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The Landman Shuffle: Side Hustles to Keep Your Skills Sharp When the Work Slows

By: Laura Duarte

Shocker – a cyclical market means job instability. Anyone who’s worked in the oil and gas industry long knows the ups don’t last and the downs can hurt, and if you’ve been paying attention, you recognize that you now sit in the precarious depths of an oil and gas recession. That said, sometimes the best you can do is find a comfortable seat on the pile of nails you’ve been offered.

On the upside, it is possible to wade through these uncertain waters and step onto shore relatively unscathed, especially since industry decline hasn’t yet devolved into full-on stagnation. Furthermore, if you manage these early days with calm planning, you’ll not only look like a professional badass but pave the way for consistency and growth down the road.

So, if your workload has taken a hit, you’ve lost work days or even your position, don’t panic. With a little research and elbow grease, you can stay busy and relevant. Both full and part-time positions exist that are landman adjacent, and while you’ll certainly miss the excitement of a well-working land unit, you might enjoy a reprieve in spite of yourself. Now, dust off the old resume and give some thought to your next move. Here are some ideas to get things percolating:

Keep It Legal

What do all landmen have in common? Contracts. Whether you spend days analyzing Warranty Deeds, negotiating Oil and Gas Leases or working through JOAs, your job requires a solid understanding of legalese and contract law. Therefore, it never hurts to stay close to the paper trail.

To start, you might look at oil and gas attorneys, but if the search proves fruitless, any position where you handle legal documents looks good on a landman resume. If you have a law degree, you stand a significant chance of getting hired. If not, don’t worry. Attorneys need an entourage to get the job done, and new positions pop up all the time.

For instance, many attorneys have one or more legal assistants who conduct research, maintain and organize files, and support attorneys in various other capacities. For anyone attached to a more freelance or work-from-home opportunity, technology has created the need for specialists who collect electronic documentation. These professionals do what’s called e-discovery, searching for and preserving supporting docs spawned by a lawsuit or criminal case. Not a far cry from running title, eh? You might miss eating stale sandwiches in the basement of a remote courthouse, though.

Check Out Real Estate

Aside from contracts, landmen deal with…um…land. It makes sense, then, to stay within arm’s length of any transaction related thereto. Depending on your situation, you can start with a position as a realtor’s assistant, getting to know the practice and your aptitude for it, working your way up as you see fit. If your oil and gas hiatus feels more long-term, you can try your hand as an agent, broker, realtor, office manager or appraiser. While commercial real estate is perhaps a greater reach than legal work in terms of maintaining your landman status, it still keeps you at the table. Understand, however, that going for certain professions can require extra legwork on the front end. You might need a class or two online, some testing, and a license to become a realtor, broker or land appraiser. Again, depending on your long-term plan, the extra effort might or might not be worth it.

Consider Sales

If you prefer working with people and not paper, consider a position in sales. Not only will you stretch those muscles used to sustain conversation, but you’ll sharpen your negotiation skills, always a shrewd move if you want to return to a landman position once the smoke clears. For a double whammy, marry sales and land, opting for a job as a real estate agent. Like mentioned above, you’ll need some education and a license to move forward, but in the end, you’ll add some attractive experience to the resume.

Other sales positions abound, so if real estate makes you queasy, don’t fret. These days, most businesses are peddling something, and they need sharp-tongued, intelligent people to move the goods. From insurance and packaged items to pharmaceuticals, medical devices and software, there’s no shortage of work in sales. Just spruce up your cover letter and start Googling.

Work for the City

If you live near an oil and gas asset, chances are the industry will come back around at some point and need qualified land agents to fill the gap. When that happens, companies will again need to work with municipalities for a number of reasons. As such, anyone familiar with the inner workings of a city has something valuable to offer. Your first move might take you right to the courthouse, that land of milk and honey run by clerks galore. And if you’ve spent time there in other capacities, you may have a leg up on other applicants, as a familiar face can do wonders when it comes to getting an interview.

Outside the courthouse, city jobs have much to offer, including benefits, regular business hours (with a zillion paid holidays), and job stability. From human resources and IT to accounting and administration, simply scan job boards for your city and see those results fly in.

Get Your School On

If sudden career changes give you hives, you can take this opportunity to expand your education. Landmen are an eclectic bunch, and many have law degrees, MBAs, and PLMs (Petroleum Land Management). Some schools also offer online masters programs in petroleum-related fields, making the step that much more convenient. Not only will a relevant degree make you extra hirable, but you’ll expertly fill a year or two, graduating in time for all this mess to turn around.

Final Thoughts

No one likes the inconstant aspects of the industry, but weathering downturns is part of the deal. For a lesson in perspective, casually drop the word “recession” to a 30+ year landman, and you’ll find yourself subject to a lengthy diatribe about the Lost Decade, aka the 1980s. This ugly era left many landmen out of work, reducing them to bitterness and squalor as they trudged along in unrelated fields like street performing and falconry. But seriously, the 80s hurt landmen, yet many came back years later to sustain lucrative careers.

Smaller but painful downturns hit in 2008 and 2014, and some land professionals are still finding their footing. This is all to say, chin up. Get a steely resolve and positive attitude, and you’ll be on your way to greatness regardless of what happens next.

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Wizdom Land is a title software for E&P companies, landmen and attorneys that organizes each step in the examination process. Easily keep track of your title, team progress, and documents. Wizdom provides peace of mind by keeping sensitive data organized, secure and confidential.

Wizdom Supercharges Oil and Gas Title Research with Digital Land Records Partnership in the Powder River Basin

 

Denver, CO – Wizdom Land Solutions, Inc. (“Wizdom”) and Land Data Images (“LDI”) announce their partnership to provide on-demand access to land records from county clerk offices in the Powder River Basin through Wizdom’s online title examination and project management platform. For over a decade, LDI has maintained several patent-to-present digital courthouses and this strategic partnership provides a new, highly streamlined method to examine land records and share them across teams of landmen and attorneys who research oil, gas, and minerals rights on behalf of mineral buyers, exploration and drilling companies.

 

The oil & gas title industry is beginning to recognize how much time and money is spent manually gathering courthouse data. In the rush to maintain a competitive advantage and save money, title researchers are leveraging millions of digital land records across all the major basins. The integration of LDI virtual courthouses into the Wizdom title platform is considered a huge win amongst title landmen and attorneys in the Powder River Basin. Until now, there have been no online land records for Campbell County or Sheridan County. Coverage was very limited in Johnson County, and even though Converse County is fully online, the LDI-Wizdom integration provides more convenience and cost savings compared to the online county portals. Players in the Powder can now instantly pull land and deed records for title research to see who owns the minerals and the oil and gas leases at pricing that is competitive with county copy fees and eliminates the time and cost of travel for imaging records in the courthouse.

 

LDI principal, Erich Zeeb says “LDI was the first to offer online records for the Powder River Basin and we are excited to provide our clients access to the next big technological leap for title research.  By partnering with Wizdom our customers can access critical project management and data security tools that are only brought to the market by Wizdom.”

 

Wizdom principal, Brett Wisner says, “Partnering with Land Data Images couldn’t have come at a more important time as the competitive landscape in the Powder River Basin heats up. Wizdom and LDI will position our clients with an edge you can’t get anywhere else.”

 

Joe Thames of Baseline Minerals says “Our side of the oil and gas industry has to accept these advancements in the way that we protect our client’s data and properly manage the information that they purchase. It’s great to see a land services product that is as serious as we are about protecting our clients’ data.”

 

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Wizdom Land is a title software for E&P companies, landmen and attorneys that organizes each step in the examination process. Secure your data, instantly pull records, generate runsheets and abstracts, and easily keep track of your title, team progress, and documents. Wizdom provides peace of mind by keeping sensitive data organized, secure and confidential.

Evolution of Title Examination

Relative to other industries, oil and gas has been largely conservative when it comes to embracing technology; however, in more recent years there has been a notable shift. In an era of lower oil prices, the need to cut costs and reduce inefficiencies has prompted a change.

In the past, a Landman would have to hop in their car and spend months at a time traveling to different courthouses across the country. They would take notes on yellow legal pads, type up mineral and leasehold ownership reports in MS Word, and print them off for the filing cabinet. Some companies and individuals still use this manual process today. It is highly inefficient, redundant and subject to too many errors, ultimately resulting in higher costs for the customer.

Today it is more common to see a variety of tools, such as MS Excel, Dropbox, mobile capture, and servers, used in the title examination process. With more courthouses becoming digital, landmen can spend less time collecting documents at the courthouse and more time examining title. Landmen and title examiners are expected to be proficient in an array of technologies to stay competitive. Title examination is complex enough, without having to learn and maintain multiple systems to preserve information.

We created Wizdom Land to change the industry by providing a simple and universal platform that specifically addresses today’s challenges with remote title examination. We saw too many duplicated efforts, data entry, and an overall lack of title backup and preservation. Use just ONE technology to index, capture, examine and maintain complex title chains. Wizdom is learning from the past…to design the future.