A partner in a large, international law firm proudly advertises that she assisted a client in the acquisition of an oil-field in the Permian Basin. The lawyer, who offices in Houston, advises that she graduated from law school with honors. Curiously, the lawyer is not licensed to practice law in Texas.

A Denver based firm employed an international law firm to assist it in purchasing oil and gas properties in East Texas. Over a year after the purchase, the company is trying to figure out “latent title problems” – and, its transaction lawyers have no idea how to assist them.

There is more to being a good transaction attorney than just “good grammar skills.” If that were the case, you would be well advised to hire English teachers. A good transaction lawyer has experience “fixing” past, bad deals. A good transaction lawyer understands the litigation process and understands local judges and juries who will be charged with “fixing” your deal. A good transaction lawyer understands your business and your needs. Stated another way, a good transaction lawyer can anticipate the likely – what can go wrong, how the wrong will be fixed, and understands where the wrong will be fixed.

The next time you hire a lawyer to represent you in a complex transaction, ask the following:

1. Where is Odessa?

2. Does oil come in cans?

3. Have you ever seen an oil well?

Granted, most transaction lawyers do not regularly appear in courthouses, trying cases. But they should have some fundamental understanding of what will happen to the transaction papers for which you have “so dearly paid” if things go “askew.”

There is a reason why the Texas Supreme Court [and supreme courts of other states] tests lawyer applicants (the bar exam) – it is to assure minimal competence.

There are a myriad of reasons why transactions turn out to be bad ones – result in costly post-closing litigation – “head south.” But, you can easily avoid your transaction failing because your “draftsman” does not know anything about real property laws of the State where you are purchasing real estate; lacks any knowledge of the dispute resolution processes that you will be “forced into” if his or her complex document doesn’t “quite work out as expected;” and does not know anything about the business in which you are engaged.

Good grief, you are paying for it. Get high quality.

by Jack M. Wilhelm

Edward Wilhelm and Jack Wilhelm provide assistance to buyers and sellers of oil and gas properties.

THE WILHELM LAW FIRM, 5524 Bee Caves Road, Suite B5, Austin, Texas 78746; (512) 236 8400 (phone); (512) 236 8404 (fax); www.wilhelmlaw.net

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to and does not offer legal advice, legal recommendations or legal representation on any matter. You need to consult an attorney in person for legal advice regarding your individual situation.