Most Highly Regarded Firms: California 2009 - Aviation

According to state government figures, the aviation industry contributes $111 billion to the Californian economy each year and is one of the most significant employers in the Pacific Coast region.

The state is home to 11.4 per cent of the United States' active pilots and claims 10.7 per cent of the country's active aircraft. Within this important market our research has uncovered 24 lawyers from 20 firms who are recognised as the leading aviation law practitioners in the state.

The "excellent" Frank Silane has been at Condon & Forsyth LLP for 35 years and specialises in multi-jurisdictional tort and insurance litigation on behalf of airlines, aircraft manufacturers and insurers. Among other things, he has counselled in connection with numerous air disasters, including the 2001 air crash in Belle Harbour, New York. Rod Margo's "huge reputation" bolsters Condon & Forsyth's profile, he has recently handled environmental litigation on behalf of several International Air Transport Association (IATA) carriers, as well as acting for the carriers in the deep vein thrombosis cases Rodriguez v Ansett Australia and Blotteaux v Qantas Airways.

Garth Aubert hails from one of the best-regarded firms in the state practising in the sector: Mendes & Mount LLP. In keeping with the firm's renowned insurance law credentials, Aubert's work involves negligence, insurance class actions and defence litigation for aircraft and space technology manufacturers as well as airport service providers. Joining him is James Hunt, who has recently represented Bell Helicopter, Jet Star, Pepcon and Air Canada in crash, fire and product liability cases.

White & Case LLP's aircraft finance group consists of 40 members worldwide, two of whom appear in this section. James Cairns was recommended for his work on cross-border aircraft leasing and financing, which has seen him advise lessors, lenders, intermediaries and equity interests in numerous international jurisdictions. Appearing alongside Cairns, Richard Smith is an expert in airline restructurings and bankruptcies who represented aircraft lessors in the recent American Airlines leveraged lease restructurings and in the US Airways, Sobelair, Aeris, Royal Aviation and Swissair bankruptcies.

The fourth firm with two attorneys in this chapter is Holland & Knight LLP. William Piels is executive officer of the firm's San Francisco office, where he brings over 20 years of experience in aircraft lease and financing transactions to the table. Also in San Francisco, litigation expert Charles Coleman has handled defence work on behalf of international air carriers in DVT and other tort claims.

Litigation and claims specialist Lee Lipscomb at Engstrom Lipscomb & Lack is a co-founder of the Aviation Insurance Association of Los Angeles. William Robinson of Nixon Peabody LLP is also "well respected" for his litigation practice as well as advisory work in military products liability, tort and patent disputes. Another prominent name in the list is Robert Kern, at his own firm, who was described as "brilliant" by respondents to the survey.

Name partner at Michaelis, Montanari & Johnson, Garry Montanari has an extensive engineering background and counts Sikorsky Aircraft, Pratt & Whitney Canada, AlliedSignal and PTI Technologies among his clients. Mitch Popham is "very experienced" in litigation, competition, class action defence and insurance cases with a strong focus on aviation, and he represents Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP in this section. At Clyde & Co LLP Kevin Sutherland devotes his time to complex litigation and is also considered "top tier" for product liability, regulatory and risk-management work on behalf of aviation product manufacturers. Peter Brotzen of Dwyer Daly Brotzen & Bruno LLP is another "leading light", with a focus on environmental and product liability with particular reference to aviation matters.

Founder of Bailey & Partners, Patrick Bailey litigates in personal injury, wrongful death and product liability cases arising in the industry, and he is among the best regarded in the state. Joseph Malinowski represents Kaye Scholer LLP and is considered "one of the gurus in the field" of aviation financing and leasing and has handled cross-border transactions in over 40 jurisdictions. The "great" James Huston of Morrison & Foerster LLP focuses on complex litigation and counts Honeywell, Piper and Cessna among his clients. Lee Horton at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP specialises in dispute resolution and acts as outside counsel for aerospace vehicle and industrial companies. Working from his own law offices, James Pokorny also places highly in our research.

Sole practitioner Barry Novack brings his substantial engineering background to bear on his aviation work, which encompasses product liability, plaintiff personal injury, wrongful death and aircraft accidents. The Law Offices of Ian Herzog PC in Santa Monica came highly recommended by respondents, with Ian Herzog placing well overall in our research. Phillip Kolczynski at his own firm is another popular name specialising in product liability and maintenance, air crash and accident law and general aviation business litigation.

William Wimsatt is "a big name" at Magaña Cathcart & McCarthy, devoting his time to plaintiff representation in major airline and military aircraft accidents as well as lecturing widely on all aspects of aviation law.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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