Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Why Fly Coach If You Can Get a Private Jet?

Partner: "I'm taking the jet today."

Associate: "Can I help with your bags?"

Secretary: "No, but you can load mine."

If only your law firm had a corporate jet, you too could live like the rich-and-famous. Some lawyers can justify the expense of a private jet, but obviously it's not for everybody. Or is it?

Only $3 Million

Patterson & Sheridan, a patent litigation firm in Texas, decided to buy a $3 million corporate jet instead of opening a satellite office to develop a practice in California. Each month, the nine-person jet flies from Houston to San Francisco for lawyers to work with Silicon Valley clients.

According to reports, the firm offers California clients their Texas lawyer rates -- where salaries are about half as much. Office space is even less expensive.

Carolyn Elefant, the popular attorney/blogger, says that the Patterson & Sheridan business model may be worth considering. With some remote work, flying attorneys could work from a distance and still be present for client meetings, court appearances and other in-person tasks.

"The firm could charge a slightly higher rate to cover the cost of these added travel expenses," she says, if the cost of office space and legal fees were lower at the home base.

Only $150

Of course, commercial airlines offer a more affordable alternative for commuting lawyers. But private jets offer much more than the jet-setter lifestyle, including the freedom to fly on demand, avoid crowded security lines, and drop in to smaller airports.

And they don't have to cost $3 million. MarketWatch reports that a handful of private jet companies offer deals on last-minute flights for less than $150 per person. For example, a six-passenger jet from Chicago, Illinois, to Orange County, California, is $536 -- or $135 per seat.

Whether your firm ponies up for a corporate jet or a charter flight, it should figure in to the cost of doing business. But be careful how you deduct the expense.

The IRS hammered one Los Angeles firm for erroneously deducting $1 million in travel expenses. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disallowed a 24-hour standby deduction for the company plane.

Related Resources: