Oil and gas law is complicated. It’s kind of its own legal animal, really. And it’s really easy to get all wrong. From claims to mineral rights by private individuals and corporations to Tribal Nations and governments on any level, really, lawyers like eagle ford attorneys in Texas working in the oil and gas field have to know their stuff. Law students know that the coursework is specialized for oil and gas law, and you can’t scrape by from having a background in environmental law. The University of Texas, for example, has an Oil & Gas Journal and help law students leverage their connections to energy companies for exposure and experience.
But even knowing all you know about basic oil and gas law—at least from an outsider’s perspective—may not be enough to save you from yourself. Or at least, that’s what three Mississippi businessmen may be finding out this year. Filing a lawsuit against two Texas attorneys, claiming they’re owed $7.9 million from the lawyers for their work in the British Petroleum 2010 Gulf oil spill, the businessmen may be finding that they’re no match for playing out the technicalities of the law. This is a cautionary tale for Texans now wanting to work with eagle ford attorneys in the Lone Star State boom.
Gulf Coast businessmen Scott Walker, Kirk Ladner and Steve Seymour allege that the three of them “steered 9,486 clients to the lawyers. The lawsuit says the three got some money but are still owed” millions more. Claiming that the two Texas attorneys “formed a joint venture to represent clients injured by the BP oil catastrophe” and had several local and interstate businesses sign legal representation contracts with the attorneys. But there were other contracts as well, the lawsuit claims.
Eagle ford attorneys, look sharp here: “Walker and the others allege that under the contracts, the three businessmen were to be paid” for the referrals of the clients. You don’t have to specialize in the complex field of oil and gas law to see what’s wrong with this statement. It didn’t escape the notice of the two Texas attorneys, either, who immediately filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Walker, Ladner and Seymour.
Oil and gas lawyers working in Texas with other eagle ford attorneys knows as well as the two defendants in the lawsuit that “It is illegal for a non-lawyer to accept or agree to accept money to improperly solicit clients for a lawyer. Under both Texas and Mississippi law, a claimant may not recover under any theory for illegal conduct.” Or at least, that’s the language in the motions to dismiss.
Hancock and other oil and gas lawyers in Texas may be raising eyebrows about how the three businessmen assumed that the contracts were valid—indeed, the Texas attorney-defendants “argue that they never agreed to such payments and such payments are not found anywhere in the parties’ written contracts,” but the story stands as yet another cautionary tale. Be careful who you sign up to do business with—make sure their reputation beyond reproach. And try to keep a cool head, even when oil is turning ever so quickly to all that hot cash.