June 13, 2017

Q&A with Aoife O’Sullivan – The Air Law Firm

Aoife O’Sullivan, Partner, The Air Law Firm

How long have you been at your current organization?

We set up the firm in November 2015 as a boutique aviation law firm mainly to focus only on aviation and be more flexible in terms of client needs such as fixed fees. Clients we had been working with for many years agreed to support us and we haven’t looked back since.

What are your responsibilities within your organization?

Pretty much everything! I run the business with my partners and we do everything from ordering the stationary to advising clients on aircraft ownership, finance and trading structures. I guess my main role is to keep the business coming in and make sure we are doing everything we can to help clients and give a fast and professional service.

Describe a typical day or week in your role.

There is absolutely nothing typical about this role or the work we do. I split my time working from home or at the office in Mayfair. There seems to have been a swing back to face to face meetings so the work involves a lot of travel, literally to anywhere I am directed to go! Many of our clients are based in or pass through London and our Mayfair office is very central so I tend to walk to meetings where possible. Our client base is very varied and on any given day, I may spend the morning with a HNWI advising on their aircraft purchase, lunch with a financier to agree a financing structure, the afternoon drafting documents and answering emails and then dinner with some industry friends or new clients. The ability to respond to emails and calls on the go is a necessity in this line of work as people tend to expect a quick turnaround. We are lucky to be very busy so delegation is a skill I have had to become very good at without affecting our partner led personal service to the clients.

What do you love most about your job?

Genuinely, everything. I find the aviation industry fascinating. I am honored to have been invited on to the Board of Aerion Corporation and have spent the last few years as a Board member gaining insight into supersonic flight and financing a large scale project like the AS2 to bring it to market. On the transactional side, I really enjoy the international complexities of corporate and private jet deals. No two deals are the same but there is always a solution to every problem. The trick is to be able to keep the deal together and project manage it to a finish. Most of the time it’s a bit like herding cats but we always get the deal done.

Why did working in the Business Aviation industry interest you, and how did you get started?

I joined a start up, Gates and Partners, in 2003 and we developed into a boutique aviation law firm with nearly 60 lawyers and staff before we merged it in 2013 with another city firm. My background was corporate finance and it made sense to specialize in aircraft finance so I wrote a business plan, took it to the senior partner Sean Gates and the rest is history. One of my earliest clients was Niall Olver at Execujet Aviation Group and he introduced me to the heady world of business aviation. I spent a week at their offices in Zurich surrounded by private jets and caught the bug. At the time not many lawyers worked in the industry so we were able to distinguish ourselves very quickly by being very industry aware. We have carried the same ethos into The Air Law Firm and will only hire lawyers who are passionate about aviation.

Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?

I spent 5 years working at a magic circle law firm in London just after I qualified as a lawyer and it was a fantastic training ground which gave me a lot of confidence in handling major complex transactions. I also gained a lot of insight into how major city law firms operate and this insight has been invaluable in crafting how I run my practice and approach. The reality is, size doesn’t matter when it comes to law firms – it really is all about the individual lawyers.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Relentless, loyal, dedicated

What one item would you never travel without on a long haul flight?

Noise cancelling headphones so that I can switch off everyone around me! I’m not the most sociable on long haul and prefer to use the time to tune out of a very busy life!

Finally, what is your hidden talent or hobby?

I am completely tone deaf but still insist on singing when I shouldn’t. I’d call it a talentless hobby.


The Air Law Firm LLP is a boutique aviation law practice providing international legal services to the aviation industry.  Our practice model sets us apart: we offer a bespoke and focused service from an agile and responsive team who can react quickly to the changing demands of your business environment. Our legal services are partner-led and we are proactive not reactive. Our lawyers are passionate about aviation, recognised internationally as being experts in their fields, focused and unique. As your legal partner in aviation, your experience with us will be different.   www.theairlawfirm.com