Bridging the Gaps
As discussed previously, there are A LOT of different jobs/niches/specialties/areas that can encompass the title “landman.” If I had to narrow down a description of what a landman does in the most general terms, I think I’d go with “filling in the gaps.” There are a lot of highly specialized jobs in the oilfield and the exploration side of the business is no exception to that. There are all kinds of engineers, analysts, accountants, geologists, geophysicists, attorneys, etc doing very specific jobs to fill their “niche.” Landmen fill in the gaps between all of those niches.
When no one else wants to take responsibility for a task because it’s “not within their purview or job description,” there’s a landman for that. Something like a Swiss Army Knife…we have a lot of tools, and while they might not always be the best tool for a specific task, at least they’re all in one place when you need them. Need a lease amended? Get the landman to do it. Sure, an attorney is more qualified, but you put an attorney on a call with a landowner (or the landowners attorney), and that amendment is going to take months of redlines. A landman might be able to get it in a matter of weeks at a fraction of the cost. Can’t figure out what the lease provisions regarding pooling/shut in/continuous development/etc imply to your operation? There’s an in house landman for that.
Give the Landman a Problem, He Will Give You a Solution
Having a good landman on your team can make the difference between profit and loss. We approach problems in a different way, maybe that’s because most of our career “education” happens by actually DOING something, instead of just reading or talking about it. Most of us didn’t go to grad school (I know some got their law degrees), I think it’s safe to assume most of us at least got an undergrad degree, but our “continuing education” happens by being put into a situation where you either sink or swim. A lot of “landmen” sink. The few landmen that can swim with sharks are the ones I’m talking about. We keep working through the downturns, even if we’re not billing a client.
Maybe you’re trying to get an off lease surface location. Send out your surface landman. Need to figure out the shortest and cheapest way to start at Point A, get to Point B, and achieve Goal C? Fuck it, let a landman spin his wheels on it. You’ll get a solution. Then the lawyers/engineers/accountants/etc can bicker all day long about how to make it “better,” but at the end of the day it’s about getting it done. We’re used to solving problems no one else wants to “waste their time on.” Like the joke about job interviews goes, “we’re natural problem solvers.” Sure that can’t be said for all landmen, but I’m not talking about the “99%” I used to refer to so fondly (the warm bodies that solely existed to bill a day rate), I’m talking about the other people that can say they’re 150% LandmanLife.
The engineers don’t want to talk to the “dirt kickers” because it’s beneath them. Who’s going to fill that gap? A fucking landman. The engineer says “here’s what I need and how you should do it” and the landman goes out to make that happen…never perfectly, but hopefully it will at least be deemed “adequate.” Geologists see a reservoir they want to explore, so they draw a blob on a map. Guess who gets to turn that blob into the tracts (both surface and mineral), calculate the ownership, and then get the leases signed so that the geologist can poke a hole in the ground? Yeah, it’s going to be a landman. When the attorneys finish their DOTOs and say “we need this title defect from 1905 cured” who in their right mind wants to go stomping around overgrown cemeteries taking pictures of headstones in 110 degree heat to establish birth/death dates for Juan Sr, Juan Grande, Juan Guapo, Juan Chapo, Juan III, Juan Gordo, and Juan Hijo? Call the landman, he’ll do it!
Sure, we lean into the meme of being drunk frat boys because hell if we can’t make fun of ourselves then what’s the fucking point? At the end of the day, when you hit a “gray area” and aren’t sure who can solve your problem, I’m betting there’s a landman who can fill that gap. Give us the problem, we can find a solution. That’s just what we do. Sometimes it takes a couple of 6 packs before we get there. Fuck it, I EARNED that 6 pack! Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of the day since it’s only 10am…