New discoveries and new technologies -- including fracking, improved seismic capabilities and directional drilling -- are also factors, Perryman says.
"For the first time in decades, production is actually increasing," he says.
At Midland firms, lawyers who do oil and gas title work are very busy, but Spears, the Lynch Chappell shareholder, says the energy boom also has spawned some increased work for litigators, and a substantial increase of work for trusts and estates lawyers because of "money flowing into people's coffers these days."
Due to the increased workload, Cotton Bledsoe, which has 43 lawyers according to its website, has recently hired five or six laterals, Bledsoe says. While the firm has routinely hired first-year attorneys, the firm is new to the lateral hiring market.
"It's the first time we intentionally reached out to laterals, and that's been good. … We found some lawyers in other places that weren't as busy as they would like to be, and they had good, germane experience," he says.
However, Bledsoe notes that not all lawyers are suited for life in Midland, which is located about 300 miles west of Fort Worth.
"It's flat, and there aren't a lot of trees in the country. We also are in the midst of a drought. Water is limited for the first time. It's not all perfect," he says.
Leeton says Midland firms want to hire oil and gas lawyers, but there aren't too many lawyers who want to move to Midland, and the "old vanguard" of attorneys who do oil and gas work are getting closer to retirement age.
Spears says Lynch Chappell hasn't hired lawyers due to the increased business but may do so shortly because it lost a couple lawyers who left to go in-house with clients.
He says things like a housing shortage could deter lawyers from relocating to Midland, even though there are jobs.