How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps *

How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps*

By Jeffrey Antonelli, Antonelli Law

I was recently given some free advice from someone who works with a legacy international company that is a household word. He is also a serial entrepreneur and he gave me some unsolicited, helpful advice.

He told me I should increase my Google ranking by having articles published (outside of this blog) with certain appropriate keywords – like drone lawyer, drone law, UAS – and sprinkle them throughout several times in the content so that search bots “feel” its right. Oh, and to have those articles link back to our law firm website at 

I know he is right. That will probably work. During the Great Recession I accepted a dinner-with-a-catch function sponsored by American Family Insurance. That very nice dinner included some helpful hints to writing blog content. One of those pieces of advice was to include a number in the headline like 3 Ways to Catch Your Spouse Cheating, The Top Ten Hollywood Actors Who Have Gotten Fat, or How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps.

One of the things that motivates me personally, a core value if you will, is my authenticity. I have the freedom in my law practice to actually implement authenticity in my practice since it is my own firm. I require it and related behaviors including honesty in everyone I hire and associate with. It is even in the legal contract all my employees must sign to be a part of my firm.

Now that drone law is not new as it was in January 2014 when I launched our drone law practice (March 2014 PR here) there seems to be a lot more competition from other lawyers –  including some I have my doubts about. That is to be expected with something that is often in the news and thought of as a “hot” area like drones .  Some I don’t mind and they should be fine – I see some lawyers who are manned aviation pilots, and that makes sense for drones. But I see others who are clearly in it to make a buck only (my opinion) including copying the motivation that I and a certain much more famous drone lawyer who is no longer in private practice have had – flying RC planes – by using RC planes as props.

I think my passion for flying drones and rc planes and the really intriguing technology that brought me to drone law in 2013 including flight stabilization and fpv will continue to push me to keep learning and be on the cutting edge. I remember watching someone at my flying field with a multirotor perhaps in 2012. How was he controlling each of the motors at one time? That made me eventually learn about flight controllers and their inception at least for the hobby folks, using components from their game consoles and cell phones.

One of my former bosses, who had been a capital partner at a very large law firm, once told me that for lawyers to do a great job it often means putting in a real effort to dig deeply. This might mean checking more legal cases, taking another deposition, and cross-checking testimony from a number of different people. In drone law, I think it means continuing to delve deep into the regulations (proposed and final); maintaining and growing relationships with subject matter experts far and wide in aviation, government, law, and technology; and attending the substantive meetings at conferences where the real experts of technology are talking, not just the fun demonstrations of robots, selfies, and media opportunities.

But it also means going back to what got me started in this field – flying fixed wing rc airplanes. I will never do the incredible things my friend Kevin does here, but it is something I enjoy and it brings together friendship, sunny skies, and flying.

One of the things that drone law will be called upon to answer are the concerns about privacy. I don’t think many law firms throwing their hat into the “drone law” ring will have much to say about it. One thing that I think makes my drone law firm great is my co-counsel Mark Del Bianco. Mark holds the Certified Information Privacy Professional/US designation from the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Mark has been involved with the internet, cloud, telecommunications law and privacy for a long time.

Now that the FAA Reauthorization Act may be requiring  drone manufacturers to obtain software certification and other regulatory approvals, the industry is going to need serious guidance from seasoned, respected professionals. I am pleased to have Douglas Marshall with us. Doug is one of the very top UAS and aviation consultants in the country. He is currently chair of the ASTM F38.02.01 Task Group on Standards for Operations Over People, and serves as a United States delegate to ISO TC 20/SC 16, UAS Subcommittee. We are lucky to have him in our corner.

I think larger fixed-wing UAS is going to be a major area of development, and folks with just general aviation experience aren’t going to cut it.  Federal Express is expressing desire for unmanned cargo jets, and agriculture and energy infrastructure needs high endurance aircraft to survey hundreds – and possibly thousands – of miles of pipeline and towers. That means larger fixed wing, probably in the hundreds to thousands of pounds.  The experience of professional pilots like our Kate Fletcher are going to be the ones in the room that get paid attention to. In addition to being an attorney, Kate has well beyond 10,000 flight hours as a pilot for the world’s largest airline flying the 767, 757, and 737.

Our creative clients like iCam Copters and Richter Studios are tops in their field. It helps me embrace the creative side of myself. Unlike my amateur beginning efforts such as here here here and here, our clients are at the top of their game. Creative professionals need to protect their work with intellectual property including copyright and trademarks, and use appropriate forms for protection like NDAs, Non-Competes, and licensing agreements. Attorney Amelia Niemi is not only learning from me in drone law and assisting with Section 333 petitions, special COAs, and drone related business issues, but she significantly helps the firm when it comes to our IP work. She studied IP at DePaul College of Law’s Center for Intellectual Property which has always been highly ranked nationally. I could have used her help when I was responsible for all the legal work for my first client, an IT company that supported data centers across the US for large clients including Walgreens, Acxiom, and Sallie Mae. I had to learn about NDAs, SHARK drives, storage silos, and a lot of other technology on my own then. I am grateful to offer my clients a great deal more resources today than in 2007.

Like much in business, the drone space is highly competitive with manufacturers releasing new models and new features constantly. New players appear and large players disappear or reinvent themselves.

Sometimes pushing the boundary means finding yourself in trouble with governmental entities. Or having to sue a competitor because they broke the law in order to unfairly compete with you.  I am admitted to the federal trial bar of the Northern District of Illinois (and numerous other federal courts) and litigation was most of my practice until recently. When it comes to fighting in court, I rely on the assistance of my experienced federal litigation associate Melissa Brabender in addition to other resources including our local counsel. In business most people try to stay out of court and one of our jobs as lawyers is to help them do just that. But when it is inevitable, our experience shows we know how to fight. Other lawyers may never have conducted a single trial.  We are looking for great cases challenging local drone laws and other issues as they arise. Our team has deep experience and many years in law and aviation. Due diligence of your lawyer should be a part of your business plan just as checking out potential business partners should be.

Part 107 will be coming out soon. Will it have a new airman certification, a drone pilot license? A written test? Implementation soon or in 6 months? We will find out. When it is published, we will then know what drone law will become in its newest iteration. That is, until the FAA Reauthorization comes out. What will remain the same is my commitment to providing value, honesty, and professional competence to our clients. I could have done a lot of things in business or other fields, but being a lawyer I want to remain being a trusted confidant, zealous advocate, and terrific employer. I also enjoy putting clients together when the synergy is right.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at or call our client concierge Olivia Fowler at 312-201-8310.

*It looks like I went over 5 steps in How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps. Hopefully I exceeded your expectations in more ways than just the title.

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