63. Joe Fried, Fried Goldberg LLC How To Become An Expert And Revolutionize Your PI Niche

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Joe Fried has taken niching down to a whole new level! The acclaimed truck accident attorney has become so entrenched in his many examples of personal injury attorneys that have taken it to the level of today’s guest. He has become so entrenched in his expertise that when he rocks up to the deposition, it’s kind of like he’s got a superpower.

Today, we meet the man, the myth, the legend, Joe Fried – innovator of the trucking personal injury category. We hear how Joe struck gold by niching down, what it’s like to be a black belt in the world of tracking law and why he’s committed to everything he does, including his Peloton!

Transcript

Chris Dreyer

I’m a huge fan when it comes to niching, so it may be no surprise that we’ve talked about niching a few times on The Rankings Podcast, but I can’t think of many examples of personal injury attorneys that have taken it to the level of today’s guest. He has become so entrenched in his expertise that when he rocks up to the deposition, it’s kind of like he’s got a super power.

Joe Fried

So, I’m going to depose you, a company I’ve never worked against. Tell me what your manual says. You better have a good manual because if you don’t, I’m going to be able to take out a hundred manuals and beat you upside the head with them

Chris Dreyer

Today, we meet the man, the myth, the legend, Joe Fried – innovator of the trucking personal injury category. We hear how Joe struck gold by niching down, what it’s like to be a black belt in the world of trucking law and why he’s committed to everything he does, including his Peloton. That’s coming up on The Rankings Podcast, the show where founders, entrepreneurs, and elite personal injury attorneys share their inspiring stories about what they did to get to the top and what keeps them there. I’m Chris Dreyer, stay with us.
Joe Fried is celebrated as one of the best examples of niching down done well. After all, he basically created the trucking injury category. Picking an expertise can seem like an impossible task for attorneys just starting out. For Joe, it all clicked into place one day when he was at a conference…

Joe Fried

Somebody came up to me and asked me what it takes to be an expert in something. And I said a PhD and 20 years of experience. And they said, well, that helps, but that’s not really what’s needed for you to be looked at as an expert in something. You have to write something that has some authority behind it that your peer group looks at and recognizes it as, you know, scholarly work. You have to be asked by your peer group to present on that. And once you sort of take the stage, if you will, and start to speak to your own peer group, then by god, they’re looking at you as an expert in at least that little thing. And that somehow clicked in my young lawyer brain as making sense. And then I recognized in the process that the more niche you become, the easier it is to become known. So I’ve gone through a couple of iterations of that in my practice. I actually spend, and you know, this, I spent close to a decade of my life doing nothing but post rear impact fire cases, but for a decade. But, you know, that was so niche, people would say, how the hell do you make a living doing that? I made a good living doing it and I also became nationally known for something very, very narrow. There’s no way I could have gotten known for being quote a great lawyer or quote a great trial lawyer or quote a great anything, unless it was really, really niche. So fast-forward to trucking and at the time that I decided I made a conscious decision to choose trucking. And so I helped to create this field and then created myself into the niche and to the leadership in the field. It’s not really magic. Some people say it took a lot of courage to do that, the truth is it took the experiences that I have. So I had been validated in this idea that this is the way for me to go because of my life experiences.

Chris Dreyer

There’s so much to unpack there, you know, being working on these rear end combustion. I mean, there was nobody that understood those vehicles more than you. And I, I remember hearing a story about you crawling under a vehicle at a show to see if it still had, you know, a defect. There’s this other things about you being intentional about just having that awareness of – hey, this, this chair is probably overloaded and needs help and this is a way that I can stand out. You know, it’s a blue ocean strategy as opposed to swimming with the sharks where everyone is, you carved out your niche and I really applaud you for that. What was it like to take that leap? How did you evaluate the opportunity that there were enough trucking cases to really be your core focus?

Joe Fried

There’s a couple things in there to unpack one. I want to give a shout out to my mom who’s the one who first told me not to swim with the sharks. She would have been an amazing lawyer. She’s an amazingly wise person. She’s 90 years old now and she’s one of my heroes. And she’s the one who taught me to not swim with everybody else, that the smarter way when everybody’s selling in the stock market, that’s when you buy. On trucking specifically, you know, at first I’ll tell you people laughed. It. Uh, people literally made fun of what I was trying to do, some really fine lawyers. I was taking myself off of all of these board of directors that I got myself onto in the product arena, in the automotive product arena, that people work their lifetime to get onto these boards. And I was giving that up to choose trucking. I didn’t know how successful it would end up being. What I trusted was if I could get enough post rear impact fire cases to make a living. What I knew is I’d have to be open to my geography being bigger than just metro Atlanta. And if I was willing to have the geography, which I already was, I was on airplanes all the time. Anyway, then I just trusted. I remember I remember the night in a very well I’ll never forget it when I decided to focus on trucking and the tug of war that was going on, my internal voices was will there be enough cases? And I remember thinking, I don’t really need that many. If I do a good job on the cases, I don’t really need that many in order to do fine. And I remember getting up and, you know, ultimately what I teamed up with my law partners, my law partner’s biggest hesitation was: Joe, people are gonna stop thinking about us for everything else, and we’re not going to get enough trucking cases. And I said: I disagree, and if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. I’ll do it as just Joe Fried as the truck guy. And of course now we, uh, we turn away more cases than we’re involved in because it’s there. And you know, now people recognize this as truly a field that’s different than the regular auto wreck field. And that’s appropriate. That’s not just a gimmick of a marketing statement. These cases are different in kind.

Chris Dreyer

I wanted to talk kind of about the pros and cons, because there are some cons, but I really want to start with some of the pros, you know, hitting these main functions of a business. Let’s talk about the first what’s the benefit from a marketing standpoint. Of being a specialist, uh, particularly in trucking, how does that help, you know, your firm? What are the benefits from niching? Is there a marketing perspective?

Joe Fried

Let me start in answering in a way that may be a little bit atypical for the answer. And that’s the step immediately before the benefit from a business perspective is the benefit to a feeling of competency. My experience, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, is that one of our core human struggles as a professional, but as a human is just, are you competent? Are you good enough? And so it served me there to be able to say, I’m going to pick this niche area and I’m going to make a commitment that there is nobody who’s going to know this crap better than me. I’m going to have a PhD in trucking. And then if there’s a, whatever, degree of black belt I want to be that. I may not know crap about anything else, but that is the set up first, because if you have the feeling of competency that you could put yourself up against anybody, then guess what? You can! As opposed to saying, I’m just going to be the best lawyer I can be. Well, guess what? There’s always going to be better lawyers than you. Right there. I mean, it’s just like being the best runner. There’s always gonna be somebody faster, stronger, taller, better looking, whatever your point of comparison. So step one to me is the focusing gives you a true subject matter expertise where you can go and have a discussion with anybody. And that’s a game changer in and of itself. Does that make sense?

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. You’ve heard the quote, you know, competency builds confidence. And I think with confidence you can lead.

Joe Fried

If I were a good lawyer, I would have had, I would have been, let’s say in three words, like you just did what took me 10 minutes to just explain! But I think it’s a huge big deal because sometimes we jumped to the second question which is what’s the benefit of having a niche practice without recognizing that there’s a, there’s a whole human piece that for some of us lawyers, for some of us humans who have that struggle that I’ve described really helps an awful lot. But then beyond that, the next place where it’s helpful is it’s the power of focus. Now, I’ve been out of doing car fire cases for 15, 16 years. Now I still get phone calls saying, Hey man, I met you on an elevator 20 years ago, you’re the only lawyer I’ve ever known who said you for a post rear collision fire case while I have one of those cases. I’m like, well, I’m not that guy anymore, I’ve converted. But so the power is you now focus all of your energy in a narrow spot and it becomes easier to become known for. It becomes easier to get asked to present on it. I’m not an SEO marketing person. I can’t even spell SEO, but I know enough to know that if you’re going to have a website with a hundred pages and all hundred pages are trucking pages then that’s going to generate a different level of trucking practice than if you have, if you’re covering everything from A to Z, whatever… automotive field to zebra bites on your website. So it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that you build the subject matter expertise you put out in the world that this is what you are. You have to live with the discomfort of the feeling that you’re going to stop getting other things and that the fear of that and recognize the power of that which is you’re going to stop getting other things.

Chris Dreyer

Right. And, you know, as an SEO guy, you know, I pulled up your site and I can indeed vouch for the ranking really well for many trucking terms. So you’re a hundred percent dead on there. And I think one of the things that people underestimate too is when you have this deep level of expertise, you’re going to be able to identify content that needs to be created that the lay person, the person not in your field of expertise may not even consider writing. And you will be the sole source again, you know, standing out in that blue ocean, as opposed to everyone, you know, riding the types of truck accidents, the types of injuries, where you really have some unique information on your site about carriers and a book that details trucking cases. And it is a resource.

Joe Fried

Chris, you also have a valid opinion. I know that makes sense. You’re not just putting out content that is factual content. But people are also interested suddenly because you really are. I mean, I view myself very much as a safety advocate in the trucking field, and I’m not the only one who’s views myself that way. The industry views me that way. Not only the lawyer industry, but the industry industry. So I get asked for comments all the time and so your opinion when you are under subject matter expert is content also, if that makes sense.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely, and even in the SEO world, I gotta relate it to that is the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. You know, Google’s trying to make it a point to show content that’s written by an attorney or content that’s written by a physician, for example. They wouldn’t want someone like me explaining what to do if you were sick, right. I’m not a physician. They want a doctor to have that information and if they want it to be trusted. So you really highlight that you’re the trusted source. You know, providing that information.

Joe Fried

Nobody cares if you and I think that wearing a mask is a good idea or not, but if you happen to be a virologist and that’s your field, then people do care. Because people want to know. So it’s the same concept.

Chris Dreyer

I want to jump over to the operation side a little bit on the niching. Let’s talk about maybe some of those efficiencies that individuals don’t think about where you’re handling, you know, maybe cases that are similar to ones you’ve handled in the past, or, and you’re not having to recreate the, you know, a blank canvas every time, and you’re doing a slip and fall, then you’re doing another case and trying to where you can really dial in these efficiencies. So how does it affect you on the operation side?

Joe Fried

Yeah. Yeah. Quick, quick story. And then I’ll answer the question because it goes to the point is I recently I was talking to a defense lawyer and I was deposing his client. We were at a break and he said, Joe, my problem in preparing my clients for your deposition is you’re not prepared for a deposition. You’re prepared for any deposition. And it kind of goes to what you’re saying. The subject matter expertise, a few things happen. Efficiencies are I think because of first of all, that knowledge base. Once you get all these algorithms on paper and in your head about how a case can proceed, there’s certain themes that get repeated. There are certainly defendants, I mean, like at the beginning of my trucking career, it was all about building the case against the trucking company, what could I get? What’s the thought process, what are the policies? What are the procedures? What are the, all of these things? And it was a fight at this sort of individual basis now, because I’ve done that so much. First of all, I’ve gotten, I’ve got the book on so many companies now. I mean, I literally have hundreds and hundreds of driver’s safety manuals. So what does that do for me now? If I’m going to depose you a company I’ve never worked against, I used to care a lot about what your manual would say. Now I’ve got a hundred manuals. I’m going to come to the deposition with the strength of a hundred manuals. Tell me what your manual says. You better have a good manual, because if you don’t I’m going to be able to take out a hundred manuals and beat you upside the head with them and say, are you as safe as this company, this company, this company, this company? This is your prime competition. They have this in their manual. Where’s yours? And so I, my ability to bring to the table that kind of stuff is there. So there’s an efficiency on that side, in terms of knowledge. There’s also a tremendous efficiency in the preparation phase because you know directionally where you’re going to. In my mind I think about it and this is maybe the science part of my background is everything’s an algorithm, right? So if there’s a case where a truck hits a car on a dark highway, the car was disabled in the roadway. There’s only a few ways that that case can play out and I’ve got them all in my head and I’ve got them all on paper and I’ve got already all of the support materials for the different ways that that can play out, right. It’s either a case where the truck driver should have had their high beams on and if he did he would’ve seen the vehicle in time to avoid it. Or he’s driving too fast for his headlights or, you know, it only plays out a few different ways and I’ve already got those algorithms in my head. So I’ve got to be careful not to miss things because I’ve got the algorithms in my head, but I’m a thousand times ahead of most people who haven’t developed that expertise. So I’m not sure if I’m answering your question. Great.

Chris Dreyer

Okay. I think you are. I think it’s a perfect explanation and the way my background is in education, I started as a history teacher and I remember the Bloom’s Taxonomy, you know, you had that triangle where at the beginning, someone can read it, they have a little bit of recall and can pass a quiz and then they can start to you start to move up the triangle and you get analyze, and at the very peak is you can innovate. It makes me relate to your story about the manual because, you know, all of this information about all of these manuals, you can really attack and defend no matter what, because you have a large basis of knowledge to pull from.

Joe Fried

Right. I look forward to taking an expert witness’ deposition with a smile on my face, because I know it’s going to be an intellectual challenge if I’ve got the expert. But I know I also know something else. I know that I can sit across from any expert in this little niche area and I can stand my own. By gosh, I know this stuff at least as well as they do, and they’re not going to pull the wool over my eyes, because of that background and sort of that library of materials that I keep in my head and my, I, when they say something, I know I have eight things that say the opposite. Let’s start to play! And it’s really fun, as a lawyer, I have to tell you it’s fun to have the true expertise. You can be fair, you don’t have to make something out of nothing. It can be appropriate and you can be a human being channeling a jury of people who are going to make a decision on a case and showing them why your position is the credible position. And that’s what wins cases at the end of the day, you being credible and presenting a credible story.

Chris Dreyer

That’s incredible piece of advice and I can just imagine that a jury, you know, listening to you speak upon this topic would just feel that sense of trust that, that you were the expert just to do to the stories and the experience that you can share in the courtroom. Oh, it’s not just an attorney, this is an individual that cares and is trying to make a difference too.

Joe Fried

Chris, when you talk to people about SEO, people know in an instant if you’re the real deal. When you speak to people in your field, you know in an instant, if they’re the real deal or if they’re a player playing at being the real deal. You know it in an inch. And if someone were to say to you, how do you know, Chris? You might say, well, I’m not sure exactly how I know, but I know. Right. And I think that’s the same thing. It sort of happens at an energy level, the competence, the credibility oozes out one way or the other. Either snake oil salesperson or real deal, both of those ooze out, and I think human beings have really good radars.

Chris Dreyer

It’s that intangible…and I completely agree, you just know. It’s really hard to nail down. I wanted to go, uh, a little bit different and I don’t know your space, but have you thought about going deeper? I know you do trucking cases, have you thought about doing 18-wheeler only, or I don’t know the different types of truck cases like you do. I find myself when I’m niching and I talked to other niche specialists, they keep wanting to go more narrow because they understand the space better. Have you had you thought about that?

Joe Fried

I do, but I do it by excluding certain types of cases that I’m really much less interested in. It’s not that I never do them, but there are certain types of cases that I have found that I’m most effective in. And I tend to focus on those areas. You know, broker liability is a big field. I’ve helped to develop that field, but I don’t do very many broker cases. Within broker, I just do really one kind of broker case, which has to do with brokers who exercise too much control or a lot of control over a motor carrier. And in those cases, I like those cases, my heart’s in those cases and I, and I do them. But now that I sort of have helped to develop this field and there’s lawyers all over the place who are concentrating on trucking, there are some lawyers who do a bunch of broker cases, and frankly, there that’s great. I’m happy for them. So I am niching down in that regard, uh, within the field. I don’t know if that really answered your question, but…

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely does, absolutely does. And I think I kind of relate a lot of business to sports. So you got your pitcher, but then you got your pitcher that maybe specializes in the curve ball or the change up. And there’s a lot of different approaches to be successful in a particular area, even in business, in sports, whatever. And I just was curious about that aspect because it’s also something that I’m not a specialist in, and you’re talking about these broker cases. Well, that’s, you know, I would have to go Google what exactly those are.

Joe Fried

Yeah. W well, I, you know, and there’s other things that based on my expertise in the field that have captured my, my attention, for instance, I’m, I have a big focus right now on trucks parked on the side of highways. That is something that general public doesn’t recognize as dangerous as it really is. There are hundreds of people who are killed every year and who are maimed every year by getting in wrecks. The industry knows this. So because this has become an area that I feel like I can make a difference in, I kind of, I’m a believer in you, you kind of put that out in the universe and cases will come. And so I’ve been getting a few of these kinds of cases and they’re interesting to me and I’m taking them and they’re, they’re viewed as very, very hard liability cases because, you know, generally my client has run into the back of a stopped tractor trailer, so there’s a lot of challenge to those cases. But I believe in that challenge and I believe that the world needs to understand that this is a ridiculous risk to put out there. And it’s going to take someone with my expertise to shine a light on that. So that’s another way to niche down is if you have the blessings of being able to choose where you’re going to put your attention in cases, then you can choose the things that are important to you. And it’s not always about money. It’s about making a difference.

Chris Dreyer

Joe has had such an incredible success in his niche that in hindsight, it seems like a total no-brainer. But going down the path took an awful lot of grit and self-belief. Joe took every challenge with a healthy dose of optimism, but I wanted to get his unique view because for many attorneys, the cons of niching might seem to outweigh the pros.

Joe Fried

I don’t think niching is for everyone. And for me, I don’t see many cons. For me, for Joe Fried. And that’s true within PI, I mean, there’s some people who want to be generalists. There’s some people who want to try all kinds of cases. They want to, you know, you, you’re not going to get to do that. So there are opportunity costs in whatever direction you go. And you may not, like my partner said early on, you may not get the XYZ case that you might be interested in if the world only knows you as a truck crash lawyer. To me, that’s the downside, so to speak, if you want to say the con, the con is the exact inverse of the pro. By niching down, you’re saying I’m not going to do these other things. Do you really want the niche or not? The counter-intuitive part is that if you focus and niche down that you won’t get other cases, that the reality is you’re just viewed as a good lawyer. You are thought of you become top of mind for a particular kind of case. My law partner and I every now and then a case comes in that grabs our attention that’s not trucking. And we get those cases. The lesson I’m trying to tell my kids as they’re growing up is you’re truly a blessed human if you can find a way to earn your living in an area that you love. I mean, I’ve been doing this, I’ve been practicing law for almost 30 years now, and I still look forward to getting up and, and being a lawyer. What a blessing that is to be able to do that.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And it brings you energy. It’s just, doesn’t drain you and you look forward to it. So a lot of times, I don’t personally love the question: how do you balance work and home life? Well, if you love what you do, it’s not like a problem or an energy drainer. It’s actually it’s okay. You know, to, to, so I don’t know that there truly is at home work-life balance. I don’t know.

Joe Fried

What I always say to people when they say that, I remind myself of this: show me a successful person who has balanced and I’ll show you a successful person who built their life on balance. What I mean by that is you treasure what you measure and all those kinds of things. You know, all those, what your metrics are. The reality is success, I don’t think is born from balance. Success is born from concentration on something. If you look at wealth in the world, wealth is not created by a balanced portfolio. Wealth is created by a focused position on something that does well, but to do that requires risk also. But when we talk about balance, I do think it’s important. And at some point you wake up and you realize that you’ve neglected certain areas of your life, your health, your relationships, and they won’t stay forever those relationships. If they pass a certain place, you will forever have damaged those relationships and your health, and probably other areas of your spiritual development and whatever. So making room within your life to be mindful of that, I think it’s very important.

Chris Dreyer

You teed that one up for me, Joe. So I was going to jump right into the Peloton. So, first of all, how many days in a row? What was the, what was the time?

Joe Fried

Well, we’ll figure it out together here real quick. I’ll tell you it was 419 days ago. So I have been 419 days on the bike without missing a day.

Chris Dreyer

That’s incredible. So my next question is when, when you’re on the road and you fly a lot, is it, is it on the bike? So you, you hit the, you know, the hotel gym?

Joe Fried

Yeah, for me, it was not, you know, I was never a cyclist. I just needed, I needed something that I could spend 30 minutes on that I can try to do from anywhere when I travel. There’s this one added piece that may, and the people who helped me travel know, it was important that I have to have a bike to ride. It doesn’t always have to be a Peloton, but my preference is the Peloton and I can sign in from anywhere. And, but even if I don’t have a Peloton, if I get to a bike, I can use the Peloton app on my phone. To me, the only metric that matters the most is the time, how much time I’m putting in. But I would be lying if I didn’t say keep track of that output. So it’s been a shift for me, from somebody who has a goal of doing something 30 minutes a day. And I know this sounds subtle, but it’s really, to me, it’s profound to become somebody who rides the bike 30 minutes a day. That’s part of who I am, as opposed to it being the goal. You get the difference. It’s a difference.

Chris Dreyer

I’ve heard other individuals say that, that have lost weight where they understood that now I am a healthy person. And what would a healthy person do? What choices would they make? So now you are…

Joe Fried

You’re hitting on exactly the point that I was trying to make, because what happens is when you, when you become the person, instead of having a goal to be the person, when you become the person, then you just, you make other choices that support that. Because I’m a person who does this, I go through the extra work of making sure that when I travel, I have a bike. If I was somebody who just had a goal of doing it, I might not do that. It may not be important enough. The other thing about a goal is we tend to hit goals and then we start to immediately backtrack. Well, I’ve lost 20 pounds. Great. And guess what? Next thing you know, you found 20 plus interest, right? Because it comes back as opposed to finding a way to be somebody who’s 20 pounds lighter. And that’s now who I am.

Chris Dreyer

Wow. That’s such a great piece of advice on its own.

Joe Fried

It’s true, and being a niche lawyer, also, when you put out to the world, don’t come to me and say… I’ve got people every week come to me and say, I want to duplicate what you’ve done. I go: great! All you got to do is stop doing everything else. And if you do that, I’ll help you. I’ll help you truly, I’ll help you succeed. There are many out there – I could give you names – who are making good livings as trucking lawyers who I’ve helped. They’re my competition now, but they’re also my friends and I’m happy to help anybody who wants to practice in this area, but there’s a cost of admission and the cost isn’t coming to me. The cost is are you willing to make the commitment? That’s really what you want to do? It’s making the commitment. I am a truck lawyer. If I am then. That’s my niche. It’s not, I’ve got a goal to someday let go of that part of my practice that I now make a lot of money at. But I’m going to only do that once I have enough trucking cases… you get where I’m going.

Chris Dreyer

That, that there’s so much to talk about right there, that, that we could possibly have another whole podcast on. But I wanna, I wanna close it up on our three for three. This is a quick fire round. Joe. I’ve had so much fun talking to you, three questions, which habit contributes the most to your success.

Joe Fried

Grit, which I think is a habit. It’s something you practice every day. Even when you don’t want to. It’s true on the Peloton. It’s true in the rest of life, you just have to get up and do it.

Chris Dreyer

Love it. Which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

Joe Fried

Elon Musk.

Chris Dreyer

And if you had to recommend one business book, which would it be and why?

Joe Fried

You know, most of my reading is not about business. It’s about understanding the human animal. So I would say one important book would be the book, I think it’s called Persuasion and it’s by Robert Gialdini, G I AL D I N I. The reason that’s important to me is I think at the end of the day, we are all in the business of people and understanding what persuades people and how to meet people where they are and take them on a journey serves us in anything that we do.

Chris Dreyer

An awesome conversation with the niche expert, Joe Fried. Joe has proved that by becoming an expert, you can dominate a niche and garner the respect of the legal world. But Joe’s success can also be credited to his approach to the market. And that might be the biggest lesson of all. Joe knows trucking inside and out. He’s not just an observer to the industry. He’s an absolute integral part and an expert. You’ve been listening to The Rankings Podcast, I’m Chris Dreyer. A huge thanks to JoeFfried for joining us, and you can find more info as always in the show notes. And we want to hear from you! What’s holding you back from niching down, or are you already on your way to becoming an expert? Drop us a review and let us know. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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