||Andrew J. Sherman
||McDermott, Will & Emery
||Provides legal services to entrepreneurs
Andrew J. Sherman is capital partner with the Washington, D.C. law firm McDermott, Will & Emery.
Q. Why did you choose your profession?
I was able to figure out early on that my life's work was to be as a legal and strategic adviser to entrepreneurs and growing companies, to be a catalyst for growth. I do that through my work as a lawyer, through the books I write, and my teaching.
Q. What did you do before this?
I had my own law firm for two-and-a-half years. But for the last eight years, I've been a partner at large firms. I find that, as long as the services can be provided cost effectively, the depth and expertise a large firm offers a small firm is significant. Companies don't have simple problems just because they're small.
Q. How did you get started?
I dropped out of school in the late 70's to start a fitness and training company. I learned a lot from the experience. And I realized that working with entrepreneurs would be a good way to focus my profession. So I went back and finished up college and went to law school. My first jobs were with small law firms focused on the needs of small companies. Then I ran my own firm, then decided the better way was to join larger, international firms.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges?
Making sure clients understand our value proposition. The fees can be significant, but I think small companies need to look at the value-added services they get, like access to our Rolodex. In the beginning, the challenge was establishing a reputation for myself. One thing I did was to write books. My first, One Step Ahead, came out in 1989; I've written 10 since then.
Q. What advice would you give someone starting out in your profession?
Make sure it's what you really want to do. The law is riddled with challenges and it's an over-crowded field. And make sure you have a passionate commitment to an area of practice. I would also suggest getting an MBA or formal business training. If you want to be a business lawyer, you have to understand the business decisions and the impact of the advice you give.
Q. What are the key changes in your profession?
It's become increasingly competitive as more and more firms are consolidating. Also, more clients than ever are looking for one-stop shopping, and firms are struggling to keep up with those demands.
Q. What's the best and worst part of your job?
What I like the most is helping entrepreneurs develop growth strategies, being an old-fashioned sounding board. My least favorite part is the administrative side. It's one of the reasons I'm more comfortable in a big firm. In a smaller firm, I had to do all that stuff myself.
Q. What are your favorite resources?
Any number of Web sites devoted to entrepreneurship. One of my favorites is entreworld, the site of the Kaufman Centers. I also spend a lot of time on the CNN Money Web site, staying in touch with the capital markets and business news.
Q. What is your most useful gadget?
My Blackberry. My clients want me available 24/7 and the Blackberry allows me to stay in touch on a wireless basis, without having to lug around my laptop.
Q. What's your advice regarding incorporation?
My opinion is that most businesses should incorporate, unless you're going to stay tiny. It makes sense because of potential liability issues, it makes sense tax-wise, it makes if you're trying to raise capital -- all those things are a hundred times easier if you incorporate. And you should incorporate pretty early on.