America’s best-known commercial drone litigator—a title that means nothing at this moment—is a Harvard-trained lawyer with a garage full of model aircraft he’s been flying for 20 years, weather permitting. Brendan Schulman is special counsel at Manhattan law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, which launched an “unmanned aircraft systems practice group” in December. “We anticipate that there will be many different areas of law that will be impacted by the emergence of this new technology,” Schulman says, not unlike the myriad legal issues raised by the Internet’s rapid growth.
As commercial drone use expands to industries from agriculture to filmmaking, real estate, and utility inspections, the firm says it anticipates many new business opportunities. It’s not alone. Several large law firms across the U.S. have created similar specialties in recent months, including McKenna, Long & Aldridge and LeClair Ryan. Disputes are likely to arise over privacy issues, air and land-use rights, and matters of insurance, environmental, and regulatory compliance for drone operators.