Oil and Gas
Gordon Arata is also Louisiana's leading oil and gas firm. In legal circles and in the industry, founding member John McCollam is legendary, having authored the seminal article analyzing the Louisiana Mineral Code and also having taught mineral law for more than twenty years at Tulane Law School. Similarly, Bob Duplantis, a petroleum chemical engineer and one-time lawyer with Shell Oil Company, is one of the preeminent unitization lawyers in Louisiana. Our other oil and gas lawyers have varied backgrounds. Some are trained in geophysics and geology; others have worked as landmen. When the stakes are at their highest, clients have the confidence to rely on us.
A "Bet the Company" Problem
A good example is a recent series of consolidated cases involving complex natural gas production and sale contracts from federal leases located on the Outer Continental Shelf. Our client had potential exposure to damages in excess of a billion dollars. The first crucial step our lawyers took was to select the most advantageous forum for the litigation. Member John McCollam recommended that our client immediately file a preemptive strike for declaratory relief in federal court in New Orleans. Our client quickly accepted this advice at a meeting in Houston, and John rushed back to New Orleans to finalize and file the pleadings.
The Right Advice at the Right Time
Member and co-counsel Scott O'Connor remembers that "the client was instantly comfortable with John's advice. We were immediately authorized to begin drafting the necessary pleadings and instructed to file suit that same day." The opposition filed suits the following day in Houston and Lafayette, but their suits were dismissed or transferred to the New Orleans court. "We managed to stay a step ahead of the opposition throughout the ensuing litigation," says O'Connor, and that ultimately resulted in a favorable decision.
Winning Summary Judgment
That decision was a summary judgment in favor of our client. An important and creative element of our courtroom strategy was the use of two prominent Louisiana law professors as expert witnesses. They supported the summary judgment motion, explaining why our opponent's position on contract construction offended the Louisiana Civil Code. Member Peck Hayne helped draft the pleadings, and he points out that, although "courts don't usually entertain expert testimony on pure legal issues, it seems likely that both the district and appellate courts were influenced by what these law professors had to say." Scott O'Connor has the last word on why our cooperation with the client won the day: "In litigation of this magnitude, the pace is fast and furious, but things still have to get done correctly. Because the client's and our team worked closely together, we were always on the same page for case strategy."