Almost all landmen share the same story: they stumbled upon the land business, or at best, they have some friend or family member that is already a landman and decided to follow their steps.
There are universities that have land management programs that prepare students for the basics of the land business; however, there are some other skills that differentiate a title researcher from a good landman.
The oil and gas business is, and has always been subject to sharp economic cycles. Most of the time, it is the effect of over supply that lowers the price and thus, a landman will have to ride the cycle along with their clients. A landman with experience knows this and has been through a couple of those cycles. When there is landwork, there are constant trips, phone calls, late nights reading a bunch of documents and preparing ownership reports so the company people can make a decision. Once the decision is made, the landman goes in overdrive to get the “deal done”
A landman’s work used to be a lonely work, where you had to be self-motivated, treat county clerks and deputies with respect and always abide by the rules of the county. Nowadays with the advent of internet based title research, there is the notion of just sitting behind a desk and downloading .pdf’s all day. I honestly believe that a trip to the courthouse is worth it, because a landman’s best friend is the person in charge of keeping the records.
Details kick our **s -Sam P.
After reading several times a document in the chain of title, a landman makes an interpretation, and sometimes it is not an easy one since each drafter thinks differently, sometimes influenced by the latest supreme court case decision affecting mineral or leasehold ownership. So a good landman will pay attention to the four corners of the document and the specific wording. That’s why grammar and punctuation are so important as well as the logic behind each phrase.
Every landman must know the law, as well as history of the land since they will make a definite interpretation of the documents in the chain of title. Attorneys will review the landman’s work but by that time, the deed or lease is already recorded, and that “horse has left the barn already.” On the same token, a good landman will work closely with title attorneys and solve any doubts they may have before recording documents.
A mouthful of thank yous and a handful of gimmes -A.L. Nail
When dealing with land or mineral owners, a good landman will act as a true broker between their client and the owner. There is an ethics code that must be followed, otherwise, the deal may not go through and what is worse, the client will be bad mouthed within the family or community.
I was fortunate enough to know A.L. Nail, a landman from Amarillo, Texas. A short guy in stature but a giant in knowledge. For every question we had, he always had a great answer, like when talking about a lease revival, his response was clear: “you cannot breath life to a dead horse’s **s.” It was clear that it was time for a new lease negotiation.
Own Your Mistakes
Yes, a landman must know the law, but sometimes there is poor drafting and people that just pop up in the chain of title or other that simply disappear from the face of the Earth. The latest is common in the early title in the southern plains, where there was a constant migration of people specially during the Dust Bowl.
Whenever there are questions, a good landman asks their friend attorney -if you don’t have one, find one. And if there is a mistake, a good landman recognizes the mistake and does whatever is necessary to find a solution. There are so many cases of poor landwork made by fly-by-night “landmen” that make mistakes like leasing the wrong person because they were so lazy to find out the whole family history, or leases poorly written that were obviously made by copy/pasting clauses from here and there. All those mistakes will show up, especially when the client requests a Title Opinion.
A good landman reads and pays attention to new law cases, state of the industry, history, news, title standards, etc. Every single piece of information, added to a natural or cultivated curiosity are the best friends of a landman. At the end of the day, a landman knows the title and how the owner got the interest so, at the moment of negotiation, it should be a proactive experience. The landman should know enough to answer any questions about the property and about the ownership’s history.
Finally, a good landman should be humble and courteous with both the client and the owner. It is all about finding that middle ground between both and to make the deal happen. Personally, whenever I see the drilling permit and later the production report of a prospect I started from scratch, it gives me satisfaction. It was all worth it, and if the lease had a Pugh Clause I know I will talk to them again in three or four years.