The Heart of an Educator
Andrew J. Sherman, Partner, Dickstein Shapiro Morin and Oshinsky LLP
Andrew Sherman, partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky, gets three to five hours of sleep a night. By 7:30 a.m. on the Saturday morning he was interviewed for this article, he had already been awake for several hours working on a Power Point presentation. During the interview, he emailed clients. Later that morning, he had several meetings. He hoped sometime that day to get to the gym.
As an attorney, Sherman focuses his practice on the legal and strategic issues affecting business growth for companies at all stages, leveraging technology and intellectual property, and international corporate and franchising matters.
But, for Sherman, you could say law is really a means to an end. From the late 1970s, when he dropped out of college to start and run a fitness and training company for tennis players until now, he's devoted his life to supporting entrepreneurship.
"The experience of being an entrepreneur and having been through some difficult times made me realize that my life's work was going to be helping entrepreneurs as a writer and educator, as well as a lawyer," he says.
No Day the Same
Sherman got his start writing about entrepreneurship while working for the U.S. Department of Commerce the summer before entering law school at American University. With no background in journalism, he wandered into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and asked for an assignment. The editor of a magazine published by the department gave him a shot writing one article on a new financing program for new entrepreneurs in the State of Maryland.
Sherman wrote a good enough piece to be given a monthly column covering the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business, which ultimately led to the publication of his first book, One Step Ahead: The Legal Aspects of Business Growth. Since then, he's written 12 more books, including the best-selling Franchising and Licensing: Two Ways to Build Your Business, now in its second printing, and most recently, the second edition of Raising Capital, to be published by Amacom in January 2005.
He's also published more than 250 articles on legal and management issues affecting business growth, mergers and acquisitions, capital formation, and licensing and the protection of intellectual property, and he is a monthly columnist for EntreWorld.org, an online resource for entrepreneurs. Sherman also frequently addresses business topics on radio and television and is sought out for interviews by top national publications.
"I'm an educator at heart," says Sherman, who has won several prestigious teaching awards. He has taught courses in financing and growth strategies as an adjunct professor in the University of Maryland's MBA program for the past 16 years and since 1995 in Georgetown University's MBA program.
Two things, says Sherman, make it all worth it.
"One is knowing that I am doing the things that I was put on this planet to do. To facilitate business growth and be a catalyst and sounding board for entrepreneurs. Second, in 20 years of working with 100 or more different industries – from high tech to low tech to no tech – no day has ever been the same. If I’m not advising and teaching, I'm learning."
The Old Consigliore
Whether providing legal counsel through his firm or spending hours with business students who seek his advice, Sherman gets particular satisfaction from helping entrepreneurs starting small businesses or managing emerging growth companies.
"I have served as advisor to dozens of Fortune 500 companies, but with the emerging companies I get to work directly with decision makers," he says. "It's one thing to talk to a company's mid-level executive. It's another to sit at the table with a person whose entire life work and net worth revolves around the expertise and advice you're sharing."
Sherman likens his role with these clients to the old "consigliore."
"Yes, these entrepreneurs need someone who has legal skills," he says. "But what they're really looking for is a strategic sounding board. Once you demonstrate to them that you are that person, you start a relationship for life. They know I care as much about their businesses as they do."
Sherman has served on the board of the Maryland Special Olympics. Still, after being a good lawyer, a good father and a good husband, the balance of the time and expertise he gives is focused on entrepreneurship.
He served on the board of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship for 11 years, including two as chairman, and is a co-founder of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth. Currently, he chairs the Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum and the professional advisory board for the National Commission of Entrepreneurship. He has been general counsel to the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization on a pro bono basis since its inception in 1987.
Sherman bristles when asked how he benefits from the hours of writing, teaching, speaking, informal mentoring, and providing legal counsel that aren't compensated monetarily.
"I don't think about it that way," he says. "It's part of my being. I've never asked what's in it for me. That's what giving back is. Giving back is taking the time away from other things you're supposed to be doing and writing an article or giving a speech and knowing you may get nothing out of it and that's okay.
"Otherwise, it's marketing. And guess what. Your community knows the difference."
© 2006 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.
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