Field Landmen: Why You Can’t Get an In-House Job


It’s a widely known fact that it is difficult to transition from being a field landman to a position as an in-house landman.  However, I think some field landmen misunderstand exactly what an in-house landman does.  In my opinion, the job titles of a field landman and an in-house landman are so similar in wording that people erroneously assume that the jobs are actually similar.  It couldn’t be farther from the truth, the simple fact is that most in-house landmen don’t do work that field landmen do, and vice versa.

To illustrate this point I went around the interwebs and I found a few job postings for in-house and field landman positions.  I took some editorial freedom and combined them into a list  of functions that each might be expected to perform.  As you might be able to guess, I was able to find more examples of In-House job descriptions than field job descriptions.  However, here is my compilation:

Field Landman

  • Abstracts real property titles.
  • Prepares runsheets and other ownership documents.
  • Assists in acquiring oil and gas lease agreements and rights of way for pipelines, access roads, etc.
  • Serves as company liaison with landowners.
  • Settles surface damages and participates in surveying and permitting duties.
  • Researches and responds to internal and external land related inquiries, Lessor relations and disposition of assets.
  • Performs miscellaneous document preparation and damage settlements.
  • Maintains a professional and technical knowledge by attending educational workshops, reviewing professional publications, and establishing personal networks.

 In-House Landman

  • Review and clear title to well locations as part of managing a multi-rig schedule
  • Acquire mineral rights and ensure maintenance of existing leasehold position
  • Managing land brokers for lease acquisitions, title run sheets, curative and other courthouse work.
  • Managing title attorneys for the preparation of Drilling and Division Order Title Opinions and confirmation of title prior to spud and production.
  • Develop and maintain excellent mineral owner relationships as well as relationships with counterparts at other companies
  • Negotiate and draft various agreements including joint operating agreements, joint venture agreements, AMI agreements, farm-in/farm-out agreements, acreage trade agreements, etc. to facilitate leasehold acquisition and operations as needed
  • Interact with and provide Operations and Geoscience groups with land support and information critical to ongoing development of properties
  • Participate in Federal and State Oil and Gas Lease Sale processes
  • Participate in regulatory hearings, including live testimony if required
  • Assist in the due diligence phase of producing property acquisitions.

I think most readers will find that they can fulfill tasks in both sections.  I’d say at least 95% of readers won’t be able to say they are at a minimum competency in all the tasks in both sections.  However, to get a job you don’t always have to fit all the requirements, and sometimes the requirements are lighter for ‘entry level’ applicants.  Make no mistake, field landmen applying to in-house landmen jobs are considered entry-level.  With that entry-level tag comes entry-level pay as well.  Most landmen who go from the field to in-house landwork take a pay cut.  Not only because it is probably a W2 position, but because they are entering a bottom-middle pay range.  For examples of this I think it is prudent to review the latest AAPL Compensation Survey.  It slices and dices compensation in many different ways and it’s a great standard to follow if you are looking for industry norms.

circular experience

The biggest roadblock I see to a field landman becoming an in-house landman is that you really can’t get any exposure to certain things.  A field landmen will likely never do well trades with other operators and never negotiate a participation agreement or JOA.  So what can the field landman do enhance his career and work towards an in-house function?  I humbly suggest the following:

  • Become active in your local association.  AFTER you have developed a casual relationship with some of the people in the organization in leadership positions at oil & gas companies you could let it be known that you would be interested in learning the skills required to move to an in-house position.  They might have an opportunity in their organization, or have a friend/colleague that they could refer you to.  It’s imperative you don’t have this conversation with ‘strangers’, these are people you’ve regularly spoken with on a casual level for at least 6 months to a year.
  • Seek out brokers that help with some of the in-house functions for their clients.  Rest assured there are brokers that are doing lease analyst work, federal lease bidding, due diligence, and special projects that deal with documents like JOAs & Participation Agreements.
  • Take some of the higher level AAPL classes to familiarize yourself with those topics.  The first things that come to mind are the JOA Workshop, the (new) Due Diligence Seminar, and the Pooling Seminar.  If you aren’t sure when classes are near you, check the AAPL Education Calendar.
  • Relocate yourself to an area where in-house land professionals are needed.  Places like Houston, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Pittsburgh.  You are looking for a large collection of O&G corporate offices  in one city.
  • Take a step back to take a step up.  You may have to take a job as a Land Tech or Document Specialist.  Most offices are understaffed, if you show dedication and a desire to learn — you’ll be places on special projects and given more responsibility.

I hope this spurs for motivation for those of you who have been struggling with this problem.  In-house work isn’t for everyone, and you may find you don’t enjoy it.  However, learning new things is never a bad idea.

Do you have any other suggestions for transitioning from a field landmen to an in-house landman?  Tell us about it in the comments below:

Randy Young

Randy Young

Randy is a land consultant with experience in field and in-house land work, land administration, and software consulting with systems used in the land management business. He is an active member of the AAPL, HAPL, and NHAPL and is a regular attendee of industry functions. Randy's latest projects have included land data systems integrations, with a focus on Quorum Land System.

  • Lou Grubbs says:

    Great article Randy. Glad you wrote it. I believe some of us “field landmen” could probably become an in-house landman without too much of a problem. And some couldn’t. I know I have done a lot of the work you described for an in-house landman, however, not all of it. I totally agree that if any of us are interested in becoming an in-house landman, we should avail ourselves of all the points you made; becoming involved in our local organization, meet people, take the classes that are available, and relocate if necessary. I would gladly take a job as a document specialist or land tech to get my foot in the door. Especially in Oklahoma City if I could, as Oklahoma is my home state and where I learned title working for an abstract company in an old oil county.

  • Eric Roberts says:

    Thank you Randy for another great article. I always look forward to reading you resourceful insights on various topics in our industry. All of your articles seem to be purposefully driven to help out others in the industry.
    I recently transitioned from field Landman to an in-house position. Over the past 2 years I was passed over for in-house Landman positions for the same reasons stated above. I continued to take those AAPL classes on JOA and Pooling. I decided a step back by applying to lease Analyst Positions maybe my ticket to go in-house. Against my father’s recommendation, I took a Lease Analyst position with an Operator.
    My plan is to continue building on my experience and knowledge within the company in hopes to transition to a more responsible role as a Landman in a few years. I have no regrets. My company is paying for my Petroleum Land Management Certificate Course that I’m starting Sept 5th at TCU here in Dallas. I’m embracing all my opportunities. I’ll keep you posted Randy.
    Best regards,

    • Randy Young Randy Young says:

      Eric, that sounds like a great plan. I wouldn’t worry about getting ‘boxed in’ to a role. Truth be told, there is equivalent money and (possibly) better longevity on the land administration side. Don’t forget to get involved with the professional association on the land admin side (NALTA, NADOA).

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