Russell Klingaman grew up around airplanes and always knew he would be a pilot.
The partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Milwaukee, worked on getting his pilot license as he went to law school, but initially didn’t realize he could combine the two interests.
“I joined a pilot law bar and an aircraft owners’ group and it kind of clicked: I could bring my two loves, law and flying, together,” he said.
Klingaman’s father was a flying instructor so he grew up knowing a lot about planes. That knowledge comes in handy when working on cases, he said.
“I know a lot and it helps me identify key issues and make recommendations about where to go with a case,” he said. “My experience with the aviation community really helps me understand and helping to solve the complex problems that arise. I know the (aviation) rules because I live by them.”
A skilled litigator, Klingaman also focuses on commercial litigation, intellectual property, insurance defense and product liability. His practice includes work defending pilots and other Federal Aviation Association certificate holders in accident investigations or proceedings to suspend FAA-issued licenses.
“The more I worked in aviation law, the more I liked it,” said Klingaman, who owns his own plane and last summer was elected president of the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association. “I have a good knack for litigation and business law.”
That’s something echoed by Gordon Magee of Drs. Foster & Smith. Klingaman has handled a variety of cases for the mail order and e-commerce pet supply corporation.
“He’s outstanding to work with and has a great perspective on the law,” Magee said. “We’re a very complex business and have a lot of moving parts with online sales and a pharmacy division, but he handles everything so well.”
Besides his work in court, Klingaman is known for the extensive research he’s conducted on the Wright Brothers, the patent they sought for their “flying machine” and how they enforced it through numerous lawsuits between 1909 and the beginning of World War I. He’s given presentations on the research to aviation groups and is in the process of writing a book on the topic.
“It’s definitely something I’m passionate about and really brought together so many aspects for me,” said Klingaman, who also teaches aviation law as an adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School.