Soaring above the competition. Taking his company to new heights. Piloting the future. No, no, no. Kill the clichés. Flexjet senior director of legal services Bruce Marshall wants his Richardson-based company to be known as a “private aviation solutions provider.”
Flexjet manages a fleet of aircraft — private jets made by its parent company, Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace Corp. — and helps customers fly throughout the country and the world. The company arranges whole aircraft management and fractional ownership; sells “jet cards,” which give customers a certain amount of flying time; and offers charter services.
Marshall earned a degree in general management from Purdue University in 1977 and his J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law in 1982. Before joining Flexjet in 2005, he worked in-house and in private practice in the Detroit area. His practice areas included bankruptcy, ERISA, banking, transactions, employment and, yes, aviation law.
Marshall’s legal department includes two other attorneys, a legal assistant and an insurance coordinator. He wears many hats at Flexjet, providing legal services to its business units, including sales and marketing; human resources; contracts; procurement; business development; operations; and risk management.
“It goes beyond just providing legal services,” he says. “I’m also the manager of . . . several cost centers within the company in making sure that we stay on track with financial targets as well as managing the personnel within those groups.”
U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration regulations take up about half of his legal department’s time, he says.
For example, the regulations impact the company’s marketing materials. The company has to make sure the messages it sends accurately represent what Flexjet can offer as a fractional company and not an air carrier.
Much of his time is spent on tax litigation. “That involves, over the past few years, matters both on a federal level with excise taxes as well as various challenges regarding state property taxes that have come up, particularly in the downturn in the economy as states tried to find additional sources of revenue,” Marshall says. “We’ve been engaged in that, those types of matters, on behalf of our company but also on behalf of our customer base because we’re quite often an advocate for their position as well in protecting their interests in those types of matters.”
Marshall says he turns to Leonard Hoffman, a partner in Jackson Walker in Dallas, for help mostly with commercial litigation and Texas employment matters. Hoffman has demonstrated “exactly what I am looking for from outside counsel; understanding our needs as a client by giving legal advice that takes into consideration our parent company Bombardier’s 100-year legacy in aviation and Flexjet’s unrelenting commitment to customer service,” Marshall writes in an email.
Hoffman says Marshall’s experience in litigation makes him “remarkably helpful” in working with the firm. “His previous personal litigation experience and diverse representation of aviation-related matters prior to his going in-house with Flexjet has really placed Bruce in an extraordinarily unique position of having outstanding skills and capabilities that many others don’t have,” Hoffman says.
Marshall also works with Stratton Horres, managing partner of the Dallas office of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker. Horres notes that Marshall’s varied background gives him a “unique perspective.” When Marshall “puts on his lawyer hat, he’s very decisive. When a case needs to be aggressively defended, he’ll aggressively defend it,” Horres says.
Deanna White, Flexjet’s vice president of finance and administration, says Marshall is “a legal jack of all trades.” But more than that, he plays a leadership role, White says. During the economic downturn, he helped modify some of Flexjet’s products to better suit customer demands. He also helped negotiate a partnership with Qatar Airways, she says.
“He does get involved in a lot of business decisions that we make as a company,” White says.
Business and legal decisions, yes; cockpit decisions, no.
“I’ve spent my career flying a desk,” Marshall says, laughing.
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