Principal, Ratliff Law Firm
Shannon Ratliff says he made up his mind to go to law school during his junior year at the University of Texas at Austin. Instead of becoming a college history professor, he decided to become a lawyer, he says.
But politics also grabbed Ratliff’s interest. After graduating from high school in 1957, Ratliff served as an assistant to Lyndon B. Johnson when LBJ was the Senate majority leader, vice president and during the 1964 presidential campaign. To work on the campaign, Ratliff says he had to take a short leave of absence from his duties as law clerk for then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, whose staff he joined for one year following his 1964 graduation from UT School of Law.
Ratliff’s introduction to energy law came after he joined the Austin firm of McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore in 1965. The firm represented Humble Oil and Refining Co., now known as ExxonMobil Corp., and Ratliff says he began working with senior partners dealing with oil and gas regulatory matters at the Texas Railroad Commission. At the end of 2001, Ratliff left McGinnis, Lochridge to join Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Austin. In 2003, he founded the Ratliff Law Firm.
Ratliff estimates that, depending on the year, about half to two-thirds of his time is spent on energy litigation. In addition, he spends a substantial amount of time on mediations and arbitrations involving energy business, Ratliff says.
Many of his more recent energy cases have involved representing exploration and production companies in class actions. That includes serving as lead counsel for ExxonMobil in statewide class actions brought by royalty owners in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas and in a state district court in Stevens County, Kansas. Ratliff says both cases involve more than 2,000 oil and gas leases with approximately 3,700 royalty payees.
“I don’t claim to be a litigator,” Ratliff says. “I claim to be a trial lawyer. . . . The fun is when you get to trial. All the discovery is a pain in the neck.”
However, Ratliff also handles appeals for clients, serving as lead counsel for ExxonMobil Corp. in two cases involving a dispute with another oil company and royalty owners in Refugio County. The case involved allegations that Exxon, a lessee, had failed to properly develop oil and gas tracts and sabotaged the wells before abandoning them. Although filed with the Texas Supreme Court in 2005, the cases remained pending until 2009, when the court issued the first of its three opinions in Exxon Corp., et al. v. Emerald Oil & Gas, et al. When the Supreme Court issued its final opinion in 2011, Ratliff’s clients were both winners and losers. “I grew old with that one,” Ratliff says of the case.
William B. Burford
Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin
“He’s one of the best at doing title work.”
“Bill is good at getting to the point and recommending what practical steps can be done to solve the client’s problem or dilemma, understanding what can be done within the confines of the law.”
Allen D. Cummings
Law Offices of Allen D. Cummings
“He’s just sort of the dean of title lawyers.”
“He is definitely a go-to lawyer on title work.”
Watt Beckworth Thompson Henneman & Sullivan
“He’s very knowledgeable substantively, and he’s very good in the courtroom.”
“His strength is in his enormous depth in substantive oil and gas law.”
Philip “Flip” Whitworth
Scott, Douglass & McConnico
“Flip is truly in the regulatory area an expert.”
“When it comes to matters before the General Land Office, Flip Whitworth is the go-to guy.”