A Missouri law firm saves clients money by using business aviation.
Jan. 24, 2017
When Jason Call and Chip Gentry launched their law firm in Jefferson City, MO, in 2013, they had a vision for a technology-driven practice (one of the first in the city to go paperless) built on personal relationships.
They also had some assets that would prove essential to their success – their legal expertise, clients who also valued relationships, Jefferson City Memorial Airport right across the Missouri River from their offices, and Gentry’s Piper Archer III.
Using general aviation helped quickly grow Call & Gentry Law Group from a regional practice into a national one. “What it’s brought to our law firm is we see the world as a smaller place,” said Gentry. “We see solutions that maybe other firms don’t because they’re not as connected or as efficient as we are around the country.”
Call & Gentry Law Group is a litigation firm. Their clients include families who’ve suffered a personal injury, workers underpaid by their employers, and othe businesses. Nationally, the group quickly became one of the top firms representing window and door manufacturers in construction liability cases.
“While [communications] technology is wonderful and we use web conferences, they’re absolutely no match for being face-to-face with somebody,” said Gentry. “When a client needs help, they’re typically in a tailspin. Looking them in the eye, putting your hand on their shoulder – it’s hard to describe the degree to which our value is diminished if we’re not there in person.”
Gentry’s Archer III gave the growing firm an edge in building and cultivating those personal relationships.
There are two airline flights per day out of Columbia Regional Airport, which, located 30 miles from Jefferson City, is the closest airfield with commercial service. But Call said flying from Columbia Regional “sometimes is just not convenient. Chip’s ability to fly us anywhere allows us to service our clients in the most efficient manner possible.”
MORE ALTITUDE CAPABILITY
After three years of flying the Archer for business, Gentry realized that he and Call needed an aircraft with more flexibility to reach clients, especially in winter. Gentry stopped short of moving up to a pressurized aircraft or a turboprop, but he wanted a turbocharged airplane to climb above more weather.
“We needed a little more speed, especially going to the Southeast, the Rockies or the East Coast,” said Gentry. With range of 950 nautical miles, those are all single-leg trips. “But primarily, flying around the Midwest in winter, we needed some ice protection.”
For those missions, Gentry acquired a 2007 Piper Saratoga II TC equipped with TKS inadvertent-icing protection on the wings, horizontal stabilizer and propeller. The fluid-based system doesn’t enable Gentry to fly the piston-powered airplane into known icing, but it gives him the confidence to handle those conditions if they occur unexpectedly. The turbocharged Saratoga gives Gentry more flexibility in those conditions. With a service ceiling of 20,000 feet and supplemental oxygen for himself and all five passengers, he can fly above the weather, or ride the tailwinds when traveling to the East Coast.
“We have a case coming up that involves seven depositions in seven cities. It would be virtually impossible to compete with large firms in those major metropolitan hubs if we couldn’t get there quickly.”
The Saratoga’s glass cockpit – and the situational awareness it provides – offers another level of confidence. “I could have paid for more speed,” said Gentry, “but I didn’t want to give up state-of-the-art avionics. I wanted the onboard traffic and
weather [information], so we’d have all the safety features we could in a single-engine airplane.”
Before taking delivery of the Saratoga, Gentry had the maintenance facility that conducted the pre-buy inspection install an ADS-B transponder. The software to fully integrate ADS-B into the Saratoga’s Garmin G1000 panel wasn’t yet available when he bought the airplane. However, Gentry decided to proceed with the installation in an effort to avoid the anticipated installation rush as the ADS-B equipment compliance deadline of 2020 approaches. He also did it based on Piper’s promised software updates to make the equipment fully functional before the mandate.
“We knew the mandate for ADS-B compliance was four years away,” said Gentry. “Four years may sound like a long time, but for many of our cases on the horizon, we need general aviation.
The last thing we wanted was to have the shops booked up and the airplane grounded.”
CLIENTS APPRECIATE BUSINESS AVIATION
Many of Call & Gentry’s pending cases involve heavy travel.
“We have a case coming up that involves seven depositions in seven cities,” said Gentry. “It would be virtually impossible to compete with large firms in those major metropolitan hubs if we couldn’t get there quickly.”
Because Central Missouri has minimal airline service, the legal team does most of its travel for such cases in Gentry’s plane. And flying directly from one deposition to the next turns several weeks out of the office into a few-day swing.
“While other firms are spending time on scheduling, we’re just waiting for the dates to get set while we prepare our strategy,” said Gentry. “If we didn’t have the efficiency of general aviation, we’d be dealing with all those scheduling headaches. It’s been a game changer.”
The fact that Call & Gentry Law Group uses business aviation as its primary means of transportation also reduces costs for the firm’s clients.
“If it’s a job that requires three attorneys to be at one place at one time, Chip, Blake [Markus, an associate with the firm] and I can jump in the plane,” explained Call. “Three lawyers in one general aviation airplane is much more cost-effective than three lawyers buying commercial airline tickets, billing for their time sitting in an airport and making an overnight stay.”
Early on, Call & Gentry Law Group made a commitment to their clients that they’d never bill more for door-to-door travel than if the legal team had gone by airline. It’s an easy commitment to keep. According to Call, when his clients see the business aircraft transportation charges on their bill, they say, “This is about half as much as if you’d flown commercially.”
Learn more about Call & Gentry Law Group at www.callgentry.com.
With business aviation so crucial to their firm, attorneys Chip Gentry and Jason Call have taken the time to speak out on the industry’s behalf. Gentry has served on the local airport commission and written perspective pieces in the Jefferson City News Tribune.
“For my business and many others in the state and across the country, general aviation helps businesses to increase productivity and stay competitive,” Gentry wrote in a December 2015 op-ed.
When the News Tribune’s editorial board called Gentry for more information, he explained that in addition to having a positive economic impact, general aviation provides a lifeline to communities by facilitating firefighting, medical care and other emergency services.
Furthermore, Gentry noted in his op-ed that proposals to privatize the air traffic control system in the United States “mean concentrating power, control and likely access and funding around the biggest, commercial airports, not the ones that my law firm and many other small businesses and critical service providers use.”
Hangared at Jefferson City Flying Service on Jefferson City (MO) Memorial Airport (JEF)
One Piper Saratoga II TC
Chip Gentry is the owner/operator and sole pilot