They go by many names to include petroleum landman, independent landman, field landman, and lease broker, but whatever title they bestow on themselves, the independent landman is the workhorse for an E & P land team. Often, the companies that sub-contract independent landmen for E & P companies are known as land service companies (“LSC”). Choosing the correct LSC is crucial to the success of the E & P land team’s mission.
Some E & P land teams will contract a LSC to provide all land services from imaging to lease records and division orders. However, most E & P land teams rely on LSCs for five specific tasks which are title examination, lease acquisition, due diligence, Oklahoma Corporation Commission application preparation, and title curative.
It should go without saying that an E & P company should vet its independent landmen for competency and fit. It would not be wise be hire an inexperienced title landman to write a full section ownership report in the Shalom Alechem field in Carter County. Likewise it would be better to hire a buyer from Union City if the company is acquiring acreage in Canadian County than it would be to hire the steadfast title hand from Marlow. But after the competency bar is met, there are a number of other criteria that can improve the relationship and performance of the LSC and E & P land teams. By setting expectations for the LSC, the company landman will save time and limit frustrations in the long run.
Data Reporting: Company landmen already spend too much time analyzing and manipulating data. Most of this data is generated by the LSC. Therefore, it is crucial that the LSC provide reports that convey the information in a succinct and useful format. Some LSCs still provide ownership reports in a word document, or fail to provide a unit summary, or leasehold burdens, leaving the company landman to finish the LSC’s work. Even small details such as entering the name of an owner and their address in a separate cell so the data can be easily mail merged will save hours during the course of prospect development.
Accountability: As most independent landmen work from the courthouse or their homes, it is vital that LSC’s supervise their personnel and provide feedback to the company landmen. When tasked with a project, an LSC, after review of the task, should be able to provide a rough timeline for mission accomplishment based on their past experience in the area. The worn out attage, “this is the worst section I’ve ever seen,” cannot be true all of the time. It is useful for the LSC to provide metrics to the company landmen that compare field landmen that may demonstrate trends in the prospect over time. Examples of these can be the average number of days it takes to run title in a section. If one landman averages 15 days to complete a mineral ownership report and another averages 30 days, the LSC should investigate. Likewise, if one lease buyer is buying 500 acres per week and another is only buying 100, it should be obvious that a change needs to be made. These patterns are difficult to detect without the LSC being viliglant in its accountability of personnel.
Initiative and Attitude: It is your correspondent’s opinion that initiative and attitude are what differentiate the good LSCs from the average LSC. If an LSC hems and haws every time the company landman asks for support, it will be a tough prospect for both parties. Examples of initiative that set LSCs apart include ordering a river survey before the title landman begins to chain, requesting depths of the target formations before wasting countless days on uphole depth and wellbore severances and preparing spacing and pooling lists with correct addresses for submission with the ownership report. “It shall be done,” should be the mantra of a quality LSC, not “let me think about it and get back with you.”
Identifying these attributes will certainly give any E & P a great starting point for identifying a responsible, effective, and long term LSC partner. However, an open line of communication is the key in executing a game plan and accomplishing goals, all while navigating the ups and downs of the oil and gas industry.
Stephen T. Clayman is a Petroleum Landman with an independent horizontal operator. He began his career in the oil and gas industry working worm’s corner and lead tongs for Cactus Drilling Company. Prior to his entry into the oil and gas industry, he served in the United States Marine Corps. He left the service as a Captain after two deployments in support of the Afghan War. He is a native Oklahoman and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife reside in Tulsa.
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