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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.
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.