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Are Landmen Practicing Law? the Legal and Ethical Issues

Brian R. Bjella, Proceedings of 49th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2003)

A landman must be skilled in many disciplines: the exacting work of examining county records to determine mineral and leasehold ownership, locating heirs of deceased mineral owners, securing leases, negotiating operating agreements, completing purchases and sales of properties, and coordinating or completing title curative. As the profession requires specialized [25-2] knowledge of mineral law and contracts, problems can arise when some of these functions border on the practice of law.1

Over the years there has been much less conflict between mineral lawyers and landmen, as contrasted with that between real estate lawyers and real estate professionals such as brokers and title insurers. The likely reason is that in the mineral industry, landmen and lawyers work together: whereas in the real estate industry they are often competing for the same work. In addition, in the mineral industry a landman may draft an instrument, but there is usually an opportunity for review by an attorney.2 As a result, very little law exists as to whether any of the traditional duties of a landman actually constitute the practice of law.