Business jet owners and operators: What to look for in a lawyer when registering and aircraft in an offshore jurisdiction?

In our everyday life many are attracted to the seemingly glamour and excitement of business aviation. Not only is it a silent dream to own or fly in one of these jets, but for some lawyers in offshore jurisdiction it is also a dream to be able to be involved in the registration and finance aspects of business jets. As an owner or operator you on the hand want to make sure that your valuable mobile asset is in qualified and experienced legal hands. Here a are a few practical tips to keep in mind when looking for a lawyer in an offshore jurisdiction to manage your aircraft registration and finance aspects:

1.    Ask for references. If you are the registering for the first time in a certain offshore jurisdiction ask your aviation lawyer in your home country for a reference. They should be able to provide you with some recommendations. Be explicit about your question. Ask your lawyer if he has worked with that offshore lawyer before? And, if it was a specific business jet registration matters in that jurisdiction. If the seller of your new jet is a manufactures, ask them for reference. While a manufacture is likely not to favor any particular professional often they will share past (positive) experiences. Getting financing from a bank or lessor? Ask them and/or their lawyers for a reference. If they have done business in that offshore jurisdiction before ask them which lawyer handled their cases before?

2.    Ask for qualifications. Make sure your off-shore lawyers is actually a lawyer and not a mere legal advisor that is not (fully) admitted to the Bar. Also ask if they have complied with all requirements to practice law independently.  Some jurisdictions allow lawyers to practice while completing an apprenticeship program. If they are still under apprenticeship you want to make sure that the lawyer in charge of that learning program is well versed on these matters. When it comes to your business jet, don’t entrust it to an apprentice.

3.    Aviation is not necessarily business aviation registration. Aircraft registration and finance is a very specific subject. The fact that a lawyer represents an airline or has handled passenger related matters doesn’t mean that he/she has the necessary experience in registering an aircraft or handling the specific related financing matters.

4.    Ask for publications. I have the pleasure of working with some excellent lawyers in the field across the globe and I enjoy reading their ongoing publications or following their lectures at law schools on the subject matter. Ask for publications or academic lectures given. The ability or willingness to undergo scrutiny of or by professional peers is a good indication of the level of qualification of your lawyer.

5.    Conferences. Anyone can attend a conference on any subject matter including business aviation. While attending such a conference can be very educational for many of us you want to be sure that your lawyer is actually speaking on registration matters in front of his/her peers or at least is seen as an authority by his/her peers and isn’t merely there for the (almost) free cocktails (and public relations).

6.    LinkedIn. Check-out LinkedIn profiles for reference to aviation registration and finance experience. In absence of these references  ask for the reason.

7.    Experience. Be on the look out for specific experience. Someone boasting “decades of experience” as a lawyer doesn’t mean they have the required experience on aircraft registration and finance matters in the jurisdiction where you want to or are considering registering your business jet. By the same token someone with “some experience” may not be the guy or girl you are looking for.

Your business jet is an important and valuable mobile asset. Selecting the right offshore lawyer to manage your registration process can be as valuable as selecting the right pilots to fly your jet. Be diligent, ask questions and more importantly remember that” not all that shines is gold”.