The “practical and responsive" Debra Erni is noted for her “wide range of experience with a number of market participants" and she is “particularly active within the Asian lessor market, where she is distinctly tapped into Japanese participants by virtue of her “in-depth knowledge of unique Japanese corporate culture and legal concepts".
The Legal 500

Debra Erni’s practice in Pillsbury’s Asset Finance Group focuses on international asset finance, leasing and trading with a particular emphasis on the aviation industry.

Based in London with significant client followings in California, Japan and Ireland, Debra has represented several of the world’s largest aircraft and engine leasing companies, financiers, airlines, equity investors and manufacturers in connection with the sale and purchase of new and used aviation assets, ECA-supported financings, secured debt financings, all manner of lease financings, securitisations, aviation platform M&A, and repossession, restructuring and dispute advisory work for major leasing companies. Formerly a resident in Japan for nearly a decade, Debra speaks and reads Japanese fluently and is familiar with Japanese corporate structures and many other aspects of Japanese law. She has also spent time on secondment at AerCap in the early stages of her career.

Per client feedback from Chambers and Partners 2020, Debra “offers commercial solutions in tough situations” and “has the ability to see the big picture.”

Representative Experience

  • Counsel to Mitsubishi Corporation and MCAP in connection with the amalgamation and integration of the MCAP, Vermillion and Accipiter leasing platforms into AMCK Aviation, which necessitated specialist asset finance, corporate and securities, anti-trust, tax and employment law advice together with the transfer of aircraft ownership and leasing interests of a large scale portfolio of aircraft involving a multitude of airlines in various jurisdictions.
  • Counsel to Jackson Square Aviation on numerous aircraft portfolio sales throughout 2019 to both new entrants to the industry and established lessors.
  • Counsel to a major leasing company as mezzanine lender in connection with the PDP financing of a portfolio of 12 new Airbus aircraft.

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  • Counsel to SMBC Aero Engine Leasing on the acquisition, leasing and disposal of more than 45 new and used engines in over 20 different jurisdictions.

Professional Highlights

  • Honors & Awards
  • The Legal 500 UK, recognized in Transport Finance and Leasing (2014 – 2022) and as a Leading Individual since 2020.
  • Chambers UK, Asset Finance: Aviation Finance – UK-wide (2016 – 2022)
  • Euromoney Expert (2013 – 2022) Aviation Lawyers

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  • Who’s Who Legal Transport (2016 – 2022) Aviation Finance
  • Euromoney Expert (2013 – 2022) Women in Business Law
  • Memberships
    • International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT)
    • Nominating Committee for the Pillsbury Board of Directors
    • Pillsbury’s International Strategy Board – Japan Subcommittee
  • Speaking Engagements
    • Euromoney Seminars’ Airfinance Journal Japan 2020, Tokyo, 09.03.2020
    • Euromoney Seminars’ Airfinance Journal Japan 2019, Tokyo, 04.12.2019
    • Financial Times’ Innovative Lawyers Roundtable, London, 03.06.2019
    • Advancing Women in Aviation Tokyo Seminar, Tokyo, 04.20.2017


  • LL.M., King's College London, University of London

    LL.B., University of Waikato, New Zealand


  • New Zealand

    England and Wales


  • Japanese