Tor Friedman Lives to Help
By Christi N. Morgan
When Tor Friedman ('05) was a student at Florida State University College of Law, he used to drive by the historic building that now houses his firm and envision practicing law there. The picturesque home in downtown Tallahassee is just a short walk from the Leon County Courthouse, making it an ideal location for the criminal lawyer to help people move forward.
“I like helping people. We don’t handle serious criminal offenses, typically. It’s a lot of first-time offenders and people who made a mistake, and we help them so they can go on with their life, go on to med school, go on to law school, go on with their family,” Friedman said.
After serving as a congressional and U.S. senatorial intern as an undergraduate political science major at the University of Florida, Friedman initially planned to go to law school in the state capital and then work in the political arena. He first felt the calling to criminal law as a law student participating in an externship at the local state attorney’s office. Friedman already knew he wanted to litigate, based on his participation in mock trials during high school and law school. He was rewarded with a large dose of both litigation and criminal law when he became an assistant state attorney in Leon County shortly after graduating from FSU Law in 2005.
“I started on a Monday and had a trial on Wednesday and won,” recalled Friedman. In 2009, after more than three years as a prosecutor, Friedman and one of his former interns, Eric Abrahamsen, opened Friedman & Abrahamsen. While he reveled in being able to help “put away” some very dangerous criminals as a prosecutor, Friedman also believes “the punishment should fit the crime.” He is steadfastly committed to helping clients who are not serious offenders secure brighter futures. Friedman landed his first criminal defense client the day he opened his firm and has been growing his practice steadily ever since.
“I have between two to 10 court appearances per week, a sprinkle of mediations from time to time, and I get phone calls every day from people who need help,” said Friedman. Even when a caller’s case is outside his area of expertise, Friedman listens and tries to get them the help they need.
In addition to his busy practice, Friedman has been very active in the mentoring and training of law students through his engagement with his law school alma mater. He has taught Trial Practice as an adjunct professor for 14 years, often hires FSU Law students to work at his firm, has served on the FSU College of Law Alumni Association Board of Directors—one year as president, and served for five years as faculty advisor to the nationally competitive FSU Law Trial Team.
“Everybody needs a little push; I know I did,” said Friedman, whose father and grandfather were both attorneys, but both passed away when he was in high school. “People aren’t asking for a handout, just a little help. I think people at the law school gave me a little push, and it is my responsibility to help out and give people a little push back to help them.
“I am very happy with my life, and the law school helped with that. More people need to give back, not necessarily financially, but to help get a kid a job or internship, teach a class, sit in on an oral argument, help with Moot Court or Trial Team. If more of us helped, there would be a lot more good in the world.”
Friedman says being a member of the FSU Law Trial Team was a highlight of his law school career, so helping lead the team as its advisor during the past five years was a fitting way to pay it forward. During his leadership, the team was ranked as high as among the nation’s top 15 best trial teams. Many of the team members Friedman has worked with and the students he has taught now practice law in Tallahassee, and some are judges, so he enjoys seeing them in the courtroom.
“The students we had on the team were tremendous—the ones who worked hard—not just the champions," said Friedman. “I wish more people would try Trial Team, even if they don’t want to be a trial lawyer, because it teaches you so many great skills. It was a pleasure to watch the students grow and excel.”
In addition to giving back professionally, Friedman is also extremely engaged in the local community. He is especially proud of his involvement in the establishment and organization of a Tallahassee-area branch of Make-a-Wish Foundation. The nonprofit organization arranges life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
“I thought it was just, sadly, individuals who were terminal, but a lot of times, they are not, and now they have scientific evidence showing that these wishes help turn things around,” Friedman said. “As someone who grew up without means, I can only imagine if something bad happened to me, having an organization to provide that spark would make a huge difference. We’re getting bigger and trying to help out as much as possible.”
Outside of work, Friedman and his wife, Nancy, stay busy with their two children—12-year-old son Kidders and 8-year-old daughter Jensen. The couple met during Friedman’s law school graduation ceremony; Nancy was graduating with her first master’s degree. He recalls knowing he would marry Nancy during that first encounter.
“Ironically, Nancy and I both went to UF and lived catty-corner to each other, and we never met,” said Friedman. “And we were in the same major.”
The Friedman family enjoys traveling and reading together, spending time in their pool, and watching movies chosen by the kids every Friday night. Friedman also enjoys cooking everything from French cuisine to Japanese fare for his family. Every January 1, he also roasts a Cuban-style pig for family and friends to enjoy.
Every action Friedman takes is with the goal of creating opportunities for his children. When asked about his goals for the future, Friedman said, “I just want my kids to be happy and live a good life and to look back and say, ‘he helped.’ That’s it.”