Dr Ingo Baumann found himself specialising in space law by chance, but it was perhaps the force of destiny at work for the sci-fi fan who enjoyed Captain Future and the early Star Wars films while growing up in Germany.
And, unlike the adventures played out in Star Wars, which took place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”, this space adventure took place not so long ago, and not so far away,
In the late 1990s Ingo was about to undertake his mandatory administration internship required as part of German legal studies. His planned placement at Euronews channel in Lyon fell through at the last minute. Instead, he found himself in Paris at Eutelsat, the then intergovernmental satellite organisation in the process of privatization, and he was hooked...
“I was fascinated,” he explained, and when he returned to his home city of Cologne, another fortunate coincidence helped fix him on his path. The city’s university is home to the oldest and one of the leading air and space Law institutes in the world. “I went straight there and said I wanted to get into space law and went on to do a PhD at the institute on satellite communications.”
The work at the institute brought him next into Project 2001 – Legal framework for the commercial use of Outer Space, a joint project between the institute and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). First participating in the project as a research fellow, he later transitioned to a post as in-house lawyer with the space agency where he stayed for some eight years, moving later into programme management functions. It was on this path that he met one of his law firm partners, Dr Oliver Heinrich, a fellow PhD student at the institute who also joined the space agency.
Together with Dr Roderic Ortner, whose background was in a large international law firm, they are the founding partners of Eurojuris member firm BHO Legal. With a characteristically German anecdote, Ingo describes meeting his two partners in a beer garden, each at a life stage where they were wondering what to do next and coming to the conclusion that creating their own law firm was the way ahead. That was in 2008, with the trio working hard to secure clients from a zero start point and the rest is history.
Now, Ingo leads the space industry team of BHO Legal and advises ministries, agencies, large aerospace companies, SME and increasingly start-ups from the New Space ecosystem.
“While there are academic individuals around the world with specialist knowledge, there are very few law firms like ours in the global space industry,” he says. “Most of our competition is in London, Washington or New York. To work with our clients requires not just legal knowledge, but holistic awareness of space policy, strategy, technology and business.”
Some of the interesting projects Ingo has worked on include the European Union´s Copernicus and Galileo programmes, and projects in military satellite communications, with the firm’s work closely linked also to the defence, drones and geospatial sectors.
Eurojuris members taking part in the recent practice group congress in Cologne may have met Ingo, when his firm hosted a welcome event at their offices in the city.
“Eurojuris is very new for me and my firm,” adds Ingo. “We have grown BHO Legal significantly in recent years and some of our new partners came from long-standing Eurojuris member firms. They recommended we join the network. We can see the benefit for our clients in being able to connect with relevant expertise around Europe, and beyond, through members.”
And the question that has to be asked: “would you like to go into space yourself?” brings a reply of “yes!” from Ingo, although he recognises he will have to wait until such adventures are affordable to those beyond billionaires.
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