishers. Your continued support helps us provide high-quality products and CLEs that ensure the success of the profession both now and in the future, as well as the safety of the people that the profession serves.
I wish you great success in 2019.
Aaron DeShaw, Founder of Trial Guides