Value Added: Andrew Friedman quit the legal high life. Now he's on a high.

Andrew H. Friedman is a full-time speechmaker, explaining to investors and financial firms the impact of federal laws on investments. He gave more than 200 speeches last year and gets up to $12,000 per talk.
Andrew H. Friedman is a full-time speechmaker, explaining to investors and financial firms the impact of federal laws on investments. He gave more than 200 speeches last year and gets up to $12,000 per talk. (Lauren Lieberman)
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By Thomas Heath
Monday, June 7, 2010

I know Andrew H. Friedman from my previous life covering the business of sports.

Friedman was a partner and tax expert at the law firm Covington & Burling in Washington. He spent half his time counseling the leagues for the four major U.S. sports -- baseball, hockey, football and basketball -- and often walked me through the intricacies of how football stadiums were depreciated or how various states taxed visiting baseball players.

It was complicated stuff. But Friedman had a good gig. He was the go-to tax lawyer for the sports industry. He had access to the best sports tickets. Attended all-star games, playoff games and Super Bowls. Schmoozed with league commissioners, players, coaches and team owners. To top it off, partners at Covington bring in more than $1 million a year.

At the top of his profession, he could have cruised for the next decade or more (he is 54, same as me), making lots of money, attending elite sporting events and basking in the admiration of his peers.

"I got to live vicariously," said Friedman, who lives in leafy McLean.

But a dormant entrepreneurial gene burst forth two years ago, and Friedman decided to go out on his own. He quit Covington (on good terms, he insists) after 28 years and reinvented himself.

I am fascinated by people who have the guts to walk away from something they know and love (especially earning that kind of money) and to try something different. I don't have that gene, but entrepreneurs like Friedman do it every day.

He now gives speeches for up to $12,000 a day -- plus expenses -- to investors and financial firms on how Washington's laws and regulations affect their investments.

He gave more than 200 speeches last year, which by my calculation would net him around $2 million.

"I'm an entrepreneur now," said Friedman, a frugal guy who drives a Jeep Wrangler.

Quitting wasn't that hard. He was already giving speeches, and requests kept coming.

"It really stemmed from the demand that arose as more people saw me speaking. The demand built on itself. I realized I was having far more fun speaking and answering questions than I was practicing law, which by then I'd been doing for a while and had little more to accomplish."


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