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From the San Antonio Express-News:
Business has slowed to a trickle
A 10-year-old Texas law firm that found a gusher of legal business in the shale oil boom is closing its doors as legal work in the energy sector shrinks along with the price of crude.
Burleson describes itself as a full-service firm, but it specializes on the real estate side of the oil and gas business, including due diligence, transferring titles, and buying and selling drilling rights. As with other firms catering to energy companies, business has fallen, and Houston-based Burleson will close Dec. 31.
The firm also has offices in San Antonio, Denver, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. It closed an office in Midland earlier this year.
“It was a great run,” said Richard Burleson, who founded the firm a decade ago and saw it rise, then fall in the oil slump that has sent prices down by almost half in the past year.
“It found itself in the middle of the North American shale boom and (took off) as no one had anticipated. But then it fell as no one had anticipated, either,” he said.
Production surged beginning late in the last decade as technological innovations made it possible to pull oil and gas from dense shale formations. But the output contributed to a global oversupply, which sent prices down.
That has led producers and oil field services companies to lay off workers and cut budgets — including dollars designated for legal work by Burleson and other energy-focused law firms.
Burleson, which had as many as 140 lawyers about three years ago, now has about 60.
“It’s very difficult to sustain a firm when you are riding only one horse,” said William Cobb, a management consultant to law firms on strategic issues. It may be great when times are good, but it can be a disaster when things turn down.
Niches are fine, Cobb said, but they need to be spread across a variety of industries. A bankruptcy practice, for example, shouldn’t depend upon one or two industries. A super-niche such as land for oil drilling doesn’t leave much room for business cycles....MORE