Andrew J. Sherman ’83, political science, has forged a career that is bursting with achievements. He is a senior partner in the global law firm of Jones Day, a faculty member at Georgetown University Law Center and an adjunct professor at both the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland College Park. He is also the author of 21 books including Harvesting Intangible Assets: Uncover Hidden Revenue in Your Company’s Intellectual Property and Mergers and Acquisitions from A to Z, as well as a motivational title: Road Rules: Be the Truck. Not the Squirrel.
What ties all of this activity together in Sherman’s view of his career is his passion for education. “That is my true purpose in life,” he says. “To educate, whether in a client’s board room or in the classroom.”
Sherman’s path to a UMBC education was hardly traditional. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, he expected to spend his entire life there. However, when he was in 11th grade, his father moved to Baltimore. That same year, the family homestead burned down, and his mother and siblings headed out to Los Angeles. “It was a matter of going a few miles down I-95 or moving 3,000 miles away,” says Sherman. “I opted for Baltimore.”
Needing a single course to obtain his high school degree, it was suggested to Sherman that he apply for early admission to college. Fully acknowledging that he didn’t have the strongest credentials, Sherman bought a clip-on tie and talked his way into UMBC.
The entrepreneurial 20-year-old dropped out of the university after only two years when Aerobic Tennis, a fitness and training program he developed for tennis players, landed on the cover of Baltimore magazine. That success was heady stuff at first, but after a couple of years of operating in an economy with bad inflation and a volatile capital market, Sherman finally returned to UMBC to finish his degree in political science.
“I am very proud to be a UMBC alum,” says Sherman. “I came having barely been admitted to a school that does not have a business major and have become one of the top business minds in the country.”
Sherman’s message to students mirrors the one that is implicit in his own story: academic pedigree can be overrated. “Don’t think of yourself as a second-class citizen because you didn’t go to Harvard or Stanford,” he notes. “If you study the leaders of many companies, you will see people who did not rest on their academic laurels, but relied on their work ethic, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.”
Encouraged by George R. LaNoue, a professor in UMBC’s political science department, Sherman headed to American University School of Law, graduating from that school in 1986.
Even as a first-year law firm associate, Sherman was already branching out into the publishing world, authoring a book titled One Step Ahead, which focused on the business and legal aspects of business growth. “While in law school I had written a monthly column for Nation’s Business, the magazine of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” recalls Sherman. “The book came about when I was approached by a New York publisher to gather my columns into a book [with a release date that] coincided with the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business.”
The opportunity that presented itself so early had its upsides and its challenges, Sherman observes. “I unintentionally came out of the gate as a ‘published expert,’” he says, “and then spent the next 30 years working to become that leader.”
Sherman’s client list these days includes large corporations such as Caterpillar, Apple and Walmart. But he still concentrates much of his attention to working as the legal and strategic adviser to rapid growth companies. “Many of the companies I work with had a rapid growth path that went dormant,” he says. “They had big growth plans, but then realized they needed the right advisers to make things work.”
Or, put another way, all of Sherman’s writing and teaching are tied back to the basic principle of helping companies avoid some of the speed bumps along the way to sustaining success. He aims to insure that they expand and flourish, not – as he puts it – “grow and blow up.”
Sherman acknowledges that his own greatest challenge is time management. He has a hard time saying no to things that interest him. Saying yes to an invitation to join the advisory board of a Washington, D.C. non-profit, for example, leaves Sherman trying to figure out how to get everything done.
“I have a demanding law practice,” he says. “But I love being a lawyer, teaching and writing… when you stop loving what you do, it is time to change course.”
— Mary Medland
Tags: Summer 2012