Welcome to MyShingle’s continuing series celebrating Woman-Owned and Mom-Owned Law Firms. This profile features Michelle Wade, owner of Jetstream Aviation Law, PA a small Kansas City based law firm focused on business aviation law.
What is your name?
Law School and year of graduation.
Northwestern University School of Law, 1988
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm.
Jetstream Aviation Law, P.A.
Kansas City metropolitan area (State of Kansas)
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer.
Upon graduation from law school, I began my legal career as an associate in the real estate department at one of the larger law firms in Kansas City. I also practiced corporate law in the Kansas City office of Bryan Cave as a partnership track associate for several years. I left Bryan Cave to work in a small firm with only one other attorney. I viewed it as an opportunity to combine my interests in business and law. We focused exclusively on corporate and private jet transactions and FAA regulatory compliance work. In January 2017 I began my own firm, Jetstream Aviation Law, P.A. as a solo attorney. Jetstream Aviation Law recently celebrated its 5-year anniversary and Jetstream Aviation Law has grown to two attorneys focused exclusively on business aviation transactional and FAA regulatory work. Because we exclusively focus on a narrow niche, business aviation, we developed an in-depth understanding of applicable laws and industry practices and can provide quality service to clients. My work is to make complex and sometimes conflicting regulations understandable for jet owners and operators. Being part of a jet acquisition team is interesting. We maintain close relationships with our clients and other team members during a time when they are planning and executing a significant purchase.
When did you start your firm?
Why did you decide to start your own law firm?
I began Jetstream Aviation Law to maintain my focus on the niche of serving business jet owners and operators and to have a remote-only firm.
What was the reaction you received from family, friends, colleagues, law school classmates, judges, etc…when you announced your decision to launch?
The reaction I received from friends and colleagues to starting my own firm was positive and supportive. Friendly competitors sent me work they were conflicted out of. Friends made themselves available for encouraging phone calls and other lawyers talked through business issues with me.
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on?
Business Aviation – We help clients structure aircraft operations of the company jet to meet business goals, mitigate risk, and address regulatory compliance, liability concerns, tax issues and internal policy compliance
What size is your firm?
2 attorneys, 1 full time legal assistant and a part time free-lance marketing assistant. Being a remote firm, we can hire lawyers and personnel experienced in the niche area of business aviation law who do not live within commuting distance.
Do you practice full time or part time?
I practice full time. Since starting my own firm I work more hours, but we have been remote-only since we opened, and my cat enjoys having me around more. She likes to be fed around 5pm and then tells me to get back to work for a couple hours while she naps on my desk.
What makes your law firm unique and different from any other law firm in the world?
Women represent a small portion of equity and nonequity law firm partners. Our firm, Jetstream Aviation Law, has been entirely female for five years and focused exclusively on business aviation. In 2021, Jetstream became certified as a woman-owned business. The women in Jetstream Aviation Law have spent countless hours, for decades getting their hands dirty turning contracts into solid business solutions and for one of us, even turning wrenches as an aviation mechanic prior to becoming a lawyer.
Was your gender a factor in influencing your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how?
After decades of experience working with clients from across the globe, I felt comfortable when I opened my firm that gender wouldn’t be a negative factor, even though both the law and business aviation have been and still are heavily male dominated.
If you are married/living in a committed relationship with a partner, what role has your spouse played with respect to your practice and household obligations and conversely, what impact has owning your firm had on your marriage/relationship?
The initial years of owning my own firm has had a negative impact on my non-work life. Recently my spouse suggested that the firm should charge a lot more for weekend work.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership for women?
One big pro of law firm ownership for women is to gain more control. If I know we can’t handle a project in the timeframe the prospective client gives us, we will refer the work to another aviation attorney.
One con of owning a law firm is that by owning the firm, I had to initially spend a lot of time on administrative and marketing matters in addition to handling the legal work. The time spent on the administrative and marketing matters has decreased over time because I created and documented systems from the outset and those systems help reduce my time on these matters.
Please share a story about an opponent or colleague who grossly underestimated you (whether due to youth, limited experience or just being a woman or parent) or an awesome victory that you achieved
A senior male attorney in my firm kept all the business development opportunities for himself and was visibly unpleasantly surprised when I submitted to speak at an event, his favored protégé also submitted to speak and I was selected. I gave a great presentation, but no one at the firm knew that because the other lawyers in the firm were all invited to go on a trip at that time.
In your view, what role does law firm ownership by women play in advancing gender equality in the legal profession?
Women law firm owners advance gender equality in the legal profession for current lawyers and for future lawyers. Many girls and young women may not know that owning their own law firm is a viable option until they have encountered women law firm owners. If they can see women law firm owners as their parents and in their community, they will grow up to expect and fight for more gender equality in the legal profession.
Let’s pay it forward – share your best advice or most powerful lesson learned with other women who may be thinking about starting a firm or have done so but are going through a rough patch.
Reach out to your existing connections and to new connections with questions. There are a variety of podcasts, masterminds, and online lawyer groups with helpful “been there done that” advice from both men and women on starting and running a law firm. There are lawyers across the country (who are not your direct competitors) who will take the time to answer the question you need answered to progress to the next step in your law firm ownership journey. Join women-oriented organizations in your industry and volunteer for a project. Staffing the organization’s booth at an event is a great way to meet people. Your legal work is probably focused on a handful of industries. Attend industry events where you will get to know both lawyers and others (non-lawyers) in that industry on an informal basis before (or after) you meet them in court or on a transaction.