Todd Patterson

The Gulfstream G200 that intellectual property firm Patterson + Sheridan uses for frequent trips to California from the firm’s headquarters in Houston has been mentioned in several news reports lately, to the mild dismay of founding partner Todd Patterson.

“We’ve seen some of that,” Patterson said about reports this month in the New York Times and Business Insider, and on a television station in the Bay Area. ”I’m a little nervous about that because we weren’t trying to upset industries like commercial real estate.”

The Times story focused on the high cost of housing in California.

Patterson said he believes Patterson + Sheridan clients understand the firm uses a private plane to save money and not to be extravagant, but the fact that clients are noticing the news reports “makes me a little nervous.”

Patterson said the 75-lawyer firm opened its first office in the Bay Area in 2000 and has used a private plane to ferry lawyers to California for the last 10 to 12 years. The firm bought the used Gulfstream two years ago for close to $4 million, Patterson said. It is roomier than the Westwind l the firm previously owned, he said.

The firm has solid business reasons for flying a full plane of lawyers every three or four weeks to California, where the lawyers meet with clients and work out of the firm’s office in San Jose, and its new office in San Diego, he said.

He said it fulfills the firm’s goal of providing clients with great customer service. But using a private plane is also cost-effective, he said. Due to the cost of office space leases in California, and the salary levels needed to attract great lawyers in a high-cost area, it’s a relative bargain for the firm to fly its Houston-based lawyers to California, even at a round trip cost that runs north of $1,000 for each of the nine individuals on the flight.

The lawyers are more productive because they work on client matters while on the three-hour flight to California, and the one-hour flight between San Diego and San Jose, Patterson said. They could not do sensitive work while on a commercial flight or while sitting in an airport, he said.

According to market information on Zillow, the average price of a residential rental in Houston is less than half of the price in San Jose or San Diego.